Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cards That Never Were: Luis Alvarado Topps 1975, '77 and '78

Cards That Never Were is a recurring series where I create virtual; trading cards for players who were missed in various sets.  It is a concept I have borrowed from too many to list, but I appreciate all of them.
Infielder Luis Alvarado made his MLB debut in 1968 with the Boston Red Sox.  He played parts of three seasons there, before being traded to the Chicago White Sox.  That was a big trade, as he was traded with Mike Andrews for Luis Aparicio.
Early in the 1974 season, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, who traded him to the Cleveland Indians a month later.  Alvarado spent 1975 in the minors, but was traded back to the Cardinals organization in midseason.  After the 1976 season, he was purchased by the Detroit Tigers, then purchased by the New York Mets.  He started 1977 with the Mets, but was "returned" to the Tigers, where he finished out the season.  He finished his playing career in the Mexican League.
Topps gave Alvarado his first card in their 1970 set.  He split that "Red Sox Prospects" card with Billy Conigliaro.  He actually had more plate appearances in 1968 (49) than in 1969 (5), but Topps did not give him a card in their 1969 set.  He appeared on cards through the 1974 set, including that awesome 1973 card, which also featured some vehicles in the background.
In 1974, he appeared in 86 games, but was left out of the 1975 set.  His 16 games in 1976 and his 3 games in 1977 did not merit cards either, but that didn't stop me from creating cards for him for '75, '77 and '78.
For 1975, he appears with the Indians.  For '77, I gave him a card with the Mets, although he did join them in February, which might have been too late in reality.  Still, it would have been a cool card, because he never actually played for them in the majors.  For '78, I used a picture of him with the Tigers.  This would also be a career capper card.  Unfortunately, none of these cards show him with the Cardinals, but that's how it goes.  Actually, if I had a picture of him with the Cards, I would have made a 1977 Cardinals Topps card with them and a '77 OPC card with the Mets.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

DePaul Coach Eugene Lenti Is A Winner

The Lenti family has carved out quite a legacy on the Chicago sports scene.  Among other family members, Frank (Mt. Carmel) and Eugene (DePaul) have done historic things at my alma maters.
Like his family, Eugene is not overly concerned with numbers or statistics.  He cares about winning and teaching.  This is just one of the reasons he has won so much and has staggering numbers and stats on his resume.
In his 36th year coaching DePaul softball, Eugene has won 1,263 games, winning #1200 in 2014.  Since 1999,i he has taken four teams to the Women's College World Series.
There have also been a lot of individual player honors over the years.  Of course, my old favorite Kirsten Verdun won her share of awards under Eugene's tutelage.
While he obviously loves softball, he lists it as third, behind family and school.  As a teacher, he instills these values onto his players.
Last Wednesday, I watched my alma mater lose 8-0 to the Northwestern Wildcats.  On one hand, my loyalties were divided.  On the other hand, I couldn't lose either way.
I met Coach Eugene after the game.  Despite the tough loss, he was in great spirits.  That is a real winner.  That is Eugene Lenti.
Eugene Lenti and me in Evanston, IL-April 2017.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

On the Beat With Michael Kingston of "Headlocked" at C2E2 2017

Longtime wrestling fan Michael Kingston was dissatisfied with the focus of most wrestling comics.  He felt that wrestling comics should feature actual wrestling.  Since none apparently did, Kingston decided to correct that omission himself.
That is the basic backstory of Headlocked, but the full story is fascinating and truly just beginning.  Kingston's work has been praised by the wrestling community.  Fans love the work, but wrestlers have also gotten behind the series.  
Back in 2009, WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler jumped on board as the permanent cover artist.  The wrestling support doesn't end there, though.  Others, including Rob Van Dam, Hurricane Helms, Ken Anderson, Christopher Daniels, Sam Shaw, Sinn Bodhi and more have contributed art or content already and many others have signed on for the future.
What a future it will be, too.  Headlocked is only picking up steam.  The Kickstarter page of "Headlocked: The Hard Way" still has about a week to run and has already surpassed the initial goal of $20,000.  There is still time to contribute and all donations are welcome and donations starting at $5 are rewarded with various cool and unique gifts.
At C2E2, the Headlocked booth was one of the liveliest booths.  #SuperFriends David Herro joined Kingston in hosting Lawler, "Mean" Gene Okerlund, Lita and Jack Swagger.  
I always enjoy talking to Kingston.  I also totally enjoy the Headlocked comic series.  I am sure you will enjoy it, too, whether you are a wrestling fan or not.
Check out HeadlockedComic.com for all of the latest news.  You can also follow Headlocked on Facebook and Headlocked on twitter.
Thank you to C2E2 for allowing us access once again.  Thank you to Kingston for his time and consideration.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Friendly Encounters: Alfred Morris and Mark Bodek

This is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

That Mark Bodek is really started to get on my nerves.  It's not enough that he hangs with so many wrestling legends.  He also hangs with other sports greats.
Actually, the DC area-based Mark is a great guy.  He's an avid fan of the Redskins and Nationals.  That's all great.  It's when he meets these stars that he raises my ire, but only because I'd love to be there.
A few years back, Mark met former running back Alfred Hayes.  That would be during his rookie season with the Redskins.  Hayes put together four excellent seasons there and finished with one season of limited action with the Dallas Cowboys.
Someday, I'd like to meet Mark.  I have never been to a game at Nationals Park.  That would be a great place to catch a game and meet the legend himself.
Mark Bodek and Alfred Morris in Reston, VA-December 2012.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Celebrity Jersey Cards #319 Avril Lavigne & Sarah Silverman

This is a regular feature in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing pro jerseys.  Today, we continue to work our way alphabetically through Major League Baseball.

Singer and actress Avril Lavigne was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.  As a teen, Lavigne won a contest to sing with fellow Canadian Shania Twain.  Since then, she has sold millions of records.  She made her Celebrity Jersey Card debut from a first pitch appearance.
Norn in Bedford, New Hampshire, comedian, actress, producer, and writer Sarah Silverman is accompanied by Ace, the Blue Jays mascot on her Celebrity Jersey Card.  She gets extra points for wearing a glove.  Silverman was on Saturday Night Live for only one season, but she has gone on to much more success on her own.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On The Beat With PC Labrie of the Rockford IceHogs: 4/15/17

Last Saturday, the Rockford IceHogs ended their 2016-17 season with a 5-2 loss to the Iowa Wild.  My recap is on PuckPlanet.com at Rockford IceHogs End Season With a Loss.
In the post-game media session, left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie answered our questions.  In the video below, you can watch the session and you will hear several questions from me.  It was probably my most active media session.
Labrie talked about the game, the season, his offseason and more.  Obviously, he is disappointed, as is the whole organization, but Labrie answered everything.  We even joked a bit about his offseason.
Once again, I want to thank the IceHogs organization for their hospitality.  I hope everyone has enjoyed my coverage this season.  We already have plans for more coverage with a few interesting angles for next season.
You can check here for recurring coverage.  You can also head to IceHogs.com for regular updates and info, including the 2017-18 schedule once it is released.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kidney Lauper and the Windy City Rollers 2017

I can make the joke that Kidney Lauper "just wants to have fun," but the hard-working Windyt City Roller deserves better than that.  She does like to have fun, but she also wants to win and to entertain the fans.
KL started with the Windy City Rollers with the Haymarket Rioters in 2014, then moved onto Second Wind in 2015.  Last Season, she skated for the Manic Attackers.  Once again, she is skating with the Manic Attackers this season.
Despite a night of action with two hard-fought games, KL came out to greet fans, sign autographs and take pictures.  You could tell she was a bit tired from all of the effort, but you coul also tell how much she enjoyed it and what it meant to her.  It meant a lot to her little fans, too, and even to the big fan in the picture below.
KL wears #622.  I love it that WCR uses three-digit numbers.  I have long been an advocate of a pro sports team utilizing three digit numbers.  It might sound silly, but I like it.
There is a lot more to like about the WCR than just three-digit numbers though.  As I have written many times, these women are so dedicated, passionate and athletic.  They practice hard and often.  Aside from their colorful names, the rest of the WCR action is real.  Scores are kept and rules are enforced.  This is pure competition and the skaters and fans take it all very seriously, while having a blast.
Th WCR skaters will be in action again on Saturday, April 22.  You can get more info and updates at WindyCityRollers.com or by following the WCR Facebook page.
Kidney Lauper and me in Chicago, IL-February 2017.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Happy Birthday Jean

Today is my sister Jean's birthday!
Of course, I love my sister, but I also like her.  She's a lot of fun and not just because she lets me watch the Game Show Network all day at her house.  We always share laughs and occasionally complaints about life.
I also appreciate Jean.  This was never more evident than earlier this year when I was recovering from a nose/throat surgery.  Jean flew back in from Florida and even extended her stay to get me through the process.  I honestly could not have done it without her.  I even had fun despite the pain because of her.  I could not have asked for a better nurse or friend.  I can not ask for a better sister.
I love you, Jean.  I hope you have a great birthday!
Frank Wroblewski, Jean Parker and me in Fort Myers, FL-March 2017.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

CM Punk at C2E2 2016

Chicagoan CM Punk is one of the recently most popular wrestlers I have met.  Punk achieved a lot o success in a relatively short time in the WWE and his departure caused a lot of sadness (and rumors of his return).
I can't say Punk is one of the all-time greats.  I think his overall body of work is just too short.  I think he was on his way.  I think during his time, he was a top performer.  Unfortunately for wrestling fans, he went on to other stuff.
He has his detractors, too.  Punk has been said to be a bit prickly.  This was not the case when Scottie Steiner and I met him at C2E2.  It was also not the case in the media session there.  In fact, Punk seemed to be in an extra good mood.
Some might still criticize him for this, as he was getting paid to be nice.  I rebuff that by acknowleding his payment, but pointing to oters in the same situation who have been far less friendly.  I must be fair and say he was a great celebrity guest at C2E2.
I am happy to hear that Punk and his wife AJ Lee will once again be appearing at C2E2.  Of course, I'll be there and reporting back here.  For more info, head to C2E2.com.
Scottie Steiner, CM Punk and me in Chicago, IL-March 2016.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On the Beat With Coach Ted Dent of the Rockford IceHogs: 04/15/17

Saturday night, the Rockford IceHogs lost to the Iowa Wild 5-2 to end their 2016-17 season.  It was a frustrating season for all, but it ended with a big fan lovefest between the players and the fans on the ice.  My full recap is on PuckPlanet.com at Rockford IceHogs End Season With a Loss.
In the post-game media session,.Coach Ted Dent gave a fair assessment of the season.  While overall it was disappointing, there were some pleasant surprises and there is reason to be optimistic about next season.  Dent was his usual self.  He doesn't sugarcoat the negatives, but he doesn't focus on them either.  Truthfully, it is about learning and preparing the future Chicago Balckhawks, as much as it is actually winning in Rockford.
After the game, many lucky fans got sweaters right off the back of the players in a big warm ceremony on the ice.  The IceHogs created a cool video of the season, which was greeted by thunderous applause from the sellout crowd.
Having access most people don't get to have, I also saw the IceHogs as they made their way to the lockerroom.  They had their head held high and were openly talking about the appreciation the fans showed them.  I'm not a Hockey homer when I say that there really is something special in Rockford and I am so glad to be right in the mix.
This doesn't end my coverage of the IceHogs for this season.  There will be sporadic pieces right here all through the offseason.  You can also go to IceHogs.com for the latest news, including the first look at the 2017-18 schedule once it is released.
(Post-game media session video courtesy of IceHogs.com.)