The 2018 Boston Red Sox: history and what it means to be a fan.

Let us talk baseball for just a minute. Last night the Boston Red Sox won their 106th game this season, and with five more games to go this season, they have the potential to win 111 total. Now I do not believe all of that potential will be realized, they will most likely give up one to the New York Yankees, and as we have two more against the Baltimore Orioles, a team we seem to have a hang up with, despite them being historically bad, the worst team since…well, the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. To their credit, the 1988 version only lost 107 games, while this current roster has lost 111 and has the potential to finish with 116 in the L column. However, the facts are that in 1912, the Boston Red Sox won 105 games, and for 106 years that record stood. The Red Sox have played the game for 118 years, and for 106 of them, the record stood…until last night.

Last night, through out the season really, but ever since last night and through this morning so far, I have seen a lot of posts from supposed fans on social media that lead me to believe, they do not understand the game of baseball. Sure they know there are three bases and a home plate. They probably can name the other positions, a few types of plays, and could even understand which direction the ball is to be thrown to a batter, but these posts tell me they do not understand or have a stake in the souls of this great game.

This Boston Red Sox team is no Murderer’s Row, but they are in the same grouping for this year. This is the 2018 Red Sox, and in a weird way, I’ve realized I’ve probably seen the best season I am ever going to see. If I live to be 100, the history says it probably will not be this good again. If we win the World Series, that will almost guarantee that on my death bed, when I recount the events of my life, I will finish with “…and with my wife and sons (depending on how the World Series goes assuming we got there, my friend Carl) I watched most every game, and listened to some on the radio, of the 2018 Boston Red Sox.”

This season, it is what baseball is about in it’s soul. 1912, let us recap: The Manchu Quing Dynasty ended, Arizona became a U.S. State (last contiguous state), the Ottoman Empire still existed, Oreos were invented, the RMS Titanic Launches, The RMS Titanic sinks, Fenway Park opened, Universal Studios was founded, Wilbur Wright died, Merck filed a patent for ecstasy, vitamins were identified, and amongst others, the Red Sox set what was to be a long standing record for franchise wins in a season.

That is what baseball is, it is history. It is a game of numbers, of dates, statistics, of players, games, owners, seasons and events that weather time in a way that only major historical events do. Hitler and Stalin were evil men, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb were amazing players. That is baseball. So I despair a bit when I see people saying that none of it will matter if we done win “it all,” or that this season will be forgotten if we do not win the World Series. BASEBALL IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE WORLD SERIES!

Sure, the World Series means plenty. Not entirely sure why we call it the World Series as it is only between teams from America and Canada, even if we do have a mix of players from all over the world (thank you Puerto Rico for the gift that is Alex Cora, your son has brought glory to the game) but it is the championship. I am all in favor of calling it by the name it started with, the fall classic. I do not have the time to recount all of how we got here, go watch “Ken Burns: Baseball.” However, before baseball settled into it’s current form, there was no World Series, and the leagues formed for a variety of reasons, disputes, money, disagreement of rules, etc. however along the way we ended up with two dominant leagues, the American League (mine) and the National League (older of the two.) The first World Series (which Boston won) was played in 1903 and became another part of the great organism that is baseball. It is not the only part.

Firstly, I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox. That is my team. Which means that once they are eliminated from POST SEASON PLAY I then root for the Yankees to get eliminated (kidding…mostly) and will then follow the World Series for it’s historical value, because overall, I am a fan of Major League Baseball. When the Cubs went to the World Series in 2016, I was watching. They are not my team or even my preferred league, but it was history.

So, here’s my breakdown. Watch the season. Pay attention to the records, the plays, and the game itself. Hope for well played games to look back on. As the season starts to wind down, then open up a second, smaller track in your mind for keeping up with if your team will go to post season play. Your still going to need season numbers for that. Like this one, the Boston Red Sox, in the past 20 years, have only won 96 games (or better) and all three times, they went on to win the World Series. If your team makes it to post season play, then your still watching the final games and reading the numbers, like who will they have to face, who will get homefield advantage, which team is the unfortunate second wild card, you will watch all of that, until the season ends. I am happy we are in the play offs, I love that we won the pennant (concern 1.) yes the pennant. Who cares about the World Series until the regular season is over? (Non fans.) We won the pennant three years running. There is divisional play, so I enjoy winning the division.

Now, when the season concludes, for some teams, baseball enters a second phase, POST SEASON PLAY. The season is not just about getting here! The season is what matters. After that we can worry about the World Series. Yes I want us to win in the play offs, yes I want us to go to the World Series, so much so that I will disappoint my wife to the tune of a ticket if they lose two games before I am going to be in Boston, but real fans? They won’t forget this season. We especially won’t forget it if we lost quick in the play offs (it does hurt more because the season was so great) but we will not forget that we watched win 106. The real fans will remember this season, and it will be the yard stick against which all others are to be judged. To those with these social media posts, maintaining the ridiculous position that none of it matters if we do not win it all, can I perhaps recommend you try football? That is unfair though, as you will likely be unwelcome among the fans who freeze their way through games to watch them, if you only watch the super bowl.

My mother in law, is a Braves fan, and she has taken the Red Sox into her heart out of love of my wife and I and our children. She has sat up late texting with me about both teams victories and defeats. She has more fan in her than that Instagram thread could ever aspire to.

If your going to say you love the game, then you are going to need to learn what it is about.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage.

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Trading Cards: how to burn money and fuel the flea market.

Today I want to talk trading cards, the good, the bad, and the expensive card board that will never, I repeat never be worth much of anything.

While the trade card goes back to before we were a nation, being handed out like advertisements when a product was purchased, The trading card has it’s origins in tobacco. There was a time when they would put some kind of promotional card in packs of cigarettes, a way to get a second use out of something, or really to give you something to collect that required the purchase of even more smokes to collect the cards. The most well known of these are the Allen and Ginter cards of early baseball heroes. The most valuable of which has become something of an American legend in it’s own right. Honus Wagner. Honus Wagner was a great player, and adding to the value of anything of his, is the fact that he played ball until 1917. However, his card is not valuable because of that, it is valuable because it is rare, not simply because of the age of it, but because he hated tobacco and demanded that the cigarette industry cease to use his image, making his card incredibly rare. There is an episode of “Prison Break,” where a minor thief is in federal prison because he stole a baseball card collection, which included a Honus Wagner. The value of which made his crime a felony.

 

While some cards are the stuff made of legend, they are far and few between, owned and accounted for…sometimes miracles do happen, as in the case of the family that found seven (later an 8th) Ty Cobb baseball cards from between 1909-1911 in an old paper sack while cleaning out their great-grandfather’s house. That is probably, I would say, the last of those miracles. Most cards today, are absolutely worthless, not even worth the paper they are printed on, except if you are counting the personal value they have to the collector.

Trading cards in this case, should not be confused with Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering, both of which are collectible card games. Yes they come in packs that depend partly on chance to get good things, and yes they can be sold and traded, but they are not the same as trading cards. However, I will weigh in here, I think many of the things which have ruined the trading card, have also ruined the collectible card game. It has become about money, and winning, and there is not an ounce of spirit left in it. I loved both of those games, and now avoid them at all costs.

I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone get into trading cards, especially sports cards today. There are others out there of course, that has been a long tradition. There is a familiar rule about a certain type of content on the internet, and it is much the same with trading cards, there is a trading card for everything, and I mean everything. When I was a kid, my favorites (to my regret) was Dragon Ball Z. I have seen plenty of others. There was a set for the 2016 election, and in my searching the bazar that is eBay, I found out there were Desert Storm trading cards in the 90s. I know, there were probably ones for other wars, but that strikes me as…distasteful.

Today’s cards are overproduced. I made an attempt to become a serious collector of baseball cards a couple of years ago, and it was somewhat fun opening some with my son, but very quickly it was expensive and out of hand. There is not just one set per brand, there are tons! I like Topps, and there wasn’t just a Topps set for the year, but there was also Topps Allstars, a follow up set, rookies sets, and then they started to issue sets that were made like the ones of years past (and these were the best) Allen & Ginter, Gypsy Queen. Part of their draw is that they have added cards that include real memorabilia from players, pieces of bats, pieces of shirts, things like that. They are nice, if you can find them, we found an autograph once, but again, it is far more cost effective to go on eBay and find the ones you want, than to hunt them in packs. Some of them were truly insane, but again their rarity was created one. I saw a double rip card that was listed for 2500, and it has more things inside of it that you have to rip it open to get. I do not understand. I have bought the memorabilia cards for around 5$ when I found one I wanted. What I really have is a mess of baseball cards that I have hidden in a closet so that I do not have to face them. I have organized a years worth and realized that it would start all over again.

I do not enjoy doing all of that work, as there will always be more, they are made to keep you buying, and they will eat up space, doing nothing except being printed faster than they can be collected with no value and not even the joy of the hunt to be really had. They are the predecessor to smartphone apps that require gems or something, they are the micro-transaction of the analog world.

What I do enjoy doing is opening the packs, looking at them, feeling the perfect edges, that smell of a new pack of cards, so I have come up with a way that allows me to get my enjoyment from trading cards, and then move them on in a meaningful way. I use them as extras in my letters. The letter writing community is (re) growing by the day, but for every 100 people who try writing letters, maybe five will stick to it. The dedicated I have seen, have been including things that express who they are in their letters. I have gotten stamps, comic strips, pressed flowers (an old card making hobby of it’s own.). In mine I include the comics from my tear away calendars, some stamps, the occasional sticker, but this year I started something new. I started to put my baseball cards in, one per letter. I keep on the Boston Red Sox cards, and the rest go in letters. It gave me the chance to look at each one again, enjoy it, and then use it to express my passion for the game I love.

I began to wonder, what if I could find other ones, discounted, vintage, and most likely at a flea market, cards that showed the things I loved, films from my collection since childhood, favorite shows, etc. I took to the flea market to find out, and was rewarded for my efforts. I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Batman, and Batman Returns. Thirty year old cards from some of my very favorite films!!! I chose to document the time in which we opened them, and realized that many of them would have a piece of bubblegum still. The gum is a left over idea, the cigarette cards never having recovered from the paper goods rationing of the Second World War, and later it was the bubblegum card that took over for it, you got a card with your bubblegum. Later, it went the other way, you got some gum with your card.

We opened the TMNT cards first. The quality of the cards was ridiculously 80s, even to the point that they were mislabeling turtles, but it was fun! Even better, I have not encouraged the industry, and these things will not remain in my house long. They will become the odd ephemera of my letters, part of my lettercraft, which is good as I am not very good at making creative cards or anything like that. On a sidenote, my cousin Lucas decided to try a piece of that thirty year old gum, and neither of us recommends that experience. Their are plenty of videos out there telling you that is an awful idea, and now we are telling you.

There is a special place inside you for opening old trading cards, the cards you wanted as a kid but were probably not a good use of money, and now I have gotten to scoop them up for a steal at the flea market. I will not always be on the hunt for them, as this one time out has given me enough cards for letters for years, but if I see some for the right price, I will keep the variety going, but the letters are a means to an end, I still like opening the packs and seeing the images of my film heroes on pieces of cardboard.

I have enjoyed this experience, but I am sad to say, the age of the trading card is dead, and we missed the funeral by a few decades. I do not recommend this hobby, the hunt is dead. Unless there is a truly rare sports card you are after, the hunt is held on a reservation, you can find complete sets of the cards you want or even whole cases of the store boxes for a fraction of their cost on eBay and there will be no hunt to speak of. If you can find a way to recycle what is essentially high dollar trash from a flea market into something meaningful, then I beg you to do it. However, do not let me stop you from something you are passionate about, but the trading cards of today are a collector’s black hole.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

Baseball: The Greatest (Analog) Game

If there is one thing we love here at Analog savage it is the great American game of Baseball.  Let us get one thing straight right now.  I am saying Baseball is American in origin, not in total distinction, the world has picked it up and ran with it, and I love how far the national pastime has spread.

Baseball has always been there for me.  I remember watching the Braves with my family as a kid.  Those were good, easy times.  I did not play as much ball, organized, as I would like to have now.  Baseball was always best with your friends, out on some crap field, slamming balls in a disorganized fashion.  I don’t think I ever said thank you to the guy who taught me to play catch.  I still can, I have him on Facebook.  Might be to weird for him…

Anyhow, here is why things like baseball are so important.  They are real.  Analog games are real.  I am not here to put down someone’s lifestyle, but give me something real any day.  What makes it real?  It is the other people (if the situation calls for them,) it is the tactile experience, the ability to engage your senses.  Without those things, something is just well, it isn’t real in a way.

Before someone throws down and threatens to get their ninja gear, I have played my share of video games, hell I collect them, any of them that multi-player essentially means you have to be in the same room, cords optional.  I have even played a good amount of World of Warcraft, but that was many moons ago and it isn’t the same, not even close.

Real is the feel of your hands on that wood, the smell of the dirt, that crack that surprises you every time you connect with that smooth ball.  It is the uncomfortable dug out seats, it is your kids squeezing in next to you to ask 5000 questions about the game because they want to be close to you, and they want to love that game on tv.  Real is the sound of a slide, you know the sound, when a human being heading for a base sounds similar to a vehicle stopping on gravel.  Baseball is real, and sorry to have to disappoint, football will never be the national pastime.

My team is the Boston Red Sox.  Being a kid from Soddy Daisy (Chattanooga) Tennessee, we watched the Atlanta Braves.  They were the closest pro team.  My brother in law in South Carolina loves them, and I’m fairly certain it is still a proximity thing.  How did I become a Sox fan?  I did it experiencing the real.

2007, The Savage was in Baghdad, Iraq.  I was walking through the PX on the big base one day while we were there, a real treat mind you, and I came across a sporting goods section.  The base we were on did not even have an American owned store, so this blew my mind.  I was angry that these spoiled people had time for such things.  Then I realized, so did we on our base, and I could not blame them for where they were assigned.  What I could do was buy a bunch of gloves and balls, and surprise the guys with a game of catch.  It became our thing.  We made sure they occupied some odd space in our trucks and when the bigwigs had to talk to the Iraqis leaders for hours, we sometimes tossed ball.  It did not occupy every free second, some of them, if they read this, may not remember doing it, but we did it, and we loved it.

One of those guys was from Boston.  He is a great guy, we are friends now.  We do not speak much, but we are friends, and he could ask me for a going to jail favor today and he would have it.  This is the case because there was a time where we lived the real together.  He may not even know he did this, he may suspect based on my Facebook posts, but he was the one.  We talked baseball, and he told me about the Boston Red Sox, and Fenway park, and the team’s history.  I was sold.  I was hooked just in time to pay attention during the 2007 World Series.   Now The Sox, and Fenway are very important in our house.  We even have a “Fenway Wall” where we chronicle our trips to the park to see games.

We do opening day right too.  There will be more photos at the bottom for that one.  I wrote an entry for the first time we went to see a game at Fenway, my oldest son and I, it is here.  It is about the real.

You get a limited amount of time here.  Do not waste it.  Do not be that person on World of Warcraft with their kids begging them for five minutes attention.  A game of catch transcends gender, it is timeless, and it is the open forum.  You look for a way to connect with someone?  Get to the real, share something real.  Real can be found in some video games, but there is a fine line.

Baseball is the top of the analog games.  It can even involve a television set, because my family and I, my friends and I, we are connected to something during that time.  We get the senses involved, we get the right hats and shirts on.  I even found a way to make it cross lines.  I recently took up scoring games.  What a mind blowing way to get deeper involved, to experience the game on a level I never knew.  We play ball, we collect the cards, we watch games as ritual, but scoring a game was like a drug.  Try it sometime.  Learning how may be a little daunting, the best advice I can give, to clarify the tutorials, just score your team.


I want you to know the beauty of the real, of the analog, and baseball is as good a place to start as any.  Go to a game, eat a hot dog, play catch with your kids and neighbor, have an old worn out glove and stick of American Ash cut in Louisville you write your story on.

Baseball was best summed up in the movie “Field of Dreams” by James Earl Jones’s character Terrence Mann, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”

I have talked enough, but here I will leave you with some resources for more on the greatest game in the world, and some summations of my take on ball.  Never forget, the first point and most important point is to experience baseball, then read about it and watch movies as it invades your soul.

  • Bats are made of wood, and Louisville Slugger is the best
  • The Art of Manliness made an awesome post about the 15 Best Baseball Movies, no need for me to re write it.
  • Here is some nifty info and a good score card download
  • Doping can and should be fought
  • I do not care about the designated hitter rule
  • Baseball cards have proliferated into madness, but Topps is best
  • The evidence says Joe didn’t do it, and it would be amazing to see him reinstated 100 years later
  • The best feeling is when the ball lands in glove
  • If it is not fun, stop playing, but never forget that you are there to win.
  • There will be a last game of catch, don’t let it be because you said no too many times and they stopped asking.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

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