Saturdays Suds: Pubs near the Park #12 – Ommegang Brewery

23 07 2016

Yesterday was my first day in Cooperstown for this year’s Hall of Fame induction.  So before I get started – are their any bloggers who are going? If so – let me know, it would be cool to meet up.  I haven’t done too much baseball stuff yet – but we did see Al Leiter walking around town last night and Joe Torre was eating dinner at a restaurant nearby as well.

My parents have been gracious enough to drive up to Chicago to watch the kids while I go on this excursion to see enshrinement of my favorite player.  But my wife and I are doing a few other things while we’re here – not just Baseball Hall of Fame things.  We flew into New York on Thursday and went to Hoboken and Manhattan.  Yesterday we went kayaking at a lake nearby, and went to Ommegang Brewery for the first time.


Establishment:  Brewery Ommegang

Ballpark:  Doubleday Field, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Dreams Park in Cooperstown

Location:  656 County Hwy 33, Cooperstown, NY 13326 – about 6 miles south of the Hall of Fame

Ommegang Brewery

Beers served:  At any given time, they’ll have about 10 Ommegang beers on tap.  Ommegang focuses on Belgian style ales, but have been doing some other things of late.  Their flagship beers are Witte (wheat ale), Rare Vos (amber ale), Hennepin (farmhouse saison), Abbey Ale (Belgian dubbel), Three Philosophers (Belgian Quadrupel), and Gnomegang (Blonde Ale).  When we went yesterday, they had a new Barrel-Aged Gnomegang that they’d just released.  Below is a typical logo from a 4-pack – Cooperstown Ale which I posted about a long time ago.

Ommegang Cooperstown Ale 4-pack

Menu (if applicable):  They have a moderately eclectic menu with anything from steak frites to chicken and waffles to Hog Wings.  We got a cheese board to split since we’d had a huge breakfast.

Is it baseball-themed?  Or is it just close to the ballpark?  For the most part, just close to the ballpark.  If you read their about us, they sometimes point out that they have nothing to do with baseball.  The area in upstate New York, like the northeast in general, has a long history of brewing. The Cooperstown Ale above does pay tribute to the shared history there.  If you go to the brew house, you will undoubtedly see some baseball fans.

Description:  Ommegang built their brewery in 1997 – nearly 20 years ago – so they were very early in the craft brewing excitement.  Their built on 136 acres of land where they grow hops, and were the first farmstead brewery built in the U.S. in over 100 years – there have been quite a few to follow as the craft beer movement grew.


From my experience – this place really is beautiful and is worth going to just for that aspect.


The brewery offers tours where you can hear about their meticulous process in detail.  We had planned on doing one but the timing didn’t work.  And honestly, just walking around the scenery was great   They’re a highly decorate brewery from an awards standpoint.  Belgian is a style not everyone likes, and while it’s not my favorite, I think most of their stuff tastes pretty damn good.

Completed insert set – 1996 Topps Power Boosters

22 07 2016

I’m traveling to Cooperstown today, so I can’t do a Hall of Fame related post.  So I’ll do this post – which I wanted to get in last week but ran out of time.  I finished this set up by getting a card from my “elusive eight” list from Beckett’s Marketplace.  I thought it would be a really long time before I finished this set, but I’m stoked to get it out of the way!

Info about the set:

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Set description:  25 of the first 26 cards of the ’96 Topps set consist of 2 subsets – the first 11 cards being Star Power for current All-Stars and the next 14 being Draft Picks.  Topps created a foil version of the same cards and inserted them 1 per box, just as they had done for the first 10 cards of the ’95 Topps Traded set.  They are printed on much thicker stock with diffraction (“power boost”) background.  The card backs have a head shot and mid-season statistics for the player.

Set composition:  25 cards, 1:36 odds (1996 Topps series 1)

Hall of Famers:  6.  Tony Gwynn, Mike Piazza, Greg Maddux, Barry Larkin, Tom Glavine, Craig Biggio.

How I put the set together:

  • 1 card from my ’96 s1 retail box
  • 1 card I already had from back in the day
  • 13 cards from COMC
  • 7 cards from Sportlots
  • 1 card from eBay
  • 1 card from a card show
  • 1 card from Beckett’s Marketplace

Card that completed my set:  #21 – Jim Scharrer

1996 Topps Power Boosters Jim Scharrer

I just got this card to knock it off my Elusive Eight in mid-July.

Thoughts on the set:  I like the thicker card stock, and the background foil technology is great.  Topps could do something like this today and I would like it.  It would have been nice if they did a foil version of the Mantle tribute (card #7).

Best card (my opinion):  #25 – Sean Casey

1996 Topps Power Boosters Sean Casey

Todd Helton has a more notable rookie card that’s paralleled in this set, but Sean Casey’s card is the coolest to me.

My Favorite Reds card:  #6 – Barry Larkin

1996 Topps Power Boosters Barry Larkin

Coming off his MVP year!

Here’s the scan of the full set.

1996 Topps Power Boosters Complete

1996 Topps Power Boosters Complete 2

1996 Topps Power Boosters Complete 3

Completed insert set – 2012 Topps Blockbusters

21 07 2016

I completed this set a long time ago, but wanted to wait to post it in honor of the biggest blockbuster of my lifetime.  Ken Griffey Jr. to the Reds was the best day of my sports fan life.  The 98-win Reds were getting my favorite player – and the consensus best active player in the game.

It didn’t turn into a championship, but I wasn’t overly concerned with that.  Yeah, would another World Series have been nice?  Sure – but it would have been gravy for me.  I’d take the ~9 years of Griffey any day.  I got season tickets in 2005 – even though I lived 2 hours away.  It was a cool thing when I was a few years out of school and could afford things like that.

Info about the set:

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Set description:  “Cards featuring the biggest trades and signings in Baseball history.”  About what you’d expect based on the name.  The design is made to look like a newspaper, with the set title at the top akin to the Newspaper name.  The headline is at the bottom.  As often as possible, the set has the player shown at the presser for the trade / signing – which is really cool.  The back has a write-up describing the trade or free agent move.

Set composition:  30 cards, 1:4 hobby odds (2012 Topps Update)

Hall of Famers:  12 – Frank Robinson, Gary Carter, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson, Tom Seaver, Babe Ruth, Catfish Hunter, Carlton Fisk, Ryne Sandberg, Steve Carlton, Bruce Sutter

How I put the set together:

  • 9 cards from my Hobby box
  • 1 card from a retail pack
  • 11 cards from trades
  • 6 cards from Sportlots
  • 2 cards from the 2013 NSCC
  • 1 card from COMC

Thoughts on the set:  Honestly, I can only find one fault – and that’s with the headline.  They are all the same “Reds© Get Griffey”, “Yankees© Get Ruth”.  It’s always the same line, which is fine, but the copyright just stands out so much.

Aside from that, this is a great set.  It’s a great idea, period.  It’s great to put it in Topps Traded.  Making it a newspaper headline is creative and appropriate.  They have really good selection.  Frank Robinson.  Ken Griffey.  Babe Ruth.  Tom Seaver.  There may be a few other trades on the level of those 4 – but honestly if I picked a list of the top 10 for sheer notoriety, those would be on it.

Card that completed my set: #BB-15 – Babe Ruth

Best card (my opinion): #BB-15 – Babe Ruth

2012 Topps Update Blockbusters Babe Ruth

I got this card 2 Black Fridays ago, so I’ve been sitting on this for a while!  How can you go against the biggest trade in any sport’s history?  You can’t…

My Favorite Reds card:  #BB-7 – Ken Griffey Jr.

2012 Topps Update Blockbusters Ken Griffey Jr.

Even though I’d want to with this card!  Tom Seaver was pretty cool, too.

My least favorite card (special for this set only):  #BB-3 – Frank Robinson

2012 Topps Update Blockbusters Frank Robinson

Trade a guy who you think is too old, and he wins the Triple Crown.

Any other tidbits:  Some of the ones that aren’t on here that I would include:

  • Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove – sold to Boston from the Philly A’s when Connie Mack gutted his roster to make ends meet.  Though I guess it didn’t lead to a title – which is shocking.
  • Pete Rose leaving his hometown Cincy to go to Philadelphia.  Led to the first championship for the Phillies.
  • Joe Morgan to the Reds – taking the Big Red Machine to the next level.
  • Randy Johnson to the
  • Babe Ruth could have had a 2nd card – the Yankees not re-signing him and him going to the Boston Braves was a worthy footnote for a set like this.
  • Honus Wagner from Louisville to Pittsburgh.  This is like the Griffey trade – a guy sent to his hometown team.  And it led to one title in 1909.
  • Greg Maddux signing with the Braves.

That’s just some – any others you can think of?

Tuesday Tunes: Diamond Ditty #10 – “Downtown” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

19 07 2016

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr

One of the most notable cards in the industry’s history is the 1989 card #1.  A lot of baseball card collectors will be thinking about that card when Ken Griffey Jr. gives his induction speech this weekend.  And this song actually has a part with a shout out to that card.

Artist/Title/Album:  “Downtown” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, 2016)

The single was released in August 2015.

Macklemore Downtown Cover

Description:  The song is the first single on the hip hop duos second full studio album – their follow-up to their Grammy-winning LP The Heist.  The song is an upbeat tribute to getting around on mopeds, which the duo use to get around after concerts.  Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Eric Nally are all featured in the song.

The video became extremely popular when it was released – helping the song move up the Billboard charts.

How it’s related to baseball:  The duo both grew up in Seattle and, naturally, are huge Ken Griffey Jr. fans.  After Macklemore met the Kid, they got along and he was able to get Griffey to participate in the video shoot.  Griffey is shown at Pike Place fish Market posing in the same manner as the now-famous Upper Deck rookie card.  He has to drop his bat when someone throws him a frozen fish.

Macklemore Downtown Griffey

Stopped by Pike Place, throw a fish to a player

Griffey also shows up at the end of the video riding his own moped.


  • Peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100

It will probably get some love for MTV video of the year when the VMAs come out.

Downtown, Downtown (Downtown)
Downtown, Downtown
She has her arms around your waist
With a balance that will keep her safe

Monday Mascots #7: Mr. Met

18 07 2016

Later this week I will be flying into Newark airport and after a brief stay with a friend, will be on my way to Cooperstown.  I’m going there primarily to see Ken Griffey Jr. get inducted, but Mike Piazza is the other headliner.  In honor of his upcoming induction, I thought I’d do a Mascot post for the team whose logo he’ll be wearing (I’d have picked the Dodgers, but hey – I see both ways).

Mascot/Team:   Mr. Met (New York Mets, 1964-current)

Mr. Met

Background:   Mr. Met’s origin is shrouded in a bit of mystery.  According to lore, he was born in April 1962 when the Mets played their first game.  His first appearance was as a drawing on the yearbook and scorecards for the team’s 2nd year in existence (1963).

Mr Met - 1963 Yearbook

Who gets credit for that drawing has been lost to time and history – but there’s an interesting ESPN article about a graphic designer, Rheingold beer and an early sketch.  The one thing I’d say – Mr. Red’s use in Cincinnati ballpark souvenirs  predates the Mets very existence, so I don’t think anyone can claim Mr. Met’s design as an original idea.

In 1964, Mr. Met became the first MLB live mascot, making his first appearance as the Mets moved into Shea Stadium.  Dan Reilly was the man behind the mask for the first years.

Original Mr. Met 2

He was around for about a decade, then got phased out and was MIA for nearly 20 years.  The Mets tried a Mule and no mascot at all for a bit, all while mascots like the Famous Chicken and Philly Phanatic became popular.  The Metropolitans brought him back in 1994 via a promotion with Nickelodeon, and he could be found at Shea Stadium once again.  He became the first MLB mascot to travel with the team overseas, traveling to Japan to help root his team on against the Cubs in the 2000 season opener.

He moved to Citi Field with the team in 2009, and is still one of the most popular mascots in all of sports.


Outside of baseball:   Mr. Met has been featured in quite a few SportsCenter commercials, most notably with his family – Mrs. Met and the kids.

Baseball card connection:  Mr. Met has been in a number of the Opening Day Mascot card sets recently, but his first mainstream cardboard appearance was in 2006 as part of Upper Deck’s mascot set.

2006 Upper Deck Mascots Mr Met

Sunday Stories: Major League Memoirs #7 – “Baseball’s Greatest Series” by Chris Donnelly

17 07 2016

A week from today I’ll be in Cooperstown watching the induction of my childhood icon, Ken Griffey Jr.  So this is going to be Cooperstown week on the blog!  It won’t be a ton of baseball cards this week – I’ll try do some posts relating to my trip or the guys inducted.

If Junior had a book out, like the autobiographies by Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, I’d have read it for sure.  His dad has one, however, and I did read that one.  Also, Junior’s teammate on the Mariners, Randy Johnson, went into the Hall of Fame with Pedro and Smoltz, but he doesn’t have a book either.  So I found one that discusses The Kid and the Big Unit’s first playoff team.

book cover Baseball's greatest series

Title/Author/Publisher: “Baseball’s Greatest Series: Yankees, Mariners and the 1995 matchup that changed history” by Chris Donnelly (Rutgers University Press, 2010, 347 pages)

To be honest, the title nearly steered me away from this book.  I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call this the game’s greatest series.  I’m generally OK with a little hyperbole, but to say the quarterfinals of Major League Baseball’s 1995 championship “changed history” kind of puts it on the same plane as Bell’s invention of the telephone, Waterloo, or Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.  Could use a little qualifier, like “baseball history” (which is still a little strong), or “the landscape in Seattle”.

Description:  Donnelly starts off taking you through the background.  From the Yankees hiring of Buck Showalter and the waning of Don Mattingly’s career, to the start of baseball in Seattle, the following 2+ decades of futility and the 1989 draft where they almost didn’t pick Ken Griffey Jr.

More than any other theme, but not exclusively, the book tends to look at it through the prism of baseball in Seattle.  The Mariners needed a new Stadium, and at the end of the 1995 season the vote for a new venue to replace the Kingdome was imminent.  If a new park wasn’t built, the Mariners likely would have moved to Tampa Bay.  And in 1995 they didn’t start well.  In last place as late as July 16th, and 13 games back as late as August 3rd, they were sparked by the return of Griffey, who had been out after breaking his wrist in May.  A Cy Young performance by Randy Johnson, a batting title by Edgar Martinez and an epic collapse by the Angels helped them to take the division.  The Yankees secured the Wild Card with a late surge of their own.

Griffey 1995 wall

At this point, Connelly walks you through the series with a chapter devoted to each game.  Because of the strike-shortened season, the road team hosted the first 2 games to minimize travel.  So the Yankees won the first 2 games at home, including a 15-inning thriller in game 2.  But back in Seattle, the Mariners took hard fought games 3 and 4 to set up a winner-take-all game 5.  The crowd in Seattle was raucous and that was on display in game 5 more than ever before.

Though I’d mentioned the title had some hyperbole, this deciding game was nothing less than a classic, as David Cone outdid Andy Benes for 7 innings.  But in the 8th, he ran out of gas, giving up a Griffey homer and walking in a run to leave the score tied 4-4.  Both teams missed opportunities in the 9th, and then brought in their aces Jack McDowell and Randy Johnson, who had pitched 2 days earlier.  The Yankees pieced together a run in the top of the 11th, and it looked bleak for the Mariners.  But Joey Cora bunted his way on and Griffey singled.  Edgar Martinez doubled down the line and Griffey came all the way from first to give the Mariners their first playoff series win.


The book covers the aftermath.  Despite losing to Cleveland in the next round, Seattle had voted for a new ballpark, which kept baseball in the city.  A few years later, the Kingdome was demolished.  And the Yankees stripped apart certain components of their team, firing manager Buck Showalter and making what was considered a questionable hire in Joe Torre.  They would win the World Series in 1996.

My review:  As noted, I was a little slow to getting to this book.  I did eventually read it, however.  And overall, I enjoyed it.  It starts slow, which made it tough at first.  The background and a lot of the part about the season just kind of drags.  The chapters covering the series are the best reading of the book – Donnelly really captures the drama of a 5-game series – describing each inning, and in the higher leverage moments, each pitch.  He gives you background of the dramatis personae in a way that tells the story well.  From young rookie Alex Rodriguez, to Martinez, Griffey, Johnson, Mattingly, Showalter, McDowell, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte – there are a number of great careers at an interesting crossroads.

It’s a good book that’s worth a read, particularly for fans of the Mariners.  As a baseball fan, I enjoyed learning more about baseball in Seattle and the play-by-play account of the series.

Other Notable nuggets:  As you can imagine, this book has a lot of great back stories:

  • Jack McDowell was a highly touted signing by the Yankees, and while he had a good 1995 season, he was far from a fan favorite.  He tended to pitch better on the road, and flicked off the fans in New York during a rough stretch in September.  He was traded in the offseason.
  • David Cone, on the other hand, started his much more notable run with the Yankees in the 1995 season.  He almost pitched them to victory in game 5, but he’d go on to pitch a perfect game and earn his 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th championship rings with the club.
  • Every time I read about Edgar Martinez, I realize how underrated he’s been.  The guy was basically the toughest out in the Mariners lineup, and at this point was viewed as the guy to pitch around – even more so than Griffey.  Maybe more important than his series-winning walk-off was his grand slam in the bottom of the 8th that capped a 5-run comeback to move the series to game 5.
  • Griffey was phenomenal, too.  He hit 5 homers – one per game.
  • Tino Martinez and Jay Buhner didn’t have as notable hits as Griffey or Edgar – but both had OPS over 1.000 in the series.  Tino impressed the Yankee brass enough that they signed him in the offseason.
  • Mattingly struck out 3 times in game 3 – but had a great series aside from that.  The Yankee captain went 10 for 24 with 4 doubles and a homer in his last hurrah in the big leagues.  He faced fellow Evansville High graduate Andy Benes in what was the biggest confrontation of either players’ careers.  Mattingly doubled off him to make it 4-2 in game 5.
  • There’s a great note about the last game in the book:
    • “The games’ greatest hitter had just doubled in the game’s greatest player, giving the game’s greatest pitcher the victory”

I always try to pick a card out for any book I’ve read.  The one subset I found was Collector’s Choice, which had postseason highlights.  I could go with the card of Mattingly in this subset, but the Edgar Martinez card seems more appropriate.

1996 UD CC Edgar Martinez 371

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #62 51st Ward Baseball Head

16 07 2016

Before I get to the post – if you get the chance to see the Doc & Darryl documentary (30 for 30) on ESPN – it’s worth it.  I watched it last night and, I’m not a Mets fan or anything, so I’m unbiased.  But theirs is a great story and this particular telling of the story was exceptional.  The most poignant moment to me was hearing Dwight Gooden describe missing the ’86 World Series parade because he was too high.  There were just a lot of telling moments like that.  I always found those guys incredibly likable, and their story is interesting.

It’s been a little bit since I’ve done a “Saturday Suds”, but I had one last night that fits the bill.

51st Ward logo

Brewery:  51st Ward Beer Company in Westmont, IL

Beer:  Baseball Head (Next Year is Now)

Description:  This ale is made by a small brewery that’s just a couple of miles south of me.  It’s a wheat ale that I think is pretty similar to 3 Floyd’s Gumball Head.  It has a good wheat taste with light but not overwhelming hops.

Baseball Head NYIN

Medium:  I think you can only find this beer on draught.  I got it on draft at a restaurant in Westmont called Tap House Grill.  My wife went out with her friend last night, so I logged my kids 10 minutes down the road and tried it.  I like this beer – but not as much Gumball Head.

How it’s related to baseball:  Of course, it’s called “baseball” head.  But this version of this beer is brewed with a little bit of hope.  The first time they brewed it, it was just called “Baseball Head”.  Now, it’s called “Baseball Head – Next Year is Now”, which is something Cubs fans everywhere hope is true.


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