Saturdays Suds: Pubs near the Park #6 – Sluggers

30 08 2014

My next “Saturday Suds” is another of the “pubs near the park” variety.  I’m looking at a specific bar near various Major League parks.  Most of these are in Wrigleyville, since I guess I’d need to have been there to write about them!

I’d been to Sluggers after Cubs games when in town visiting, but not since I moved to Chicago until a game in July.


Establishment:  Sluggers

Ballpark:  Wrigley Field in Chicago

Location: 3540 N. Clark St. – almost caddy corner to Wrigley on the Southwest side.

Beers served:  Sluggers has a large assortment of beers, but they don’t have anything particularly noteworthy.  You can get all your standards – Bud, Miller and Coors and of course in Wrigleyville they are obligated to serve Old Style!  But if you’re a beer snob (which I protest to being at times) – this is not the place for you. They do have a couple of the most common craft beers – from Lagunitas and New Belgium breweries.  But if you’re coming here, I’d advise to go with the tall boy cans of Miller Lite or Bud Light and enjoy the batting cages.

Menu (if applicable): Classic bar food, that I’d rate as average based on the limited experience I’ve had eating there.  The wings are breaded, which is a big no-no to me – but if you get the barbecue version they aren’t bad.  Other stuff like potato skins and mozzarella sticks are pretty decent.

Is it baseball-themed?  Or is it just close to the ballpark?   The name is Sluggers – a resounding yes.  I’ll get right to the biggest thing this bar is known for – the batting cages upstairs!  There’s nothing like going to Wrigley Field and watching Cubbie hitters struggle against Major League pitching, then going across the street to imagine if you could do better.

Sluggers batting cage

Description:  Sluggers bills itself as a world-class sports bar, and when it was founded 25 years ago, it probably was.  It seems a bit dated these days, but part of that is the draw of the place.  And at least they’ve got a ton of plasma TV’s!  It’s nicer than Cubby Bear next door, but you’ve got to take it for what it’s worth.  It’s kind of like the college bar you’d go to on a Fall Saturday instead of tailgating.  Like Varsity Club in Columbus, something like that.  It’s a great time if you’re looking to hit some baseballs, get a few more beers and enjoy the company of other Cub fans.

This place has a few options – in addition to all the games upstairs, you can sit downstairs to watch games on their multiple flat screens, or you could sit outside on the patio.  That’s a great option on a sunny summer day.

Of course the batting cages are the best reason to go.  You can hit softball slow-pitch, medium speed baseball (~65-70 mph) or fast baseball speed (~80 mph).  I went a month ago and had my first try at the cages.  I went for the medium baseball speed, and did all right in my own opinion.  No swing and misses, and a decent number of well hit balls.  But what is really impressive is to watch the other people in the cages.  A little before me was a big guy who just couldn’t get bat on the ball, and a few spots after me was a 5′ 5″ girl who I’m convinced played high school baseball – she pretty much hit a rope on every swing.

Next time you go to a Cubs game – I’d recommend this for a stop if you leave the game a little early.  The batting cages are worth it, but keep in mind it will get crowded right after the last pitch!


Completed insert set – 2012 Topps Heritage Stick-Ons

27 08 2014

Topps Stick-Ons is my 5th insert set completed from 2012 Topps Heritage. I’ve knocked off both Flashbacks sets, Then & Now, and now New Age Performers.  The only thing I have left to complete the “Master set” is the JFK insert set.  I’m 1 card away from that!

Info about the set:

Set description:  “46 stickers just like those produced back in 1963.″  This is a tribute to the 1963 Topps insert set.  The stickers measure 1-1/4″ x 2-3/4″ and include a floating head picture of the player inside a colored oval with the player name, team and position.  The backs come with instructions on how to peel them off.  Here’s my write-up on the old and the new sets back in 2012.

Set composition:  46 cards, 1:8 odds (2012 Topps Heritage).

Hall of Famers:  None – they’re all active players.

How I put the set together:

  • 6 cards from my 2 hobby boxes
  • 20 cards from trades
  • 3 cards from a card show
  • 17 from online purchases

Thoughts on the set:  This isn’t the coolest oddball set from Topps past, but I love that Topps stayed true to the reboot of it.  Even with the number of cards being 46 like the original.  I also wish there was an easier way to store it!  Right now I just have them in regular pages and they’re really way too small for those.

Card that completed my set: #8 – Pablo Sandoval

I got the last card in July as part of a recent Beckett purchase.

Highest book value: #20 – Albert Pujols

Pujols is the highest valued player, at least according to a pretty dated Beckett I have.

Best card (my opinion): #5 – Jose Reyes

It’s hard to pick a best card since there just isn’t a lot too these.  I remember getting the Jose Reyes pretty early on, and it was cool to see him in a Marlins uniform for the first time.

Best Reds card (also my opinion): there aren’t any – pretty bad out of 46 cards

Other bits of information: There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the color combinations.  Players from the same team have different color backgrounds.

Also, Madison Bumgarner is shown with his 4th of July hat, a promotion MLB does every year.  I looked it up – he didn’t pitch the July 4th game in 2011.

2012 Heritage Stick Ums

2012 Heritage Stick Ums_0001

2012 Heritage Stick Ums_0002

Completed insert set – 2012 Goodwin Military Machines

25 08 2014

This is the only “standard” insert set in 2012 Goodwin Champions.  Unfortunately, Upper Deck didn’t make an insert set that was actually about sports.  But this one is pretty neat in the vein of world history themes that they usually put out for Goodwin.

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Info about the set

Set description:  Insert cards of various vehicles from across military history – including submarines, tanks and airplanes.  The horizontal cards have a border on the top and bottom but are full-bleed on the sides.  The backs of the cards have a write-up on the vehicle and various “statistical” information.  The statistics include size, country, type, first commission and accomplishments.  The set features both specific ships (i.e., the USS Arizona) and generic vehicle types (i.e., DUKW’s)

Set composition:  25 cards, 1:10 odds (2012 Goodwin Champions).

Hall of Famers:  I guess you could argue these are all in the (mythical) military history HOF.

How I put the set together:

  • 6 cards from 3 hobby boxes
  • 9 cards from eBay
  • 10 cards from Sportlots/COMC

Card that completed my set:  #MM-5 – DUKW’s

2012 Goodwin Military DUKW

I got this card from Sportlots back in May.  I’d been one card short on this set for quite a while.

Thoughts on the set:  An interesting set, though I would like it better if it was one of 2 insert sets in the product and the other was sports-themed.  It’s a good read through once you’ve completed the full set.

Best card (my opinion):  #MM-8 – USS Arizona

2012 Goodwin Military USS Arizona

This is my favorite because I’ve been to the memorial on Honolulu there.  The Arizona was the only ship sunk that wasn’t salvageable at Pearl Harbor.

Any other tidbits:  There is only one ship that’s in both this set and the 2011 Allen & Ginter Floating Fortresses set.  I figured there would be more than that, but this set is only US (or Confederate) military.  The Ginter set is geared more toward older ships from many countries.  Regardless, I’m always glad when I can do at least one side by side comparison!

USS Monitor Goodwin Military & Ginter Fortresses

Here’s a breakout of conflicts represented by cards in this set (I only included the first conflict):

Civil War:  USS Monitor, CSS Virginia

Spanish-American War: USS Maine

World War I: USS Arizona (also participated in WWII)

World War II:  USS Yorktown, DUKW’s, LCVP Higgins Boat, B-24 Liberator, USS Missouri,USS Indianapolis, C-47 Skytrain, M7 Priest, M3 Stuart, F4U Corsair, OA-10 Catalina, PT Boats, USS Balao, M4 Sherman, Willy’s Jeep (also in Korean War), M16 Half Track (also in Korean War)

Korean War: F9 Panther, M26 Pershing

Vietnam War: UH-1 Iroquois, F105 Thunderchief, M48 Patton

Here is a breakout of military vehicles by “type” (as arbitrarily organized by me):

Battleship:  USS Monitor, CSS Virginia, USS Maine, USS Arizona, USS Missouri, USS Indianapolis

Aircraft Carrier:  USS Yorktown

Submarine: USS Balao

Water transport: LCVP Higgins Boat (landing craft), DUKW’s (amphibious trucks), PT Boats (patrol boats)

Fighter Aircraft: B-24 Liberator, F4U Corsair, OA-10 Catalina (“flying boat”), F9 Panther, F105 Thunderchief

Transport Aircraft: C-47 Sky Train, UH-1 Iroquois (helicopter)

Tank: M7 Priest, M3 Stuart, M4 Sherman, M26 Pershing, M48 Patton

Jeep: Willy’s Jeep, M16 Half Track

2012 Goodwin Military Machines

2012 Goodwin Military Machines_0001

2012 Goodwin Military Machines_0002

Completed insert set – 2012 Gypsy Kings

23 08 2014

I’m now moving on from my Archives posts to cover completed sets.  This will take up quite a bit of blog time – I’ve completed a lot of sets and neglected final posts for them!  I am just about wrapped up the “master set” for 2012 Gypsy Queen.  In fact, I’ve completed the base set and the inserts, I just want to get the 3 baseball card minis passed out at the 2012 National Convention.

The final insert set I completed from 2012 Gypsy Queen is the “non-baseball” insert set.  It’s a play off the Gypsy Queen idea – called “Gypsy Kings”.  Just like in 2011, Topps put together a group of fake people into the insert set.  Some think it’s kind of stupid, but I guess it’s at least something different.  I guess I was OK with it, but was also glad they stopped doing it in 2013.

Info about the set:

Set description:  There isn’t a description on the sell sheet for this set, but basically the set features a bunch of made up players for a Gypsy King baseball team.  There is some far-fetched writing on the back, usually describing some crazy thing that the particular Gypsy King player did.  The cards feature a brown background and what I would say is a pretty nice design.

I think the Gypsy Kings are all Topps employees who have posed in old school baseball uniforms for the set.  There were also autograph and relic versions of the cards – moving from fake cards to fake autos/relics.

Set composition: 12 cards, 1:48 (2012 Gypsy Queen)

Hall of Famers:  None – these aren’t real people!

How I put the set together:

  • 1 card from a hobby box
  • 2 cards from trades
  • 1 cards from a card show
  • 8 cards from Sportlots/COMC

Thoughts on the set:  I collected it because it wasn’t that difficult, but it’s definitely odd.  I like what they did this year with Gypsy Kings better than last year – at least it’s a fake baseball team, not a fake band of gypsies.  It’s mildly interesting to read the backs.

Card that completed my set: #GK8 – Aladar the Cruel

I got this card from a Sportlots purchase a few months ago.

Highest book value:  All the same

Best card (my opinion): #GK12 – Savo the Savage

I like the Chuck Norris ism in the write-up on the back of this card.  “A runner once tried to steal home by knocking Savo to the ground.  That man died.”

2012 Gypsy Kings

2012 Gypsy Kings_0001

Completed insert set – 2011 Topps Lineage Giants

21 08 2014

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago – I’m almost done with the 2011 Topps Lineage “Master set”.  I’ve completed every standard insert set, and now I’ve finished up the last box topper set that was made in the design of the 1964 Topps Giants card set.

Info about the set:

Set description:  “Featuring 20 of today’s stars, these cards mimic the original 1964 Topps Giants design and postcard size.”  Like all of the Lineage inserts, this is a tribute to a past oddball set.  The 1964 Giant cards were issued as a 60-card set in their own packs in 1964, and are actually still fairly affordable options given how old they are.  Here’s my previous post comparing the current set with the old set. he jumbo card set measures 3-1/8″ x 5-1/4″.  The set features a color portrait with a baseball in one of the bottom corners containing the player name, team and position.  The backs of the cards feature a black and white photo of the player with a newspaper style write-up.

Set composition:  20 cards, 1 per hobby box (2011 Topps Lineage)

Hall of Famers: None – only current players.

How I put the set together:

  • 2 cards from my two hobby boxes
  • 8 cards from and eBay lot
  • 10 cards from Sportlots/COMC

Thoughts on the set:  I love this set.  I liked the idea of the Lineage set back in 2011, except some of the execution wasn’t great.  This was a set where Topps got it right.  Unlike the Heritage version of this set that came out a couple of years later, this set is reasonably attainable.  You get 1 per box, so it’s been a tough set to complete, especially since it’s jumbo cards.  But the cards can be found for a couple of bucks, and even the Jeter I found for less than $10.

Card that completed my set:  TG-8 Ichiro

I got Ichiro’s card from Sportlots about a month ago.  For whatever reason, I got renewed focus this year to finish the Lineage sets and have been buying cards up where I could find a reasonable price.  This was the last of a few purchases in 2014 that made this set complete!

Highest book value:  TG-5 Derek Jeter

Jeter is generally the most valuable of any current player.

Best card (my opinion):  TG-9 Miguel Cabrera

To me this one is hands down the best picture, and the back was pretty neat.  The newspaper style write-up described how Cabrera came back from a couple of days off for the birth of his daughter to hit 3 homers in one game for the Tigers.  Jason Heyward’s write-up was about the home run he hit in his first major league at bat.  That was pretty memorable, but the picture for Cabrera’s card is way better.

My Favorite Reds card:  TG-7 Joey Votto

He’s the only Red in the set.  I miss three years ago when he was close to being the best player in baseball and the Reds seemed very capable of making a World Series run.

Other tidbits: Ultra-pro makes 4 card sheets that fit these fairly well.  As you can see – not perfectly, because they will move around in the sheet a bit.  But it means I don’t need to take them out of the sheets to scan them in!

2011 Lineage Giants

2011 Lineage Giants_0001

2011 Lineage Giants_0002

2011 Lineage Giants_0003

2011 Lineage Giants_0004

Completed insert set – 2012 Gypsy Queen Future Stars

19 08 2014

I finished two different 2012 Gypsy Queen insert sets last November – my how time flies!  The one I haven’t showed off yet is the Future Stars insert.

Info about the set:

Set description: There isn’t a write-up on the Topps promotional material for this set since it’s retail only.  However – there was a Future Stars set in 2011 packed out to every type, which was described as 15 “Promising up and comers”.  This set features guys who were rookies in 2010 or 2011.  The front has a blue border while the back has a player write-up.  They also compare each player to a former all-star.

Set composition: 15 cards, 1:4 odds (2012 Gypsy Queen – retail only)

Hall of Famers: None.

How I put the set together:

  • 1 card from a jumbo pack
  • 5 cards from trades
  • 1 card from the 2013 National
  • 3 cards from Sportlots
  • (negative-1) card from my son getting into my baseball cards
  • 6 cards from COMC

Thoughts on the set:  I like the set, I like continuity between the years.  I like the design for the previous year’s set a little better.  2012 was the year Topps started using “card letters” instead of “card numbers” to denote the card.  That’s a negative in my eyes.  Still, not a bad set at all.  They do a good job with the all-star comparison – for example, Freddie Freeman is compared to Tino Martinez.  That’s better than something outlandish, like saying he’s the next Lou Gehrig or Jimmie Foxx.

Card that completed my set: #FS-MM – Matt Moore

I got this back in November for COMC’s black Friday.  Actually, Moore was one of 4 cards, but I’ll consider him the final since his card was the one my kid got a hold of!

Highest book value: #FS-MS – Mike Stanton

Obviously, a set like this can fluctuate – but as of now, Stanton is the hottest out of this group.  Even if he did change his name up since this card came out!

Best card (my opinion): #FS-CK – Craig Kimbrel

The Kimbrel card shows a cool looking shot of him following through on a pitch.

My Favorite Reds card: There are none.

Any other tidbits: Starlin Castro’s card has an error on the back – saying that he led the league in hits in 2001 (should be 2011).  Also, 4 guys were in this set and the 2011 set – Stanton, Castro, Freddie Freeman, and Desmond Jennings.

2012 Gypsy Queen Future Heroes 2012 Gypsy Queen Future Heroes_0001 2012 Gypsy Queen Future Heroes_0002

Any other tidbits: Starlin Castro’s card has an error on the back – saying that he led the league in hits in 2001 (should be 2011).  Also, 4 guys were in this set and the 2011 set – Stanton, Castro, Freddie Freeman, and Desmond Jennings.

Here are the comparisons made on the back of the card:

FS-BB: Brandon Beachy (Mike Scott)

FS-CK: Craig Kimbrel (Eric Gagne)

FS-DH: Derek Holland (Al Leiter)

FS-DJ: Desmond Jennings (Cesar Cedeno)

FS-EH: Eric Hosmer (Will Clark)

FS-FF: Freddie Freeman (Tino Martinez)

FS-JH: Jeremy Hellickson (Robin Roberts)

FS-JM: Jesus Montero (Ted Simmons)

FS-JU: Justin Upton (Eric Davis)

FS-MM: Matt Moore (Frank Tanana)

FS-MP: Michael Pineda (J.R. Richard)

FS-MS: Mike Stanton (Dave Winfield) – Stanton/Winfield is the only comparison that was the same year-over-year

FS-MT: Mark Trumbo (Lee May)

FS-PG: Paul Goldschmidt (Frank Thomas)

FS-SC: Starlin Castro (Julio Franco)

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #51 – Knickerbocker Beer

16 08 2014

Knickerbocker beerSaturday Suds – where I post about a beer that has something to do with baseball (or at least I’ll try to figure out some way to correlate it with baseball)!  My next “Saturday Suds” is a defunct beer, but it’s got a definite connection to baseball!

Brewery: The Jacob Ruppert Brewery in Manhattan, New York, NY (now defunct)

Beer:  Knickerbocker Beer

Description:  An American lager that was the flagship brew of Colonel Jacob Ruppert’s brewery in East Harlem.  Ruppert was the grandson of a German immigrant brewer, and the brewing legacy passed down the family.  His father, Jacob Sr., started a small brewery and Junior eventually inherited it after a successful military and political career.

Medium:  It was old in bottles, kegs and cans.  The beer was sold to Rheingold in 1965, and it’s been out of production since the early 1970’s.

How it’s related to baseball: There’s actually quite a lot here.  First – Ruppert wasn’t just a successful brewmaster.  He’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  His success made him wealthy enough to purchase the New York Yankees. Of course, Ruppert is best known for bringing Babe Ruth to the Bronx when he bought the Bambino from the Red Sox.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame last year.

Knickerbocker Yankees

And of course, the Knickerbockers were the first organized team in baseball history, back in the 1850’s.  I can’t find it for sure – but I’d imagine this is why Ruppert and his dad named their lager “Knickerbocker”.

Knickerbockers 1845

Third, after Ruppert died, the beer became the beer sponsor of the New York Giants around the 1950’s.  It was sold at the Polo Grounds and advertised in center field.  Russ Hodges, the Giants’ play-by-play man, would announce the winner of a daily prize sponsored by the beer.  His catch phrase was “Have a Knick, feel refreshed.”  A Knickerbocker beer advertisement appeared in the outfield of the Polo Grounds.

Knickerbocker Polo Grounds

The Boston Braves also apparently had a sponsorship agreement as well – I found an ad from the 1950’s for them and the Red Sox.

Knickerbocker Boston schedule

Also, I found a recent article about some pieces of the old Ruppert brewery getting dug up – see that link here.