Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In the beginning, there were no Baseball cards

So I've wondered for a long time how Dan Dickerson, the play-by-play radio announcer for the Detroit Tigers (that's him on the left with his broadcast partner Jim Price) would open his first Spring Training broadcast.

His famous predecessor, Ernie Harwell, read this poem every year to open the season on the radio:

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

But of course Dan could hardly just repeat Ernie, now could he?

Yet every late February I am never in Michigan, as I work in the south-eastern states that time of year.

A couple years ago I found a great solution for catching Tigers broadcasts while traveling - MLB's "app" for smartphones. For a one-time fee (this year one can pay in monthly installments), every MLB game is streamed to your phone, from either team's broadcast.

Finally this year (perhaps last, but not in 2011), this app carries Spring Training broadcasts.

Normally Tigers broadcasts start 25 minutes before the First Pitch time. So last Friday I had spent the morning buying an iTunes card and installing the 2013 version of the app. I was running errands before heading to a meeting with a client, nebulously set up for "a little after lunch", to give me time to catch the beginning of the broadcast.

Many of these errands revolved around baseball cards. First I attempted to visit an official Topps dealer based on the dealer map on the Topps website. I have two "Spring Fever" redemption cards to turn in for packs of a special set of cards. This was a FAIL. The dealer had moved to a new address.

Next I drove over to a Toys R Us attempting to purchase some of their exclusive packages with purple parallel versions of the new 2013 Topps baseball cards. Another FAIL - all sold out there.

Then I caught up on some mailing and copying tasks at an office supply chain store. While doing that I finally sent in some of the 2013 wrappers for the special wrapper redemption cards. In my heart I knew it was probably too late, another FAIL, but I hoped maybe the karma of sending them minutes before my team's first game of Spring Training might rub off on the envelope and some Topps employee would have mercy on me.

Upon leaving the office place, I found myself across the parking lot from a Target store. By this time it was nearing 12:30; First Pitch was scheduled for 1:05 in Florida. A little more than ten minutes till the broadcast, I thought. So....might as well run in and pick up, yes, more baseball cards. Target has the red parallels of course. I literally ran to the store, hurried to the wonderful card section, and grabbed a 'blaster' box.

I made it back to the truck at 12:39 - perfect! I got the MLB app up and running and streaming over the truck speakers and heard: Nothing. More FAIL? I couldn't tell. Maybe the broadcast just hadn't started yet. Fortunately, I had the ten new packs of cards to occupy my time. I don't need much more of the 2013 Topps "Flagship" set, or what I call the "Base" set, but I do like extra copies of the cards to play with in various ways. (These will be revealed in the months to come on this blog).

But the new cards were just one more case of FAIL on this day now going rapidly downhill. I thought all blasters in Target had some of the red parallels. But no, only the 'specially marked boxes' have them. Definite FAIL.

Just as I was thinking it was time to hit the road to my client meeting, the static on the speakers cleared and Dan Dickerson's voice came across loud and clear:

"In the beginning, there was no Baseball." The verse from B.J. Phillips continues "But ever since, there have been few beginning as good as the start of a baseball season. It is the most splendid time in sport."

Dickerson explained a bit more of the source last year:

"I don't even know who B.J. Phillips is. But I found this saying in Time Magazine in 1980, liked it, and open every year with it."

I could of Googled all this long ago, as I have writing this post, but I have always wanted to hear it for myself. And now I know.

The actual first game of Spring Training was a nice one for the Tigers, though like all Baseball games, it could not have been well predicted in advance. I kept my client meeting short and got back to my truck and the game as fast as possible. The steady stream of various Braves pitchers actually had a No Hitter going until the 8th inning. Has there ever been a No Hitter in Spring Training? Dan & Jim weren't sure. They weren't too excited about trying to find out either. I still don't know.

Finally Tyler Collins, an A/AA prospect in the outfield, hit a triple. Then Jeff Kobernus, a Rule 5 pick-up, knocked him in. Always nice to see a Rule 5 player do well. Collins had another hit his next time up and also had some nice defensive plays.

The Tigers won the game, but that isn't important. Some potential future Tigers did well, and that is always good. And baseball is back!

Oh, and while I plan to write about baseball cards as well as occasionally the Tigers, while following the season via radio broadcasts and baseball cards, I won't be able to show you cards all that often. Unless taking pictures of them works out. I will be working on the road until a bit past Opening Day sometime, and thus unable to scan in the images of my beloved little glossies.

So, in the beginning of my blog, there are no Baseball cards.

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