Dracula or Legos

January 23, 2013

Legos are amazing – and going a little too far. I don’t know who created them but that person has probably worth a couple of billion dollars. And, the same person could be both a hero or scourge in your household.

Andrew received a Legos set (is an individual Legos a Lego?) for Christmas.  It is a 1962 Volkswagen T1 Camper Van. The Legos folks can be – if nothing else –  good with the details.

It hasn’t always been that way. I recall the original “sets” challenged your creativity because it was difficult to distinguish pieces. A foot was a head was a leg unless they were painted. Now Legos has engineers and architects to create life-like models. The Camper is so realistic you would think it was designed in Stuttgart. There are 1332 individual pieces and when completed it will be a foot long.

The VW Van used in Tom Wolf’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” had fewer 125 parts.

More than two scores ago friends and I made plastic models. You got a box with all the pieces to assemble a figurine. Cars were big of course. But there was a wave of World War II airplanes. And I recall tanks were big. Mine was an British military vehicle used in beating back the Germans.

Monsters came in a series and everyone made their favorite. Mine was Count Dracula. But there was Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Creature, and the Mummy. They are yawners in a decade featuring Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

My biggest modelling accomplishments were the USS Constitution and Yankee Stadium. Actually I never finished “Old Ironsides.” The rigging was too much for my lack of patience (a life-long short coming). Yankee Stadium was a lot easier. The field, seats and stands were a walk in the park, so to speak. It was all about the prominent facade that distinguished “the House that Ruth Built” – home of my Bronx Bombers.

Unlike Legos, model pieces were glued. Many a model was destroyed by glue smeared or left too weak. Decals were critical. They had to be centered and not ripped.  And a great model required painting. You had to be careful to paint just enough copper on the ship’s hull or get the right green to make sure the Creature didn’t look like Kermit the Frog.

Legos eliminate some of those risks. The pieces fit together as if locked. I haven’t seen any painting. And the VW doesn’t have any decals. It costs $200.

But maybe I’m an old curmudgeon.

Andrew completed an airport and a police station before knocking out the Seattle Space Needle and the Guggenheim Art Museum. Legos Mega stores are in almost every major city. Are they for kids? My 6-year old grandson wanted one for Christmas. A friend’s 25-year old son – with a science degree from Cornell – wanted one for Christmas. Legos may be a vacuum cleaner’s worst enemy but I guess they are also the models of Andrew’s generation.

I wonder if they have a Yankee Stadium set.

A Look at Ebbets

August 22, 2011

I’m lucky to have gone to games at both the “old” Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. Dad would take my brother and me to see the two. He didn’t have a lot of time for the Yanks. But we got to go anyway – Mom was a native of the Bronx. Dad grew up a Giants fan, adopted the Mets, and took us to the Polo Grounds.

But I never saw Ebbets Field. The Dodgers had left for the coast playing at Wrigley Field in LA (taking the Giants with them) before I knew of baseball.

Now my cousin’s son Heinz can give us an idea of the site and place. Check it out.  


Special Balls

June 28, 2011

Millions of baseball fans treasure a baseball – maybe more – that reminds them of a  place, a day or a person. Maybe it’s in your den or office. You may have given it to a son or daughter. Perhaps you gave it away or simply lost it.

But it’s really with you.

(Wait, you didn’t think this post was about something other than baseball did you?)

Last year I purchased a ball for Andrew in a chuch  auction. They had one ball signed by the members of the World Champion San Francisco Giants. I figured that ball – complete with Tim Lincecum – would have value. The other was signed by all members of the 2010 NL All Star team. I had no chance, right?

I told my friend Mike to go up to $200 for the Giants ball. Frankly, I thought I was going to be an auction rabbit, increasing the bidding. No surprise when the Giants/Lincecum ball went for $400+.

But I had won the NL All Star ball. Now Andrew would have Lincecum – and Pujos – and Braun – and, well, all NL studs. Only $250. Who really knows what the value. 

Somewhere in our house is a ball signed by Brooks Robinson, a hero of mine, and given to me. There’s a ball signed by, well, we really don’t know. We think it’s Ken Griffir Sr. They are probably in the same place – lost.

But then there are the really memorable balls, like one at Yankees Stadium 40 years ago.

At 10 I was at the Stadium for a game between the Yanks and a sacrificial opponent (A’s?). Early in the game there was a line drive into the seats between first and the foul pole. It was smoking. A big man jumped up and snared it clean. Next day at school I’m talking about the game and Billy Prudin pipes up. It was his Dad that caught the liner. Great. Any kids nightmare, a dentist fast enough to spot a line drive.           

I got my own foul ball at a Yankees-Tigers game in the late ’60s.

Our neighbor Jay and his fiance Gail, invited brother Bill and I to the ball game. Bill begged off. I, of course, jumped at it “third wheel” or not. Hey, he offered. The seats were primo – four rows back and right next from the Pinstripe’s dugout. The boxes between us and the field were empty when Detroit’s Jim Northrup barely made contact. The scribbler came right back. I was slow but the bat boy was slower. I had my ball. Sure, it wasn’t a rocket but who cared – and who needed to know, right?

I lost the Northrup ball long ago. It was ripped up and worn from playing hardball and then lost. I blame Bill.           

I “caught” a ball for Andrew during batting practice before a Brewers game two years ago. I was looking at the game program. Andrew was among 10 kids – gloves in the ready – focused on getting a foul ball. Suddenly, “Look Out!” I looked up just as a ball caromed off my shin. The ball spun in place and a youngster scurried to get it before buddies raced in.

“Hey,” I bellowed,” that’s mine, pal. I took the shot. I get the ball.”

Great. I was getting tough with a kid over a used batting practice ball hit foul by a guy named Dickerson. Two months later Dickerson would be traded and sent to the minors never to be heard from. The kid, stunned, apologized. “Sorry mister.” Now neither the A-train nor I can find it.

If Andrew ever learns his dad moved seats at a game late last year, I’d have a problem. A ball fell right into the seat I had left. Then again I would have muffed it. 

Besides, there will be thousands of balls to come. Maybe one or two will be memorable.

Bobbling Along

March 23, 2011

When did bobble heads become coveted momentos? Once folks went to a game and perhaps buy one as a souvenir. Today they go on Bobble Head Day – and there’s a game too.

When my Dad would take us to a game – Yanks or Mets – bobble heads were at the concession stands with all the other team paraphernalia – pennants, caps, little bats, player cards and photos (what ever happened to my photo of  Mantle and Maris). Seemed like there were 100 items to peruse. Including bobble heads.

(Note: One of the greatest give-a-way days was the Yanks’ Bat Day. Thousands of young fans received an actual bat as they entered the Stadium. In the 5th inning all the kids were asked to hold their up. What a site. Today, of course, the carnage would be unimaginable.)     

The little bobble guy was posed with either a glove or bat. And he had a great big smile that said “it’s great to be a Yank or Yankees fan.” OK, he was goofy looking, kind of like a Bob’s Big Boy hamburger stand statue. But he wasn’t as goofy looking as Mr Met.

I quickly learned the Mets had their own bobble head. And their guy had the same face. He was just as happy as the Yanks’ bobble head. How could that be? He was with the Mets for God’s sakes.

Then Dad took us to the Polo Grounds for an AFL football game between the (LA?) Chargers and New York Titans. And there were bobble heads at the Titans concession stands. I know because I bought one. And it was the same guy’s face. He got around. Only this time he was a Charger – white helmet with yellow lightning bolts and the powder blue jerseys. Classic.

Good luck finding and buying original bobble heads issued before 1980. I thought I would buy one for the couple who clean our house. She collects angels. He’s a big baseball fan. I thought I would try to buy a ’61 LA Angels head. Right to Ebay. Suddenly I was bidding with others. When it got to $50 I pondered just how clean the place had been. I checked one last month. The asking price was $250.

No wonder there is trafficking in the little cherubs.  Two years ago Andrew and I took his buddy Matthew to Miller Park. I forgot it was a Bobble head day. With an extra seat we had an extra head. I told Matthew he could give the extra to his brother. On the way from Miller to the parking lots Matthew had numerous opportunities to sell his brother’s bobble head. And, he did. It was a 3-way transaction. Matthew got a cool $10. The fence got his. And I learned something about Andrew’s friends.

Of course, there are bobble heads and there are bobble heads. In just one season we got Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, Jeff Suppan, and Bernie the Brewer. The Suppan, of course, is worthless.

And there are hockey players bobbles, indoor soccer players bobbles, all sports bobbles. There’s Betty Boop. I’m sure there are bobble heads for every President from JFK to today.

But the value of a bobble head comes from the memories, not the figurine.