My Topps Now Anthony Rizzo boo boo

On September 30, 2018, Anthony Rizzo hit his 100th RBI of the season. Check out the video below courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago.

Look how excited and pumped that Rizzo is on that play! He’s jumping up and down like a little kid. I love it! The Cubs went on to beat the Cardinals that day 10-5. Now being that I really like Anthony Rizzo, I hopped on the Topps Now section of the Blowout Card Forums to voice my enthusiasm. Rumor has it that one of the Topps folks in charge of Topps Now cards monitors their forums. I wanted Rizzo to get a card celebrating his 100th RBI so I posted the following post to the group.

As you can see, I went as far as adding two sources for the card. I was happy, proud and confident I would persuade Topps to include Rizzo in the following day batch of cards. During the afternoon of the next day, I aggressively refreshed the Topps Now page to see if they had included Rizzo. When the new cards appeared, there was Rizzo. I was thrilled! As I looked closer at the description on the front of the card, it said the following:

4th in franchise history with 3 seasons of 30 HRs, 30 2Bs & 100 RBI

Hmm, how odd I thought. I didn’t remember Rizzo getting to 30 HRs. Before I looked at the stats, I got back on the forum. Others had noticed the incorrect stats. But I sourced it directly from MLB’s website! I went back to their website and read the article. I looked at the date of the article and it showed September 2, 2017.

I was in shock and disappointed in myself for posting an outdated article. Not only were folks on the forum frustrated, but I was also seeing people talking about this on Twitter. I felt terrible about this! I had to own it at this point so I went on the offensive. I posted to the forums and to Twitter that I was the one who suggested the card but posted the wrong link. I pleaded with Topps on Twitter that the stats were for the previous year and to use the first link from NBC Sports Chicago that correctly mentioned Rizzo as being the first Cubs lefty to get 100 RBIs in 4 seasons.

The next day I noticed the front of the card on the Topps website had changed to the correct stats. However, the back still mentioned the stats from 2017. I still hoped that it would be fixed once it was printed. I received the card today and the back is exactly the same as it was on the website. Drats!

I’m not sure why the folks at Topps didn’t check this a bit closer, but I still feel partly responsible for it. The folks on the forum seemed like it made for a good story. The Rizzo card turned out to be the second to last Cubs Topps Now card of the season as the Cubs were eliminated in the wild card game against the Rockies. Maybe next year!

Jon Lester game used ball

In the last blog post, I wrote about my recent visit to Busch Stadium to watch the Cubs vs Cardinals. I wanted a relic from the game since as it was the first game my wife and I had attended together. I checked eBay but couldn’t find anything.

I looked on MLBshop at the Cubs section but they didn’t have anything from that game. I then checked out the Cardinals section and noticed an entry for $39.99 game used baseballs. I clicked on that and it gave me a list of dates from 2018. I found June 15, 2018 on the list and placed my order.

On Saturday, I received an email with the tracking number. I clicked on it to see when it would arrive and it said it had already been delivered. Huh? I opened the door and there sat the ball in a small box. I opened up the box and the ball was encased in a ball cube which was a nice touch.

There was a label on the case that listed the details of the ball. It was from the bottom of the first inning and was the first pitch to Harrison Bader from Jon Lester. At first I thought it meant the first pitch of the game for Lester, but then realized Bader was the second batter that Lester faced. (Matt Carpenter was the first batter.)

I looked up the authentication number online and found more information. It was a 91.3 mph four-seam fastball and was recorded as a ball.

I found a video to the game on YouTube which showed the pitch from Lester to Bader.

As you can see, the pitch was low and in the dirt. The catcher (Contreras) immediately handed it to the umpire and exchanged it for a new ball.

I’m really pumped that I have a game used ball from an actual game I attended. Now if I could figure out how to get Lester to sign it.

Cubs vs Cardinals at Busch Stadium (6/15/2018)

I’ve only seen the Cubs in person twice and both of those were at Wrigley Field. My wife’s birthday was coming up and she mentioned that she wanted to go to St. Louis as we had never been there together. I quickly realized the Cubs were going to be in St. Louis the same weekend and wondered if I could convince her to go to a game. She graciously agreed so I started researching tickets and parking options.

I originally searched on StubHub for tickets but I then found the same tickets about $13 cheaper on TickPick so went that route. As for parking, my first option via SpotHero disappeared as I waited too long. However, I was able to get parking at Stadium East for $30 via iParkIt which is right next to the stadium. I already had purchased a hotel room but it was in Maryland Heights because everything else closer to the stadium was way too expensive or got really crappy reviews.

After grabbing a quick breakfast at Dunkin Donuts in Champaign, we hit the highway. Our first problem out of the gate was Apple Maps was having some sort of outage and could not give us directions. It figures the one day I really need it and it fails. Luckily I was able to use Waze (my preferred mapping/directions app) via audio and it was able to guide us. (I can’t wait till the fall when Apple loosens restrictions on their CarPlay mapping apps with iOS 12!)

We stopped in Effingham, IL to stretch our legs and get some water. Water would be the commodity of the weekend as it was going to be excessively hot and humid. The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area so I knew it would be bad.

We made it to St. Louis a little after noon and visited a book store (Half Price Books) that my wife wanted to see. After that it was on to The Cheesecake Factory for lunch. On the way from the parking lot to the restaurant, we had our first encounter with a Cardinals fan. He disliked our Cubs apparel, but we shrugged it off and proceeded inside. Our waitress was great and told us she would take care of us even though we were Cubs fans. (I would hope so if she wanted a good tip!) A customer sitting at the table next to us said: “You guys are brave for wearing those Cubs shirts here!”

After an enjoyable lunch, we headed to our hotel to check-in. The person checking in people made some wise-crack about us being Cubs fans, but then she said she didn’t even follow sports so it wasn’t a big deal. We unloaded our stuff and then headed towards Busch Stadium. Traffic became more insane the closer we got. I disliked how lanes disappeared with no warning or became turn-only lanes. I got stuck in a turn lane on the way to the parking garage and had to go around the block right by Busch Stadium which was slow going. We finally made it into the garage on the second time. The attendant looked at my iParkIt printout and said to show it to the cashier on the way out. By the time the game was over, there was no cashier!

We followed a bunch of people to the stadium, but was unsure which gate to go in. I looked it up on my phone and found that gate 3 would be the closest entrance to our seats. All we saw was gate 4 and realized gate 3 was on the other side of the stadium. We walked around and found gate 3 and stood in line with other people. It was incredibly hot and sweat was coming from every orifice. The gates were scheduled to be opened 2 hours ahead of game time. At 5:15pm, the gates opened and fans started filing in. After going through the metal detectors and getting our tickets scanned, we were finally in the stadium!

Our seats were located in row 1 of section 356 of the terrace level. Before we went up to our seats we stepped into the first level to get a few pictures. Having the St. Louis Arch in the background of about every picture was pretty sweet. We were dying of thirst at this point so we stopped at a vendor to get two bottled waters. $11 please. Ouch! I darn near chugged the thing counting the dollars going down my throat.

We made it up to the third level and took more pictures. As we proceeded to our seats, we were approached by a family of Cubs fans asking if I would take their picture for them. After I took their picture, they graciously took a picture of my wife and I with the Arch in the background. Pretty awesome! It felt good to have some friendly fans in a visiting ballpark.

We descended the steps to our row and found our seats. The view was pretty sweet with just a small railing in between us and sudden death should one fall over it. More pictures were taken including several panoramic shots. I looked down on the field and remembered why I was here in the first place. There were my Cubs right in front of me taking batting practice! There they were, not on TV, not on the radio, not on a baseball card but in real human form! The little kid inside of me was excited as could be. We sat there watching them for awhile as several balls were blasted into the stands. (hopefully a good sign for later in the game!)

Despite it being super hot, we still needed to eat something. We walked around the vendors in our area and found the Gashouse Grill which had good old jumbo hotdogs. I can’t go to a baseball game without a hotdog, so we both got a dog w/fries and a bottle of water. $36! We found a table with an umbrella to eat at, but it wasn’t pointed in the right direction to shade us from the sun. The fries were pretty boring and flavorless, but the hotdog was one of the best I’ve ever had. This was a plain hotdog (no condiments) and was grilled with a little burnt skin on the outside just the way I like it. It was delicious! The lady who sold us the hotdogs whispered to me “Go Cubs!”

After a bathroom break, it was back to our seats. During the National Anthem, we stood up and removed our hats. At the end, we clapped and that’s when I noticed my wife’s hat fall out of her hands. Thankfully it landed on our side of the railing but a Cards fan behind us yelled out “someone almost got a Cubs souvenir!” Whew, crisis averted!

It was finally time to play ball. I was expecting a pitching duel since it was Lester vs Wacha, but that didn’t happen. I was excited when Rizzo got a single in the first inning. He then took off trying to steal second base before the pitcher even threw a pitch. I just knew this would be an easy out but he somehow made it to second and then on to third as Wacha threw the ball away. Sadly he was unable to score in that inning.

The fun started in the third inning when Ian Happ hit a solo HR. The Cubs fans in attendance made their presence felt when that ball left the yard. After an Albert Almora single, Kris Bryant hit a home run to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead! Kris freaking Bryant hit a home run and I got to see it in person! Slump be damned, KB is back! 🙂

The Cubs kept it going in the 4th inning by scoring 2 more runs making it a 5-0 game. St. Louis finally got on the board with a solo home run from Marcell Ozuna in the bottom of the 4th. The game really got out of hand in the top of the fifth inning. Rizzo hit a ball that bounced over the outfield wall but bounced back into play. He didn’t know it at the time and was running hard to second base. The outfielder threw the ball to second base but it was ruled a ground-rule double. Contreras was unintentionally walked and then Schwarber hit a 3-run home run to blow the game wide open. They took Wacha out when it was 8-1 but it didn’t matter. The new pitcher Mike Mayers gave up another three runs to make it 11-1 at the end of the fifth inning!

Matt Carpenter hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the sixth to make it an 11-2 game. The Cubs scored in the 7th to make it 12-2. The Cardinals added a few more runs but the final score was 13-5 Cubs! The Cubs fans to our left got out their big W flag and waved it at Busch Stadium. That was awesome! The Cubs are 3-0 when I’ve seen them in person. Not too shabby.

Once thing I noticed is that many Cardinals fans left the game early. Sure the game was most likely out of reach but why pay so much to go to a game and then leave half way through? The folks sitting next to me left in the 7th inning and the family behind us shortly after that. I guess since I rarely get to go to a game, it is an event in itself. Win or lose you have to stick it out.

As for Busch Stadium, it’s a really nice stadium. It was easy to navigate, had lots of vendors and the bathrooms were clean. Everyone I came in contact with was friendly even though I was a Cubs fan. The view of the city including the Arch from the stadium is very awesome. Kudos to you St. Louis!

Special thanks goes out to my wife who let me hijack one evening of her birthday weekend to go to the Cubs game. 🙂