Category Archives: baseball cards

How to Pitch a No-Hitter…and Lose

On a warm muggy night in late April 1964, 5,426 baseball fans sat in Colt Stadium to watch the Houston Colt .45’s play the Cincinnati Reds. Ken Johnson was the starting pitcher for the Colts. Little did he know as he was toeing the rubber to make his first pitch of the ball game he would pitch a complete game that evening, not allow a hit, but would lose the game 1-0.

The game was scoreless through 8 innings. And the Reds were hitless. With one out in the 9th inning, Pete Rose bunted and Ken Johnson fielded the ball throwing wildly to first base allowing Rose to go all the way to 2nd base. “I knew Rose was fast and I was going to have to throw quick and I had three fingers wrapped around the ball but no time to change the grip. A halfway decent throw and I had him” said Johnson after the game. Chico Ruiz then hit a ball right back to the mound that hit Johnson in the leg and bounced straight to his third baseman Bob Aspromonte who threw out Ruiz. Rose advanced to third base. So with two outs Ken just needed to coax an out from Vada Pinson to get the no-hit victory. Pinson hit a routine grounder to second baseman Nellie Fox. But Fox bobbled the ball and by the time he recovered his throw was too late to get the speedy Pinson, and Pete Rose scored on the error. Johnson later told a dis-heartened Fox, “It was my fault. I put the runner on or we’d been out of the inning”. Thus the Reds took a 1-0 lead on the unearned run, without the benefit of getting a hit off Johnson. Ken retired Frank Robinson on a fly ball to end the Reds half of the 9th inning. The Colts were unable to rally for a run in the bottom of the 9th and Ken Johnson became the first pitcher in baseball history to pitch a nine inning no-hitter and lose the game. Johnson commented after the game “Say, I guess that will put me in baseball history? What a way to get in the book.” Click here to listen to the live broadcast of the final out of the game.

Ken Johnson had a decent major league pitching career. Although his total won loss record was 91-106, his career ERA was 3.46. Johnson was a major factor in the 1961 Cincinnati Reds successful pennant drive. Joining the Reds in July of that year, Ken went 6-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 15 games down the stretch helping the Reds win the pennant. Johnson threw a fastball, curve, slider and change-up. But it was his knuckle ball that gave opposing batters fits (and catchers too). Pitcher Jim Brosnan, a former teammate and roommate of Ken’s in 1961 had this to say about Ken not long after he joined the Reds. “Johnson warmed up. He looked fairly fast, had a fair slider, and sweated a lot. Wiping his face with his shirt sleeve he signaled Zimmerman that he would like to throw a knuckle ball. I can see why they got him now, I said to Henry. That’s a hell of a bug! A good knuckle ball is a pesky pitch to catch, and Zimmerman had trouble stopping it in the bullpen. Johnson took it to the mound, where the Giants had just as much trouble hitting it.”

The above quote was taken from Jim Brosnan’s book “Pennant Race”, a book I highly recommend!

Ken Johnson must of had his pesky knuckle ball that fateful night on April 23, 1964 when he no-hit the Reds. But Pete Rose and the Cincinnati Reds were just a little peskier that evening.

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By the way, I first learned about Ken Johnson losing his no-hitter when I saw it on the back of one of his old baseball cards. Some of those old cards have some cool cartoons and facts about the players on the back of the cards! If you are interested in looking at or purchasing some vintage baseball cards, please checkout my e-storeΒ A Home Plate. I add old baseball cards daily!

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“The Say Hey Kid”, Willie Mays

In 1965 my family moved from Indianapolis, Indiana to San Francisco, California. I was seven years old. My Dad started taking me to San Francisco Giants games at Candlestick Park not long after our family settled into our new home. I still remember the first time we walked into Candlestick Park. The grass was so green and the playing field was huge. I had never been to a big league ball park and this would be my first major league ball game.

It was at this point in my life I became a huge Willie Mays fan. My Dad told me all about Mays. By 1965 Willie was a super star, and had been for many years. Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Batting Champion, Home Run Champion, Mays had done it all. In fact, in 1965 Willie Mays hit a career high 52 home runs and won his second MVP award. But the thing I remember most about Willie was the way he played center field. His mad dashes in all directions to snag fly balls and line drives, his leaping catches over the fence to rob hitters of home runs, and his famous basket catches. Willie always seemed to be in motion. Hustling this way and that. With every ball that was hit to the outfield, there was Mays running to make the grab.

After watching Willie’s amazing defensive feats I decided that when I played baseball I wanted to be a center fielder, just like Mays. So when I joined the San Francisco Bay Area Cub Scouts I quickly tried out for the baseball team and became the starting center fielder. My favorite part of those Cub Scout games was running as fast as I could to try to catch any ball hit in my direction. There is nothing like that youthful feeling you get when running in the lush green grass and jumping and sliding to catch a line drive. With the help of my Dad I gladly practiced my defensive skills constantly. My inspiration to play baseball was instilled by my father, and later because of Willie Mays.

I continued to play baseball till my junior year in high school. By then I was becoming more interested in other things, plus most of the guys on the team were twice my size and could hit the ball twice as far as I could. And I didn’t like sitting on the bench. But I remained a big baseball fan, and to this day Willie Mays is still my favorite baseball player.

Much has been written about Willie Mays, but unless you actually saw him play a baseball game it is hard to describe the excitement Willie introduced to the game. His speed in the outfield and on base paths is legendary, and being able to watch him play baseball in person was a great thrill for me. I was lucky to be able to watch Willie Mays play baseball at Candlestick Park from 1965 to 1971. I owe that to my Dad. To this day I have never seen a professional baseball player match Mays in pure excitement on a ball field. Maybe it was Willie’s enthusiasm for the game. He hustled on every play. Mays really seemed to enjoy playing every game, which is more than I can say for many of today’s rich and coddled ball players. I wonder how many highlight reels are out there that could be put together to do a film showing Willie Mays playing the game? Not a film about Willie’s life, but an action documentary of his extraordinary playing days. Below is something that was cobbled together and put on YouTube. It includes some action highlights of Willie. But perhaps someone should really take the time to do an extensive action film on the greatest and most exciting baseball player to ever put on a major league uniform…Willie Mays!

Here are some great Life Magazine photographs of Willie Mays:

Willie Mays1954

Willie Mays 1954


Willie Mays 1954 Ditching

Willie Mays 1954 Ditching


Willie Mays 1954 Dugout

Willie Mays 1954 Dugout


Willie Mays 1962

Willie Mays 1962

1971 Strat-O-Matic Baseball Replay Update:

May 14, 1971 – The San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers last night 3-2 at Candlestick Park. Willie McCovey hit a walk off solo home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to send the Giants to their third straight victory. Rich Robertson gained his first win of the season by pitching one inning of scoreless relief. Jose Pena was the losing pitcher for the Dodgers. This pitching duel included ten pitchers, five pitchers for each team. The Giants and Dodgers now hook up for two more games in the series. Here are the current standing for my Start-O-Matic baseball replay of the San Francisco Giants 1971 season:

1971 Giants SOM Standings May14

1971 Giants SOM Standings May14

And here are the current Giants batting and pitching statistics:

1971 SF Giants Hitting Stats May 14

1971 SF Giants Hitting Stats May 14


1971 SF Giants Pitching Stats May 14

1971 SF Giants Pitching Stats May 14

I still have some Strat-O-Matic baseball cards for sale in my e-store. Also, I’m still looking for a 1971 SOM Ike Brown of the Tigers, if you want to trade.

Vintage Baseball Card Of The Week:

Willie Mays of course! Below is one of my favorite Willie Mays baseball cards. It’s from the 1962 Topps set. 1962 is the year the Giants won the National League pennant and then lost to the Yankees in the World Series. This was the Series that featured a dramatic ending in Game 7. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Willie Mays on second base representing the winning run and a World Series victory for San Francisco, Willie McCovey hit a screeching line drive to Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson to end the threat, and thus ended the World Series:

1962 Topps Willie Mays

1962 Topps Willie Mays


1962 Topps Willie Mays (Back)

1962 Topps Willie Mays (Back)

And here is one of my favorite baseball cards, from the 1964 Topps set, showing two of the best baseball players ever, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron:

1964 Topps Mays & Aaron

1964 Topps Mays & Aaron


1964 Topps Mays & Aaron (Back)

1964 Topps Mays & Aaron (Back)

If interested, I have many vintage baseball cards for sale in my e-store and on eBay.

On This Day In 1953:

The Milwaukee Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers were tied for first place in the National League. The Dodgers would end the season 105-49, 13 games ahead of the second place Braves. But Brooklyn would go on to lose to the New York Yankees 4-2 in the 1953 World Series.

Speaking of 1953. Below is an 8mm home movie recorded in the Fall of 1953, in New York City. I digitized the film and added some music. I like all the cool neon signs:

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“And Batting Eighth, The Starting Pitcher…”

“Batting eighth Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson, and batting ninth, outfielder Nate McLouth.” Sound kind of crazy? Well, maybe not. Atlanta Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez today said he is considering hitting his pitchers in the eighth spot of the lineup to try to spark the beleaguered Braves offense. “Moving things around,” Gonzalez said. “Trying to do something to create some runs. Nothing crazy.”

Maybe Fredi is right. St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has had some success hitting the pitcher in the eighth spot. It’s almost like having two lead off hitters setting the table for the heart of the lineup. Or maybe Fredi is just trying to get into the heads of some of his hitters. I mean, what hitter really wants to see his name put in the ninth spot of the lineup card!?

The Braves team is currently batting a cool .241 on the season. Not the worst in baseball, but at the rate the Philadelphia Phillies are currently winning games it appears the Braves best chance of getting into the playoffs this year is via the Wild Card. Which means the Braves need to score more runs. Right now, Atlanta’s pitching staff is allowing about three runs a game. So if the Braves could average four runs per game, in theory, they should win quite a few ball games. Unfortunately for Atlanta’s offense, they are not averaging four runs per game. Maybe the Braves could convince Hank Aaron to suit up for the remainder of the season. Henry was an RBI “machine” during his hey day. Imagine how many runs per game the Braves would score if “Hammerin Hank” Aaron were in the lineup!

Watch Hank Aaron on the Late Show with David Letterman:

1971 Strat-O-Matic Baseball Replay Update:

The San Francisco Giants blast 3 home runs to beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-4! Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Bobby Bonds go deep and Gaylord Perry notches his 4th win of the season to push the streaking Giants to 23-11, the best record in baseball through the first 34 games of the 1971 season. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 6 games back of the Giants in the NL West and the Giants and Dodgers begin a 3 game series tonight at Candlestick Park. Here are the current 1971 standings for my San Francisco Giants Strat-O-Matic baseball replay, games ending May 12, 1971:

Current 1971 standings for my San Francisco Giants Strat-O-Matic baseball replay, games ending May 12, 1971

And here are the current San Francisco Giants hitter and pitcher statistics:


By the way, I have some 1971 Strat-O-Matic baseball cards for sale in my e-store, if anyone is interested. And, I am still looking for that elusive 1971 Strat-O-Matic Ike Brown card (Detroit Tigers), in case someone wants to make a trade.

Vintage Baseball Card Of The Week:

The 1956 Topps Hank Aaron card. Fifty-nine years ago this week (1952) Boston Braves scout Dewey Griggs signed Hank Aaron to a contract. The rest is history:


On This Day In 1960:

Ted Williams hit his 500th HR:

1954, 1957 & 1958 Topps Ted Williams Cards

Speaking of Ted Williams, check out this 1958 Topps card I found of “Teddy Ballgame” with Ted Kluszewski. It looks like “The Klu” either had his shoulder air-brushed by Topps to make it look bigger, or Kluszewski was using steroids:

Compare that 1958 image of Kluszewski (above) with this cool 1957 Topps picture (below). His shoulders still look big, but could they have grown so much in one year!?

Jerry Coker – Owner of A Home Plate
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Good Pitching Always Beats Good Hitting…Maybe?

Whether it was Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra or Bob Veale who first coined the phrase “good pitching always beats good hitting”, one thing I know for sure is that once a “good” pitcher finds his groove, hitters start walking back to the dugout with their heads down. And that has been happening a lot to hitters facing the Atlanta Braves pitching staff this year.

Through the first 65 games of the 2011 MLB season the Atlanta Braves are ranked 23rd out of 30 in team batting average, hitting a humble .244. The Braves have scored 254 runs so far this year. In contrast the Boston Red Sox have scored 336 runs and are batting .274. So one might think that the “Bravos” are near the cellar in their division.

Not so! Atlanta’s pitching staff is currently ranked number one in team ERA, giving up a stingy 2.99 runs per game. The Braves not only have a strong starting rotation but they also have a formidable bullpen that includes Johnny Venters who currently has an amazing 0.45 ERA. Not bad considering Venters has pitched in over half the Braves games so far this year! Johnny Venters recent success sparked Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker to comment, “He’s a nasty man”. “The game plan is to have the lead when he might be in the game”. Not a bad game plan since Johnny’s “drop off the table” sinker ball makes batters walk away shaking their heads. I think I can hear them saying “how am I supposed to hit that pitch?”

So how does all this translate to the success of the Atlanta Braves so far this season? Well, the Braves are currently 37-28 and just 2 games behind the first place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Eastern Division. That’s pretty good considering the Phillies are acknowledged as one of the best teams in baseball and the odds on favorite to win the NL East again this year because of their remarkable starting pitching. But the Braves pitching has been good too and that has enabled them to stay in the race despite their current hitting woes.

Earlier this week the Braves played a game against the Florida Marlins, defeating the Marlins 1-0. The Braves managed only 2 hits in 9 innings off Marlins pitching. But one of those hits was a solo home run by Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez which was good enough to win the game. That particular baseball game pretty much sums up the Braves season so far. Atlanta gets a ton of good pitching but only a smidgen of hitting. So far that has been just enough to win ball games. Once Dan Uggla and the rest of the Braves hitters get some of that magic fairy dust sprinkled on their bats, Atlanta could be a team to reckon with come September. Unless the injury bug decides to bite.

Player Of The Week

Goes to Atlanta Braves center fielder Jordan Schafer who has helped ignite the Braves offense by getting to first base, stealing 5 bases and scoring 5 runs. May not sound like much but Schafer has provided the spark that the Braves have lacked all season. A speedy lead off hitter who can steal 2nd base and get into scoring position in front of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. And given Atlanta’s recent offensive woes, 5 runs and 5 stolen bases in one week is big news!

Vintage Baseball Card Of The Week

I was recently inspired by an article written by Jim Caple called “Modern spin on baseball card cartoons”. After reading the article I starting going through some of my old baseball cards and reading the cartoons on the back. One of the first cards I looked at immediately caught my interest, the 1954 Topps Ted Kluszewski card. The cartoon on the back of Ted’s card had an odd fact about “The Klu” that took me completely by surprise. If you read the three-paned cartoon strip called “Inside Baseball” on the back of Ted’s card, it states:

Back of 1954 Topps Ted Kluszewski baseball card

Back of 1954 Topps Ted Kluszewski baseball card

“To improve his 1951 BA, Ted’s wife took movies of his swing. At home Ted studied the films and found what mistakes he made. The next year ‘Klu’ not only corrected those mistakes but jumped his average from .259 to .320!”. Not only is that an impressive improvement for Kluszewski’s BA, but what is equally impressive is that Ted’s wife filmed her husband in the early 1950’s probably using either an 8mm or 16mm movie camera. Families often used 8mm home movie cameras during this period to film their children on holidays or film their vacation. Possibly Ted and his wife borrowed a 16mm movie camera from the Reds organization so they could film his swing. I’m not sure when MLB teams started using film to help their players, but this could be an early example. And perhaps “The Klu” was already grooming himself for becoming a successful hitting coach, as he would prove to be for “The Big Red Machine”, i.e., the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970’s. Big kudos to Ted’s wife for doing the filming. I wonder if that film still exists! By the way, occasionally I try to digitize 8mm home movies using the “poor mans” method of film transfer (record film using a cheap camcorder). In case you’re interested, here’s one of my efforts:

Also, I collect and sell old 8mm home movies on eBay (my eBay ID is cokerobc) and in my e-store.

On This Day In 1951

The Cincinnati Reds were defeated by the New York Giants 5-3 at Crosley Field. The Reds starting pitcher Ken Raffensberger pitched a complete 10 inning game, and lost. Ted Kluszewski went 1 for 5 and scored a run. The Giants would go on to win the NL Pennant on Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard round the world”, off Ralph Branca.

Front of 1954 Topps Ted Kluszewski front of card

1954 Topps Ted Kluszewski baseball card.

1971 Strat-O-Matic Baseball Replay Update

I had about an hour to spare over the weekend so I rolled another game of Strat-O-Matic baseball. As I mentioned in a previous post I am replaying the 1971 San Francisco Giants season using my old Strat-O-Matic baseball game (cards and dice). It is a very slow process πŸ™‚ I’ve now played through May 11, 1971. The Giants defeated the Cincinnati Reds 8-2 in my May 11th simulated game. Juan Marichal got the win pitching a complete game. Marichal is now 4-2 with an ERA of 4.58 in 8 games started. Juan also doubled to score a run in the 4th inning and singled to drive in 2 runs in the 7th inning! Of course both of Marichal’s hits were off Reds pitcher Jim Merritt’s card πŸ™‚ The Giants now play one more game with the Reds before the Los Angeles Dodgers visit Candlestick Park for a 3 game weekend series against the Giants. This will be the first meeting of the year between the SF Giants and their arch rival LA Dodgers. During the 1971 MLB season the Giants beat out the Dodgers by 1 game to win the National League Western Division title (it went down to the final game of the season). I hope I can do the same in my simulation. And then I hope I can beat the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the National League pennant! By the way, I failed to mention in my previous post that Gaylord Perry pitched a no hitter for me in my April 12, 1971 simulation game between the Giants and the San Diego Padres. That was the first no hitter I’ve ever rolled since I started playing Strat-O-Matic baseball when I was a kid! Also, I found some more duplicate 1971 Strat-O-Matic baseball cards in a box with some of my old APBA baseball cards. Most of the 1971 Strat-O-Matic cards I found are the extra cards you had to purchase from Start-O-Matic to add 4 more players per team. If interested, I’m selling these extra cards in my e-store. I’m also still interested in trading for a 1971 Strat-O-Matic Ike Brown card (Detroit Tigers). Ike is the only player I am missing to complete my 1971 Strat-O-Matic baseball card set. Thanks!

1971 Strat-O-Matic Baseball

About 4 years ago I started to replay the San Francisco Giants 1971 baseball season using my old Strat-O-Matic (SOM) baseball game. I play SOM baseball using the original cards and dice that came with the game. My parents bought me SOM when I was a 12 years old. That was 40 years ago! I still have my SOM football and basketball games too. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones. My Mom did not throw out my old baseball cards and games! Anyway, I recently decided to continue where I left off with my Giants 1971 season replay. Back in 2007 I kept score of every game and recorded the Giants hitting and pitching stats, as well as the NL team win/loss records. I played the Giants season schedule up to May 10th, 1971. Here are the current NL standings for my replay. After 32 games the Giants are 21-11 in my simulation. Retrosheet.org shows the Giants were 23-9 after 32 games in 1971. So I’m currently 2 games behind in my simulation. But no problem. I have Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Bobby Bonds on my team! I just need to manage a little better πŸ™‚ NOTE: My simulation standings don’t match Retrosheet’s NL standings because I account for all NL games that differed in outcome during my simulation. So if the game outcome differs for any of my Giants simulation games, then my standings will reflect those differences from the real season NL standings of 1971. As a consequence, my Giants replay can effect the final standings in the NL! Of course it’s only a game πŸ™‚ The big challenge with playing SOM with the cards and dice is the time it takes me to score each game and then record the stats on my computer. I’m sure the computer version of the SOM baseball game is much faster, but I really enjoy playing the game with the original cards and dice. It brings back a lot of memories! I also still have the APBA baseball game my parents purchased for me in 1972. It includes the 1972 and 1973 playing cards. I enjoyed playing APBA when I was younger but it never seemed to have the same realism as my SOM baseball game. I should mention that when I play SOM baseball I play the advanced version. 1971 was the first year that SOM added the advanced version of the game to the backs of the player cards. That created a lot more strategy situations to the game which makes it seem more like a real baseball game, in my opinion. The SOM baseball game was created in 1961. The original SOM player cards and team sets are getting harder to find, particularly in nice condition. Also, SOM issued 4 extra players per team each year that you could purchase beyond the 20 players per team you received when you bought the game. The original extra player cards are even more scarce. You can often find the original SOM player cards on eBay. Also, SOM still exists and you can purchase the player cards directly from them! Many of my SOM cards are beat up. Particularly the SF Giants cards. But I don’t care. I like holding those old cards in my hand! By the way, in case you are missing a player or two from your 1971 SOM season I have a few duplicate SOM cards for sale in my e-store. Or, if you happen to have an original 1971 Ike Brown SOM card of the Detroit Tigers (one of the extra cards that year), I would be willing to trade one of my extra cards for Ike! Finally, if you have already replayed the 1971 SOM season, or are currently doing so, please let me know. Thanks!

Music And The Beatles As I Was Growing Up

If I was forced to choose one band or composer whose music that I could only listen to for the rest of my life, i.e., I could not listen to any other band or composers music except that one, I would choose the music of The Beatles. And it would not be a difficult decision for me. Maybe I would choose Miles Davis, but his album “Kind of Blue” would probably be the only album I could listen to over and over again (“Kind of Blue” may me the best album ever recorded). And maybe Mozart would be a good choice since he was very prolific as well, and there would be a wealth of music to choose from. However, so far in realm of my music listening life (and I am 52 years old) the only music that I seem to be able to listen to and tolerate over a long period of time is the music of The Beatles. Of course much of this preference may be tempered by my having grown up during mid 1960’s through the early 1970’s (ages 7-13 may have been my most formative years, although others may disagree πŸ™‚ Now I’m sure my choice of The Beatles is not big news to many musicians and music lovers around the world as The Beatles are quite well known for their innovation, composition, musicianship and style. But it has always amazed me that I can continue to listen to the music of The Beatles without ever growing tired of it. Maybe that will change one day, but I have been listening to The Beatles music for well over 40 years!

I was born into a musical family. My father is an accomplished jazz pianist, and my mother a wonderful singer. And I have many other family members who are, or were, musically talented. I have vivid memories of going to my Dad’s jazz band rehearsals in downtown San Francisco during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Besides my Dad, there were many other great jazz musicians at those rehearsals. I particularly was enamored by the drummers. I think if I had it to do over again I would have started playing drums when I was young, instead of guitar. I still love to listen to and watch great drummers like Bill Bruford (early Yes), Terry Bozzio (with Frank Zappa and Missing Persons) and the many great jazz drummers I had the pleasure of seeing perform during my Dad’s rehearsals. And I had some interesting (eye-opening) experiences while accompanying my Dad to some of his rehearsals. I remember one day in particular. My Dad was driving us slowly through the crowded downtown streets of SF on a Saturday. I remember looking out the window of our car and seeing a man slumped against a crumbled wall next to a huge skyscraper. He was clutching a brown paper bag in one hand while his other hand lay limp on the ground beside him. He looked like he had been left for dead, leaning against that building. But as people rapidly walked around him he would occasionally flinch and then again drift off into his slumber, or stuper. Watching that old man and the hustle and bustle of the big city of SF from within the safety of my Dad’s car left quite an impression on me. Later that day, during a rehearsal break, my Dad took me to a 5 & 10 store on a nearby street corner. My Dad wanted a paper (the SF Chronicle) and I wanted something to eat and drink…and some baseball cards! Sure enough, that 5 & 10 store had a rack of bubble-gum cards and my Dad bought me a couple packs. And I remember pulling a Willie Mays or some other SF Giant star from one of those packs! It’s interesting, I seem to remember that whenever I bought baseball cards from places other than the store near my house I always seemed to pull baseball cards that I really needed or wanted. Yet when I purchased cards from my local store I would get the same old players πŸ™‚ On the walk back to my Dad’s rehearsal, a bedraggled man with thick whiskers hustled his way in front of me and my Dad and asked my Dad if he had any change to spare. I honestly don’t remember if my Dad gave that man any money, but I do remember feeling a bit scared of that old man. Life in the big city was definitely different than in the suburbs.

Occasionally my Dad would have rehearsals in the basement of our house in SF. These were small group jazz rehearsals that were more intimate than the rehearsals in downtown SF. For me to be able to watch, up-close, a talented drummer demonstrate his mastery of a drum kit, with sticks AND brushes, was mesmerizing! I still remember one drummer who had a funny habit of squeezing his eyes shut with his mouth open as he played. You could tell that he really enjoyed his work πŸ™‚

So jazz has been a big part of my music listening life since the day I was born, and although I really like jazz (and still do!) sometime around 1965 I began exploring and listening to other genres of music, on my own. I remember Motown was big during this period (on the SF air waves) and I used to listen to soul, r&b, and rock-n-roll on my little transistor radio. And it was about this time that I first heard The Beatles. “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Help!” were the first two Beatles songs I remember hearing on the radio. In fact, at some point around this time my Mom and Dad bought me the “Hard Days Night” (HDN) album. It was my first Beatles album! I remember listening to that album constantly on my tiny Sears portable record player. However, I was always frustrated that Capital records decided to include the HDN movie instrumental music on that album, in between all those great Beatles songs (Capital did the same thing on the Help! album). Sad story about my HDN album. Years later when I was living in Miami I loaned my prized Beatles HDN album to my sisters boy friend (against my better judgement). In return he loaned me something like Peter Frampton, I think. About a month or two later my sister broke-up with her boy friend, AND, he ended up moving sometime after that. Thus my first Beatles album is forever
gone 😦 The other Beatles album my Mom and Dad bought me while we lived in SF was Abbey Road (which unfortunately was The Beatles last album). I listened to Abbey Road so much that years later I had to replace it since I ruined it by playing it on my old Sears record player without ever changing the record player needle πŸ™‚ By the time I was 17 years old I had purchased every Beatles album I could find, including many imports (I used to work in a record store in Miami during the 1970’s, so that helped a lot!).

So here is why I like The Beatles music so much. I believe John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the best duo song writers ever (bar none). Their ability to compose great music and lyrics, seemingly with ease, is astounding to me! I suspect it was the combination of god given talent as well as hard work (John and Paul began composing together at a very early age) that made their songs so great. Whatever the reasons, their compositions are very moving. The guitar and vocal work of The Beatles is another reason I admire their music so much. John, Paul and George were all great guitar players and liked to experiment with guitar sounds. All the Beatles studio recordings with the variations of acoustic guitar tracks and electric guitar tracks (including the bass guitar) are a wonderland for any musician and guitarist, like me. There is so much to hear! Then there are the great vocals. John, Paul and George were also great vocalists. It seems very rare to find three great vocalists in any band, particularly these days. Thus, the combination of great composition, accomplished musicianship and skillful singing, and that is why I think I can go on listening to the The Beatles music for another 50 years πŸ™‚ I have yet to hear a band before or after The Beatles whose music I can listen to constantly without at some point getting bored. I can listen to, and re-visit The Beatles music anytime.

I’ll end by saying that much has been written about The Beatles and John Lennon and Paul McCartney and their music. So there is not much need for me to write any more. But The Beatles music had a significant impact on my life both as a musician and a person. It was their music that inspired me to play the guitar. And coincidentally, about the time I started to play guitar and take more interest in music was also the same time I started to leave the innocence of my childhood behind. So music in general, and The Beatles in particular were somewhat of a bridge for me to go from childhood to adolescence. Although, there are some people, I suspect, that feel that I still act like a child, and some others that believe I still behave like an adolescent. But sometimes that can be a good thing πŸ™‚