Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Hockey Jersey Mystery

I loved me some Hardy Boys when I was a kid, despite the Boulder Public Library's refusal to stock the books (oddly enough, they did have "The Ghost of the Hardy Boys" -- the memoirs of Leslie Macfarlane, a frequent contributor to the Hardy legend -- but only in a secret back room where you had to ask nice). I think the library's refusal was based on literary quality, but I got my hands on 'em anyway and read them avidly. I even, at one point, tried my hand at writing my own. "The Hardy Boys and the Graveyard Mystery" (because I liked spooky stuff) and "The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of the Emerald Guitar" (because I liked emeralds and I liked guitars. And, for that matter, mysteries). "The Graveyard Mystery" was actually performed as a play at Heatherwood Elementary, providing the high point of my literary career so far.

Now, it might be time for my third, because I've got a puzzler suitable for Frank and Joe (and Chet and Biff): The Mystery of the Milwaukee Admirals Jersey That is Mysterious. Rapt? I thought you would be.

Ahh, the Admirals. One of the venerable minor league teams. I've been pretty proud to have this in my collection -- it's a very nice jersey, and the Ads are one of those staunch midwestern minor league teams (like the Komets and K-Wings) that have been gallantly plugging along for years. They're a proud franchise if you ignore this, and this has looked nice in my closet.

But I've got way too many jerseys in that closet, to the point where it's tough to store clothes I might actually work, so I'm getting set to clean some of them out. And this one was on the chopping block ... to the point where I put it up on eBay this morning.

It was only up there for about two hours, because of ... this.

(pauses for gasps of horror)

It got a lot of rapid interest -- including a note from a Milwaukee jersey expert, who asked a few questions and also pointed out that I had the year wrong (oops) and also that, as far as anyone can determine, Ladislav Tresl never wore #11 for the Admirals. He wore #33 all three seasons he spent in Milwaukee.

And he's right. I've checked around, and there are plenty of records of Laddy wearing #33, none of him wearing #11 with the Admirals. Here's a team photo from the season of this jersey; it's a bit hard to tell, but Mr. Tresl is wearing 33.

The plot thickens, though. Tresl -- a Czech player, it's probably unnecessary to point out -- wore #11 throughout his Czechoslovakian career (spent with Zetor Brno, the forerunner to PPA favorite Kometa Brno ... this is where Frank and Joe would get so puzzled that they'd call in their dad, Fenton). And one has to ask -- who would forge a minor league game-worn jersey? (I bought it from an as-far-as-I-know-reputable dealer five years or so ago)

So my best guess -- and I've sent off e-mails to Milwaukee in hopes of sorting this out -- is that it's a preseason/training camp jersey. The letters are screened onto a nameplate, not stitched. There's also a general lack of wear (a little but not much).

This has nothing to do with our investigation, but I just always liked the anchors on the old Admirals jerseys.

A bit about our guy: Tresl (generally known as "Laddy" on this side of the ocean) was born in Brno and starred for the city's team throughout the 1980s. The Nordiques drafted him in the late rounds of the 1987 draft; he immediately came over and bounced around the minors (Fredericton, Halifax, New Haven, Milwaukee, Memphis) for seven years, with some good seasons but without cracking the NHL. He went back to Brno for a few years, then crossed the Atlantic one more time and closed his career in Waco. And, surprisingly, he stayed in Texas. Last I checked, he was coaching high school hockey and living in West, Texas. Comma intentional -- it's the City of West. That webpage actually gives a clue about why a Czech might feel at home there. It doesn't, unfortunately, give us any more clues about the jersey mystery.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Creepy Crawl

I'm just tearing through the old-school paperbacks these days.

#42 -- "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson

Another one dredged up from the teen years. This is a masterpiece of never-quite-seen horrors -- nothing's ever seen head on and there is considerable question as to what the origin really is. I read most of this at home alone last night, and once the lights went out I became acutely aware of every creak and bump in my building -- and when my neighbor bumped something against the connecting wall between our units, I achieved levitation, my friends.

Messages to Myself

I use the iPod Touch's "Notes" feature a bit inconsistently; I leave notes for myself on it and then forget about them for weeks on end. Hey, look at what I wanted to get at the grocery store last month! That sort of thing.

Went through it yesterday -- mostly reminders to myself of books, movies, or music that I wanted to pursue. But there is one that's puzzling me, from July 17:

"The Day I Realized I Would Suck at Evil"

What prompted this? A short story idea? A revelation about my own life? I have no clue.

* * *

#41 -- "The Ministry of Fear" by Graham Greene

First GG novel in a while! And this is a good one. Tense and thrilling, really fast and very unpredictable. All that combined with Greene's trademark cheery outlook on humanity. I've got a few of his novels that have been languishing unread for years and this might get me cracking.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Little Rip

Cal Ripken Jr. (even now, it's hard for me to think of him without the generational title) turned 50 a couple weeks back. Contrary to the way these things usually work, that's actually made me feel young: if I'm 13 years younger than Cal, then perhaps there's still time for me. (to do what, I'm uncertain.)

Calvin Edwin Ripken Junior (I still remember the full name without looking it up; also that he was born in Havre de Grace. I've managed to forget his birthday, at least) was my favorite baseball player throughout the 1980s; this poster hung above my bed for years, only coming down when I moved to Arizona. It may seem hard to credit now, but he seemed relatively unappreciated in the 1980s; despite his successive Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, not to mention the 1983 World Series, he was playing third fiddle among AL shortstops to Robin Yount and Alan Trammell (and perhaps briefly, Tony Fernandez). If I remember right, this particular poster wasn't even listed in Sports Illustrated's vast poster ads.

Of course, after his second MVP award in the 1990s, he was anything but underappreciated. And his status as representative of "all that is good in baseball" probably got/gets a bit tiresome. But I still remain fond of the guy.

The Orioles haven't worn this uniform in more than two decades -- Ripken's hair probably hasn't been dark in at least that long. Nonetheless, when I think of the O's, this is the definitive image.

* * *

#40 -- "Echoes From the Dead" by Johan Theorin

A rare promise kept: I said the next book I read was gonna be another mystery, and lo and behold, it was. Theorin's latest novel beat out the late Stieg Larsson for some sort of Swedish award, so I was intrigued enough to grab this (Theorin's first, from a few years back).

It's interesting and nicely gloomy; it's got that "mystery of the past having reverberations in the present" thing that I'm always a sucker for. The plot kept me intrigued throughout. On the other side, none of the characters really grab me; Julia, the book's center, is pretty colorless. When she shows signs of emerging from her depression and regaining control of her life later in the book, we haven't really seen any signs leading up to this; it's just sorta "now, Julia is happier." Oh, okay.

The ending really threw me and I'm not sure yet how I feel about it. I was just about to write it off as "really weak climax" when it took a really sudden and unexpected turn; completely surprised me, but I don't know if that's just because there was no hint at all it might come. Don't know that I like the way it ended, but don't know that I don't.

All in all: an interesting but imperfect debut, and I look forward to reading the (aforementioned award-winning) second book, which got some really swell reviews.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mystery Train

#37 -- "The Girl Who Played With Fire" by Stieg Larsson

#38 -- "Nobody's Perfect" by Donald Westlake

#39 -- "The Blue Hammer" by Ross MacDonald

Not planned, but three straight books that you'd find in the mystery section at the local bookstore (and the next one probably will be, too). There was a time when this would be my regular reading pattern but it's been a while.

I was ahead of the curve on the first Larsson book, behind it on this one. I had some trouble getting into it, wondered if I would, then one night realized that I'd gone through 200 pages without thinking about it and was way past bedtime. I can't really remember how I felt about Lisbeth Salander in the first book, but in this one she's established as a really great, memorable character.

"Nobody's Perfect" -- ok, I kinda burnt out fast on my Dortmunder re-reads. This one seemed considerably weaker than the other two (still funny, just not as) and I dunno if that's a legitimate quality difference or just me reading three in a row really fast.

"Blue Hammer" -- once upon a time I considered MacDonald to be the third member of the holy trinity, with Chandler and Hammett at the other points. He's less appreciated (and was far more prolific) than the other two, but at his best it was no sin to speak of him in the same breath. This was the final Lew Archer novel, and while it's weak in some areas -- the plot really makes no sense -- it's the characterization, the desperation that makes it worth reading. In Chandler and Hammett, the crime becomes the centerpiece of the world; in "The Blue Hammer," it's just affecting a small group of sad people while the rest of the universe moves happily onwards. It's tragic and powerful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Modern-Day Ruins

I noticed this a while back, when my friend Nix held a party: a blasted out building, directly below her building's pool deck.

Turns out I'd actually been there. It's the old location for Loca Luna, now forgotten after a move. I'd actually been inside this building a few times back in the day, most notably the night before the 2004 tsunami. Looking at it from above, it didn't ring any bells and looked properly post-apocalyptic to push all my buttons.

Not sure what's in store for the space. It looks like it's been abandoned for decades, not a few years. In the grand scheme of things, in the good-for-Atlanta category, it'd be best if it gets snapped up fast.

For people who like urban decay, though, it's fantastic right now. It even has a 2000s-era ghost sign that looks like it dates to the 1940s.

Almost thoroughly disconnected, though it's still Atlanta: I can find sky porn anywhere.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Rusty, We Need To Talk

I've been a fan of Ruslan Salei through thick and thin -- mostly thin -- since he came to the Avalanche. He's Eastern European (and from one of the very underrepresented Eastern European countries, too), and he's generally portrayed as a genial, level-headed guy. So that makes today's decision to sign with the Red Wings a mystery. Think this over, Ruslan: you've lived in California, Florida, and Colorado. You've been in North America for 15 years or so. How do you think Detroit is going to look by comparison?

Last week, out of boredom, I was assembling some Avalanche trivia (you kill time at work your way, I'll kill it mine) and I actually put together a list of players who have been on both Detroit and Colorado. It isn't pretty.

Jim Cummins. Eight games, two points, 65 penalty minutes with the Wings; 55 games, three points, 147 penalty minutes with the Avalanche.

I debated whether to count Cummins -- he played for the Red Wings before the Avalanche became the Avalanche -- before coming to the conclusion that it was already pretty lame to be assembling this list, and if I got to the point where I was agonizing over who to include, I was entering dangerous territory. His career was nicely arranged for the purposes of this pointless exercise -- he entered the NHL with Detroit in 1991-92, exited it with the Avalanche in 2003-04.

Advantage: Detroit. Cummins did his thing wherever he went, but he averaged 8 PIM per game in Detroit, which was undoubtedly more exciting. His points per game stat was higher in Detroit, too; .25 in Detroit, .055 in Denver. The Red Wings obviously got him at his best.

Uwe Krupp. 30 games, six points, 14 penalty minutes with the Wings; 144 games, 55 points, 90 penalty minutes with the Avalanche.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out Krupp had signed with Detroit -- in Harry Caray's restaurant in Chicago, having a boozy afternoon with my cousin. The news came up on ESPN; I watched drunkenly for it to come around again, certain I'd seen it wrong. I was shattered. Krupp was never a favorite of mine, but he scored the Stanley Cup winner in '96, and no one had crossed the line between the two teams.

The Avalanche had the last laugh; Krupp's stat line up there was over four seasons. Suckers. He was last seen coming to Atlanta to revitalize the defense here; pretty sure he should be off the injured list sometime next spring.

Advantage: Colorado. Most important stat: one Stanley Cup-winning goal.

Anders Myrvold. Eight games, one point, two penalty minutes with the Wings; four games, one point, six penalty minutes with the Avalanche.

Not much to say about Myrvold; the reverse of Cummins, he came in with the Avalanche, went out with the Red Wings. In the meantime, according to Wikipedia, he picked up a cocaine habit in Detroit. That remains the best thing to happen to anyone in that city over the past 20 years.

Advantage: wash.

Brad May. Who cares with Detroit, who cares with Colorado.

I'm still pretty disgusted that the Avalanche signed him. I was ecstatic when he went to Detroit, especially when he continued his rapid decline.

Advantage: wash. No one wins where Brad May is concerned.

Kyle Quincey. 13 games, one point, four penalty minutes with the Wings; 79 games, 29 points, 76 penalty minutes with the Avalanche.

There aren't a lot of things that make me laugh in my joyless life, but this is one of them. I can't remember why the Wings dropped Quincey (salary cap?), and I'm happy to have him with the Avalanche. Good solid defenseman, no complaints.

Advantage: Colorado by a whole lot.

Todd Gill. 104 games, 17 points, 79 penalty minutes with the Red Wings; 36 games, four points, 25 penalty minutes with the Avalanche.

I forgot him on the original draft of this list; he's one of those Rick Tabaracci-type players that I forget ever played in Colorado. I don't remember seeing him play with the Avalanche. Since I do remember seeing him get turned inside-out pretty regularly nearly a decade earlier, I imagine it was a grim spectacle.

Advantage: Detroit. Although you can argue that in terms of late-career Todd Gill, less is more.

So: Salei to the Wings. I can't imagine that this will turn out well for anyone involved. The Avalanche lose a Slav, the Red Wings are probably going to get something comparable to Krupp (low end) or Gill (high end), and a player I liked has to move to Detroit. Some days, no one wins.

* * *

#35 -- "Good Behavior" by Donald Westlake

#36 -- "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams

"Good Behavior" is another Dortmunder novel, and I'd say it's funnier than the last one; it matches up with what I remember, that there was a steady increase in greatness up until they peaked with "Don't Ask," then a slow decline.

"DGHDA" -- not sure, but this may be the first time I've read this since it came out. I remember being disappointed in junior high that Adams didn't do another "Hitchhiker's" novel, and then liked the second book more than this one. The latter part of that holds. This is funnier than I remember, but often kind of aimless and occasionally too cute. I should really read the "Hitchhiker's" books again sometime soon.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Rest in Peace

Tony Judt.

The world just got considerably less smart.