OK, I never thought I’d be writing a blog post about socks.

You see, this all started last year when my mother-in-law asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I answered “socks.” So sure enough, one day in December, a package arrived from her. Inside, I found a Christmas present labeled “To Mike.” It was kind of an odd shape and felt sorta soft and lumpy — and I just knew she had bought me a package of socks — the gift I wanted.

For years — decades actually — I’ve often worn white cotton crew socks that reflected my blue-collar roots. I just love them, and as a boy I can clearly remember seeing my Dad and both my Grandpas often pulling them on before heading off to work each day in the auto factories. Those classic white socks have often been the punch line in a lot of jokes over the years, but I have a respect for the working class tradition they reflect – and I’ve always been proud to wear them. I don’t really care what anyone thinks about how stylish they are. After all, tradition matters, you know.

So Christmas Eve arrived, and I was in no rush to open the package from my mother-in-law, because I knew what was inside. Truthfully, there had been more than a few times over the years that I’d received a few pairs of brand new white socks from someone in my family. They were always a nice gift… a thoughtful gift, practical for sure — but not very exciting, if you know what I mean.

Well, can you imagine my surprise when I opened the package from my mother-in-law, and there were no white socks inside? They were gray socks. and they weren’t made by JCPenney or Sears. They were the Polo Ralph Lauren brand. Ewwww, what heresy is this, I thought, as I stared at them. I’d never seen one of the men in my family wearing “designer” socks, and it all seemed so odd and off-balance to me. I thought to myself, “Now what do I do? She bought me exactly what I asked for.”

Well, I decided to wear them. I’ll give them a try, I thought. And… I gotta tell you, I love these socks. They are flat-out the best socks I’ve ever owned. In fact, I feel better about myself every time I put on a pair because they look so good and the quality is so excellent. The fabric is tough, yet soft and comfortable. They are super-supportive and cushy on the bottom sole side. They’re slightly higher than normal, they stay up well, and — maybe most importantly — they look good. Really good. You see, each of the six pair of socks is a different color. Each sock is gray, but each is trimmed-out in a different color like red, green, blue, black, orange, or yellow. They look quite stylish, and different, in a good sort of way.

Now maybe this is all too much information about socks for you… but FWIW, I suggest you consider buying yourself a special gift — and acquire a package of these uber-cool socks before they sell out this year. Apparently, Polo Ralph Lauren releases a new collection of mens socks each year for the Christmas season. They can currently be found in men’s stores for the holiday season, and I’ve shown the current collection displayed at Macy’s here in Fargo in the picture below. Yeah, they cost a little bit more than the regular white work socks available at Sears or JCPenney, but they’re worth it.

You know, as we get older, foot comfort becomes more important, and these socks will serve you well and last a long time. I never thought I’d give up my lifelong reliance on working-class white socks, but I’ve found something better. Every man needs a good pair of socks, you know. Oh, and if gray socks are a little too wild and crazy for you… they do come in classic 1950s Steve McQueen white, too.

My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a printer.

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Sometimes in life, you experience something unexpected that really causes you to stop and think. I recently experienced a rather emotional “unexpected moment” in Detroit, Michigan. Let me explain.

Although I have lived in North Dakota for many decades, I actually grew up in Michigan and graduated from high school there. As a boy, I was a big sports fan, and I loved the Detroit Tigers baseball team. They were my heroes, and I loved everything about them. I followed their statistics, read everything I could about each player, and of course, I listened to every game I could on the radio. My family lived about 65 miles north of Tiger Stadium, and it was a big event when I got to go to Tiger Stadium to watch a Tigers game. All-in-all, I got to go to 20 Tigers’ baseball games before I graduated and left Michigan. In those games, the Tigers won/loss record was 17-3. I got to see many great players, like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, Whitey Ford, Jim Palmer, and Yogi Berra. One time, I even caught a foul ball hit by future Hall-of-Famer, Al Kaline. I still have that ball today.

Well, last week, my business meeting got finished early one day, so I thought I’d try to find the spot where the beautiful old Tiger Stadium used to be. It was built in 1912 and torn down 6-7 years ago. When I drove to the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumball, I was awestruck to discover that although the stadium was gone, the playing field remained intact and completely surrounded by a security fence. It was rather amazing to peek through the fence and see the infield, pitcher’s mound, the outfield grass, and even the old flag pole in center field still standing. My mind was flooded with memories as I stood there and remembered games from my boyhood. I remembered a brilliant 2-hit shutout Whitey Ford pitched on opening day and a monster home run that Mickey Mantle hit that went completely out of the stadium. I also remembered a home run my favorite player, Rocky Colavito, hit that bounced off that flag pole in deep center field.

I decided to walk around the entire fenced-in area so I could view the playing field from every angle. As I walked, I though that this must be the only place in America where the remains of an old major league playing field are still intact, even after the stadium was torn down. I have no idea how long this historic property will remain, but seeing how Detroit is struggling so badly economically, it might be here for a while. Commercial property in the city isn’t exactly in high demand.

As I was walking the perimeter of the playing field, I began to look for someplace where I might be able to squeeze through the fence to get inside. It seemed impossible until I came to the only remaining part of Tiger Stadium that still stands — the 1930s art deco iron gates that protected the players’ parking lot. OK, I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but the old locking gate looked rusty enough that I thought it might open if I gave it a good kick. I did, and guess what? It opened up… and I was suddenly inside. At the very moment I walked through the gate, my head started spinning. I know this will sound a little sappy, but my knees got weak, and I actually felt a little lightheaded. I’m not kidding. Could it be that I was actually going to get to walk onto the playing field where I’d watched so many of my heroes perform? It was truly a life-changing moment for me as I walked toward home plate.

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As I stood at home plate, in the batter’s box where players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig, Joe Dimaggio, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Hank Aaron once stood, I felt humbled. I walked to the pitcher’s mound where Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan, and Christy Mattewson once pitched. It was about the coolest thing I’d ever done. The spooky thing was I was there all alone. It was a beautiful day in Detroit, and there was not another person in sight. Nowhere. I was able to enjoy the experience all to myself. It was glorious. And, yes, as silly as it may seem to some, I ran the bases and imagined I was beating the throw to home plate to win the game for the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth. I was sure I could hear the fans cheering…

My name is Mike Stevens, and I am a Tiger.

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Thoughts about employees and their cell phones

September 3, 2014

If there’s a more provocative topic in the printing industry, I’m not sure what could generate more debate and opinion than whether or not employees should be allowed to use personal cell phones on company time. Do you allow employees to use personal cell phones while on the clock at your printing firm? In case […]

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How to have a better brain

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The LA Times recently completed an interesting four-part series on how learning and memory work. And the New York Times wrote about the importance of physical exercise for neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells). Did you even know it was possible to do something that would help your body create new brain cells? A […]

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Don’t be complicated

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“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau Are you like I once was? Do you ever think that sometimes you make the simplest decision more complicated than it needs to be? Are you so addicted to trying to make things so perfect and impressive that they turn into a […]

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The 10 Commandments for a Printer’s Marriage

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1. Don’t place others before one another. 2. Let nothing on earth become more important than your marriage. 3. Don’t bring a bad day at the print shop home with you. 4. Remember to worship together. 5. Love and accept one another’s family as your own. 6. Don’t harm one another with words, attitudes, or […]

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Don’t be a perfectionist

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I have a deep commitment to quality and excellence. I try to do everything the very best way it can be done — but I work hard at not allowing myself to become a perfectionist. Why? Because trying to get it perfect will slow you down, frustrate your coworkers, and sometimes cause you to miss […]

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Don’t Let Others Steal Your Joy

June 17, 2014

You’ll always have grumpy customers, equipment breakdowns, slow payers, and bad weather. And then, of course, every printing company seems to have one irreplaceable co-worker who always seems to see the “negative” side of things or who makes a point to tell you all the reasons your new ideas won’t work. My solution: Keep smiling […]

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One printer’s story about losing weight and beating type 2 diabetes

June 3, 2014

Hi everyone, over the last two weeks, I shared my plan on how I was going to lose “10 pounds in 10 days.” As I blogged my daily progress each day, I often received feedback and encouragement from many of you. Many of the letters I received told stories about how others were also struggling […]

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Day #10 – Losing 10 pounds in 10 days

May 28, 2014

Beginning weight at the start –   210.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #1 –   208.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #2 –   206.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #3 –   205.5 pounds Weight at the end of day #4 –   204.75 pounds Weight at […]

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