New Years Mailings

A new year and some new trade envelopes rolled in. Not as many as I was expecting to receive (some appear to be stuck in the eddies of the USPS backlog) but with my local Target completely dropping cards from its inventory it’s nice to get a card fix from somewhere.

The first mailing of the year was a PWE from Marc Brubaker containing almost a dozen cards. The oldest ones are three 1983 stickers which include a couple fun photos in the Milt May catcher action and Al Holland sporting a fantastic warm up jacket. As for the Matt Williams card, I have no idea what kind of release it’s from but it’s wonderfully odd.

The rest of the cards from Marc were newer ones including a bunch from retails issues that I refuse to purchase. Bowman Platinum remains a product I don’t understand. As does Topps Gallery. As always it’s nice to include a sample in the binder for variety’s sake though. I can’t imagine looking through pages of either of those but a couple here and there makes things interesting.

A week or so later I received a bubble mailer from Robby which contained a bunch of more-recent cards. I’ll start off with a half dozen inserts from the past couple years. These are again, the kind of thing I don’t chase but enjoy sliding in to the binder. I have mixed feelings about the design re-use but I much prefer seeing such things done in inserts rather than as complete sets.

The #1 Draft Pick Joey Bart is a particularly great use of an old design since Topps can’t do draft picks in flagship anymore. I’m be curious why Topps hasn’t done draft picks as inserts in other Topps sets though.

The rest of the mailer was a bunch of 2020 cards. A few Updates, two Diamond Kings which I didn’t have, a decent amount of Big League and Donruss which finished off my team sets. Highlights here are the orange Big League parallels and the Gold Star Flagship parallels.

I’m not a huge fan of colored parallels but the Big League oranges look great with the Giants cards. If we could dump the whole rainbow of variants and just have a single team-color parallel set then I’d probably like them.

The Gold Star parallels meanwhile are one of those things that dissuaded me from buying a factory set this year. I don’t want to pay marked up prices for a chance at a bunch of parallels I don’t desire. Getting a team set in the mail though is completely different. Since these are the kind of thing I actively avoid it means that they’re the kind of thing that I never have in my albums. I’m perfectly happy sliding them in as an example of what kind of things were going on in the hobby that year.

Thanks guys and Happy New Year!

Fantasy Life

I received a copy of Tabitha Soren’s Fantasy Life for Christmas. Fantasy Life tracks the careers of ten members of the Oakland A’s 2002 draft class—the Moneyball class—as they make their way through the minors. Most of them top out at AA or AAA. A couple got a cup of coffee in the bigs. Two—Nick Swisher and Mark Teahen—had decent Major League careers.

It’s set up as a scrapbook of sorts with many different kinds of photos—both in terms of technique and content. As a photographer who shoots with multiple kinds of cameras and lenses it’s nice to see a photobook like this which is all over the place yet still comes together. Because the different types of photos—including tintypes from screenshots—aren’t labelled* I don’t look at them for what they depict but instead recognize the sense of place that they describe.

*There is an index in the back but it’s clear that the photo identification isn’t part of the project.

Minor League Baseball is its own subculture of baseball as a local phenomenon coupled with baseball for people who love baseball. When I go to a game and wear a Minor League cap, I end up I conversations with other fans about where else I’ve seen games and what the experience was like. It doesn’t matter who the cap is of, just wearing one marks me as a certain kind of fan who likes the smaller parks, watching the games, and seeing guys before they’ve made it big.

Looking through the photos in the book and I recognize so many glimpses into the Minor League experience. The way things are a bit run down. The way the players are almost all uniformly young. The way the stands are close and you can see a lot more of the mechanics of what it takes to stage a ballgame. As an autograph collector I’m used to arriving at stadiums early and staying late and seeing it go through its quieter moments when few people are around.

The games aren’t about the details and they all blur together. In a good way. Summer nights. Saturday afternoons. Sitting back. Watching a game. Keeping score. Eating a hot dog. As much as it’s a fantasy life for the players who are all chasing a dream, it’s a bit of a fantasy for the fans too where there’s often no better place to spend three hours of the summer.

This book isn’t new and I’ve wanted to take a good look through it for a while. It is however especially interesting to view it right now in the aftermath of the whole reorganization of the Minor Leagues and with almost 20 years of hindsight on the Moneyball revolution.

We’ve had a couple decades of ownership treating players increasingly as interchangeable parts where the right mix of net velocity or OPS is all that’s needed and stardom is in fact a liability because it increases a player’s salary. This isn’t a knock on the Moneyball ethos as much as it’s an observation about what how something that was great for a small-market team without a lot of money became a way for larger market teams to become cash cows for their owners.

Traditionally, baseball teams made money for their owners when they were sold. Money and cash flow is of course always an issue but you didn’t run a team in order to get richer. The past decade though has been all about maximizing a team’s yearly profit, often a the expense of the product on the field. It’s not about who the best players are or

We’ve also just cut over forty Minor League teams as a cost-saving measure without any thought about what that means to the communities which support those teams and the hundreds of players who are being cast out of professional baseball.

Yes I know baseball is a business. But this thing where it’s behaving in a way that doesn’t understand how its product consists of people who fans are supposed to connect with is hugely dismaying. That Soren isn’t a baseball fan but kind of intuits exactly this is what makes the book so fascinating.

She’s tagging along with Michael Lewis and taking photos of the games, and ostensibly the players. But it’s clear that her interests aren’t with the on-field action. She likes the moments in between the action that really captures the experience of being at the ball park. Little details like the dents on a metal door or discarded gum wrappers on the ground. The way that players sit on the bench waiting for something to happen. The way that fans behave in the stands.

Baseball is a game of waiting and being and Soren recognizes immediately how important the human side of it all is. How the minors are a grind and dream deferred while simultaneously being a fantasy where everyone exists as pure potential. Where the games are there to be enjoyed on their own without the weight of standings and playoff positioning that accompanies the major league games.

She captures the way that the players are playing their hearts out. Training as much as they can. Getting by on their meager per-diems. The game action doesn’t look fun but the interviews with each player reveal how much  they love the game. Especially in the minors where it’s never just a job. There’s a sense of loss that accompanies each of the players’ retirements. Not because they didn’t have the career they wanted but rather that retiring meant that they had to give up the game.

That sense of loss really hits hard since I know that hundreds of players were essentially cut from professional baseball this winter. Guys who weren’t yet ready to give up on playing a game they loved now have nowhere to play. Maybe there will be more independent leagues but my guess is that a lot of them are stuck in the wilderness.

1934 Wills Cigarettes Animalloys

Picking up with my pre-war card posts with another set I got last year, the 1934 Wills Cigarettes Animalloys. This was one I got because it was just too much fun. The premise is that there are 16 animals with three cards per animal. You can put them together in complete animals or mix and match to create all kinds of interesting animals.

Besides being a fun concept, this set satisfied a bunch of my other interests. The printing is fantastic with pre-halftone stippling that results in ink screens which were designed to add texture to the image. The type is kind of a trainwreck when you put the cards together but there’s something about it which I love. Not a font but feels like one until you realize that each card is lettered individually.

And something about the animals themselves just reminds me another age. The art style reminds me of classic circus posters and the idea that many of these animals were exotic specimens from abroad. Yes it’s a bit weird for me to see a raccoon included but I can totally see how they would be exotic animals in Europe.

The opossum cards though deserve special mention. When I put the set together these three had me confused. Thankfully I had the set so I knew hat the other 15 animals made sense otherwise I would’ve thought that these didn’t in fact go together. Googling around brought me to the Australian Brushtail Possum so I’m guessing that Wills production staff was unaware that opossum was a different exotic animal from possum.

All in all a fun set to page through which looks quite a bit different than anything else in my binders. I’d love to see Topps do something like this with Allen & Ginter nowadays maybe even going with images that span five cards so they page even more nicely.

2020 in review

Yes it’s been a garbage year which feels like it stole a season of baseball from my kids and me. But it’s also been a surprisingly good one for me within the collecting hobby. I’ll start off with a round-up of some activity that’s been outside of my work at the SABR Baseball Cards Blog since I’ve been interviewed for a couple of articles this year.

The first interview was before the pandemic hit but got buried by COVID news for a few months. It did however finally post on Slate in November and is a fun piece about digital baseball cards and collectibles. Between the hobby going gangbusters and everyone increasingly living their lives online it’s been interesting to watch the digital side of things develop and see how many of the older members of the community react to the new-fangled stuff.

Along those lines I participated in a SABR discussion about the future of baseball cards where I occupied the skeptical but open-minded side of the spectrum. It’s very easy to get excited at all the possibilities in the digital side of things and there’s a ton of potential in augmented reality and other ways of combining cards with computers. At the same time, there’s the question of how technology ages and degrades to consider. One of the things that makes cards great is that ink on paper, while a pain to store, is not subject to the whims of any technological maintenance.

The second interview I took part in was a short one on Beckett about my Al Kaline debacle. I’ve gotten more joy out of that screwup and confirmation than I ever expected. I had to write a longer version of the whole ordeal over on SABR in order to tell the whole story from my point of view.

Getting to work within SABR. I assisted with the committee’s First Annual Jefferson Burdick Award, helped with the biographies, and produced the baseball card which commemorated the winner. I was honored to introduce the award at the Zoom presentation because we couldn’t do it at a convention.

I also helped produce and compile SABR’s 50 at 50 list of fifty cards for fifty years which tells the story of baseball and baseball cards over the first fifty years of SABR with one baseball card per year. That was a lot of fun to work on and I’m definitely proud of the result.

On the SABR blog itself my two favorite posts are one about Project 2020 and when cards intersect with current events and one which does a deep dive into the way card designs interact with photography. Both of these are my usual “take my niche interests and run with them to an extreme” sort of posts but I like that they both look a cards from 2020.

And finally I was lucky enough to actually meet some collectors before everything got shut down. It would’ve been nice to meet more but I’ve very glad I got to meet Mark Hoyle and Ralph Carhart before all hell broke loose.

Okay to collecting highlights. Not a lot of card acquisitions this year due to COMC shipping being broken, retail being a trashfire, and access to card shops being non-existent. As a result this year has been mainly prewar cards acquired through ebay or twitter.

The pre war category has everything but I’ve really enjoyed following my gut here. Where I have set rules to keep me on task for baseball cards, the pre war world is so all over the map that as long as I keep a high bar of what interests me and why, I find that I end up enjoying all of these because of how unique they are.

Some, like Garbatys and the United Tobacco are flat-out beautiful and appeal to me as a print geek in addition to my pop-culture interests. Others like the famous airmen and airwomen are pure pop culture. And I’ve grabbed some soccer cards, stereo photography, and all kinds of other things that strike my interest. I even added the oldest card in my collection this year.

I did also grab some prewar baseball. It’s noteworthy that three of these are San Francisco Seals card and I’ve decided that doing a Pacific Coast League type collection of one Seals card per set is a project I’m going to attempt. It’ll be a backburner attempt but the degree I enjoy each and every Zeenut card is going to make it a lot of fun.

The 1916 Johnny Couch is also my oldest official baseball card and the 1921 American Caramel Zeb Terry is my oldest Major League card. Moving both of those benchmarks further into the past is another accomplishment which I’ll look forward to making again.

The one more-recent card purchase highlight was this Lewis Baltz card from Mike Mandel’s Baseball Photographers trading cards. I don’t have more to add to the post I already wrote but this definitely deserves to be in the wrap-up since it’s not every card that I’d call a white whale.

And with that we’ll move on to trades. A decent amount of both incoming and outgoing mail this year. Before I get to card highlights I have to note that trading this year finished off a bunch of sets I was working on. I finished my 1986 Topps, 1990 Fleer, 1990 Upper Deck, 1991 Donruss, 1991 Studio, and 2019 Stadium Club builds this year, leaving me a bit at odds with what to build (if anything) next. Two of my remaining builds almost done too (I only need two 1987 Topps cards and one 1994 Topps cards) so it’s really just 1989 Donruss and 2014 Topps that are on the list now.

As for individual trade highlights, I have to highlight three Willie Mays cards from three different guys. All of these were unexpected and extremely welcome additions to the collection. Willie Mays was the one vintage card I wanted for Christmas when I was a kid and still I get the same thrill every time I add one now.

A few more highlights from trades. Lots of more-modern cards as well but those all kind of blur together (this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them). These though are the kinds of weird and wonderful things that stand out. Diamond Matchbooks, National Chicle, Remar Bread, Jay Publishing, and that awesome MacGregor card are particularly fantastic.

Most of my activity this year though was via TTM request. Being homebound for almost ten months meant that going though my duplicates, making customs, and writing letters was a nice way to escape and relax.

I got a few Hall of Famers this year. Yes a lot of them are on 1986 Topps. I must’ve been building that set or something. It’s always especially fun to get one of these guys in the mail and it’s always something that my kids get excited seeing as well.

Much of my TTM activity though has been with customs and related projects. This year for example I scanned all the Giants Magazine covers from my youth and printed them out at 25% so they fit into 4-pocket pages. A large part of this is because I just enjoy seeing the covers but I also had an eye toward sending out some of the more-fun photoshoots for autographs. Getting the Don Robinson and Will’s World covers signed made the whole exercise especially worth it.

I did a lot of my usual customs too. A decent number of the 1956ish design. Many more of the 1978 design I’m using for Stanford players. I love getting these back and they look great all together. It’s hard to choose highlights here as well since they’re all so different.

I sent a bunch of Giants customs out during spring training and got many of them back despite the Covid-interrupted season. Many of the returns are from guys who don’t have regular Giants cards too so it’s especially nice to add them to the Giants album.

I’ve also been sending out cards with photos I like. These make for easy letters to write too. I figure that even someone who’s become somewhat jaded about being on cardboard must like to see that their card made an impression on someone and be reminded that they had a memorable photo.

And finally a few other favorite players/cards I got in the past year. It’s been super productive on the TTM front and a good reminder that while I’m hoping that next year is completely different in terms of how I enjoy the hobby, a lot of positive things have happened this past year.

Rather than focusing on all the plans that blew up I’m choosing to remember that 2020 brought a lot of good things. Outside the hobby I’ve had a ton of time to just hang out with the kids and spend time as a family without having a calendar full of activities. I hope there was a lot of silver in everyone else’s clouds too.

January 6

One of the interesting things about the kids being home from school for basically an entire year now is that we’ve gotten to see a lot more of their curriculum than we used to. Before it was mainly just math problem sets and already-completed writing assignments. Now we get to see a glimpse of what they’re doing in all their subjects.

This has made their social studies classwork kind of fascinating to see. Given the backdrop of what’s been going on in the country over the past couple decades but especially during the past year, what they’re learning has often felt woefully outdated and embarrassingly naïve. It’s basic stuff: Three branches of government. Checks and Balances. Limitation of powers. There’s also been instruction about what government does with examples like food safety and the postal service.

Nothing inherently bad or even wrong. Just that we have to gently explain the difference between the theory and the execution. One of the first things they commented on was that the President wasn’t nearly as powerful as they thought he was. So we had to explain that he gets to be as powerful as the other branches allowed him to be. And that Congress has been abdicating its responsibilities for decades now.

Same thing goes with what government does. We’ve had a year of government actively not doing what it’s supposed to do. Killing the mail. Letting the food supply chain break. Sticking its head in the sand regarding COVID. It’s been dismaying to see how far apart what they’re being taught is  from the actual reality of things.

At the same time, I don’t have a problem with this. Learning how things are supposed to work is not a bad thing. Learning what you should demand of your government is a great thing. We’ve just had to step in and explain that if things aren’t working it means we should be trying to fix them. And in order to fix something we need to know what it’s supposed to be doing.

Of course, not everything that government is supposed to be doing is a good thing. We’ve also discussed the electoral college and he Senate and how they’re both inherently undemocratic. And how the concept of voting for who you want most is usually not possible and you have to vote pragmatically. Lots of discussion about who we want to be President which we had to reframe to be about who we wanted to avoid being President.

Anyway, it’s been an ongoing topic for months. Last September we warned them that things were going to be especially bad after the election. While school suggests that elections just work without effort, this year has been a textbook demonstration that all the the things that “just happen” do in fact have to be maintained to continue happening. And that once the maintenance is neglected, everything that the schools teach us to take for granted might break.

We told them that the two most-likely scenarios were either a Trump win followed by months of retribution or a Biden win followed by months of denial and burning things to the ground. They haven’t been actively following the trainwreck that’s been gathering speed ever since election day but it’s something that we kept discussing in the house. We’ll let them know when a milestone is reached and how closer we are to a change in power while also making sure hey know that there’s still a lot of stuff going on.

Which brings us to last Wednesday. Did it scare the kids? Yes. Of course it did. It scared us too. Did it surprise them? Not at all. We’ve been building toward that conversation for over a year. We explained that it finally happened and Trump’s supporters tried to disrupt Congress and derail the election. That some people got hurt. That it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been. That the police appeared to be complicit. That the election still got certified despite everything. That this is part of a long pattern of white men breaking the rules in the country and not suffering any consequences. And that we were now in uncharted territory.

The conversations we’ve had since have surprised me a little. They’ve ranged from obvious reactions like concern that something like this will happen locally. To how much we trust the police and how their interactions with them in town have been good ones. To what will happen if there’s another coup attempt. To the Little House Books and how Pa and other settlers ignored the rules and tried to homestead on Indian land. To issues of multiracial identity, blood quantum, and the Dawes Rolls.

I think we’re going to continue to have interesting conversations all week. Especially as the ramifications of Wednesday start to shake out. I will probably have to remind them Inauguration Day is likely to have some problems. That’s an event which I can see them watching in school so I hope the schools are ready for it to get weird. But I’m glad that the door is open and they’re not in that shocked/stunned stupor that way too many adults are in.

December returns

I wasn’t expecting anything fancy in December since as I’ve mainly been treading water and sending out 1978 and 1979 duplicates. After a couple years of sending out Giants and Stanford guys I’ve run out of duplicates of those and am now looking through other duplicate piles instead. Still, I got a few great returns all the same.

A 20-day return from Jimmy Howarth started the month off after a week of nothing. Howarth played parts of four seasons with the Giants and was primarily a pinch hitter. This request also gave me an excuse to upgrade this diamond-cut card.

Mike Garman in 13 days brought the first 1978 duplicate return. He pitched throughout the 1970s with a few good seasons for St. Louis and Los Angeles. He had four postseason appearances with the Dodgers in 1977 and didn’t give up any runs.

The same day I got Garman I also received a 13-day return from Royle Stillman. Also on a 1978 duplicate which happens to be his only solo Topps card. Stillman only played in parts of three seasons, unfortunately none of them with Kansas City.

An 8-day return from Dion James brought some signed cards on duplicates from my set builds (and one from my endless supply of 1988 Topps duplicates). I’ve come to the conclusion that I should only build sets where I like using the duplicates for signatures and I like how both the 1989 Donruss and 1990 Upper Deck look.

James is also a name I remember distinctly from my youth. Going to Candlestick meant that I saw a lot of NL West teams. Which means that a lot of those players resonate with me as well.

James put a lot of work into this return. In addition to printing out a letter for me, he used his own envelope and peeled off my address label and stamp to send everything back.

One of my few 1979 duplicates turned into a 9-day return from Jim Umbarger. He spent four years in the majors, most with Texas though he spent part of the 1977 season with Oakland.

I’m still sending out 1986 Topps duplicates though. A 9-day return from Rick Manning added another peak-1986 portrait to the collection. Manning has been broadcasting games since 1990 which makes him one of the longest-serving broadcasters in the game.

Adding Giants pitching coach Norm Sherry added another card to my 1989 project. I don’t have any of his playing-days cards but this Mothers Cookies card is perfectly fine. Part of me wants to try and get it signed by the other three living members but I think I’m going to keep this in the binder as it is. Sherry signed in a relatively-quick 11 days.

I got a longer, 40-day, return from former Stanford pitcher Mike Gosling. He had a nice six-year career in the majors and sent me a fun note thanking me for the extras. I always send three customs and while I feel guilty when guys send back all three signed, getting thank you notes for sending the extras is why I keep doing it.

Former pitcher Tom House in 8 days is another 1979 duplicate. House’s legacy is likely to be his role as a pitching/throwing mechanics specialist as he was one of the first coaches to really break down how to throw well. He’s also notable for catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run when he was in the Braves bullpen.

Rick Cerone is another 1978 duplicate. He only signs one per request so I didn’t add a card from when I was a kid. Older is always better plus it’s fun to get a first-year Blue Jay. This came back in 20 days.

A 65-day return from Joel Youngblood was a fun one. While he’s famous for getting a hit for two different teams in one day, for me he’s one of those guys who reminds me of my first game. In that game, he pinch hit in the 9th inning and ended up going 2 for 3 with 2 doubles and 2 walks as he played 3 innings each at 2nd base and shortstop.

Versatile Royals pitcher Doug Bird brought another 1979 duplicate to my collection. Bird was a somewhat notable player for the Royals in the 1970s and I kind of love that 1970s shaggy look he’s got going on. He signed in 17 days.

I haven’t sent out a lot of more-recent vcards but I saw some returns from Angel Pagan and decided to go for it. 15 days later I got my card back. It’s always fun to thank an Even Years guy for helping take the Giants to a place I never expected them to be.

The week of Christmas brought a contender for return of the year. 45 days after I sent out the signed Cory Snyder cover, Will Clark returned it for my first multiple-signed TTM item. I hope he and Snyder enjoyed this request as much as I did since getting this signed was one of the things I’d sort of fantasized about when I started digitizing all the Giants Magazine covers from my youth.

That week I also received a 21-day return from Don Kirkwood. He was mainly an Angel but I sent a 1978 duplicate featuring him in an airbrushed White Sox uniform. Those uniforms are so wild that I don’t mind the airbrushing too much.

I probably should’ve waited until I got the Norm Sherry return before sending to Bill Fahey since it would’ve been nice to get both of them on the Mother’s Cookies card but I have a hard time sending out already-signed items.*

*It was tough as it was to send the Cory Snyder cover to Will Clark

I already have a couple Fahey autographs but none of them featuring him as a Giant. Since he’s on the 1989 Leaders card I sent that to him and the Mother’s card to Sherry. These came back in a relatively quick 23 days.

I wrapped up my year with a nice 18-day return from Jim Perry. As a Giants fan, I always knew him as Gaylord’s brother and never really appreciated how he was not only a good pitcher but even won the Cy Young Award a couple years before his brother did. This is also a fantastic TTM card with the DIY traded and mistrim giving the card a ton of character before adding the signature and incription.

January should be pretty light. I didn’t mail out much at all in the last half of December due to the holidays, not wanting to overburden the post office, and not wanting to dump requests on anyone in those weeks. But who knows, I’ve got a decent amount of stuff out there still.

Christmas cards

Catching up on a few more PWEs which accompanied holiday wishes. It’s getting to the point where I’m considering making hobby-oriented holiday cards to send out to people I’ve traded with over the past year.

The first card came from Mark Armour and contained a 1977 Willie Mays exhibit. This is a nice reprint of the 1947–1966 era exhibit photo and even feels like it has better tonality than a lot of the vintage exhibits do. The border is kind of goofy though and the less said about the apostrophe catastrophe in the bio text the better. Still this is the kind of thing I enjoy adding to the album and it’ll slide in right next to a bunch of Jeff’s bycatch.

Mark also included a custom card of himself. This is also something I’ve thought about doing but have never gotten around to. A lot of traders have their own custom cards that they toss in like business cards and I enjoy keeping those around.

A few days later I found an envelope from Tim in my mailbox. Nothing big, just an insert from 2020 Opening Day which doubled the number of 2020 Opening Day cards in my collection. This is one of those products that I buy for my kids and stay out of for myself.

This isn’t a critique of the product. If anything it’s a critique of how flagship has effectively pushed my kids away. Neither of my kids wanted a complete set of flagship this year for Christmas. They’ve both realized it’s not the set for them. Too expensive and not really any fun.

A pack of flagship costs like $5 now and that’s a lot of money to pay for a bunch or guys they’ve never heard of. Opening Day at least is mostly players they know. And yes Major League Baseball does a lousy job marketing guys, but Topps also creates checklists that are dominated by rookie cards instead of guys who are actually playing.

So they’ve gravitated toward Opening Day and Big League and I let them enjoy those products. As a result, I don’t get much Opening Day so if it comes in via trade I’m happy to slide it into the binder.

A PWE from Lanny brought me a single 2002 Kenny Lofton card. This might not look like much (though it’s one of Lofton’s few Giants cards) but it’s actually part of Topps’s trainwreck of a Traded set where someone at Topps decided that intentionally shortprinting the first 100 cards was a smart idea.

It was not. I have heard of way too many people who swore off all Traded/Update sets for years just because the 2002 set was so bad. The shortprinted cards meanwhile are impossible to find yet no one actually wants to spend serious money for them.

A perfect storm of awfulness which I would avoid completely except that I wanted the complete 2002 team set for World Series reasons. This Lofton completes the set and I no longer have to think about 2002 Topps Traded ever again.

I also got an envelope from Jason with a couple Giants first basemen. A couple retired numbers even. No it’s not just two 1991 Will Clark cards, these were the packaging surrounding the card Jason intended to send me.

The two Will Clarks were sandwiching this beauty which is not only a great example of the National Chicle Diamond Stars artwork with its solid blocks of color and industrial backgrounds* but represents the first Giants retired number from before the modern era of baseball cards to enter my collection.

*It still doesn’t compare to the South African United Tobacco cards though. Also I remain confused by the scoreboard listing visitors underneath Giants.

One of my long-term collecting goals has been to try and get a card of each Giants retired number from their playing years. I have all the obvious ones who played during the years when Topps was the card of record. Irvin, Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, Marichal, Perry, Clark, and Bonds* all have multiple Topps cards as Giants to the point where I have multiple cards of all even players like Irvin who I never expected to own any cards of.

*Interesting to me to realize that all besides Bonds of those debuted in MLB with the Giants. And yes I’m going to be distinguishing between MLB and “major leagues” from now forward.

McGraw, Mathewson, Terry, Ott, and Hubbell though were always going to be tougher. Fewer cards in general, and the affordable ones are often super ugly in terms of design* or just through being well loved. The Diamond Stars cards of Terry, Ott, and Hubbell are some of the more-desirable options out there and I’m astounded at Jason’s generosity at sending me my first one form this set.

*/me waves at M. P & Company.

Thanks a lot guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed this holiday season and I hope next year brings better tidings all around.

PWE roundup

A roundup of PWEs which didn’t warrant individual posts by themselves.

Right after Thanksgiving I received a PWE from Kenny with a single Brandon Belt Chrome card. It was nice to add my first 2020 Chrome card. While I’m a team collector I’m not at all interested in getting complete team sets of most releases. Instead, for most of those sets I’m a team-themed type collector. One card from each set is fine and adds variety to the binder.

Especially this year when a pack of four Chrome cards was selling for $10. This is in no way a $2.50 card—heck it’s not a $1 card—so I’m much happier getting my sample via PWE.

In mid-December I received another couple PWEs. The first was from Matt Prigge and consisted of a page’s worth of Jeffrey Hammonds cards. In early December Matt gave a shout out on his Twitter feed that he’d send an envelope’s worth of Brewers cards to the first handful of guys who named a random Brewer.

Instead of the results being people naming Robin Yount of Paul Molitor, it turned into non-Brewers fans mentioning truly-random Brewers who they actually collect. For me that answer is Hammonds. I watched him at Stanford when I was a kid and he was a dynamic player with a ton of promise. A centerfielder who was great defensively and could get on base and disrupt pitchers with his speed.* He was one of those prospects I was hoping to have gotten in on the ground floor with.

*Back when baseball cared about such things.

His pro career was not what I’d hoped it would be. Flashes of greatness for a couple months and then he’d pick up a knock and struggle for a year or so as he tried to regain his form. He was still good enough to play in MLB for thirteen years though. I don’t try and collect all his cards but, like Mussina, he’s one of the guys who I was most invested in from day one and I always enjoy picking up his cards.

My second PWE is completely different. This was a random act of kindness from Jeff Smith who had ordered a custom Lefty O’Doul card from All Eras Sports and decided to thank me for a Lefty custom I’d sent him by ordering an extra copy for me. Or actually two copies since one of them is an acetate “card.” I scanned both, and treated the acetate as a slide. It’s on the right and shows a lot more detail.

These are very well done. Printed professionally and the acetate, while something I’ve always side-eyed, is a fantastic solution to what to do if you don’t feel like making card backs. Also lots of nice details that I appreciate with the Joe DiMaggio photo and the detail from the Seals jersey I’ve coveted for over a decade.

Thanks guys! Very cool stuff.