Chris Killip

Helen and Her Hula-hoop, Lynemouth, Northumberland; Chris Killip

Helen and Her Hula-hoop, Lynemouth, Northumberland

Terraced Housing, Wallsend, Tyneside; Chris Killip

Terraced Housing, Wallsend, Tyneside

I was in LA—Beverly Hills actually—for a weekend and decided to take a looksee around The Getty. I don’t really have much to say about the permanent collection but I was very pleased to see their show of Chris Killip’s In Flagrante.

Killip’s documentary photos around northern England in the 1970s and 1980s are fantastic as just historical documents but they’re also especially interesting in terms of how they were made. Instead of the typical social documentary unobtrusive Leica rig, Killip shot with a handheld Linhof 4×5. That’s just insane to me in terms of both how it severely limited his ability to blow through exposures and in how it’s anything but unobtrusive.

The large negative meant that he could crop and rotate images without suffering any grain issues on the print. There was a wonderful section of work prints and contact sheets which demonstrated how he worked through his negatives before creating prints. And the amount of access he had with that large camera demonstrates the degree to which he’d embedded himself in these communities.

This isn’t a photographer parachuting into a place. Killip has gained the trust of these communities—many of which are very private or defensive— and as a reuslt is able to take amazingly gritty but humane photographs as they struggle with deindustrialization and the resulting anxiety which comes from not having an obvious trade to practice.

It’s tempting to view these as being about the bleakness of the Thatcher years but  Killip’s view isn’t to critique Thatcher but rather highlight the way people are having to survive as their economies collapse and transform into something else. The photos aren’t about suffering or blame, they’re about coping and living and to a certain extent, remembering these jobs and communities before they’re completely lost.

We see how people are still working and making ends meet. We see how the kids play and how families stick together. We see how they live and the harshness of their lives deserves our empathy.

We also get to look at these in a time when very similar changes are going on in the US. Factories are closing. And if they’re not closing, they’re being automated. Factory towns are dying. As much as “economic anxiety” is often a euphemism for racism there is truth there as well. People don’t know what their next gig will be or where they’ll be able to get money from. Plus a ton of the people being affected aren’t white anyway.

One of the best parts of this show though is in how it shows Killip returning to his 1980 project and spinning two additional projects out of it. I love this idea that even if you’ve locked a good project up that you can always come back to parts of it and use those as the cornerstones for something new.

Seacoal and Skinningrov are both wonderful little series of photos in and of themselves. They serve to provide context to some of the images in In Flagrante but they also demonstrate how a deep dive and immersion into a community makes it hard to truly delete photos. Instead of being about the general sense of things at the time, these too additional projects document specific communities and how they’re coping with the changes going on.

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Beginnings

This disclaimer is also on my permanent collecting page but in addition to writing about cards I plan to also blog about autographs. For me they’re as tied up with my memories as card collecting is and the two hobbies fed off of each other a lot when I was little. I’d get cards for autograph reasons and I’d be inspired by cards to go get autographs.

While I don’t remember enough specifics about my baseball card collecting beginnings*—aside from going to my first game in 1986, receiving a Hygrade Baseball Card Collecting Kit as a gift**, and then the following spring being into cards and buying rack packs of 1987 Topps—I do remember my first few faltering steps of autograph hunting.

*I’ve kind of touched on it here.

**I’m assuming Christmas.

Those first couple of cards are both personal treasures and a source of embarrassment. I’m thankful I had the opportunity for these baby steps into the hobby and I’m glad that the players weren’t anyone too important or big name to either discourage my future quests or to result in any regrets about not doing things the “correct” way. I’m also a bit embarrassed now at how excited I was to both acquire and then own all of these. And also at how quickly I wanted more more more.

And as a father who may very soon be finding himself watching his sons embark on similar quests, it’s good for me to have these stories written and available or them to read and realize that I was once in their shoes.

Atlee Hammaker 1987 Topps

I’m pretty sure that Atlee Hammaker was the first autograph I ever got. This must’ve been in 1988. There was an event at the Sunnyvale Community Center where he was scheduled to make an appearance and sign autographs. I remember being at the Giants game that afternoon, having it go into extra innings, and rushing back home to make it to the event on time. Little did it occur to me that, because of the game, Hammaker would also be late.

Boy was he late. We kept watching the same highlights and I feel kind of sorry for the Giants Community Representative* who had to vamp the entire time. But Hammaker eventually arrived and I got my first signature and I was very very happy.

*Who might’ve been Mike Sadek.

Given what I’ve learned since about Hammaker since I’m kind of glad and find it somewhat appropriate that he was my first autograph.

With 1987 Topps being my first complete set as well as the first cards I really purchased or collected in earnest, I’m pretty sure this was my only Atlee Hammaker card at the time. It’s a nice albeit is a bit of a generic headshot. But he’s actually smiling and the lighting is good.

Rick Reuschel 1986 Topps Rick Reuschel 1988 Score

Rick Reuschel was our ace pitcher in 1989. I never think of him as a proper ace but I have to recognize and respect that he did start the All-Star game that year.* Anyway he was scheduled to make an appearance at the Giants Dugout Store in San José so of course I went. As did my mom and my sister. I’m pretty sure that this was yet another baseball thing that we dragged my sister to and she patiently put up with waiting in line for what must’ve felt like forever.

*What is it with Giants pitchers in All Star games and monster home runs?

I had brought two cards with me. The 1986 Topps was one of my oldest cards at the time and 1988 Score was one which I just loved the look of. We were only allowed one autograph each. I think my mom took one card and I took the other.

Since I did not trust my sister not to “keep” the card if I gave it to her—it’s not like she collected autographs it’s just one of those sibling things. So my mom purchased one of those souvenir Giants-branded baseballs for her. For a while it just had Reuschel’s signature on it but we eventually filled it up* and she eventually decided that she didn’t want it.

*This deserves, and will get, a post of its own.

Mike Aldrete 1987 Topps

The Stanford Alumni Game used to be the first weekend of the baseball season and officially marked when baseball began in general. That this was usually in the end of January ended up spoiling me tremendously in terms of when I could expect to go to a game. Many Stanford players in the pros would return to campus and play an exhibition against that year’s Stanford team. And there would often be an old timer’s game as well.

While I eventually ended up treating this as a major autograph extravaganza, the first time I went I only brought one card. I only knew of one Stanford Alumnus and it’s only because he played for the Giants. So, as with Atlee Hammaker I brought the only card I had, a 1987 Topps.

No one had told me about Sharpies yet so I just borrowed a pen from my dad. Whoops. It’s held up okay and there’s a certain charm about it which makes it looks like an autographed card from a much earlier age. And while I eventually got another copy signed I could never bear to part with this one. It’s the first autograph I got where I had to approach a player and ask for him to sign all on my own. And that’s a milestone of its own which is worth remembering.

Sand Pond

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One of the boy’s favorite day hikes from Packer. It’s always nice to see how the beaver pond/meadow has matured since our previous visit.

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1973 Mailday

A small mailday from Jeff Katz (@SplitSeason1981) prompted by his recent SABR post where he was looking for trading partners. Jeff’s looking for 1960s cards and has a ton of 1970s cards. I’m not a good fit as my collection is heavily 1987–1993 and I’m both looking for anything before then and have pretty much nothing from then.

That SABR post turned into a chance to send Jeff all of our wants and haves and, since I do have a few duplicates from my eBay acquisitions it turned out that Jeff and I could still do a small trade. So we sent off our respective plain white envelopes loaded with a couple cards and this is what I got.

1973 Topps

1973 is one of the team sets I can actually see feasibly completing* so anything which gets me closer to that goal is always greatly appreciated. I am really digging that Garry Maddox card even with the tilted horizon.

*Between the high numbers and Willie Mays I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to able to complete anything before 1970.

Also, the Boyhood Photos of the Stars card is one which I was really intrigued by when I was a kid. This is partly because Chris Speier had just returned to the Giants when I came onboard as a fan and the idea that he’d been with the team 15 years earlier fascinated me. But I also really liked the idea of seeing what the ballplayers looked like when they were my age.

This is a subset or idea that I’d love to see in a set like Topps Bunt which is aimed and priced for kids. I can totally see my sons having a lot of fun with it.

Blast from the past

A-blast-from-the-past mailday from Peter at Baseball Every Night. In his box break mailing earlier this year he’d hinted that he had a bunch of old Giants cards he was going to send for my kids. So while not unexpected, I didn’t know when to expect the second mailing—or how large of a mailing to expect. These arrived when I was out chasing the eclipse and I’ve only just received the package.

It’s a very generous assortment of cards, many of which are from the sets I used to collect when I was little. I enjoy that so many of these are well-loved. Not abused, just beat up from constant handling. I have a few cards like this in my collection too. Maybe it was a playground acquisition which had to be keep in a pocket or someplace else.* Maybe it was part of a favorite stack to show anyone who’d listen.** Maybe it’s a legacy of the beginning of a collection before binders and pages and learning the “correct” way to store things.***

*I vividly remember keeping cards in my pulled-up socks and unpeeling them from my shin when I got home.

**A phase my eldest son is currently going though.

***As a parent, the best thing about binders and pages is that they encourage the kids to clean up and put their collections away instead than leaving stacks of cards lying around.

Looking at them now brings a smile to my face the same way that looking through @captnarrr’s cards did—especially since they’re all Giants. It’s fun to see these old names and a lot of these cards are cards I either got autographed or tried to get autographed. I know the boys will enjoy incorporating them into their collection since they’re still very much into copying whatever I did. And while I definitely want to encourage them to branch into their own interests it’s nice to have some common ground as well.

I also can’t help but notice how many of those cards feature the Turn Back the Clock uniforms. I loved seeing those on cards when I was a kid. I’m making a note to myself to assemble a checklist of Giants cards featuring those uniforms.

I got out of collecting in 1994. I have a bunch of cards from that year but they never made it into binders and I had even forgotten most of the designs until I pulled my collection out of storage this summer. So I’m nowhere near as familiar with these cards. I do like how so many focus on photography and keep the designs simple. And I really like the Salomon Torres card even though he’s not the best of Giants fan memories.

Peter also included ten new cards. The McCovey Stadium Club is fantastic. But then that whole set is great even though I can’t help but laugh at also getting a Marvin Denard Span card. My sons will greatly appreciate the Topps Bunt cards. Bunt isn’t a set for me but I got a blaster for them to share and they’ve enjoyed ripping packs and seeing who they got. They can never have enough Giants.

The two Topps Archives cards are also fun. I’m not a fan of the way Topps reuses old designs—it falls into an uncanny valley of looking like both a lousy copy and a lazy homage—but I have a soft spot for the 1991 design.* This is also my first Hoyt Wilhelm card ever. I’ve been remiss in getting any of his cards in my Giants team set quest.

*I’m willing to make the argument that 1991 is the best set Topps has made from a design and photography point of view. And yes I checked the backs of these to see if Topps Archives pulled a UV glow backs shout out.

I need to specifically mention the two gold Matt Duffy parallels in that group of ten. I was very surprised to see that they are sequentially numbered. Peter insists that he was even more surprised when he pulled them out of random packs. My gut is skeptical but my brain can’t come up with any other scenarios for this either.

Anyway, I need to brainstorm on how to thank Peter for this. Last time I was able to send some neat Darryl Strawberry and John Kruk cards. This time? I’ll need to be more creative.

Someone Else’s Childhood

One of my twitter contacts, upon seeing that I was collecting baseball cards again, realized that he could send me his childhood collection as it would both get it out of his house and ensure that it would go to a good home. So one evening I found a beat up Priority Mail box filled with sheets of baseball cards and a surprise Everett Aquasox cap.*

*I’ve actually been to a ballgame in Everett game back when the club was the Everett Giants.

It’s a weird thing to be entrusted with someone else’s childhood. In the same way that I feel odd about dismantling and re-sorting and mixing my childhood collection with all my new (to me) cards, I also feel weird about immediately re-sorting these ones. With my cards I had to take a few months to reacquaint myself with both the cards and my memory of them. Only after doing so was I able to consider how I might want to reorganize everything.

With @captnarrr’s? I don’t know. Part of me wants to really look through and get to know his collection. Another part feels like that’s getting too personal (if that makes sense). I don’t know. It’s weird. I know how much my collection meant to me as a kid and I feel like that kid-level anxiety about someone else flipping through your collection is lurking deep down inside all of us.

So I’m going to try and find the happy middle ground of looking through these a few time and getting used to them as a collection while trying not to really examine everything. I’m also not going to photograph or scan anything beyond a few representative pages.

I’ve flipped through a couple times so far and it’s eerily similar to mine in terms of what it covers. Especially in the 1986–1988 coverage. I have ~250 1986 Topps cards. So does he. I’ve been meaning to take a run at that set since it’s the first I bought packs for but hadn’t gotten into the hobby fully yet. Hopefully I won’t have too many duplicates between his stack and mine.

The 1987–1988 cards though will become a starter set for my kids (between these and the massive amount of 1987 and 1988 Topps duplicates I have as well I would be shocked if there wasn’t another complete set in here). I have complete sets for both years—1987 was my first serious year collecting—but revisiting all these cards just takes me back. Even with Topps beating the 1987 design into the ground this year.

The big difference is in how he organized things. I was a by-the-numbers kid. Card backs had card numbers and you were obviously supposed to page them in numerical order. Flipping through pages organized by player or team, while it makes sense to me, also feels oddly wrong since it’s not how I’m used to looking at these sets.

This is funny since my current project is focusing just on one team and I’m organizing each year’s team set in my binder alphabetically rather than numerically.

1981 Fleer 1981 Fleer

There’s also a decent amount of 1981 and 1982 cards in here. I have maybe a pack’s worth for each of these sets. Sot it’s fun to have more of them. Admittedly, 1981 and 1982 Fleer are both pretty lousy sets but there’s something kind of charmingly unprofessional about them which appeals to me in today’s crisp over-produced world.

Ken Griffey Jr Bar Ken Griffey Jr Bar
Ken Griffey Jr Bar back

The most interesting stuff in the box though are the oddballs and regional issues. These weren’t in pages so they’re easier to scan. The standouts are the Ken Griffey Jr bar cards. I’ve never seen these in the wild although I remember them existing in all that Juniormania in 1989. Seeing a couple different versions is very cool. Then seeing how the backs state that they’re available “Throughout the Northwest” is wonderful since it takes these back to being a purely regional thing even though I know the bars went around the country.

Tony Gwynn Base Hit Candy Bar Tony Gwynn Base Hit Candy Bar back
Wade Boggs .352 Bar Wade Boggs .352 Bar back

Unlike the Griffey bars I had never heard of the Gwynn and Boggs bars. These look to be the same product but released in 1990. Kind of a shame they’re all just plain milk chocolate but I do like how the font changes for each one. Also it’s nice that the Boggs photo is a more interesting action than just a batting stance.

Brian McRae Denny's Hologram Kal Daniels Denny's Hologram Barry Bonds Denny's Hologram
Jeff Bagwell Denny's Hologram Sammy Sosa Denny's Hologram

Denny’s holograms are always cool. I was out of the hobby by 1995 so I never saw the 1995 versions in the flesh. While I enjoy the full-hologram versions more the scans of the 1995 cards don’t do justice to the depth in the hologram. But this  is a series of sets which I’m very much likely to chase as well so the more of these that I come across the easier that chase will be.

Manager's Dream: Tony Oliva, Chico Cardenas, Roberto Clemente

I think this was the only pre-80s card in the collection. It’s a beaut despite the miscut. I found it interesting that this featured three latino players but feels as if Topps was planning something along those lines and then decided to go with something generic. Or maybe they just couldn’t come up with a decent nickname.

1986 All Star Glossy

I’ve not seen team photos in the All Star Glossies. I should probably research when that stopped being a thing because these are pretty cool. I always love looking at the All Star team photos and seeing all the different uniforms together.

Roy Thomas autographed busines card

And Roy Thomas is an interesting autograph. Not a player I’m familiar with. I like that it’s a business card with a baseball card printed on it. I’m a bit curious what Thomas Enterprises was since it seems like his main post-career gig was being a middle-school teacher. I’m also a bit curious about about the context in which this autograph was acquired but I don’t really want to get into asking all kinds of questions about this collection.

All in all a very cool mailing which I’ll have fun flipping through and sorting in the future. And in the short term I’ll have to think about how to properly thank @captnarrr for the package.

Long Lake, Bear Lake

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Another hike we had to drive to from Packer. Lots of snow on the ground but it was passable for some of the lakes. Others like Round Lake were still snowed in. Both boys hiked a lot better than I expected and got to see Long Lake, Cub Lake, Little Bear Lake, and Big Bear Lake.

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