Matchbooks

While I’ve been unable to find cards anywhere locally, Ebay is doing this thing where good deals on weird shit keep popping up. Previously it was Zeenuts and Venezuelans. This time it’s Diamond Matchbooks.

Diamond Matchbooks came out in the mid-1930s and are pretty cool. They feature a player* on one side and text about him on the other and, when printed well, can look pretty nice.  I’ve featured a pair of them earlier but this time I’m getting them with intent.

*Not just players, I’ve seen non-sport versions featuring cities, etc. too.

Aside from being neat little items, the matchbooks are affordable ways to collect vintage* cards of a player. Ernie Caddel has only one “real” football card and, as a beautiful National Chicle with that dreaded Rookie status attached to it, it runs in the hundreds of dollars. This 1938 matchbook, while not as nice, runs a couple orders of magnitude less and serves as a great addition to the Stanford album. It’s also nice that the text mentions Stanford plus the silver printing is pretty cool.

*I frequently use “vintage” to mean “playing-days.”

Caddel is an especially nice addition to the album because he actually went to Stanford on a baseball scholarship as a pitcher and only started playing football once he was on campus. I can find articles about him in the Stanfrod Daily archives but unfortunately can’t find any statistics for his time as a player.

I also don’t have a lot of Stanford pre-war so it’s always great to add another. I think I’m up to six cards now.

I also found a great small lot of baseball matchbooks. I wouldn’t have gotten this just except that Carl Hubbell was one of the included cards.

The whole group is fun though and it’s very nice to have an assortment of colors. The Hubbell and English cards are from  the 1935–36 “set” which makes this my oldest Hubbell card.* I love the back write-up which discusses both his 1933 and 1935 seasons as well as the fact that this essentially dates the card to releasing when Hubbell was at the height of his powers and in the midst of wining the National League MVP award.

*By a year over the Dixie lid.

English meanwhile only references 1935 on the back so it’s possibly from an earlier-printed group of these. It’s hard to call these a set of cards since they weren’t really cards. There was clearly a matchbook collecting ecosystem going on at the time though but I have no idea if there was a “collect them all” mentality or if it was just a living set of ephemera being printed on an otherwise disposable object.

I do like the amount of uniform detailing visible in English’s photo with the piped placket and wishbone C around the bear cub. The Jordan book also has a decent amount of uniform information in the photo albeit of a Braves uniform and not the Bees.* Kind of fun to have a card dating from the the five years they were the Bees but a shame that the photo still depicts the Braves.

*The fact that this lists the team name on both sides means it’s a 1937 release using a pre-1936 photo.

And that’s the latest Diamond Matchbooks news. I have six of them now including three Giants and one Stanford. They’re currently in Cardsavers and 4-pocket sheets but I can totally see switching to 6-pocket sheets if I come across more.

LOL

I mentioned at the end of my previous Somerset post about how some of the autograph seekers were bitching about Anthony Volpe. I downplayed it a little in that post but some of the complaints sort of stuck with me over the last couple of weeks.

When I was getting autographs at Trenton I don’t remember anyone complaining about guys signing or how they signed. Yes there were definitely guys seeking to sell signatures but in general things were pretty positive.

Somerset though either attracts a different breed of autograph seeker or the hobby has changed for the worse since 2019. A lot of the complaints about Volpe involved his signature and how he “ruins” balls and other items that he signs.  I understand being disappointed when a guys signs but demanding that he sign everything with a nice pristine signature when he’s trying to sign for as many kids as possible really rubs me the wrong way.

Marc Brubaker’s Volpe TTM

A large part of this though is due to the fact that Volpe has been a good TTM signer for a few years and is known for having a nice signature which stands out compared to so many poor signatures from the “never learned cursive in school” generation of players that he’s a part of. He’s also showing up at local signings* where his signature remains very nice. He’s set a high bar for what people should expect.

*At $99 per sig!

Still, he can take his time with TTMs and private signings and it’s completely unfair to compare those examples to something signed in the post-game crush as he makes his way down the tunnel carrying three bats, his glove, and batting helmet. I’m never going to complain about a guy who’s clearly trying to be good to the fans.

Then, last Wednesday, I got lucky at the Somerset game and got Volpe’s post-game rush signature. And now I understand why they were complaining.

Yeah… To be completely clear, I am not upset and still think that complaining about something like this makes you an entitled asshole. Ink is ink is ink. At the sam time I have to admit that my immediate response when I saw what he’d written was to start laughing. I find it to be absolutely hilarious and in many ways better than his “nice” signature since it comes with a ready-made story to accompany the “WTF is that” question this card will receive going forward.

I’ll be able to talk about all the entitled guys and how Volpe intentionally  hangs out at the end of the game to sign for as many people as possible. And I’ll be able to talk about how the game I got this Volpe went 2 for 3 with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases, and 2 runs scored.* I can see why he’s hyped since when he’s on the bases he’s the kind of electric player you’re always keeping on eye on.

*Second game in a row I’ve gone to where Somerset has spotted the visiting team like 5 runs early  and then pent the rest of the game clawing its way back to the win column. This time a big 3-run homer from Josh Breaux served the same purpose as Michale Beltre’s grand slam before a bases-loaded fielders choice in the bottom of the 8th drove in the eventual winning run as the Reading 3rd baseman attempted a 5-3 double play where he ran the ball to 3rd instead of either a 5-4-3 or a 5-2-3 double play and the batter just managed to beat the throw to first. Anyway. 2.5 hour game. Patriots won 7–6.

At the same time. Yeah. I can’t sugarcoat anything. This is not just one of the worst signatures I’ve encountered but it’s also one of the largest deltas between signature qualities I’ve seen. And that includes guys like Stan Musial who were signing on their deathbeds a decade after they couldn’t control a pen any more.

Still, into the album it goes and we’ll see if it amounts to anything more interesting than this story. He certainly has the tools to go far but I’ve seen enough AA baseball to know better than to assume anything.

Another funny thing about Somerset is how there’s a huge scrum of guys trying to get Volpe’s signature and no one seems to care about Sparky Lyle. Lyle seems to be available before every game and is extremely generous with his time as he signs and poses for photos with the one older fan who cares or the two kids whose dad knows what’s up.

I was the older fan this game. After getting a Yankee card TTM I decided to get a Phillies card this time and the only one I could find in my collection was a 1982. I’m slowly coming around to these being okay for autographing despite the facsimile sigs.

Hopefully I’ll get to be the dad too as I also have a pair of Lyle cards in my snapcase for my kids to use whenever we all get back to a game. No more 11:00am starts so our next visit will be for sure be either a Friday night or weekend day game.

Cold War Cards

I tend to think of general-interest cards as the major thing that distinguishes the pre-World War 2 hobby from the much-more-familiar sports cards and pop-culture cards landscape which got rolling in the 1950s. Many of my pre-war sets serve as a way to teach people about the world and I love the way they serve as a way of documenting our understanding of things at the moment.

My thinking though is also wrong since general interest sets didn’t die out immediately after the war. I’ve come across a bunch of sets from the 1950s in particular which are wonderful to discover me. A lot of them function in similar veins to comic books—both in terms of being general action stories and, later, specifically super heroes—while others are doing the same kind of thing as the pre-war cards and documenting technology or explaining history.

The ones that fascinate me though are the ones that seem to function as state department propaganda. There are multiple sets in the 1950s which are dedicated at some level to the fight against communism. This first card is from  one such set.

Bowman’s 1951 Fight the Red Menace set is basically all about the evils of communism. The artwork is frequently amazing albeit over the top and the back text pulls no punches in terms of who the good guys and bad guys are. I can’t really imagine these being packaged with chewing gum and definitely don’t think they were popular with kids.

In America you can always find the party. In Russia, party always finds you.

Even though I grew up with the USSR as our main global antagonist the idea of just having stuff like this set around is completely foreign to me. Yes, I know that there are a lot of Americans still who freak out about the idea of communism but that fear wasn’t the background radiation of my youth nor is it the way I’m teaching my kids. We’ve had plenty of time to figure out the problems with capitalism since then as well. Anyway, I really liked the idea of having a sample of this set so I selected one that reminded of the old Yakov Smirnoff joke which spawned that early 2000s “In Soviet Russia” meme.

Another set I got a sample from is the very Dr. Strangelove named Power for Peace set that Bowman put out in 1954. This set is all about the current standard of US Military technology and how it needs to be so powerful in order to preserve the peace. This isn’t as much anti-Communism as it’s  anti-Russia and more-generically pro-military as the only thing keeping us from being bombed this very instant.

Since this set is so much like Dr. Strangelove I had to get the B-52 card as a sample. For a 1954 set, getting an image of the B-52 is kind of amazing since that was the first year that any were finished building, only three were made, and they were just test planes. And yes I kind of love that nowhere on the back of this card is the plane described as a bomber.

Not the prettiest card but another one which captures the time. I’m not going to be suckered into the 1950s/1960s non-sport cards the same way as I have been with pre-war but it’s great to have a few samples to remind me of how different this time was.

Menkos!

I’ve been intrigued by Japanese baseball cards for a long time. Some, like the Kabaya Leafs, are mirror-universe amazing takes on designs I’m familiar with. But what I really like are the ones that are doing things completely differently than American cards. I jumped on a batch of mid-1970s Calbees because I love the photography and I’ve long sort of coveted some of the older menko cards.

Menkos were intended to be played with but they also depict all kinds of subjects. Sports, military, movie and TV characters are all fair game. The artwork is frequently something I’d call comic book style with bold colors and big text and the end result looks like nothing else I’ve seen.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I’ve not dipped any toes in that water due to not having an obvious entry point. I have a hard time buying cards without attaching them to a project and, unlike my pre-war randomness, menkos tend to be sold individually instead of as sets. As a result I’m better able to resist their call.

However it turns out that there are menkos of the San Francisco Seals. In 1949 Lefty O’Doul took the San Francisco Seals on a Goodwill tour of Japan. O’Doul is in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame for his multiple trips to Japan which helped grow the game and in many ways led to the development of a professional league. The 1949 trip was a different sort of trip as it was intended to promote healing after World War 2.

The trip was clearly successful both in terms of drawing crowds but also as a bit of cultural diplomacy with a lot of ephemera still surviving today. The multiple different menko designs definitely caught my eye. Sometimes they’re super expensive. Other times they’re super reasonable. So it pays to wait. A couple weeks ago I finally found some that were going at a price I was ok with.

This menko features Cliff Melton, one of the few pitchers who made the trip.* It’s part of what’s categorized as the 1949 JCM-51 Seals Tour set. Not my favorite of the designs I’ve seen (I really like the Blue Back set) but it’s a great example of why I find menkos so appealing. Bright colors. Big bold text.** Cartoon images.

*He’s also a former Giant who shows up on Play Ball and Double Play cards in the early 1940s.

**メルトン is pronounced “meruton” which is the katakanization of “Melton.” Also, in the interests of translating text, 投手 is how you write “pitcher” in Japanese.

Many of the cards depict the seals in red and white striped uniforms that don’t at all match their home jerseys that year. Given that other cards show the pinstripes in blue and the Seals in red my guess is that the artists were just coloring things brightly. I wish the cap logo were a bit more clear but that’s really my only quibble.

The other Seals card I got is actually not a menko. It’s categorized as a bromide though by the 1940s these were no longer bromide photographic prints but just halftones which kept the bromide toning. This one is cut from the November 1949 issue of Yakyu Shonen magazine and not only features Cliff Melton as well but uses the photo that was used to create the menko artwork.

His menko isn’t a particularly good likeness but it’s clearly from the same image plus the text* confirms that it’s the same player.

*メルトン 投手 (シールス) or “Melton Pitcher (Seals)” underneath the image.

Looking at the Melton menko again mades me start thinking about why I like them so much more than American strip cards. It’s clearly not the accuracy of the drawings so all I can conclude is that the vibrancy of the color and text is the difference.

I took a quick peek through the other stuff that this seller had available and was unable to not impulse-add this card. I’ll leave it a little bit of a surprise and just link to a Google search for his name: 三船敏郎.

Yeah.

The price was right and how could I say no. Plus the artwork, while not exactly looking like him, has a certain charm to it with that rakishly misplaced hair that does capture a certain essence. I don’t know exactly when this is from but the seller says 1950s which feels right. It’s made by the Kagome Toy Company* and has a lot more going on on the back than most menkos I’ve seen as they aren’t known for having backs full of text.

*The 6-pointed star is their mark.

While I can struggle through figuring out what the front text says through context/guessing I have no idea about the backs. There are online tools to deciphering stokes but doing that figure by figure is more than I want to deal with—especially when even the single word on the back of the Melton menko looks like it says スペルコミ which doesn’t translate to anything but sounds like superukomi or super komi. I can’t image trying to do the full text backs on the other cards.

As it is I’m happy to just have a few menkos as well as be able to update my oldest Japanese cards to be 1949 now. Plus it’s nice to add a bit more color to my Seals page.

A mental health day

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Spring break always throws me for a loop plus I’ve had some dental issues,* we’re planning for summer, omnipresent COVID uncertainty,** and the general state of the world between the Ukraine disaster and the Supreme Court getting even more illegitimate than I expected. All of which has left me feeling like I just need to find a way to meditate for a day.

*Nothing crazy but I had to get an extraction.

**Some local schools are reverting to mandatory masking due to local spread.

Yesterday I got my daily email from the Somerset Patriots and noticed that the game was scheduled for 11:00am. I had had this circled on my calendar ever since schedules were released but have been so out of things that I hadn’t even noticed it coming up.  Since I haven’t managed to get to any games anywhere since I froze my ass off at Princeton in March* I made the quick decision that what I really needed was to hit another baseball game.

*I do need to get to more Princeton games but kid sports have started to interfere there plus our weather has been crap.

Untitled

So I made the drive up to Somerset and confirmed that yes, I really did need to hit another baseball game. I was a bit worried in the first couple innings as the teams combined for 9 runs in about an hour of gameplay. New Hampshire jumped out to a 5–0 lead through an Earl Weaver (after putting guys on via walk and HBP) and a two-run shot before Somerset loaded the bases (via dropped 3rd strike, walk, and infield single) and Michael Beltre hit a grand slam to turn it back into a game.

Things settled down after that though. Somerset strung a bunch of hits together in the fourth—scoring four runs and threatening more before running themselves into an inning-ending double play—but we went from what looked like a possible four-hour game to one that was the standard three-hour length.

The 9th inning got kind of scary though since the Somerset closer quickly gave back two runs via another two-run bomb and then let another two guys reach base (both via bunt!) with only one out. Luckily New Hampshire ran themselves into a game-ending double play and Somerset hung on for the 9–8 victory.

Not super crisp but decent baseball. Also very nice to see this level of minor league ball again too with players who are all prospects dreaming of the show but which are also mostly guys who have a legit chance of at least a cup of coffee.

I decided to hang around afterwards for a bit and test my luck with autographs. It feels like forever since I’ve done this. Getting coaches to sign is easy. Players? I last did this in 2019. The big name in Somerset is Anthony Volpe. I did not get his autograph though he did use my pen to sign for a dozen kids. He seems to be a reliable signer after the games but (correctly) prioritizes kids.

I did however get the grand slam hero of the game, Michael Beltre, on my ticket stub. The perfect memento for a day I sorely needed.

I also got a few other Somerset prospects. Josh Breaux is currently injured and didn’t play. Nor was Luis Medina, the only guy on he Yankees 40-man roster, scheduled to start (though it was his birthday so we all wished him happy birthday after the game). Blake Perkins didn’t get into the game but Jeisson Rosario made a few nice catches in left field including getting to a ball that the baserunners in the ninth didn’t expect him to reach.

The autographing was mostly fun. Good weather and a few little kids to bring smiles to everyone’s faces. A couple of the older guys who are clearly in it for the money got on my nerves a little bit as they bitched about Volpe being a punk because he tries to duck them and has started signing AVolpe or AV now. But for the most part it’s still fans who go to the game and do this for a hobby.

There’s another 11am game in a couple weeks and I hope I don’t need it as much as this one. Yes I’m planning on going even if I don’t need it.

April Returns

April picked up where March left off with a flurry of returns in the beginning of the month and a couple nice spurts as my full pipeline paid off.

The first return of the month as Gary Nolan in 15 days. I found more duplicates from my 1978 set build but I had to send Nolan a Reds card as well since he was one of the primary pitchers for the Big Red Machine. It’s kind of amazing that he even got a 1978 card though since he retired in 1977.

On the topic of 1978 duplicates I also got a 15-day return from Stan Bahnsen aka the Bahnsen Burner. he most interesting thing when I looked him up was learning about and recoiling from Chuck Tanner’s pitcher usage in the 1970s. As much as modern bullpenning drives me nuts apparently I respond even worse to old-school “blow out your aces’s arms by pitching them as often as possible.”

Barry Foote was, for a while, a better catching prospect than Gary Carter before settling into a role as a career backup catcher. HE did however put together an eight-RBI game in 1980 which is a pretty cool accomplishment. This card was beat up when I sent it and didn’t get USPS’d in its 10-day round trip.

I got a nice 14-day return from Ed Ott who was a bit of a Pirates fan favorite before the Tony Peña years. I don’t normally send 1982 cards but with the different team I figured it would be more fun getting it signed than letting it just sit in a box.

Bobby Mitchell was the Trenton Thunder manager when I first started going to games. I wasn’t collecting autographs then (which means I missed out on Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres) but it was nice to write him and thank him for being part of what became a fun thing to do with my kids. He sent this back in 12 days.

Okay this is a fun one. While I’m not an A’s fan and didn’t even like them much when I was a kid, I also find myself remembering those late-80s, early-90s teams kind of fondly now. They were good and the players on them were definitely some of the big names in the Bay Area. So while I didn’t collect them much as a kid I definitely enjoy getting autographs from guys like Dave Stewart, Jose Canseco, and Terry Steinbach now.

Dennis Eckersley is definitely one of the key guys from those teams and he was as close as you could get to a force of nature in a few of those seasons. I had ton of options to send him but I went with a nice action image and a nice portrait. Very very happy to get these back in 15 days.

Mickey Weston appeared in five Major League seasons but never reached double digit games in any of them. He got the most work in 1989 and 1990 and ended up on cards from my peak collecting years a a result. He sent this back in 46 days and included a tract card as well.

I got a nice 5-return day mid-April with a great range of cards including one of my longest ever returns. This isn’t quite Max Venable’s length but Andrew Lorraine got a Stanford custom back to me in 664 days. I was just a kid when he started pitching at Stanford but his parents used to sit by us at Sunken Diamond. I got his autograph on the season ticket when he was a junior since he was one of the most-promising prospects that season.

A 27-day return from Darin Ruf brought some more spring training returns. His roster card is the always-fun dugout celebration but I especially like the card of him pitching. I hope he enjoyed it too; since he kept one of each custom I think he did. When I made it last year I was still in “this is going to be this kind of season” thinking and I could not have been more wrong.

Jim Kern is kind of the original “Fear the Beard” and even now has a great look for baseball cards. I had an extra 1981 but his 1982 photo captured the bear glory so well I had to send it too. These came back in 21 days.

Kern’s nickname is the wonderful “Amazing Emu” and he’s selling a book about his experiences with the Rangers. Given his status as a character in the game the books probably  decent read. I’m also wondering if anyone’s sent him an emu card to get autographed.

I’m not actively collecting father/son autograph combos but I decided it would be fun to send a duplicate card to John Mayberry Sr. and include a custom I made of his son. I’d watched Junior play at Stanford and have customs printed and ready to go if he ever starts signing. Senior kept the custom and sent my card back in 10 days.

And the last card of that 5-return day was the custom I made for SABR’s 2022 Burdick Award Winner. James Beckett is probably the most controversial pick we’ve made so far. He sits right on that fine line between promoting a common culture and creating a hegemony. For my generation his name and price guides bring back a ton of fond nostalgic memories and I’ve met countless people online who share those experience. Which is great.

The flip side of this is that many of my generation also still feels like there are certain rules to collecting—many of which have to do with value and playing the market. As much as Beckett is responsible for so much of what I loved about the hobby as a kid, he’s also responsible for why I was able to walk away. As an adult, I’ve chosen to focus on the good stuff and how he captured the zeitgeist of the excitement behind cards for over a decade and was happy to thank him for that.

It only took him 10 days to send my card back plus he included an extra 2005 Fan Favorites as well.

I’m pretty sure every rookie/prospect from 1990–1992 resonates with me. I was in junior high and we were all tuned in to every player who could be “invested” in. It’s only fitting that my first return after the Beckett return was one of those guys. Not a “dated rookie” with a ton of hype, just a good solid ballplayer who had a ton of potential. Sadly he’s one of those guys who just couldn’t stay healthy. I was happy to get these back in 33 days though.

I found myself with a few 1984 duplicates and decided to try sending those out. I don’t have a lot of 1984s signed since I’m thin on everything which predates 1986. Frank LaCorte began his career as a starter but found a good home in the Astros bullpen. He signed this in 12 days.

A 12-day return from Jack O’Connor added another signed 1984 card to the collection. For guy who played in parts of six major league seasons he didn’t get a lo of cards so I’m glad I had on of his available.

Back to 1986s this time with a 12 day return from Dave Van Gorder. He’s another guy who despite a handful of years in Major League Baseball only has cards in a couple of years. This time though one of the cards is from the first set which I collected and so all those cards and players bing me right back to my first year in the hobby.

I decided to send a request to Clay Dalrymple to thank him for being part of the Old Timer’s letterhead I got when I was ten. I need to have at leas one signed Phillies card from that group and this one looks really nice signed. He sent this back in 10 days.

I’m not sure how the only Jim Slaton duplicate I had was from 1978 but I’m glad I had one of him as a Brewer since he’s the franchise leader in wins and innings pitched. He sent this back in 16 days.

The same day I got the Jim Slaton return I got another 16-day return on a 1978 card from Bill Atkinson. I’ve come to really appreciate the 1978 design with autographs and the handful of action cards like this one work especially  well signed.

Mike Caldwell is one of my favorite autograph stories. He was the coach of the Campbell Fighting Camels who cinderella’d their way into the NCAA tournament in 1990. I managed to track down his 1976 Topps card before their game at Sunken Diamond and it was a lot of fun to surprise him with it after the game.

He’s a good TTM guys so I figured it would be fun to thank him for being so cool 32 years ago. I figured it made sense to include a Brewers card seeing how he’s one of the more successful pitchers in their history. He didn’t respond to my note but did sign both cards in 32 days.

I wasn’t able to keep my pipeline full over the course of this month so things ind of trickled off ion the last couple weeks. A combination of he kids being on spring break, getting my 2022 Giants Customs up and running, and dental issues ended up taking my focus. I’ll hopefully get up and running again soon and with any luck other returns will continue to straggle in.

Opening Day from Bru

I guess it’s not officially baseball season until I get a mailday from Marc. Not only has he been pointing out Ebay auctions he’s also still coming up with cards despite going on two years of product being impossible to find.

While the bulk of the package was my usual collecting interests (Stanford and Giants) we’ll start off with this 1965 Topps Stan Williams. Cleveland purchased his contract on March 30 1965 and as a result, Topps clearly didn’t have a photo of him in an Indians uniform. Even though this is a fifth series card and came out later in the season (probably July) it was still too soon to get an updated photo.

While they didn’t touch the Yankees uniform, Williams’s cap is a much different story with the NY logo being blacked out. Sloppily blacked out. The further upstream you can do these fixes the better and this fix is about as far downstream as you can go with a black NY that looks like it was scribbled on to either the black film separation when burning the plate or the actual plate itself during printing.

The tell in this case is that the NY is 100% black. If it had been done before doing the color separations it would be some kind of four-color mix. Instead it’s solid black which is why it looks so weird on the card.

Moving to the Stanford section of the mailing with a nice selection of guys who are currently active as well as a few non-baseball options. A decent number of new cards to me here, especially the non-Topps options like the Mosaic Edman and minor league Helling. I also hadn’t added that Bob Mathias card despite having other Olympic cards.

With Heritage being increasingly boring it’s nice to see that Lowrie and Hoerner got interesting examples this year with Lowrie’s horizontal card being one of the better ones in the set.  Also it’s always fun to add a couple Elways to the collection.

The last Stanford card is a very cool signed Adam Keefe. Marc apparently got this TTM a couple decades ago and decided it didn’t fit his collection anymore. I’m very happy to add it to mine. Keefe wasn’t a star but he put together a decent NBA career and I enjoyed his years in Utah as the “Garbage Man” to Karl Malone’s “Mailman” who was responsible for cleaning up the boards and and putting trash shots back into the basket.

Moving to the Giants and starting off with a selection of junk era cards. I almost missed the most interesting thing here but three of the 1995 Flair cards are in fact missing the silver foil stamping. Those cards are so shiny it’s easy to overlook that the player and team names are missing.

What’s cool is that you can see a ghost image of where that foil was supposed to go. While this could be intentional so that the foil doesn’t pick up any of the textures on the card, given the difficulty of registering foil stamping I almost want to suggest that something went wrong, the stamping ran out of silver foil for a few sheets, and the resulting ghost image was an inadvertent almost deboss.

Last batch of cards are current-day Giants. As with before the non-Topps cards are always welcome. The Topps cards meanwhile will go into the for the kids pile. Well except for the foil Archives “Big mini” or “mini Big” Buster Posey. That’s staying in my collection in part because I’m a Topps Big fanboy but also because I’m fascinated by Topps’s choices for which parts of the cards would get opaque white ink and which parts would let the foil impact the image. Definitely not the choices I would’ve made but they say a lot about what parts of the card Topps considers to be important .

Very cool stuff. I’m long overdue on a reply mailing but I’m also long overdue on buying cards in general.

Around the World

So I just got my first Venezuelan cards. I’ve avoided them for years because they tend to be way too expensive, poorly-printed, and really beat up. Plus most of them don’t offer anything substantially new (let alone  better) to the standard US Topps cards.

Only the 1962s with their Spanish-language backs (also 1967 though those have the non-licensed feel to them as well) have called my name as an extension to my barajitas series of posts on SABR.

But a couple weeks ago a deal on eBay that was too good to pass up came by and so I picked up my first three Venezuelans. Was waiting for a while for them to come in but they arrived over Easter weekend.

I figured that while getting team sets of Venezuelans was neither cost nor time effective, starting a type collection made a certain amount of sense. So I have one each from 1962, 1964, and 1966. There are also sets from 1959, 1960, 1967, and 1968 but I’m in no rush.

Holding these in hand is sort of the opposite feeling I had when I encountered O Pee Chee cards in the 1980s. Where the 1980s OPCs were bright white card stock instead of the brown Topps stock the Venezuelans are duller and greyer than the bright white Topps stock.

“Sort of” because while this sounds underwhelming it’s actually not. The paper just doesn’t match what I’m expecting any printed material form the 1960s to look like. It feels either decades older or like it should be fragile newsprint and adds something evocative to the photos because it feels like they’re in danger of slipping away. As much as the Cepeda is the highlight of the three I think the Jim Ray Hart card is my favorite looking with the way the photograph still glows.

Back to the Cepeda. While it’s mighty beat up* the back is completely readable. One of the reasons I’ve avoided Venezuelans is that since my interest is the Spanish-language backs and so many Venezuelans have paper loss three. Cepeda has glue marks and is a bit off-register but I can totally read the Spanish.

*Recalling my suggestion years ago that card conditions should be like the Mohs hardness scale. If Zeenuts exemplify 1. Venezuelans would be 2s.

Despite all the extra empty space, the text is basically the same only (and surprisingly for Spanish) much less wordy. Stats are still using the English abbreviations but a careful reader will pick up the translations for rookie (novato), home run (jonrón), and RBIs (carreras impulsadas). Interestingly, outfield is left untranslated instead of becoming jardinero.

1964 and 1966 are essentially unchanged from the US releases. The only difference is the inks used. To my eyes it almost looks like they made the decision to print them using process inks—1964 going from spot orange to process black and 1966 from a spot pink to process magenta.

As with the Cepeda, no paper loss is very nice here and I can totally put up with the glue spots. Venezuelans are supposed to look used and well-loved and these certainly fit the bill.

All in all very cool. Plus this addition takes the number of countries I have cards from to nine (and the number of continents to six). In addition to Venezuela I have cards from the USA, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, France, and the UK.  I figured it would be fun to end this post with a call back to the oldest card I have from each of those countries.

USA

My oldest US card (and card in general) is this 1887 Allen and Ginter card of Hawaii.

Germany

A set of 1899 Stollwerck cards would be my oldest German cards.

UK

I’ve a ton of pre-war UK releases but my oldest are these 1901 Ogdens.

France

Not sure if Liebigs were released in France or just published in French but for a 1906 set I’m treating it as being a French set.

South Africa

A gorgeous set United Tobacco made in 1936.

Canada

Only showing the back since the front is identical to Topps. But it’s never a bad thing to show off 1971 O Pee Chee’s backs. I have a decent amount of OPC from 1977 to 1992 as it functions a bit as a Traded set for my Giants team sets but not much more.

I might pick up more 1978s as part of my 1978 build. And I’m now considering doing a type collection for other years for the Giants album since I’ve opened that door with the Venezuelans.

Japan

While I have a 1960s playing card of Sadaharu Oh, my oldest proper trading card are some 1975 Calbees. I do however have a 1949 menko headed my way so that’ll be fun.

Australia

Modern, well 1996, cards for the Australian League.

Sort of surprising to me that I have no cards from Spain since finding Barcelona soccer cards is something I totally would do. I’ve definitely had my eye on a few Xocolata Amatller cards before. I’m sure there are Panini stickers from Italy that would catch my eye as well. Plus some of the Dutch Gum cards. I’d also love to find cards from Mexico or elsewhere in Latinamerica but as always, I’d have to be caught by the cards not just the country of origin.

Addendum/edit April 26

Italy

So SanJoseFuji commented and reminded me about Panini Stickers. Unlike the other cards on here, these are intended for worldwide release and have back text in English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish. They are however manufactured in Italy so I’ll count them here. I don’t have many of these but I do have a couple Spain ones from 2010 when they won their first World Cup.

And this takes me to a nice round 10 countries worth of cards. Two North America (USA and Canada), one South America (Venezuela), four Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy), one Africa (South Africa), one Asia (Japan), and Australia.

Addendum/Edit May 16

A pair of updates for my oldest cards.

I realized last weekend that my oldest Canadian card is actually this 1962 Jim Davenport Post Canadian card. Post already does a great job at packing everything you want on a card on just one side. That they manage to do this in two languages is even more impressive.

And I’ll add an image of the 1949 Menko to update the Japan selection since I mentioned it was in transit in my original post.

Zeenut haul

I’ve been slow-rolling my San Francisco Seals type collection but it received a decent shot in the arm last week. Marc Brubaker is a bit of an enabler and sent me a link to an ebay seller with a bunch of Zeenuts available for super cheap. I bid on a few auctions and won without any competition. The seller them accepted my offer on the remaining Seals cards which went unsold.*

*I didn’t want to risk getting into multiple bidding wars so bid on only the ones I wanted most.

A good deal all around for a half-dozen Zeenuts. Then things shipped out and arrived even faster than I expected. The resulting haul added two years, 1924 and 1926, to the collection as well as a few other samples which show off uniform details and whatnot.

Starting off with four 1924 Zeenuts. The Guy Williams is the one I wanted most since it’s both in great shape for a Zeenut and is a fantastic image with his expression, pose, and the view of the stadium behind him.

The other three are nice to add since they feature the other Seals jersey design. As far as players go, Knobby Paynter and Charles Schorr are like Guy Williams in terms of being flagged on Baseball Reference with a question mark. Joe Kelly though actually played five seasons in Major League baseball.

Fun to look at the 1924 Seals roster and see Paul Waner listed. That team went 108–93 and finished 3rd in the PCL.

The 1926 was the other one I really wanted. It’s the most Zeenut condition of the batch but still looks great. I guess that’s an outfield fence behind Marty Griffin but it’s a much different background than the rest of the cards here. Griffin meanwhile also played in MLB albeit only one season.

The 1926 Seals team has a bunch of names I recognize on it—Earl Averill, Dolph Camilli, Lloyd Waner, among others—but finished way short of their  1925 season (which is documented as one of the best minor league seasons of all time) as they finished up with a 84–116 record and went through three different managers.

The 1928 Zeenut is an upgrade to the one I got from Anson and features the fantastically-named Buckshot May. May is sort of the ultimate cup of coffee guy whose Major League career consists of one solitary inning finishing up the May 9, 1924 Pittsburg-Boston game.

1928 though was a great year for the Seals with an absolutely stacked lineup. The Seals won their 7th PCL title with a 120–71 record that year.

These six cards take my vintage Seals collection to twelve cards, eleven of which are Zeenuts. Those eleven Zeenuts cover seven (1916, 1917, 1924, 1926, 1928, 1930, and 1931) of Zeenut’s 28 years of sets from 1911 to 1938. In other words I have 25% of the Zeenut type collection now. Which is very fun and I really like seeing them all together.

I’ll end this with a gallery of all my Zeenuts. Yes they all kind of look the same but they’re pretty unique compared to the other card releases out there. As a West Coast baseball fan they are especially fun to have in the album and are way more affordable than Obaks and 1949 Bowmans.

March Returns

March picked up where February left off with a good flurry of returns as I’ve kept my sending rate up. When the lockout ended I got a bunch of spring training requests out and even got one back.

Ted Sizemore spent a dozen years in the majors. A couple pretty good years in the first half of his career, one of which resulted in him him winning he Rookie of the Year in 1969. He’s one of those guys who I’m aware of because many of his cards, including this one, features photos taken at Candlestick. This one came back in 23 days.

Gene Garber had a whopping 19-year career and had appeared in over 900 Major League games by the time he retired. While he spent the most years with Atlanta, by the time I was collecting he was with the Royals and had one of those card backs stuffed with stats that I loved to see when I was a kid. As with Sizemore these also came back in 23 days.

A quick 9-day return from Paul McClellan brought my first Giants cards of the month. He debuted in 1990 and appeared in over a dozen games in 1991. One of those names I definitely remember because of my peak fandom years. I appreciate that he signed these in silver even though neither of these cards needed it.

Len Gabrielson was a Giant for only a couple seasons. His 1966 season though involved him beating out the Orlando Cepeda as the starting left fielder.* Gabrielson bounced around the majors for most of the 1960s before finally sticking with the Dodgers for the last four years of his career. He signed with a nice personalization in 17 days.

*Cepeda’s bum knee was threatening to end his career and resulted in him being traded to St. Louis early in 1966.

It’s a little hard to read in the scan but Rick Leucken not only personalized my card he added two bible-related inscriptions. One, Romans 1:17, is pretty standard. The other says “Saved by Grace” but I totally read it as “Saved 34 Games” at first and was really confused since that’s neither something to brag about nor did he save anywhere near that number of games.

He only pitched for parts of 2 seasons but they just happen to cover my peak collecting years so I’ve got a bunch of dupes of him. This came back in 10 days.

An 11-day return from Mike Rochford who spent a couple of years with Boston before heading abroad to Japan. I’m meanwhile in the midst of hitting some of my 1990 Upper Deck duplicates since I accumulated a few during my set build.

I got back pair of Upper Decks in 9 days from Matt Young. Always nice to get a couple of teams. Young’s most notable achievement in baseball is that he’s a member of the “pitched a no-hitter and lost” fraternity. He lost a 2–1 game at Cleveland on April 12, 1992 in which he walked 7 guys and didn’t have to pitch the bottom of the 9th inning. He gave up one run to a walk, two stolen bases, and RBI ground out, and the other to two walks followed by two fielders’ choices.

Another 1989 Donruss dupe came back in the form of a 35-day return from Craig McMurtry., who has a pretty nice-looking signature. He was the runner-up to Darryl Strawberry for the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year Award and even picked up six first place votes.

Jack Brohamer’s claim to fame might be that he’s the only player to hit a home run while wearing shorts. He also shows up in a nice pair of cards in 1973 which have been of interest to the baseball card community in that they show two pars of the same play. I went with his pair of 1976 Topps cards which he returned to me in 34 days.

Xavier Hernandez was one of those prospects I remember from my youth. I remember him mainly as an Astro and had totally forgotten about him being a Blue Jay first. He sent these back in 12 days.

This looks like a huge return but it’s probably fake. Mike Schmidt has been a notorious ghost signer for years (and is apparently not particularly pleasant if he’s asked to sign for free in person either). Still, I figured it was worth a shot to see what happened. Wasn’t going to send any nice cards but a 1986 Topps duplicate (which reflects 1985 and might be the only year he shows up as a first baseman) is totally fine. 188 days later I got back what I’m assuming is a secretarial signature.

I’m not working 1991 Leaf but I have a bunch of them and occasionally raid the pile when I see returns from a guy. This Mark Lee is one such card and it came back in 38 days. Lee played in parts of four MLB seasons over eight years with 1991 being the year he played the most.

Pete O’Brien put together a respectable 12-year career, even earning five MVP voting points in 1986. I sent the Cleveland card since I’m going through my 1990 Upper Deck duplicates. I unfortunately did not have any Mariners cards to send him. This pair came back in 16 days.

I sent a bunch of customs to Spring Training as soon as the lockout ended. No idea what to expect but in only 11 days I got a return from Kervin Castro. He kept no duplicates but as one of those guys who just made his MLB debut and has no real cards out there, he’s exactly the kind of player I enjoy sending customs to. He’s one to watch and has the perfect name for a pitcher who relies on breaking balls.

Franklin Stubbs is one of those names which resonates from my youth. He was one of the Dodgers starters in my first MLB game and I definitely saw him multiple times at Candlestick.  He’s also a great TTM guy and sent these back in only 7 days.

I’m clearly also working my 1991 Upper Deck duplicates. Bill Sampen returned this in 7 days and added a great photo of the Expos road uniforms that I remember from my youth. The unique uniforms plus the extra national anthem combined to make Expos games always feel a little special.

I think I’d conflated Garth and Dane Iorg when I sent to Dane. (My brain now keeps making Dane and Garth in Dane’s World jokes) I realized I should get the pair to add to a passive collection of baseball family autographs that I’ve been building. Iorg is a fast signer and returned this in 7 days.

As these things go, I promptly got another family card in my next return. This time it’s a 10-day return from Gary Sutherland whose brother Darrell is part of my Stanford project. Since Gary went to USC there must have been some good school rivalry stuff going on between the two of them. Gary had a decent 13-year career and even scored the first run in Expos history.

While I knew Lee Elia as the Phillies manager, I had no choicebit to send him a 1983 card since his rant is legendary. I didn’t have the guts to ask him for a “print it” inscription but it’s definitely a fun card to have signed and anyone who knows, knows exactly why I selected it. Besides being a quick 8-day return, he also included an extra card from his time managing the Clearwater Phillies.

I found myself with a bunch of 1981 duplicates and figured I’d try sending those out. 1981 isn’t my favorite set but I like how it looks signed. Mike Tyson was somewhat of a defensive specialist in the 1970s with St. Louis. It felt weird sending him just a Cubs card so I pulled the much-nicer 1980 card out of my collection to go with it. I don’t normally like the double-signed look but every once in a while it’s nice to change things up. He’s a reliable signer and returned these in 8 days.

The next day I go another 1981 return, this time Craig Chamberlain in 9 days. Chamberlain had a short career but he started off with three complete game victories. This is kind of mind boggling when compared to the way today’s game is pitched.

The las return of the month is a 56-day one from David Segui. He had a nice 15-year career which started and ended in Baltimore. It’s been a while since I got a 1991 Studio card back and those are always nice to add to the collection.

All in all a very good month. With spring training winding down my single spring training return looks to have been a false alarm of sorts. I haven’t given up but I’m also not optimistic. At least the pipeline is full of other requests still so fingers crossed for April.