January Backlog

Continuing from December.

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Oddballs from Tony

Over Easter weekend Tony (@OffHiatusBBC) put out a call for searchlists. I flagged mine and late last week a package arrived. Given Tony’s focus on oddballs there were a lot of great things inside—including a bunch of cards I’ve never even heard of.

Nice to get another 1987 Opening Day card. That’s such a weird set but with every passing year where sets lose more and more of a sense of identity it’s wonderful to see a set with such a concise description—in this case literally the entire MLB opening day starting lineup.

Topps Big is always welcome. I love the late-80s take on the 1956 design and these cards still look great. It’s also nice to finish my Giants team set of 1991 Stadium Club. Stadium Club was one of those sets which I loved at the time even though I couldn’t afford it. Full-bleed cards and a more photographic look were super cool to me at the time. They’re kind of quaint now but serve as a nice reminder of where we’ve come from.

I’d never heard of Holsum Bread let alone the discs. These are cool and totally up my alley as an unlicensed regional food issue in a funky shape. The only problem is that they‘re slightly too big to fit in a 9-pocket sheet. I’d also not heard of the Jimmie Dean cards but at least I’ve heard of the brand. Anyway the five Holsum and Jimmie Dean cards are the highlight of this package.

The last card in this photo is a 2013 Tim Lincecum variant. Not sure how Tony knew I didn’t have this but I didn’t and I’m very happy to have it now.

Tony also included the 11 Will Clark cards in the Playball USA set. I have no idea what these are. They’re not food issues and the backs feel like unlicensed Broders At first I thought these were part of a game but I no longer that’s the case. Anyway the 11-card player set thing reminds me of those Star sets which were all over in the late 80s and early 90s.

And the two silver cards are 1992 Upper Deck MVP holograms of Will Clark and Dave Righetti. While some holograms scan nicely these do not. They look good in person though and I’m a sucker for any of those all-hologram cards that Upper Deck released in the early 90s.

Most of the package though was 1990 Upper Deck. I really like this set as a huge improvement over 1989 both photo-wise and design-wise. I will be pursuing it at some point but it’s always good to have an extra team set for the binder too.

Yes there are two Padres cards in here. This happens fairly frequently actually. The Padres and Giants logos and colors were close enough in the 80s/90s that things could be confusing at a first glance. I’ve had the same thing happen with random Pirates cards sneaking into maildays as well.

Thanks Tony! As I detailed in my previous post about your 2018 mailday I will be setting aside Brewers for you when I get them. Which is rarely. But I’ll find a way to get a return package to you eventually.

#CardboardChaos

This past month Cards From the Attic has been running a bracket on Twitter pitting various baseball card sets against each other. As with many things on the web, it kind of morphed into its own thing and much of my Twitter feed was taken over with #CardboardChaos tweets.

It was interesting to see the tournament progress. Many of us on card twitter have feelings about what sets are better than others—sometimes it’s tied up with nostalgia to what sets we grew up collecting, other times it’s just a strong opinion about what we think a good card should look like. The early rounds in particular were a lot of fun both for voting and seeing everyone’s opinions about each match up.

As the later rounds progressed though things got a little weird. Upper Deck jumped in and started lobbying heavily for its single entry. And it seems like a lot of people’s voting started to be about which brand they liked or disliked rather than the sets at hand. By the time the final matchup between 1989 Upper Deck and 1956 Topps started, it felt more like a Twitter referendum on whether or not you approved of how Topps is managing the hobby.

It’s funny. I both enjoyed the polling more before the brands got involved but I also feel like this was a massive opportunity for the brands to interact with a lot of passionate collectors. I understand why Topps didn’t jump in. I also think that not jumping in demonstrates much of why so many collectors are dissatisfied with the company.

There’s an increasing sense that Topps doesn’t care about the casual collector—let alone the kids. Packs are increasingly hunts for variants or hits or parallels or inserts rather than set building.* If you’re not a fan of a big-market team there are decent odds you’ll have only a couple cards on a checklist. In short, Topps feels out-of-touch from what a lot of collectors seem to want.

*All those special cards ruin the hobby because they both raise prices and encourage pack searching.

So yeah, the final match was often about everything except the cards and there’s been a lot of dissappointing fall out from it as people seem either even more upset at Topps, annoyed at Upper Deck for spoiling things, or upset at @CardsFromAttic for how he ran the whole tournament. @CardsFromAttic hasn’t helped either with an overly-broad, offensively-worded subtweet at many of his critics which read like it was attacking many of the people who initially supported the tournament. This was no longer as much fun.

I wasn’t as upset as many people were. For months now I’ve had @CardsFromAttic over in that provocateur category where I don’t feel the urge to respond to everything he posts. Yes the R-word is no longer acceptable. But I agree with his general point about how people like to complain and complain about what Topps is doing but still spend a ton of money on product. I’m not going to carp on anyone who enjoys ripping new product but if you don’t seem to enjoy it but keep on buying? I question your decision making.

I’ve been less impressed at the discourse in response to @CardsFromAttic’s tweet though—especially in the way he’s been doubling down on driving many of his early supporters away when they call out the offensive language. I know I don’t agree politically with many people on card twitter but it’s especially disappointing to see the hypocritical rhetoric belittling safe spaces which only comes from people who can’t handle criticism.

Still despite the sour ending, for the most part I enjoyed this. Seeing which sets did well gave me a good sense about the sets other collectors have experience with and which sets have a certain aura about them.* And it also served to confirm that I’m not alone in my inexperience with 1950s Bowman cards—an area I intend to learn about and collect more than the handful of cards I currently own.

*This would be 1952 Topps but 1989 Upper Deck also fits this bill.

While the tournament was going on, @CardsFromAttic was running a number of giveaways to both increase participation and reward active participants. These ran the gamut from 1950s cards to brand-new boxes of Topps Heritage. I was lucky enough to win a prize pack of 40 cards from 1965–1978.

The 1960s cards were five each from 1965, 1968, and 1969. 1965 is a beautiful set which, while I’m not chasing or even considering chasing it, is one which I’d love to have a page or two worth of samples to just be able to see all the different colors together. This batch of five is nice in that it includes two cards which are relevant to my moves/expansion project. 1965 is the last year the Braves were in Milwaukee so I appreciate acquiring any samples of 1965 Braves. And it’s nice to pick up random Senators cards as well. That it also includes a White Sox and Cards card makes me think of my first SABR post as well.

1968 is a less-appealing set but it’s nice to have enough samples to have a full binder page now. Thankfully only two of this sample are Topps hatless specials.

The 1969s are a great batch. The Gene Mauch Expos card is another for the moves/expansion collection and the three Astros* cards are encouraging me to look for 1969 and 1970 cards of Ball Four guys.

*That the cards say “Houston” instead of Astros has been a subject of some debate on card twitter as there’s a bit of a legend about Monsanto (who, let’s face it, is always worth blaming for something) threatening to sue anyone who used the name “Astro” due to its association with Astroturf and there’s also some information out there suggesting that Houston itself was trying to charge Topps for the right to use the name—a revenue stream that MLB would only tap much later with it’s licensing.

Don Wilson only shows up in the epilogue of the book as a former teammate who Bouton mentions has died. Hector Torres meanwhile only appears once as a poor bastard who gets hit in the eye with a thrown helmet. Johnny Edwards though is a great card because he’s a featured lyric in Proud to be an Astro.

Now, Edwards is our catcher and he’s really No. 1,
Dave Bristol said he drinks too much and calls some long home runs,
But we think John will be all right,
If we keep him in his room at night,
It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro.

In fact I got TWO Johnny Edwards cards, one 1969 and one 1970. There’s also a 1970 Senators card in here of 1965 MVP Zoilo Versalles to go in the moves/expansion binder as well as a card of former Giants manager Bill Rigney.

The 1973s are a nice batch with no egregious airbrushing or bizarre action shots but the exciting batch is the 1975 minis. These are always welcome and always fun but the Vida Blue is an especially nice card and the Ted Simmons isn’t far behind. These go right into the oddballs binder.

The last batch in this set was ten 1978s. As I’m just over 50% complete with this set I was pleased that this batch included five cards I needed—and three others were upgrades on the cards I had.

So all in all a very fun batch of cards to receive and a big thank you to @CardsFromAttic for spending so much time on this all March. It’s a shame that it all took a turn for the worse in April.

GiantsNOW

A couple weeks ago Matt Prigge had the excellent idea to roll his own ToppsNOW/Upper Deck Documentary set for this season. Such a wonderful idea. The promise of those sets is in their potential for creating a summary of the season—the kind of thing fans of each team will want to look back on once the season completes.* The reality of these sets? Unfortunately not so much. Topps hypes the same teams and players it hypes in its regular releases and ignores large portions of the country. And Upper Deck reused photos ad nauseum so cards became indistinguishable from each other.

*Note, as a Giants fan, I’m fully aware of how you might not want to look back on a season.

Realizing how we don’t need to be reliant on Topps to create our cards for us is fantastic. Things like the Rookies App are great for people who can’t make their own customs. And for those of us who have a bit of design/production prowess, all we have to do is take that plunge into creating a bunch of 2.5″×3.5″ documents.

Battlin’ Bucs has already jumped on board this idea and I figured it was worth taking a stab as well. A full-on Documentary-style 162-card set is a bit ambitious but I can totally do highlights. Since I didn’t feel like creating my own design from scratch I decided to rip off 1993 Upper Deck.

I’ve always loved this design because of how much it showed could be accomplished with just text. The masking of the words at the top is achieved by just deleting a character. The drop shadows are just the same text shifted a point down and to the right. It’s a sharp look which emphasizes the photo.

Of course I tweaked it a bit. Since this is a Giants-only set I put the team name on the top of the card instead. And I swapped out the gradient to be the Giants’ colors. And the script font is Mistral instead of what Upper Deck used since I don’t keep to many script fonts handy. Does Mistral date this horribly? Kind of. But I’ve also come to like it for what it is as well.

I liked the first card so much that I decided to do a few more highlights. Once the template is set up it’s easy to just keep making them. The hardest part is finding the photos from various news sites on the web.

One of the wonderful things about baseball cards is that because they’re so small, sourcing photos from the web is actually possible. 900×600 pixels is plenty big enough here. It’s just a shame that so many websites have switched to video-only content and no longer have photos now.

The only problem with letting the web be my photo editor is that I risk having a highlights set of all home run photos. This is so far an accurate reflection of the season so far but I really hope things get more diverse moving forward.

With the fronts coming along it was time to think about the backs. These are much harder since typesetting statistics is a pain and besides, the point of these cards was to emphasize highlights from the season.

A short paragraph writeup of the game is enough. Having the line score is fun. And since Wikipedia’s logos are all SVG you can tweak them in Illustrator for whatever you need them to be. I’m not as taken with these as with the card fronts but they serve my purpose.

I’m not sure how many highlights there are going to be this season. As a fan more highlights would be preferable but that will also drag this project from being something fun to being a complete slog. At this rate though a 99-card set would be my goal. Now that I have the template set up, this shouldn’t be too hard to bang out.

The other portion of this project is the idea of a living roster set. Not every player will make it onto a highlight card but it’s nice to have a record of everyone who appeared in the uniform over the season.

I didn’t have the ganas to create a new design for this. Besides, the interesting thing about sourcing photos from the web is how so many of them are horizontal shots. This template works really well with horizontal images and I’m enjoying seeing the possibilities that come from just dropping photos in.

I’ve also been trying to get photos of players as close to their first game of the season as possible. I may update later if an especially great photo comes out but part of what I’m liking about the idea of a living roster set is that it grows as more players put on the uniform.

Not all photos are horizontal however so I had to tweak things again for the vertical design. I didn’t like how cramped “San Francisco” was at the top so I switched it out for something shorter. Yes it’s in Spanish. Yes we call the team this locally. Yes it’s my design anyway.

The nature of the vertical design is more awkward for the action photography but lends itself to other interesting compositions. Like I’ll probably change Austin Jackson’s photo at some point but I like it for now.

At this point though, since the Giants have already used their entire 25-man active roster I’ve been able to get in-game photos of all but two of the guys. This means that the project now only entails upgrading images and noticing when someone like Bumgarner comes off the disabled list or when there’s a minor league transaction such as today’s activation of Tyler Beede and deactivation of Roberto Gómez. So I can take things easy for a bit until September gets here and hopefully by then a lot of those guys will already have made appearances.

The backs of the roster cards are even more of a challenge though. For my purposes they need to both summarize the season and also mark when he first appeared with the team this year. I thought a little bit about going with full stats but decided to just go with one line for the season.* I’ll probably add an additional line of text for anyone who gets traded to show when they joined or left the team.

*Current stats on these backs are placeholder text so I can see how much fits and everything. I’m not touching stats until the season ends.

Cards will be numbered in the order players appeared with the team as well. This is partially for my sanity as I can just add a card to the end of my document whenever someone makes their debut but also intends to give me a summary of how the season progresses. This will also allow the first page of this set to be the Opening Day lineup* which is a little detail I’m especially happy with.

*I’m putting Bochy as card number 10. And no these existing back images do not have the final numbers at all.

How do I intend to print these? No idea. My best guess is to put a bunch on a large sheet of digital printing, glue fronts and backs together, and trim everything myself. Not sure how many sheets this will take. The other logical solution is to get cheapo 4″×6″ prints and glue those together before trimming. This will be more work but at less than 20¢ a print it means I could do this whole project for $30.

Of course all this assumes I’ll even finish this project this year (watch this space in November). But it’s been fun so far and I’m hoping the peer pressure of other guys in Card Twitter doing their projects and showing their progress keeps me on task.

December backlog

Continuing from November.

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Atlee surprise

One of the things I’ve especially enjoyed about Twitter is the way the multiracial community exists on there. While many of us, correctly, are leery of being lumped into a single box, there’s a lot of value in comparing experiences and seeing how so many of them feel familiar. I haven’t blogged a ton about this kind of thing except when it overlaps with my other interests like photography and baseball (and baseball cards) since it’s tough to do well.

Aside from being a level of personal exposure which is hard in and of itself to write, let alone share, one of the things I’ve taken to heart the most about being multiracial is that the stories I’m often most inspired by are stories where my reaction risks erasing someone else’s experience. All too often the safer thing is to be quiet and not pin my narrative to someone else’s.

The result of this is that I also never expect the things I do write about my multiracial experience to be commented on outside of people I know. The experiences are worth sharing but I suspect that we all feel similar levels of trepidation about recentering them to be about ourselves as well. That the multiracial community doesn’t overlap much with baseball card twitter meant that while I liked what I wrote about Atlee Hammaker, I certainly didn’t expect to find that it touched anyone else in card twitter.

And then Carl (@CeeMX97) started following me. He’s a Phillies fan about an hour south of me down I295 who’s similarly multiracial to me. Aside from talking baseball or cards we’ve also commiserated about things from the dire situation for Japanese and Korean food in New Jersey to how our Asian flush has gotten worse as we’ve aged. Needless to say, my Atlee post touched a nerve with him to the point where earlier this week I found a small envelope with a bunch of Atlee Hammaker cards inside.

Nothing fancy here but since most of my existing Atlee collection is tied up with my Giants collection it’s nice to have duplicates to flesh out the few non-Giants cards of his I’ve got (basically just his rookie card and his 1991 Studio card).

I’m no supercollector but I appreciate having a dedicated Atlee section in my binder. It’s a nice reminder of the ways that my new collection interacts with my childhood one and the difference in perspective that I have now.

Carl also included two signed cards in the package. He does a bit of through-the-mail (TTM) requesting and often includes duplicate cards in his requests for the players to keep. Often the players do keep the extras but other times, like in these cases, it seems that they signed and returned everything.

I’ve been toying with the idea of taking up TTM requests myself. It’s something I can see enjoying by sending to guys I grew up with. It’s also something I can see doing with my kids as a way of encouraging them to write letters and engage with this hobby more. Chris Speier is one of the guys at the top of my “to try” list for reasons I’ve already touched on on this blog so it’s very cool to have one before I even start considering TTMs seriously.

Don Robinson meanwhile is another favorite of mine. I’ve a few of his signatures already but this is the first one featuring him holding a bat. Pitchers with bats is a fun category of cards as it is. When it’s a pitcher like Caveman who we liked in part because of how he approached batting? Even better.

Thanks Carl for appreciating my blog and for the surprise Atlees and TTM duplicates. It looks like I have to start a Phillies pile now.

Mailday from Gavin

Came back from Easter weekend to find a small mailday from Gavin (@breakdowncards) at Baseball Card Breakdown. Gavin’s got a bunch of interesting collections going on and it so happened that some of my duplicates meshed well with his needs.

Main item in the mailer was this cool 1960 Giants team card. 1960 is the oldest team set which I’m “close” to finishing. After this team card I’m down to high numbers, Willie Mays, and the Willie McCovey rookie on the list of what I need. Since I don’t expect to get any of those soon it’s nice to send the rest of the set into long-term stalking mode.

Gavin also sent a couple dozen 2017 Update needs. Always nice to get closer to finishing this (I didn’t feel like spending the money to build this from packs) and I’m close to 60% complete now.

There are also two 2002 Upper Deck Minor League cards in here. It’s always nice to get anything related to the San José Giants. And it’s funny. I’ll always think of the Giants Short-Season A affiliate as being Everett but I know it’s really Salem Keizer. It’s just a shame those cards aren’t more interesting than being a logo since a San Jose Municipal Stadium card would be a lot of fun.

And it wouldn’t be a proper Gavin mailday if there weren’t a fun custom card included. In my case I got to add my first John Elway card to my Stanford binder. While crossing a name off is fun, the Stanford project is also one which rewards getting that first card too.

There have been a few Elway baseball cards over the years but I’ve not gotten around to getting any of them (though I do have some on my searchlist). The focus has been on guys who played baseball and as much as I’ve turned the corner to look for more odd cards and flesh out the searchlist beyond Topps, I’ve not gotten into any of the football players like Elway, Toby Gerhart, Toi Cook, and Tyler Gaffney who really spend much time, if any, in professional baseball.

Very cool. Thanks Gavin! The other custom work-in-progress you included with the CONFIDENTIAL stamp looks promising too.