Huh. Somehow I’ve forgotten to keep posting these. Anyway, continuing from May.
Continuing with customs and my junk wax dupes. The more customs I get back the more I’m inspired to make more of them.
First return of the month was Kent Hrbek in 34 days. Those Minnesota Twins World Series winners were pretty prominent in my early baseball fandom and Hrbek in particular is one of the players I remember most. I couldn’t help but make a card of the play where he pulled Ron Gant off the base. It’s definitely a moment that stands out to me today and I kind of love how it’s become a thing between Braves and Twins fans on Twitter.
While I was expecting a decent number of customs back, I was not expecting this 282 day return from Chad Hutchinson. I chose to make a football version of the 1978 Topps template I’m using for Stanford Alumni. This was partly because he had a longer NFL career and patly because I wanted to challenge myself to expand on the template. I did however include both his MLB and NFL stats on the back.
Another custom, this time from Padres slugger Nate Colbert in 44 days. when I was growing up, his five home runs in a double header was one of those feats that either really made an impression on me or which got mentioned an awful lot in the books I was reading. Either way, despite him being somewhat forgotten now he’s one of those guys who resonates for me.
While Tito Fuentes was one of my first TTM requests, I figured it would be fun to send him a custom. He’s one of my favorite characters and as I mentioned in my previous return from him, was the Spanish-language announcer who I listened to when I was learning Spanish as a kid.
Fuentes is a good TTM signer and sent these back in 10 days. He also sent me a great note which encapsulates why I enjoy sending customs out so much. It allows me to give a little something to the players and it’s clear that many of them appreciate the gesture. Hrbek, Hutchinson, and Colbert all kept at least one custom as well.
I’m not sure if there’s another player like Dave Parker who has so many cool portraits. I put two together on this custom and was very happy to get it back in 45 days. I hope he enjoyed the custom as well since he kept the two extras.
Ted Kubiak took part in SABR’s Burdick Award ceremony for Doug McWilliams. I sent him a quick note thanking him for his participation and he sent my card back in 22 days. Given that this card is shot at Candlestick it’s a decent bet that McWilliams took the photo.
Kubiak sent me a separate envelope with four more signed cards. I would’ve liked to have sent him an A’s card but I only had his 1968 and it was asking for a face sign. I won’t complain about getting extras as a bonus though. I much prefer having him in the binder as an A and the 3x World Series inscription is a nice touch.
Another fun return. Yes I’ve sent to Al Hrabosky before but I wanted to try and get the “Mad Hungarian” inscription this time. I didn’t ask but I sent a much-more-obvious photo in the custom. He didn’t keep any but sent them all back in 9 days.
My first 1988 return of the month was Tim Stoddard in 15 days. He had a nice 13-year career which ended around 1988 but I wasn’t able to find any earlier cards of his in my collection (I have some in sets but I’m not pulling those out for TTM). 1988 always looks good signed though.
A quick 9 day return from Bill Landrum brought the first 1991 Studio back in a long time. These always look nice signed although they tend to scan a bit dark. Landrum played for 8 years in the National League during my peak Giants fandom. His longest stint was with the Pirates and it turns out that that’s where all my duplicates are too.
I had to make a Juan Marichal custom since none of his cards really capture his leg kick to my satisfaction. I was very happy to get this in 18 days. I’m curious how much longer he’s going to be signing too since his signature has gotten a lot shakier than it was two years ago. It’s not bad yet but thw writing is on the wall.
A 13-day return from Maury Wills brought another signature from a guy who’s probably not going to be signing much longer. As with Marichal you can kind of see where things are going. Still, Wills is one of those great players who I always forget is not in the Hall of Fame. When I was growing up during in the 1980s, the historical path which led to Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson began with Wills establishing the stolen base as a legitimate offensive weapon. It’s possibly the part of baseball I miss the most now.
I’m starting to get into my 1989 duplicates and after 16 days, Mark Parent is the first of them to return to me. I like his catchers’ pose on the 89 and it’s nice to have a different team on his Stadium Club card. For a light-hitting catcher he put together a pretty nice 13-year career.
A 32 day return from Blas Minor brought my first 93 Fleer Ultra to the collection. These cards look nice signed, I just don’t have a bunch of them. Minor has an interesting inscription too. It’s a nice-sounding bible verse* though zooming out and seeing that the context is specifically about the behavior of slaves takes some of the shine off of it.
*“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
One of my favorite returns of the month. I sent a 2010 Topps Giants Franchise History card to Renel Brooks-Moon because I realized that it would be fun to add her to the binder. She’s been the voice of he Giants for over 20 years now and is as much a part of the experience of attending a game at
Pac Bell Oracle as the product on the field. I’m glad that my kids both had their first MLB experiences in San Francisco and that she’s the voice they heard and imprinted on for what a Major League game should sound like.
19 days later, I received a small manilla envelope with a San Francisco Giants return address. At first I was a bit confused and was trying to remember what I’d ordered directly from them. The I realized it was probably Renel’s return. Inside was my card but also a lot more. The 2020 Opening Day card was a fantastic addition since I think it’s the only official card she’s ever gotten. But there was also signed photo and a nice note.
The photo is ~5″×7″ and looks to be the same photo session that Topps used. It got beat up a little in the mail but it’s still great. I love the Go Giants inscription as I’m not used to getting returns from fellow fans. And it’s always nice to be thanked for the letter.
A 75 day return form Len Matuszek brought another 1988 to the collection. His 1984 is a nice add since, not only do I not have many of those (signed or otherwise), it represents his best Major League season as well sinc ethat was the year he took over after Pete Rose left the Phillies.
An 11 day return from Steve Rosenberg on another 1989 duplicate. While I’ve started sending these out, I haven’t gotten as far into them as I expected to. It’s another nice and simple design that takes a signature well and I’m looking forward to increasing my variety even with guys like Rosenberg who only played a couple years at the peak of my card collecting youth.
The last return of he month was an 11 day return from Andre Dawson on a custom. Finishing me off where I started with my seventh 1956ish (or as someone on Twitter pointed out, also 1960ish) custom of the month. These all look great and Dawson’s signature on this one is especially nice.
Next month looks to be light since I’ve not sent out much in August. Maybe once the kids go back to school I’ll get some more out. Fingers crossed that there’s no COVID complications as school gets roaring back into session.
My Giants searchlist is increasingly divided into three distinct sections. Old cards which are mostly aspirational and not a realistic goal.* Vintage cards which are plausible goals but a bit spendy due to Willie Mays, high numbers, or HoF Rookie reasons.** And the rest which are completely acquirable but just not a major focus.***
*1953 and earlier.
**1954 to 1972.
***1973 to present.
That last group are cards which I only search for when I’m making a sportslots purchase and can gang a couple cards on before the next shipping tier hits. But they also make for easy pickins when someone wants to clear out junk or modern mishmash and send me stuff that I actually need. A couple weeks ago, I got a package from Shane Katz which did exactly this.
Shane took out a big chunk of my 2004 Giants list. This is a design which I don’t hate but don’t feel particularly inspired by either. The little position indicator is a nice touch but the team name font is super boring. This is one of those designs where the obsession with foil stamping got in the way and simply doing the team name in a team color would’ve been a massive improvement.
Shane also filled a couple other holes in my Giants searchlist with a fun Matt Williams All Star, a 2003 card of the Big Cat, and a card celebrating Barry Bonds passing Babe Ruth. Very cool stuff and I’m happy to slide closer to completing my Giants team sets.
Shane being Shane of course included a bunch of other goodies including this beautiful 1962 Orlando Cepeda Post card. I’ve been passively grabbing cheap Post cards for a while since they’re a lot of fun. While I have this one already I know that it’s going to make one of the boys very happy. I’ve been stockpiling HoF duplicates for them to pick from and so they’ll have to decide which one gets this and which one gets his 1959 Topps card.
And the last bit of randomness are a dozen various mostly-1990s Giants cards. The still-wrapped Will Clark Mothers Cookies card is a lot of fun. As is the Jimmy Dean. I especially love the 1994 Extra Bases oversized cards.
Very cool stuff Shane. Thanks so much!
This is a Rookies App product and is actually the first time I’ve seen one in the flesh. It’s nice paper but the printing quality is a bit disappointing. It looks like they turn everything into an image and then print that out.
Anyway, print issues aside, this is a fun card which shows Candlestick as it was when I first started going to games. That chain link fence. The simple non-Jumbotron scoreboard. That empty space between the fence and the bleachers where fans would fight over home run balls.
I’ve been putting together a page of non-Giants cards from each set which shows Candlestick in the background as a way of showing what the set looks like as well as what The Stick looked like at the time. It’s always going to make me happy to see these photos.
A quick post about a pair of cards that I’ve picked up this year. While I’m doing pretty well in terms of getting Giants team sets (minus Willie Mays and some high numbers), I’ve not gotten into all the different insert sets from the same time period. Some, like the deckle edges, I’ve liked a lot. Others don’t move me, especially at the prices they’re currently listed at. Though I am always keeping an eye out for any that are particularly cheap.
One such set is the 1965 Embossed set. I grabbed this Orlando Cepeda for only a buck at a card show a couple months ago. It’s not as beat up in person as it looks on the scan but it’s been plenty loved none the less.
I’ve not grabbed any of these because I’ve been unmoved by the design. Besides the embossed profiles being pretty nondescript, there’s something about this that just makes me want a chocolate bar. However, at a buck it’s a nice addition to the binder.
One fun thing to point out from the scan though is that the trap around the player name is super visible. Most of this card is a metallic gold with red ink overprinting everything for the design. The player name though is the only part which is unprinted and that bright red halo is the only section of the card where the red ink is not printed on top of the gold. In-person, it doesn’t stand out this much but the way metallic ink scans so dark makes the trap a whole lot more visible.
Last week though I grabbed another 1965 Topps Embossed card and my feelings about it are very different. This is from Topps’s Presidents and Famous Americans set which I can only assume came after the baseball set since it shows a lot of improvements.
First off, it’s a bit larger in size, more of a tall-boy card than the slightly-undersized baseball card. The embossed portrait is much better detailed with recognizable facial features. And the way Topps scaled back on the gold, using it just for the embossing and borders, makes it all pop so much more. Topps took more care with the type as well and the bio really balances out the composition
There’s also more color in this set. Hoover’s card is white because he was still alive when the set released. Presidents who were assassinated got black cards. Other presidents are red or blue depending on political party (I think) while the rest of the famous Americans got green. The result is a set that manages to be colorful while keeping the novelty of the embossing.
Yesterday afternoon I came back from a swim and found that my phone had exploded as a result of the Topps/Fanatics/MLB/MLBPA news. In short, it currently looks like starting in 2023 Topps won’t be able to use MLB players on baseball cards and in 2026 Topps will lose the right to use MLB teams as well. Given how Topps has been the card of record for 70 years now, this is a big deal and I’m not at all surprised at the amount of outcry that occurred online.
For my part, I’m simultaneously upset and happy about the deal. The biggest problem is that this is moving things into even more of a monopoly where MLB will control even more than they already do and Fanatics will have a stranglehold on basically all sports merchandising in the US. Both monopolies will continue to optimize toward efficient profitmaking in search of the cheapest product that makes the most amount of money right now. I have zero reason to expect anything good from either MLB or Fanatics. But I also had zero reason to expect anything good from the already-existing Topps monopoly.
There is however an emotional connection to the Topps brand and how it stands in as Baseball Cards™. That 70-year history is the history of the game itself. The players. The stats. The uniforms. The stadiums. When my kids are asking about old baseball players, the photos they end up referencing are invariable baseball cards. Losing that connection, even if there’s a Fanatics Flagship, will be sad.
I’m not sure MLB even realizes what it’s tossing. There are a lot of people for whom collecting baseball cards is collecting Topps cards. They won’t change brands and they even may step away this season because they’re done with MLB. I’m a bit surprised by this point of view—as someone who collects 1940s and 1950s cards, I’m used to the idea of other brands, like Bowman, also serving as the card of record—but it’s come up a lot, especially among a lot of older collectors.
As a child of the 1980s when I had three (soon to be five and quickly after, over a dozen) flagship sets to choose from, while I still saw Topps as the primary I didn’t grow up to have the same level of brand loyalty. Give me a flagship set of a couple dozen players per team and I’ll be happy no matter who makes it.
Which brings me to the side that I’m happy about. The last year of card collecting has been abysmal. Everything sold out in stores. Everything sold out online. Prices in the secondary market through the roof. The Fanatics deal is a commitment to cards existing in the forseeable future and I can’t see things getting worse than “completely unavailable.”
Heck, Fanatics’s distribution is the kind of thing I’d love to see happen for cards. Available online from multiple web shops. Available in team shops. No more having to deal with sketchy distributers and resellers. It’s long past time for trying a different distribution model and actually getting cards to people who want to collect them.
I’ve also found Topps’s production to be lazy and uninspired for a couple years now. Pictures get reused set to set. Inserts and gimmicks that are a complete waste of time. Checklists that always the same couple hundred stars and rookies. An utterly predictable emphasis endlessly boring on New York and LA markets to the detriment of all others.
I don’t expect Fanatics to do anything radical but at the very least they’re a company that emphasizes selling to all teams and, as with the distribution side of things, I really don’t see things getting much worse.
The thing though is that 2023 is really a long way off. Topps has an IPO planned and this news is the kind of thing that’ll crater its stock price no matter how rosy its earning statement is. I totally expect Fanatics to make a play at buying Topps and keeping that connection to the past. I also totally expect Fanatics to shake up the existing product lines. There’s a lot of deadwood right now and printing cardboard isn’t very efficient anyway.
I’ve been expecting more on-demand releases as it is. The Fanatics news pretty much confirms that we’ll be getting exactly that plus NFTs (not dead yet unfortunately). I remain hopeful though that some cardboard will remain and be accessible to everyone. Fanatics’s notorious lack of product quality though will remain a cause for concern for a while.
Late last week I received a small mailing from Greg at Night Owl Cards who took the opportunity to rid himself of some pesky Giants.
The first two cards were from 2021 Stadium Club. The Chrome version of the Joey Bart is nice but also completely unnecessary. Stadium Club is all about the base cards and photography and I don’t see the point of all the parallels. Still, as someone who’s not seeing much of any Stadium Club this year it’s nice to add some to the binder.
The Will Clark reprint is similarly “why bother” but will work as a SABR post because of how interesting it is to me as a print nerd. It’s a reprint but it’s also a recreation of the original in that it’s being completely rescreened and there’s a lot more detail visible in the shadows.
The other two cards in the envelope where older. One, a chrome 2020 Bowman Buster Posey is only the second 2020 Bowman, and the first Chrome, in my collection. As always, it’s nice to add an example to the binder. I kind of like this Bowman design though the crazy Chrome border background is a bit much.
The second card is a 2011 Brandon Belt Minor League card. No idea how Greg acquired this one but these are things I neither seek nor come across randomly. Which means that it’s a very nice thing to add to the binder since there’s no way I had it already.
A couple weeks ago, Matt over at Bob Walk the Plank pinged me to ask if the boys and I had any Series 2 or Bowman needs. Considering that we’d not ripped any product yet this year,* the answer was a definite yes. The nice thing with collecting with kids is that they enjoy the commons as long as they’re Giants. Which makes it very easy for people to unload extra base on us.
*We’ve since ripped some Series 2 as of National Baseball Card Day last weekend.
A few days later I received a bubble mailer of cards and sure enough there were plenty of Giants cards to go around. I distributed a bunch before I remembered to take photos so there was more than is pictured in this blog post.
Two decent stacks of Bowman and Series 2 were a lot of fun. Not much to say about the Series 2 except to note that the Tony Watson really confused the boys. He’s in the checklist because Topps doesn’t update its checklists when players are free agents. Even though Series 2 releases in mid-June, it wasn’t able to catch that Watson had signed with the Phillies in February let alone that he’d subsequently signed with the Angels in March AND made their Opening Day Roster.
To be clear, this isn’t why the boys were confused (Jeff Samardzija is also in the checklist despite having been released by the Giants last September). What got them was that Watson was traded back to the Giants at the Trade Deadline and they thought, for a moment, that somehow Topps had already produced a Giants card for him rather than Topps being three transactions behind. I’m really curious if he’ll get a card in Update with the Angels now.
There were a decent number of Joey Bart Bowmans as well as a shiny Hunter Bishop which caught me by surprise since this was supposed to be excess base. Nice to spread the Bowmans around as well but it’s really the Series 2 that the boys enjoyed most.
They may change their mind on Bowman in the next couple of years. In addition to the Giants prospects I also asked for some excess Yankees prospects since Somerset is our local Minor League team and it’ll be nice to try for some autographs there once Covid restrictions are lifted a bit.
Matt was very generous here too with a couple guys who are biggish names already. These are going in the Yankees Prospect box which I’ll check against the Somerset roster next time we go to a game.
Very cool stuff. Thanks Matt!
A decent number of customs coming back this month plus a bunch of guys from my childhood as I work through my 1988 duplicates.
The first return of the month was a 15-day return from Tom Poquette who unfortunately never got a chance to endorse Motel 6. Jokes aside (and they’re impossible to avoid) he was a decent player for the Royals and demonstrates one of the interesting things about the TTM hobby in that requests and returns have a tendency to interact in unexpected ways. In this case, Willie Wilson’s emergence is what spelled the end of Poquette’s Royals days.
Frank DiPino is one of those names from my youth. As a Giants fan it’s the National League guys who I rally got to be familiar with. DiPino fits that bill between being a somewhat distinct name and a NL guy who, by being a reliever, I’m pretty sure I saw in person even if I don’t remember any highlights. I don’t usually use 1990 Donruss for requests but it works well with a red-colored team like the Cardinals. This came back in 11 days.
Another 11-day return brought the first 1994 Donruss to the collection. I just don’t have many of those since it came at the end of my time in the hobby but after pulling a 1988 duplicate I figured I’d look through the rest. Bill Wegman was a Brewers lifer who pitched for 11 years and put together a nice respectable body of work.
Ken Schrom was an All Star in 1986. His stat line shows a 91 ERA+ that year so it must’ve been slim pickens over in Cleveland. I like that I was able to hit two of my childhood sets and get two different teams here. The photos are also pretty good—both cards are good representatives of their years. They came back in 53 days.
Bob Gallagher was one of the first people I set to a couple years ago but I had yet to send him a custom for the Stanford Album. He kept two and sent one back in 10 days. I’m up to two dozen different subjects in that set and every new one I get back is a lot of fun.
This was a fun one. I’d previously sent to Bobby Shantz and Frank Thomas but hadn’t sent to Bob Veale despite him being the best part of my Old Timers story. I finally put a custom together and sent them out with a letter thanking him for being so cool to a ten year old kid who had no idea who he was. 10 days later I got a couple customs back and a couple notes as well.
Two notes is interesting. Veale continues to be a good guy and it sounds like he appreciated my memories of him. I like the 1971 World Series Champions tag and I couldn’t help but smile at him trading me one of his cards for one of mine. It’s always fun to find a player who collects.
The card that he sent me in exchange for one of my customs (I usually send three and only ask for one to be signed) is a 1960s era Pirates team issue which I understand were used to giveaway for getting autographs on. It’s got a big Giant Eagle logo on the back for the full local tie-in* and is definitely one of the cooler player-provided photos I’ve gotten even though I don’t recognize Veale without the glasses.
*Giant Eagle is a Pittsburgh grocery chain.
Amos Otis is another of those players who I remember learning about when I was a kid. He had a good career in the 1970s and is definitely one of those definitive 1970s players who make a good fit for my customs project. I was happy to get these back in just 8 days.
Not sure if this was a thank you note for the extra customs but maybe it is. In any case, it’s always nice to get a note back from a player.
A couple more customs, this time Luis Tiant in 14 days who didn’t keep any extras. The 1956ish design is obviously the main one I’m working on but the black border is based on my Giants customs for this year and is proving to be a versatile one for images that don’t fit my main custom design.
Tiant is of course on of those guys who every fan from the 1970s loves and, despie no being in the Hall of Fame, is clearly someone who everyone would embrace being enshrined. I got his autograph on a ball decades ago but it’s nice to add a few cards to the collection too.
Mike Matheny is the current Royals manager but he also had a brief stop in San Francisco 15 years ago. Not long enough to make an impression on most people but I do remember him playing in those weird years when Barry’s career was ending and it wasn’t clear what the Giants’ next identity would become. He did however end up becoming the first Giants catcher to win the Gold Glove Award while he was in San Francisco.
I sent him in the beginning of the season when the Royals were doing well with a .600 record after April. Unfortunately, 67 days later when I got this, the Royals had kind of fallen off the pace with an abysmal June in which they only won 7 games.
A 14 day return from John “Blue Moon” Odom brought another custom back to me. Odom has one of the all-time great nicknames and is also a bit of a Bay Area legend due to his time with the A’s in the 1970s.
Paul Assenmacher was kind of the definitive LOOGY as he pitched in 884 games over 14 seasons but only amassed 855.2 innings pitched. I remember seeing him pitch at Candlestick before he fully became the one-out guy and it was nice to get these back in 42 days.
Sometimes you just find a good photo. I’m a sucker for these multiexposure action images and really like how they end up looking on customs (Tiant above and Elroy Face a while ago). So I sent this out to Guidry and was very happy to get it back 20 days later.
Joe Sambito is a guy I remember from my youth but never realized how good he was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As much as I studied card backs, I was not too smart about relief pitching and wouldn’t have recognized how dominant his 1979 season in particular was. The 22 Saves doesn’t look like much but the 1.78 ERA in 63 games and 91 innings is a lot more impressive. I was happy I had an Astros card to send in addition to his 1988 card and was pleased to get them back in 8 days.
A 10 day return from Don Gordon brought another 1988 duplicate to my collection. Gordon included this very nicely made custom card which confused me for a moment because I thought it was a real Big League card and couldn’t remember sending such a card out.
Gerald Young was one of those guys who was full of promise when I was a kid. He never panned out but he’s definitely one of those names that I remember. I don’t like the outsize influence that prospecting has in the hobby but there is something about the rookies who were big when I was a kid and whose entire careers I was looking forward to watching. These two came back in 30 days and I was very happy to get them.
I sent another request to Frank Thomas because I wanted to thank him for his Christmas Card 9 days. I put a custom card together from his time with the Pirates and another SABR member asked if he could order a couple hundred for Frank. So I took care of that and sent him a couple hundred to keep in addition to my request.
As usual I got a nice letter back (in only 9 days!) written in his miniscule handwriting. This time I need to send him a letter back though since he asked me some questions about the custom cards.
One of the things I especially liked about the 1988 set are the Team USA cards in the Traded set. Some of this is because of the number of Stanford guys in the set but I also just like the way Topps did the text. For whatever reason I had an extra Billy Masse card so I sent it out since I enjoy getting them signed. He never played in the Majors but an official Topps card is an official Topps card. 51 days later it came back and I got to add my 6th card (and 5th different member) of the 1988 Gold Medal winners.
Moving to customs. This time a 12 day return from Wade Boggs who signed all three cards despite my asking for him to only sign one. I love the chicken photo and one thing that I love best about making customs is how I can pick photos that you don’t usually see on cards.
Steve Garvey, like Boggs, also sent back all three cards in 12 days. This is a great photo which Getty has tagged incorrectly as Garvey scoring in a game in Dodger Stadium instead of the play at Yankee Stadium where the umpire blew the call and called him out. Still, the photo is fantastic and everyone of the right age who sees this card on Twitter (even Yankee fans) responds with “Garvey was safe.”
Back to my 1988 duplicates. Bob Kipper, as a middle-relief guy for the Pirates, is another of those guys who I probably saw pitch at Candlestick at some point. I’m really enjoying the look of the 1988 cards signed and was very happy to add another one in 14 days.
Vida Blue is a Bay Area legend for his time with both the Giants and the A’s as well as his continued involvement as a Giants community representative. I got his autograph on a ball during Spring Training decades ago but wanted to make a custom of him as well. These came back 17 days after I sent them. Should I have made an A’s custom? Probably. But I’m a Giants fan first and foremost.
Denny McLain is a guy who I made customs of because I didn’t have a card. His 1968 season was the stuff of legend when I was a kid and has only gotten more amazing since whatwith how the game has become so bullpen dominated. I sent these out the same day as Vida Blue and got them back the sam day as well for a bit of fun kismet in that they’re two members of the exclusive club of players who won both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the same season.
McLain didn’t keep any customs but instead gave me different inscriptions on each of them as well as signing the backs.
A fun one to go into the weird section of my binder. I love the Sidd Finch story/joke. It was fun to read about when I was a kid and it remains a the gold standard of April Fools jokes in sports even today. Joe Berton is the guy in the famous Sidd Finch photo which in many ways became the most iconic part of the story. I figured it would be fun to make a Finch card and send it to Berton. 28 days later I got two nicely-inscribed cards as well as a note thanking me for the copy he kept.
Kevin Frandsen is currently one of the Phillies broadcasters but I remember him as on of those fun examples where a local kids ends up being drafted and playing for his local team. He grew up in the Bay Area, went to high school in Santa Clara, college in San José, got drafted by the Giants, played minor league ball in San José and Fresno, and finally ended up in an Francisco. Very very cool. I sent this to the Phillies ballpark and he sent it back in 67 days. It’s a fun photo and his signature works really well with it.
A 27-day return from Cy Young Award Winner Randy Jones brought back my first Padres customs. Jones is one of those guys who I remember learning about as a kid but just hadn’t managed to get a card of. Customs to the rescue. Jones signed two and kept one but he signed each one differently which is kind of interesting.
The last return of the month is a new longest return for me. I sent to Max Venable back in May 2019. 785 days later his return showed up at my parents’ house. It looks like he moved some time between my request and his return since the return came from a completely different state. Venable started with the Giants and hung around the majors for a dozen years.
And that’s it for July. A very good month indeed and I’ve still go a few customs pending to look forward to in August.
After our first game at the beginning of this month we decided it was time to try a couple more. A good thing too since Covid numbers are going up again and it might get a bit scary to take the kids out soon. Things aren’t bad yet and hopefully we’ll respond fast enough to turn things around rather than let them spiral out of control for a month.
Anyway enough about Covid, this is about the two baseball games we went to last week as a way of salvaging a bit of normalcy for the first time in over a year.
The first game we went to was at Somerset where we got to watch some of the guys we used to watch at Trenton. It’s interesting to compare the experience to what it was when Somerset was independent a couple years ago. Food is definitely cheaper and the crowd is a bit more partisan. Something about Independent ball caused fans to be a bit agnostic about things. Being a Yankees affiliate in definitive Yankee territory though resulted in a crowd that’s a bit more vocal: heckling the opposing team, complaining about the Somerset pitching, etc.
Heck the crowd was a bit more aggressive than Trenton too. Definitely a different vibe and made all of us miss the Trenton experience a bit. It’s not Major League Baseball’s fault in this case since the Yankees are the ones who changed affiliates but the fact that Trenton ended up in the Draft League is something we can blame MLB for.
The game though was good. At first. Got through six innings in 1:45 and we were having a pretty good time. Baseball card night so we each got a small pack of four Bowman cards. Somerset was winning 6–1 and cruising. And then the wheels fell off. The last three innings took another 1:45 as Somerset’s relievers couldn’t find the plate and shipped eight runs to lose 9–7.
Still it was good to get out. A bit of a weird experience as the smoke from the West Coast wildfires made the air hazy and the moon red but I really like the drive through the wilderness to and from the stadium. No autographs. The boys tried for Sparky Lyle but he walked too fast and neither of them is bold enough to walk fast or call his name.
Later last week we went to a Draft League game. With the Canada border opening up again, Toronto is moving out of Buffalo and so the Bisons are leaving Trenton and returning to Buffalo. The last AAA Thunder game was last Sunday and as a result, the Draft League Thunder are moving back to Trenton for the last week of their season.
Through this month though the Draft League Thunder have been playing their games at Rider University. Free admission and I wanted to check it out. The experience couldn’t have been better. Maybe 20 of us in the stands at a small college field. Super fast crisp game—so fast they didn’t even have a national anthem or 7th inning stretch*—which finished in two hours. Started at 3:00. Ended at 5:00. 80° day with clouds in the sky and just enough shade in the stands to be comfortable.
*Still got Sweet Caroline in though.
I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon with the boys. Due to free admission you can’t keep foul balls but the Thunder equipment manager gave one to each of the boys since they were the only kids in the stands. Plus we added a couple more autographs to our binders. Jeff Manto is the Draft League Thunder manager and Derrick May manages the Frederick Keys and they’re both in the 1991 Topps set.
I got some of my dupes signed but I’m really just excited for the boys. My eldest is up to seven signed cards from his 1991 Topps set. He got Joe Oliver, Brian Harper, and two Frank Violas back in 2019 and has now added Casey Candeale, Jeff Manto, and Derrick May. My youngest was working my 1991 Donruss duplicates in 2019 but now has a 1991 Score set of his own so he’s gotten Candeale, Manto, and May this year to go with the TTM Will Clark he got last year.
I know I’ve wondered before what resonance these players have to my kids but I also know that by getting autographs of the guys who come through town as coaches it actually makes these sets more personal to them as well. They’re not just players who played when their dad was a kid any more. Instead they’re a way for my kids to document the games they went to with me over the past couple years.