First complete project

While I’m getting close to completing my Old Timers project, I just completed one of the first projects I set out for myself when I reintegrated into this hobby. I’ve been working on collecting all the Giants Mother’s Cookies sets from when I was a young fan (1986–1998). Aside from representing a period of my life in which my baseball fandom was the most pure, these sets also represented the only cards which I continued to collect and acquire after I left the hobby in 1994.

Of those thirteen sets, completing my 1998 set proved to be the most difficult task. Last month though I managed to acquire the last three cards (John Johnstone, Broadcasters, and Coaches) and now I’ve got a binder which is complete for all the Giants teams I grew up watching at Candlestick.

The great thing about the Mothers sets is that the set numbering was such that the first two pages of the 28-card set gave you a really good snapshot of that season’s team. The sets aren’t alphabetical or random, instead the manager is first followed by the bigger star players and then the regular rotation. So it’s really easy to just page everything by set number and looking through the binder gives me a really good impression of the team.

1986

I only went to one game in 1986 but boy was it a doozy. This set reminds me of guys like Vida Blue who I just missed seeing play and it’s nice to see rookie  cards for Will Clark and Robby Thompson reflect how they’re not quite mainstays of the team yet.

I can’t not mention that goofy Greg Minton pose either.

1987

1987 was my first real season. We went to a few games but baseball card day was not one of them. That year was also the first year I was really collecting cards so I either wasn’t aware of the promotion or didn’t care yet.

Looking at this set now I can’t help but notice how Chris Brown and Mark Davis are still part of this team. That trade with San Diego for Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts, and Kevin Mitchell was a big deal and I mentally think of those three players as Giants much more than I think of Chris Brown and Mark Davis (and Mark Grant and Keith Comstock).

Also, I kind of love how in both 1986 and 1987 sets Jeffrey Leonard couldn’t be bothered to pose for the photographer. in 1986 we have an action shot which stands out as being very different than the other posed shots. And in 1987 it’s a generic headshot clearly by a different photographer.

Another thing I have to mention here is that the Mothers Cookies sets love posing pitchers with bats. In these cards Mike Krukow and Greg Minton are both pretending to be sluggers while Scott Garrelts is pulling of the always-wonderful bat AND glove pose.

1988

In order to get playoff tickets in 1987 we had to sign up for 1988 season tickets. I think we just did the 20-game pick’em plan but baseball card day was definitely one of the days we chose. I’ve already written a little about about this set last week and I’m happy to have finally acquired the Jose Uribe to complete it after almost three decades. It’s the set which truly marks the beginning of my favorite Giants teams with Will Clark as the face of the franchise and I have a soft spot for all the other players here too.

I love that Brett Butler is posing as if to bunt and Kelly Downs is making sure we have a pitcher batting represented as well.

1989

Not much to say here except that the only card I was missing was Chris Speier and that with my Philadelphia adventures that season this is another set about which I feel very nostalgic.

1990

Matt Williams keeps moving up the checklist and it is still weird to see Gary Carter as a Giant. Steve Bedrosian should be weird too but he was the first in a succession of Giants hiring big-name closers for one last season or two. Also he was integral to the 1989 Pennant run so he’s more memorable than a lot of the other guys.

This was also the first set where my 8-card redemption managed to be perfect so this was the only set which I had complete until Mothers stopped doing the redemption thing.

1991

Nice to see Dave Righetti as a Giant. Also I have somewhat fond memories of Willie McGee as a Giant. Darren Lewis was exciting too and while never a big-name rookie, he was definitely someone I sort of invested in both card-wise and autograph-wise.

1992

This was almost the last season in San Francisco which means I think I paid closer attention to everything. This is also a team which had pretty much overhauled its pitching staff from the previous late-80s guys. Where before we had Mike LaCoss, Scott Garrelts, Kelly Downs, and Rick Reuschel, now we had Billy Swift (with a bat!), John Burkett and Bud Black. The big bats were mostly the same but there was excitement with Royce Clayton to go along with Darren Lewis now.

1993

This was a hell of a season. It was wonderful to have a season at all but with a new manager in Dusty Baker and a new star in Barry Bonds coupled with the last of the Roger Craig crew this is was a strong team which, even though it didn’t win the division, produced probably the best season of Giants baseball I ever saw.

This year was also the first year that Mothers stopped doing the send-in redemptions and instead had us all trading cards in the stand. It was great.

1994

Oof. I don’t know when baseball card day was supposed to be this year but I missed it. And it’s just as well in some ways since the strike spun me out of baseball for a while and almost totally killed my card collecting habit.

There’s some weird stuff going on on the second page here. Darrel Strawberry as a Giant just looks wrong. As does Salomon Torres with a bat. That poor guy was supposed to be the next big thing but the fanbase just killed him for losing the last game in 1993. Which is totally unfair and sucks.

1995

Probably the nadir of my interest in the game. There’s a bunch of guys on the second page whose names I just don’t recognize at all. I do dig that William VanLandingham (who I do remember seeing in San José) photo however.

1996

I was back in baseball and remember trading these cards to complete the set. There are still a few guys on the second page who I don’t remember but I love that Rod Beck is next to Barry as one of the stars of the team. And I can’t help but LOL at remembering all the hope and hype and disappointment around Osvaldo Fernandez.

1997

This was another fun season with that late-season series against the Dodgers (including the Brian Johnson game) being the stand out. I don’t like the design change however.

1998

And the last year of Mothers sets. It’s nice to see many of the key players in that 2002 World Series run show up here for the first time.

For some reason I didn’t trade these ones so I have a ton of Alex Diaz cards. I regret that decision now because it turns out that finding these cards was a lot harder than finding the cards from the 1980s. But it seems like much of the hobby is this way. It’s not like cards from the late 90s and early 2000s are expensive, they’re just impossible to find at all. If 1995 was the nadir of baseball watching, 1998 marked when I finally completely gave up on baseball card collecting itself.

Anyway, so what’s next now that I’m done with the project? Part of me wants to just leave things as they are and enjoy the memories. The other part of me likes the idea of using these as a base for collecting other Giants team sets and regional issues. Which means that I’m definitely considering getting the 1999 Keebler set to finish off the Candlestick years.

There’s also a 2001 Keebler set which is intriguing but that’s the last regional-issue ballpark giveaway I can find. This kind of thing seems to have stopped being a quaint regional oddball and is now part of Topps corporate promotions.

And I’m also considering going back and looking for Giants team-issued sets which predate my time as a fan. The 1983–1985 Mothers sets are the obvious first step here. Marc already got me started on the 1979 and 1980 Giants Police issues. But looking through the web there’s not much else. There’s a set of 1971 Ticketron schedule cards. And there are the 196768 Dexter Press issues. But those straddle the baseball card or photo line and everything else seems to cross that line into being more photo card/print.

Which isn’t to say that those photo sets aren’t cool (They very much are). Nor is it to say that I don’t want them (I’d be happy to have any samples I could find).  But they also represent a different level of collecting than just baseball cards. And are probably a step beyond both my collecting budget right now and my collecting expertise. Maybe one day however things will change.

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