May TTMs

Into May returns. We’ll start off with a couple stragglers. When I started sending requests out last year I knew that a move was likely to come in my near future so I used my parents’ address for my returns. I haven’t sent anything out with their return address for a year now but a few envelopes are finding their way back there. At the beginning of this month they sent me a couple of those returns.

This one from Juan Gonzalez took 418 days to turn around. Gonzalez was one of the first non-Giants, non-Stanford requests I sent out. I had a card handy and yeah, he was a superstar when I was a teenager in the 1990s and I was very happy to finally get my card back.

It’s kind of amazing how much he’s been forgotten now. Being a 40-homer/year guy doesn’t stand out the way it used to. Nor does being a line drive guy in the age of launch angles. And RBIs are one of those stats that’s taken a huge beating in the modern statistical revolution since it reflects opportunities more than anything the batter has control over.

Yes, I agree with modern statistics in recognizing how much of the RBI is outside the batter’s control. At the same time, as a little league coach, driving in runs is important. Someone’s got to do it and we, as a team, are going to celebrate whenever someone gets a ribbie. Someone like Juan Gonzalez who drove in a ton of guys? He deserved every bit of celebration that he received.

Ken Williams was another of my first requests. His return came back almost exactly a year later (362 days) but spent another three months at my parents’ before getting forwarded to me.

Williams is like Bill Wakefield and falls into the grey area of this project. He went pro out of high school and as a result was ineligible for college baseball. While being a professional ball player and attending college is something that feels possible in the 1960s, I really can’t imagine doing so in the 1980s. Especially at a school like Stanford.

Calvin Murray is another one that stayed at my parents’ for a couple months after a 298 day turnaround time. Murray was one of the Giants’ top draft picks when I was getting into the autograph game but I never managed to acquire a card of him on the Giants. So it’s nice to fill that hole (so to speak) and add a Giants card to the Team USA one I have signed.

The boys also got a couple returns this month. They haven’t sent out a lot since letter writing is a lot of work. But they’re happy whenever they get a SASE back with their handwriting on the outside. This month they both got returns from Cory Snyder plus my eldest got a return from Scott Garrelts.

After a couple weeks of no returns I had a day with four returns all at once. The oldest one in there was a 77 day return from Jeff Ballard. I wanted to send him to extend my customs project and included the 1991 Upper Deck since I liked the photo. I usually include multiple customs so the player can keep one or two of them. In this case he signed and returned all three.

The best return of that batch was getting Jim Palmer back in 28 days. I’d gotten a return-to-sender in my first attempt but I saw he was signing again so I figured it was worth a second try.

Indeed it was. 1981 isn’t my favorite design but it looks good with the Orioles caps and the solid cyan ink. And Palmer is one of those guys who, while he had only just retired before I became a fan, was already legendary. I was pretty excited to add him to my collection.

Steve Reed was another 28 day return. He was a Giant twice in my youth. First, he was one of the guys I saw play at San José and debut with the team in 1992. Then he got taken by the Rockies in the expansion draft but after a couple years in Denver he resigned with the Giants as a free agent.

Jeff Reed was the last return of the big batch with a quick 14-day return. He was a good defensive backup catcher. I got his signature on a Reds card back when I was a kid so it’s nice to add a Giants card to the collection. I tossed a 1991 Topps into the envelope as well since it’s one of my favorite designs but I don’t have many of them signed.

A got another return with 1998 Mother’s Cookies in it. First Danny Darwin. Then Steve Reed. Now Jim Poole in 24 days. Those 1997/1998 guys aren’t the ones I remember from my youth but that 1997 team was responsible for my return to baseball after the strike so it’s fun to get their signatures.

Steve Soderstrom came back in 17 days. He’s one of the few guys who I’ve watched at multiple levels. Fresno State always used to come through Stanford before league games started. He then was drafted by the Giants and played at San José before debuting in the majors. Pretty cool when that happens.

Ed Bressoud’s 18 day return was a fun one. He played for the Giants in both New York and San Francisco before losing his job to Jose Pagan and getting grabbed by Houston in the Expansion Draft. It’s always nice to pick up former New York Giants since there aren’t many of them left. Plus, of the few that are still signing I usually don’t have a spare card.

For some reason though I did have an extra Post card of Bressoud. I wasn’t sure how it would look signed but it’s pretty good. There’s something wonderful about how Post is able to get everything you’d want on a card on just one side.

I really enjoyed getting a return from Bill Madlock. He’s just one of those guys who brings me back to my youth. I don’t even know why now (though his nickname certainly didn’t hurt) but he was clearly a quality player for a long time. Plus there’s something about those players whose intensity is so palpable that I think every fan is drawn to.

Mad Dog wasn’t a Giant for long but I really like his 1979 card which shows a bit of a lighter side of him. I’m glad I had some Giants duplicates since I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed a 1987 or 1988 Topps cards nearly as much.

I had a bunch of Nate Oliver cards in the pile from my dentist so I figured I should give him a try. He came back in only 9 days. Sending the 1968 worked out well too since he actually played a little for the Giants that year. He’s primarily a Dodger on cardboard and has no Giants cards—he finished 1968 with the Yankees so his 1969 card is a Yankees card—but he’s going to go into my Giants binder just the same.

I got a nice fast return from Gary Lavelle in seven days. He was a Giant for over a decade before finishing up his career in Toronto and Oakland. I just missed watching him so he kind of represents the team that existed right at the fringe of my fandom. Is nice to have a card from each end of his stint with the team.

More excitingly I got his 1983 postcard signed. These are the postcards I got from my dentist and they are the perfect size for autograph requests. Not all the guys sign but it’s nice to send some larger items out. Even just expanding the item to 3.5″×5″ makes a huge difference in the way the autograph looks.

The last return of the month was another postcard. Jim Barr returned his in 11 days. I’d previously gotten his autograph on a bunch of cards but the postcard was too nice to not try. This is also from 1983 and is a great photo of Candlestick as I remember it.

All in all a pretty good month. Started off slow but thankfully things picked up. It’s been a nice surprise to check my mail while we’ve been stuck at home during the Covid staycation.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

25 thoughts on “May TTMs”

  1. Juan Gonzalez was the man. There was a period where he was one of the scariest hitter in the AL. He’s definitely underrated in my book. Congratulations on landing so many TTM returns. Whenever I think of Madlock, I automatically think of the Pirates. It’s easy to forget that he played with the Giants, Cubs, and Dodgers too.

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