June TTMs

The past couple months have involved just been keeping the hopper from being empty. The result seems to be a lot of quiet days with occasional multi-return days. June got off to a great start with a three-return day which encouraged me to increase my send rate as the month went on.

The first return of June was a 21-day return from Von Joshua. Joshua spent only a season and a half with the Giants but one of those was his career year.  After 5 years with the Dodgers as a pinch hitter and part-time outfielder, the Giants made him their starting center fielder in 1975. That year he posted a .317 batting average (compared to .273 for his career) and a .806 OPS (compared to a career .686).

It’s always nice to send a card out which represents a player’s best, or most-important, season. I always make sure to mention the significance of the card in the letter too. In the same way that Von Joshua’s 1976 card commemorates his 1975 season, José Santiago’s 1968 card commemorates his fantastic 1967 season with the Impossible Dream Red Sox as well as his even better 1968 season. Plus he managed to hit a home run off of Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series.

Santiago is my second return from Puerto Rico as well. Unlike the return from Juan Gonzalez, this one only took 18 days. I don’t particularly like the 1968 design for autographs (this was another duplicate from my dentist’s stash) but this one is printed very well and the signature and photo both look great in person.

Fran Mullins’s 11 day return was the last of the opening batch. He was a light-hitting utility infielder with the Giants in 1984 but was good enough defensively to earn a positive WAR that season. This card is his only individual major league card so it’s kind of a fun one to have signed.

Harold Baines had been signing a lot during quarantine and I kind of had the feeling that I missed the window. I figured it was worth a shot to try anyway and 8 days my card came back. Very very cool.

He never felt like a Hall of Famer to me and I’m not inclined to use him as the benchmark for future inductees. But there’s no denying that he was solid player for a long time and had the kind of career any player would be proud of. Plus he did spend a couple good years with the A’s and while I’m not an A’s fan I definitely grew up with the A’s players.

1993 Upper Deck also looks great signed so I’m glad I had this one available to send to him. This one is great since it’s a little silly with his position labeled as DH yet the card showing him playing the field.

I had already sent to Duane Kuiper but I wanted to try him again with one of the postcards. 7 days later my return came back. The card was a bit beat up and faded but not so much that it looks bad. And like the Lavelle and Barr postcards last month it looks really nice with a signature on it.

I also included a 1976 Topps card in the envelope which came back nicely signed as well. Kuip’s letter was one I enjoyed writing because I can honestly say that not only I miss hearing him this summer but that it doesn’t feel like summer without him.

Pitcher Tom Griffin came back in 9 days. Griffin had a couple good years with the Astros but the only duplicate cards I had of him was a 1978 Topps with the Padres and a blurry 1982 Fleer with the Giants.

Actually he was pretty good with the Giants too. In 1980 he was a solid reliever. Not a closer or anyone who gets glory just a solid arm out of the pen who ate up innings, had a good ERA, and didn’t let guys get on base. In 1981 he moved to the rotation and wasn’t as effective.

Roger Metzger is another former-Astro, short-term Giant. He was a decent player, known for having a good glove in the mid-1970s, whose career was cut short after a table saw accident in 1980. Another player who I would’ve liked to have included an Astros card i the request, he returned his 1979 card in 28 days.

I’ve written a little about Mike Sadek before but it was nice to thank him for running those clinics back in the day. Because he gave the same fielding lesson each year his is the lesson I remember most. Four-seam grip. Working on the glove to barehand transfer. Holding the ball with both hands when tagging (as a catcher). I’ve actually used some of his advice when teaching my kids.

With Mike Kingery and Trevor Wilson I’ve now had a chance to thank htree of the instructors I remember from my youth. Tony Perezchica is another who I remember. There should be a couple others but they’re slipping my mind. Anyway Sadek’s return came in only 11 days.

Bobby Estalella’s quick 10 day return was a bit of a surprise. Not sure why but I never expect the newer players to turn things around quickly. Estalella was the catcher when Pac Bell Park opened. He never quite lived up to his promise (getting caught up in the BALCO scandal didn’t help either) but for whatever reason I have a tendency to remember my Giants teams by who the catcher was.

While I do have a 1988 Mothers Cookies Phil Garner card showing him on the Giants, since those are typically hard to find and frequently expensive I opted to send a bunch of Topps cards from the same time period.

When I was a kid I didn’t care about getting Giants cards signed, I just liked that the players were Giants. I’m sticking to the same philosophy now. Anyone who played for the Giants goes into the Giants autographs binder. So what if he only played a fraction of a season for the Giants. That fraction of a season happened to be the first season my family had season tickets.

Plus adding “Scrap-Iron” to my binder is a lot of fun too. He only took 8 days to turn these around too.

A quick 7-day return from Juan Berenguer added another Mother’s Cookies card to my collection. Berenguer was only a Giant for a year but it happened to be the year I saw my first game. While the Giants used 25 players in that game, Berenguer was not one of them since he had started the game a couple days earlier when the Giants were no-hit by Mike Scott.

My favorite return of the month was this one from Jeffrey Leonard. He’s not a TTM guy but there was a private signing at a price I was okay with so I looked through my cards and picked the one with my favorite photo. A lot of his photos he looks less than pleased to be posing but this one is a slightly more casual shot. I especially like that it catches the 00 on his back too.

Before Will Clark, my favorite player was the HacMan. We all copied one flap down on the school playground and loved his swagger. I still haven’t replaced my stolen Will Clark jersey and a large part of this is that I’m considered ordering a Leonard one instead.

It’s weird for me to think that the Giants traded him for Earnie Riles. That was probably my first introduction to how dangerous it was to pick a favorite player. Thankfully there were other players who I liked on the team at that point.

I got a nice 21 day return from John Olerud. I only sent him the 1991 Studio and 1992 Topps cards but either he really liked my letter or I mistakenly got someone else’s card. Olerud was one of those all-class players who I just really enjoyed. Great to watch him play both in the field at at the plate plus he always seemed like the nicest guy.

I’ve been enjoying getting the 1991 Studios signed. They’re a bit tricky due to the amount of black but they end up looking pretty nice. Definitely better in hand than in a scan too since the duotone interacts nicely wth the blue sharpie.

Joe Carter is going into the Giants album due to his short-term stop at the end of his career in 1998. He was pretty good in that half season too. However I had to get him on a Blue Jays card since those World Series were a big part of my memories growing up. This McDonald’s set of all Blue Jays felt like the right choice. It came back in 13 days.

A 10 day return from Steve Scarsone added another Mother’s Cookies card to the collection. The face sign is a bit unfortunate but it is what it is. The other two cards are two designs which I’ve never gotten signed. I’m not a huge fan of that 1996 Donruss design where the foil covers a key part of the photo but it felt like an appropriate photo for a signature. 1994 Score though turns out to look pretty nice with a blue sharpie.

The day after Scarsone became my first signed 1996 Mother’s Cookies card, Mark Dewey returned my second after an 11 day request. Dewey is one of those guys who came up with the Giants, left, and then came back a couple years later. He’s probably most notable for refusing to take part in the 1996 Until There’s a Cure Day because even in the mid-1990s he still conflated the fight against AIDS as condoning homosexuality. He’s clearly still evangelizing and included a personal tract card with the return.

John Pacella is a request I made because I just like the card and photo. This is one of my favorite card photos in general with the cap only inches off the ground. It’s nice to be able to send a request that’s just as simple as “I love your card and would love to get it signed.” Pacella seems like a good guy too with a nice note on the index card and a fast 9 day return.

This month I also got another round of custom cards made. Which means I was able to send a bunch of them out. The first one back was an 11 day return from John Gall who became the first classmate of mine for me to get a return from. He was a good 4-year player at Stanford and had a number of good years in the Minors on his way to the Majors. He wasn’t able to make it stick there and ended his career after a couple more decent years in AAA.

Ruben Amaro didn’t keep any customs and sent back all three signed in 15 days. I have a bunch of autographed cards of his from when I was a kid but it’s nice to send these customs out and add more of them to the collection.

I swore I had a Sandy Vance autograph from when I was a kid but I couldn’t find it on any of my multi-signed balls.* That his only card is a 1971 Topps card with facsimile autograph meant that I had to figure out a custom. I had to use his 1971 card photo since I couldn’t find any color Dodgers photos but I’m happy with the result even though his pen had some problems.

*Note, I’ve since found that I had neglected to photograph one ball yeahs ago. That needs to be remedied soon.

Why am I happy? Because notes like these make returns fun. We’ve had discussions online about sending piles of cards and how “please keep whatever” might be construed as angling for everything to be signed. I always send extra customs though with an explicit request that the player keep all the extras. It’s nice when they do. It’s even nicer when they send a thank you note back.

I got a fun 35 day return from fan-favorite Bill Mueller. The fact that he was so popular despite following in Matt Williams’s footprints says a lot about him. Even though his best seasons were with the Red Sox I’ll always think of him as a Giant first.

This is also a fun return since it adds two new sets to my collection. These are my first signed 1997 Pacific and 1998 Donruss cards. Both work pretty well despite having so much going on in the designs already.

Cy Young Award Winner Doug Drabek is a super-reliable signer who returned three cards in 10 days. I didn’t watch many of baseball games on TV—just the playoffs—but I remember watching Drabek pitch. That 1998 Score isn’t the best choice for a signature but it’s one of my favorite card photos so I had to give it a shot. A shame he doesn’t have a silver pen but it looks okay in person even if it scans/photos poorly.

Pete Stanicek was a repeat send for me but I wanted to send a custom to him. He signed two (kept one) in 17 days as well as a 1988 Donruss card. He was a hard guy to find a photo of with the Orioles but thankfully I found one that I didn’t have to scan.

Vance Law is one of those legendary signers who I always knew I was going to send cards to at some point.I figured I’d go for the mix of teams and slowly work on increasing the number of signed 1988s I have. I’m not crazy enough to go for a signed set but as much as I was disappointed with the 1988 design when I was a kid I really like it now. Law totally does not disappoint either with a fast 8-day turnaround and a really nice signature.

Bobby Witt is another legendary signer who I sent cards from two of my favorite sets to. He also turned thing around in 8 days. It’s very nice to add a couple 1991 Studios this month and I like his portraits in both that and the 1988 Topps. And like with Vance Law, I had to include an A’s card since while I’m a Giants collector, I also remember a lot of the players who came through Oakland when I was a kid.

Bill Swift is a guy who I got when I was a kid but who I wanted to send to since he has a couple cards I just really like. These came back in 8 days. The 1985 Topps becomes my oldest signed Olympics card. I’d gotten a bunch of 1988s signed but no 1985s until this one. I also love the camcorder photo on the 1995 Collectors Choice SE. Not so much a fan of the blue border but it works okay with the blue autograph.

Billy was one of my favorite pitchers in the early 1990s as the ace of the staff in both 1992 and 1993. The Giants 1993 season is probably the best Giants team I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching and Swift was a huge part of that with 21 wins and a fully-deserved runners-up in the Cy young Award.

Pitcher Renie Martin is one of those guys who’s just on the outside of my Giants fandom. He’s been a sporadic signer but I took a chance and got a nice return 14 days later.

The best part about the Martin return though was that he signed another postcard for my collection. As the fourth signed card he completes a page (with Lavelle, Kuiper, and Barr) of Giants who I’ve had fun learning about since they were all names that I was vaguely aware of as a kid.

Gary Rajsich was a quick 8 day return. He has three rookie cards in 1983 but then nothing except for this 1985 Mother’s Cookies card. Well he has a few Japanese cards and a couple senior league cards with his brother which are kind of fun. As a Giants fan though it’s always nice to get another Mother’s Cookies card signed.

Bill Wakefield goes into the Stanford album with a quick 8-day return. It’s always fun to add a 1965 too. Wakefield was already a professional when he was an undergraduate so this card depicts him as a student. I was curious how he would react to my project since he didn’t play at Stanford but in some ways it feels like he might have a stronger connection to the school because he was just a student.

Not only did I get a nice inscription on the index card, he included this nice note back on my letter. I usually include the index cards as an opportunity for the players to write back but a decent number of them do it on the letters like this instead. I need to figure out what to do with these notes now.

Lots of good returns this month but the best one was a 97-day return from Will Clark. My youngest sent it out and was very patient even though his older brother got his card back a couple months ago. Patience rewarded and I have one thrilled second third grader.

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 njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

67 thoughts on “June TTMs”

  1. Wow. Some really cool TTM’s. Love that Billy Swift Team USA card. It’s cool to hear that Kuiper signs. Any chance I can get the address you used? I’d love to get an autograph of him… and eventually Krukow for my brother who likes the Giants.

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