January Returns

Starting off the new year. I didn’t send out much this month since the kids schooling was all over the map. Rising COVID numbers forced the district to have to scramble to change plans. I’ve barely had time stay on top of the blog as it is let alone write any requests.

My first return of the year was a 22-day one from Jerry Koosman. As a Mets legends, I wish I’d had a Mets card to send to him. But with 1986 representing my first year as a baseball fan and the first packs I really saw there’s something fitting about getting him on on his career-capper card instead.

It seems like a bunch of us in the TTM community all sent to Tom Murphy around the same time since we all got returns within a day of each other. Mine came back in 32 days. This is another of my 1979 duplicates. Murphy put together a career of over a decade with stints at a half dozen teams finishing up as one of the original Blue Jays.

A 83 day return from Stan Spencer added another signed Stanford custom to the collection. I’m up to 23 different guys now on this project (out of 62 total cards produced so far) and am really enjoying each one I receive. I’ve still got a handful out but will have to wait until Spring Training to try a few more requests.

Spencer is one I especially like adding since he was the ace of the 1990 staff (over Mussina) and while I have a few of his autographs from when he was at Stanford, his lack of success afterwards meant I never came across any cards of him when I was a kid. This is also a case where comparing his current signature to what it was when he was in school is interesting.

Former Giants catcher Milt May signed in 38 days. It’s been kind of amazing for me to realize how many catchers the Giants went through in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lots of names I recognize but most of them only stayed around for a year or two. May was actually there for parts of four seasons and was the starting catcher before Bob Brenly took over.

Jim Walewander isn’t exactly a household name but he’s rightly become a bit of  a legend in the TTM community. I’m also starting to go through my childhood duplicates and fleshing out the signed portions of those sets. Pretty much everyone in those sets are names I recognize anyway and Walewander is no exception.

This request was out for 28 days and spanned the holiday season. Walewander included a blank-backed custom card and drew a nice Christmas tree for me. This will be an especially  fun addition to the binder.

Speaking of fun additions to the binder. Not technically a return but worth putting in this post since it was caused by a request, I received a Christmas card from Frank Thomas. It’s actually a pretty cool bit of artwork which would make for some very nice custom cards.

Inside the card is even cooler though and caught me totally by surprise. This is not all the usual thing that happens with TTM requests and I’m not sure anyone else has gotten a card. I feel like I need to send him a thank you note for this except that my first letter to him was already a thank you note for him being cool to a little kid who had no idea who he was.

A 58-day return from Mark Huismann brought a 1987 Topps card with a very nice casual photo. This is both a card from my youth but also represents the kind of card that just isn’t made nowadays. No one takes nice portraits like this anymore and relievers like Huismann get shut out of the checklists in favor of all the rookies and big-name stars.

The theme for this month is likely to be cards from my youth. Larry Bowa is another such card. He was hired as the Padres manager in 1987 and, as a division rival to the Giants was probably the first new manager I remember. I sent him an extra 1988 card and it came back in only 6 days. If I had a playing-days card of him I would’ve sent it as well but I don’t.

A 13 day return from Bruce Miller added another mid01970s Giants to my collection. He was a utility infielder who spent most of his career going up and down between the majors and AAA Phoenix. The 1976 card does indicate his only Major League home run though.

Another fast return, this time 8 days from Jerry Reed, brought another pair of cards from my youth. I’ve been pulling cards showing different uniforms when I can and this is a nice pair. I especially like the Indians cap in the 1986 card. I never noticed that it was a non-Wahoo cap when I was a kid. Looking at it now shows me that the Wahoo caps were brand new in 1986—just sneaking in at the last minute to make my “they’ve always been like that” sense of things.

Another pair of cards from my youth. I probably should’ve dug for a 1987 Topps Yankees card but a pair of Gary Roenickes with different teams made a nice 10-day return. He was primarily an Oriole but I would’ve seen him as a Brave in my first couple years of baseball fandom.

Jim Wohlford was a Giant for three seasons during those rough early-80s years. He put together a decent 15-year career as a reserve outfielder though. Since the 1982 Fleer is kind of a dark blurry mess I sent the much-nicer 1986 card showing him next to the batting cage. His return rate hasn’t been super grea but I got these back in 76 days.

Getting back into my youth junk wax with a 39-day return from Lee Guetterman. I dig his 1987 Topps photo as something distinct for its era and I really need to try and get more 1991s signed.

Of the cards from my youth that I’m sending out, some, like Jerry Don Gleaton’s 1986 Topps card,really stand out to me. I have no idea why I remember this one so vividly but I do. It must’ve been one I got in my first pack. Anyway it’s nice to send this kind of card out and thank a guy for being part of my youth that way. Gleaton’s a pretty quick turnaround too in exactly two weeks.

A 71 day return from Ray Crone was especially cool. First, it’s always fun to add a guy who played for the New York Giants. There aren’t many of them left and even fewer of them are able to sign TTM. Second, adding my first signed 1958 Topps card gives me a run of signed Topps cards from 1957 to 1995. I’m missing three years with facsimile signatures (71, 75, and 82) but the idea that I’m close to my childhood goal only with signed cards is kind of amazing.

Tom Niedenfuer in 17 days brought me a Dodger from the first MLB game I attended. He’s also a name I just recognize from my childhood collection and that 1985 shows the signs of being one of the first cards I owned as well since it’s pretty beat up.

Ron Kittle is one of those guys who immediately takes me back to a specific age of baseball which just happens to coincide with my childhood. He was a big name for a few years and as such marks a generation of fans in a very specific kind of way. He’s a good signer and sent these back in 20 days.

Jim Acker isn’t a big name like Kittle but he’s anther from my childhood collection whose name is indelibly etched in my mind. As a Braves pitcher I probably saw him pitch at Candlestick at least once. his was a 19 day return.

Butch Wynegar is another one from my childhood cards. I had a 1979 card of him with the Twins as well so I sent him three, one from each team. He added the fourth, an awesome 1985 Topps card I’d never seen before, when he sent everything back 22 days later. Catcher action cards are almost always the best baseball cards and this is no exception.

Wynegar is also noteworthy for jumping from single-A to MLB for his debut. Impressive for anyone but extra impressive for a catcher.

Jim Duffalo was a member of the 1962 team but didn’t appear in the World Series. He’s one of those guys where almost every card of his is in the high numbers. As a result I’m missing some of his cards still and didn’t have any duplicates. His 1965 though was one I could pick up an extra for cheap plus it’s never a bad thing to get a 1965 signed. The fine-point marker looks great and it came back in only 17 days.

A 24-day return from Gary Lucas was a fun one since it includes his rookie and career capper cards while also covering all three teams he played for. It’s nice that his 1981 also represents his best career season when he lead the league in appearances and had a 2.00 ERA.

I’ll finish things off this month with three cards from a Trove Sports Den signing. They had a bunch of good prices for a mid-December signing so I figured I’d see how things went.  Since this involved them sorting my mailing into athlete piles, mailing those to the athletes, waiting for them to be returned, then re-sorting everything into my individual return envelope, I’m not at all surprised that it took 70 days.

Dave Stewart was the big name of the bunch. It’s hard for me to think back about those late-80s, early-90s A’s teams and not think primarily of Smoke. Yes, the Bash Brothers and Rickey got all the headlines. But what made those teams so good was its starting pitching and Stewart was a fearsome presence on the mound.

I also got a card of Kirk Rueter signed. In many ways Woody is the polar opposite of Dave Stewart in being not at all intimidating while relying on all kinds of off-speed stuff. Yet he became the most-successful San Francisco Giants lefthander before Madison Bumgarner.* He’s still a fan favorite as well as a personal favorite of mine.

*I often reference Rueter’s career as an explanation for why I expect the first woman to play in Major League Baseball will be a left-handed pitcher who throws frisbees and can locate her pitches.

And finally, I couldn’t not send this card of Coco Crisp. Probably the best card of 2014 (I haven’t confirmed this though) and an all-around great card in general. It’s a fitting way to finish my January post. I’m not expecting much in February since I  haven’t sent anything out for a while. Bu who knows what the mail will bring.

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

8 thoughts on “January Returns”

  1. Jim Walewander is also becoming a legend in the blogging community! He’s had more posts about him in recent months than any other non-major star, and it’s not even close.

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