May Returns

No mail today so there’s no sense in waiting to publish this post next week. May was a decent month as I mostly worked through my childhood duplicates. But I did pick up a few fun bigger-name players.

Let’s start off with a couple signatures from guys who were a big deal in my childhood. Jeff Reardon was one of the best closers around before LaRussa and Eckersley completely changed the position.

I didn’t send a Twins card even though he was a part of that 1987 World Series Championship since I didn’t like any of the options available to me. I did however like the photo on his 1987 and I’ll always send a 1991 Studio card if I can. I was very happy to get these back in only a dozen days.

Howard Johnson was even a bigger deal than Reardon. Besides the fact that he used to kill the Giants, he also was one of the guy whose inserts and special cards I always used to pull. I’d want a Will Clark or Kevin Mitchell but I’d invariable get a HoJo. Kind of amazes me how much he’s been forgotten now but third base was a pretty deep position in those years.

I of course had a ton of inserts to choose from for this request but I went with a 1986 Mets Fan Club card because it was my favorite of his oddballs and also represented the World Series year. This came back in 24 days.

A 9-day return Shane Rawley continues the run of guys who had their best seasons during my formative fan years. With modern stats we can see that Rawley put together a very good 12-year career with a handful of solid WAR and ERA+ seasons. At the time though that 17-win season in 1987 (for a sub-.500 Phillies team) was impressive instead.

This is the fist time I’ve gotten a base and All Star card signed and I kind of like the way that having the pair together works. Not a lot of reliable signers who I can do this with though.

Since I’m not a huge college football guy, I was unaware of Cris Carpenter’s college career as an all-SEC punter. He was just one of those Rated Rookies from my youth whose career I lost track of in the strike year. I do remember being confused when Chris Carpenter debuted with the Cardinals in the early 2010s though. Nice to add a Rated Rookie signature in 9 days though..

A 7-day return from George Wright brought another 1986 card to the collection. Wright had an excellent 1983 season and a historically bad 1985 season. I’m not a huge proponent of WAR but his –3.7 WAR i 1985 is one of the worst on record.

I associate Tim McCarver with many of the big games I watched in TV when I was a kid. I didn’t get to see a lot of TV and so bringing it out of the closet for playoff baseball (or the Olympics) was always a special occasion. That McCarver was frequently part of those occasions means I think of him fondly. This came back in 9 days

A 54-day return from Erik Hanson added another 1989 Rated Rookie to the collection. I also like this 1991 Topps card and it captures his career-high 18 wins in the 1990 season.

Stormin’ Gorman Thomas is one of those fun nicknames and I enjoy the attitude in this career-capping 1987 Topps card.  I would’ve liked to use an older card but I didn’t have any good ones handy. But I was happy to get this one back in 10 days.

Thomas also included a signed index card for his Stormin’ Sauce business. I’m not a huge sauce guy in general but I have to admit I’m a bit curious.

And Thomas also included this note about how to order. I enjoy how different the St. Jude notepaper is compared to Thomas’s fu manchu image.

I thought this return had gotten lost. In late March I received an envelope that had already been opened. It had a Michigan postmark and the only person I’d sent to there was Ernie Whitt so I figured these were gone. Turns out it was another card. No idea who but the Whitts came back after 72 days.

Whitt was the last original Blue Jay to play for the team and put a solid career together in the 1980s. He’s since become the manager of the Canadian National baseball team as well.

It’s always fun to get a postcard back.  I would’ve sent this out a long time ago but I didn’t realize that Darrell Evans signed. I was starting to thing I may have lost this too but it came back in 70 days.

Evans is one of the definitive underrated guys, a couple amazing seasons with the Braves in the 1970s and a decade of solid, or better, production from the mid-70s to mid-80s. His name doesn’t come up as often as it should considering that he’s that near-Hall of Fame tier type of player.

It’s especially nice that this postcard is from 1983 which is both his best year as a Giant and the year he won the Willie Mac Award.

Since I’m not building 1979, I’m okay sending out non-duplicate cards to reliable guys. Barry Bonnell is one such player and returned these in only 8 days. One of the things I enjoy a lot about hitting my 1986 duplicates is finding guys whose cards I have in earlier sets.

The difference between 1979 and 1986 doesn’t seem that big to me now but I haven’t shaken my understanding of these two sets as being the difference between OLD and current. This mentality works for Bonnell’s career in which he’s just starting off in his 1979 card while 1986 represents his last year in the bigs.

Funny how things work out. Back-to-back returns of 1979 cards and I’m not even working that set. I remember Jim Beattie’s 1987 card from my youth. Such a distinct photo and definitely different than most other photos in the set. Beattie is also an interesting player in that he went back to school and turned himself into a General Manager, with the Expos first and followed by the Orioles.

This was a weird return. I write my address in both slots of the return envelope just in case something happens. Still, I never expected to find an envelope that had been ripped completely in half with the stamp and half my address missing. Someone taped up the ripped side and the return address took care of the rest. Inside I found a 62-day return from Mark Eichhorn and the cards no worse for wear.

Eichhorn had a distinct sidearm motion that you can get a sense of in these photos. He’s also currently a high school baseball coach in Aptos.

I only caught the end of Cecil Cooper’s career but he’s one of those guys I kept running into cards of during my youth. I couldn’t avoid him in all those 1980s oddball sets and as a result I always think of him as being a bit of a star. He definitely had a good decade-long run in the majors and it’s nice to add another 1988 card in only 18 days.

A 12-day return from Bert Roberge increased my 1986 count to 54. I’m not trying to build a signed set but it’s been fun to work my duplicates. Roberge is the first of those 54 to sign with a ballpoint pen. This is pretty common even with 1970s players but the 1980s and later guys seem to understand that sharpies are better.

Always nice to add another Stanford custom. I got Willie Adams’s autograph when he was at Stanford and I was a teenager. I didn’t mention the story about his dad asking him to “sign one for the little guy” (I was pushing 6′ at time but Adams was 6’7″) but that was a fun in-person memory from three decades ago. Comparing to his college sig these are pretty close. He did not keep any customs and sent everything back in 31 days.

The Team USA cards are fun but I enjoy having a signed card of him as a pro. It’s also nice to add my first 1998 to the collection.

Frank Eufemia is almost local and returned his card in just 6-days. He had a short career but also featured as a replacement player for the Yankees in the 1995 fake spring training.

Another 1986 return. This time from Jack Perconte in 8 days. He’s written a couple books about hitting and seems to be a decent guy in terms of wanting to help kids and their parents navigate the world of youth baseball.

Ed Wojna also sent back a 1986 card in 8 days. Wikipedia states that this card was massively overproduced but I have my suspicions since the assertion isn’t sourced and I haven’t run into as many of this card often enough for it to stand out as a double or triple print.

Wojna sent back a really long letter which represents the first Jehovah’s Witnesses’ pitch I’ve received. I’m not surprised to receive evangelical tracts and personal testaments but many of them feel like they come from similar churches.

A 25 day return from current Ranger broadcaster Mark McLemore was a fun one. I remember him as an Angel since that’s who he played for in my formative years but he put together a more-than-respectable 19-year career with seven different teams.

I’ve been working a Scott Erickson collection of sorts because of high school reasons so I figured I should look up what other players attended my school. It’s a short list consisting of four players,* only three of which have cards showing them with a Major League team.** Sandy Wihtol was the only one with flagship Topps cards so I grabbed one and sent it out for a request.

*Doug Clarey, Sandy Wihtol, Scot Erickson, and Evan Marshall.

**Clarey only has 1970s minor league issues. Marshall meanwhile has only a Bowman card and a Total card to his name.

It came back 35 days later. Wihtol is now a high school coach for a rival school but I got a nice “Go Mustangs” note on my letter. The high school project doesn’t have enough players to be a real project like my Stanford one but it’s a fun little mini collection to have going.

And that’s it for May. I’ve been slowly working on customs and am close to placing an order. But for now next month looks to be more of the same as I work through my duplicates.

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

6 thoughts on “May Returns”

  1. Whoa, there’s a lot to comment on here, you’ve been busy!

    Three of my “only I know these guys” favorites when I was a youngster here in Jack Perconte, George Wright and Shane Rawley. Perconte I hoped would be a Dodgers star, loved Wright’s 83 Topps card and I was pissed when Rawley went to the Yankees.

    Stormin’ Gorman and Cecil Cooper are classics from the late ’70s/early’80s Brewers and obviously I would’ve picked a card from that era. Seeing them older on late ’80s cards is a bit sad.

    Big ones here in McCarver, Darrell Evans and Reardon. (I know how you feel about autos on sets with facsimile sigs but I’d have a hard time not sending the ’75 card of Evans — maybe I could go with ’76 as it’s a similar shot). McCarver I knew as an announcer with the Mets in the late ’70s, before he became “reviled.” He was fun on those broadcasts.

    Props for getting guys like Roberge and Wihtol, who I only know from cards.

    1. My supply of late-70s cards is pretty thin. I’ll occasionally pick up cards for autograph reasons but it’s never a bad thing to write about the late career cards serving as my primer for which players where importan because I could see the stats.

  2. It’s always cool to see players take the time to write long letters to their fans. Back in high school, I’d have two Mormons visit me one day and two Jehovah’s Witnesses visit me another day. Plus I’d go to church with my best friend’s family on Sunday. My parents loved teasing me about that and my father still brings it up every now and then to this day.

  3. Congrats on hitting the halfway point with your high school project. Hope you’re able to eventually get Doug Clarey and Evan Marshall.

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