Category Archives: collecting

Old Timers

While I was autograph hunting in Philadelphia, I was unaware of the Equitable Old Timers Game that weekend until I “missed” Hank Aaron while pursuing Kevin Mitchell. And if I missed Hank Aaron I had no chance of knowing who the other old timers were. Thankfully I think Hank Aaron was the only star there.

During the downtime while I was waiting in the lobby, this old guy just started talking to me and my mom (my mom was a saint for putting up with my autograph hunting). It turned out to be Bob Veale who, while enjoying his anonymity, also missed some of the attention. There was some good-natured ribbing about not knowing who any of those guys were but I think they recognized that most players end up being unrecognized after retirement. The names and faces fade but the game remains and they just liked seeing kids who were ardent enthusiastic fans.

As we were talking he introduced me to a bunch of other no-longer-famous old timers. I was wholly unprepared and didn’t even have index cards or anything.* So my mom grabbed some hotel stationery and that’s what I ended up getting all their autographs on.

*Autograph Card was a product that didn’t exist at all yet. I would have loved to have that available to me back then.

Which makes Bob Veale the single nicest player I met during all my autograph hunting years. And the autographed hotel stationery is now a memento which, while I treasure it, is now something I’m not fully sure what to do with. It definitely shows a lot of the signs of my past efforts to do something with it. When I was 11 I only had 8×10 sleeves so I hacked off two edges of the letterhead so it would fit. I also couldn’t read the signatures and had to repeatedly edit my transcriptions as I researched who these guys were and how to spell their names. But I have a decent plan now.

Since the Old Timers game was intended to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1964 Phillies team which choked the National League pennant away* I’ve decided that at the very least I should collect the 1964 Topps baseball cards for the players whose autographs I had.

*Yes this is possibly the most Phillies™ thing imaginable.

So far I’m doing pretty good. I only have three cards which I’m missing. And I’ve got a couple complications.

The first sheet is pretty straightforward. I’m missing Veale—a semi-star who despite being somewhat forgotten still commands card prices which, while not expensive, are higher than the standard common card price. Looking through his bio and the number of league leader cards he appeared on I’m a bit surprised that he faded away. But then the 1960s was indeed a pitcher’s decade.

And I’m missing Danny Cater who was a rookie in 1964 and whose 1964 Topps card carries the rookie card surcharge. I’ve got the other six players though.

Donn Clendenon 1964 Topps Bobby Shantz 1964 Topps

I actually had a Donn Clendenon card from 1966. I appreciate that he and Veale listed their teams on the paper. My mind’s eye has them hanging out together when Veale started talking to my mom and me and I see this extra information as them graciously giving me more information about themselves.

Where Veale and Clendenon were establishing themselves as semi stars of the 1960s and their participation ion the Old Timers game as a “Best of the National League” squad makes perfect sense. Bobby Shantz’s presence was commemorating the last season of his career. It’s funny though. Shantz doesn’t seem to be a star either and his card was priced as a common. But as the 1952 AL MVP he’s the only player on here who’s won a major award.

Frank Thomas 1964 ToppsArt Mahaffey 1964 Topps

This Frank Thomas autograph was quickly very amusing to me with the emergence of a very different Frank Thomas in 1990. Of all the players on this sheet, I only knew Thomas because of the infamous “Yo la tengo” story.

Reading Art Mahaffey’s bio and I’m surprised he was at this Old Timers game at all. Phillies fans don’t have the nicest reputation but I guess by 1989 people were ready to remember the good about leading the league for 150 games rather than dwelling on the end result.

Clay Dalrymple 1964 Topps Bob Lillis 1964 Topps

Having Mahaffey and Clay Dalyrmple next to each other on this sheet suggests that they were also hanging out together in the lobby. I makes me smile thinking that they were.

Bob Lillis meanwhile wasn’t part of the Old Timers but was instead a Giants coach. Since he played in 1964, I’ve decided to get his card too. That I got his autograph on these sheets instead of the Giants ball suggests that I hadn’t quite figured out what I was doing with the ball yet and was instead using the stationery for any non-current players.

The Bob Lillis autograph also explains the more disjointed nature of the second sheet of signatures. Only two of them are old timers. The other two are like the Lillis signature.

Jim Pagliaroni 1964 Topps

Jim Pagliaroni is the only 1964 card I have from this sheet because Joe Christopher’s is a high number. As with Frank Thomas, I’m most tickled to have Joe Christopher’s signature because of his part in suggesting that Richie Ashburn say “Yo la tengo.”

Bill Fahey meanwhile is a Giants coach like Bob Lillis. Only Fahey played in the 1970s so his cards don’t quite fit this project. But I might have to track down a few anyway.

And Charlie Wagner is a longtime Red Sox scout who I’m assuming was there because of his longtime affiliation with the Reading Phillies. He has no 1964 card either but he does have a few TCMA cards so maybe once I get the 1964s finished I’ll look into those.

I’m also still considering whether Hank Aaron should be part of this set. That’s obviously not an autograph I have but he is a significant part of this story.

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Mailday from Shane

Despite the previous massive mailday, somehow Shane was able to surprise me with another massive batch of Giants cards. While obviously not as much fun as the previous mailing (that one took me months to sort through and figure out what everything was) there’s a lot of good stuff in here too.

A few 1980s–1990s cards from when I was collecting. The Topps UK Minis are especially fun. I’d not seen them before this year but have gradually acquired a number of them now through maildays. Pretty sure I’ve never seen that Fleer Exciting Stars card before either.

The rest of the Score, Upper Deck, and Leaf cards remind me of my collecting heyday. I might have them in a box at my parents’. I might not. (I’ve long lost my memory of all the cards I owned.) But these are the cards—and the players—I grew up with so it’s always a blast to see them again.

One of my growing collecting interests are cards which aren’t in English. O Pee Chee is pretty standard and for most of my youth was just a Canadian-branded version of Topps. It was cool enough that it was in white card stock instead of grey. And the bilingual French/English backs (also with Leaf in the 1980s before Donruss relaunched it as a premium brand in 1990) were pretty cool. O Pee Chee Premier followed the flagship/premium break that occurred in trading cards ~1990 and is the first time I saw non-Topps O Pee Chee cards.

I only recently discovered that Pacific’s MLB license was initially only for Spanish-language cards and that even after they started making English-language cards their Crown line was Spanish-only. Despite the Bay Area being a pretty significant Spanish-speaking market, I never saw these when they came out in 1993/1994. I’ve been semi-seeking them out now (I have a handful of giants from 1993/94) so having a 1997 Bonds is very cool.

On to late-1990s cards that represent a grab bag of different things that card companies were doing as they tried to figure out the post-strike landscape. We’ve got reprints. We’ve got retro-inspried designs. We’ve got budget versions of premium brands as a response to the regular brands creating premium releases. I continue to look at checklists from this era and be confused.

And Shane sent me a ton of Topps flagship starting with 2000. This is great since I don’t have any coverage from these years and while getting sets is out of the question, having Giants is a good way to stay on top of things. 2000 is notable for being the first year at Pac Bell Park so these cards represent some of the last images of Candlestick as a baseball venue.

Also. Yes. That’s a Robb Nen autograph. I need to ask Shane about the backstory here but that’s definitely the highlight of the mailday. I never took to Nen the way I took to Rod Beck but after what he did, and gave, to the team in 2002 I think all Giants fans respect him.

2001 Topps means many of these are the first photos from Pac Bell. The Robb Nen card here is the most-distinct of the ones I received in that it shows triples alley. Also, While I’ve tended to side-eye a lot of Topps’s 1990s–2000s designs, this one is growing on me. As individualy cards the green/grey border feels wreid. But seeing them all together like this and that color provides a nice page background for the photos.

I’m not a fan of the 2002 design though. If the dark green has a certain class to it, this orange/brown is an eyesore. All the swirly ribbons don’t help either. This is a shame since I should probably get this team set as it represents the team which came as close as I ever expected to get to a World Series title.

Yes that game 6 loss still hurts a little even though we’ve won three times this decade and winning a steroid-tained title would’ve sat uncomfortably.

2003 and 2005 Topps. the highlight here is the Matt Cain Prospects card. I’ve kind of forgotten these years in a blur of horrible news coverage where what Barry Bonds did outweighed what the team did. It was increasingly hard to be a fan and the Bonds circus caused me to start drifting away.

These sets are similarly forgettable. Topps is obviously going through a phase of knowing that foil stamping and high gloss are the hallmarks of premium cards but they haven‘t figured out how to consistently combine them into designs which work well.

I can’t imagine how unbearable the Bonds Hype must’ve been for everyone else during those years. That Topps released a set where each card represents one of Barry’s home runs continues to amaze me in its hilarious awfulness. I’m definitely not seeking to complete this set but I’m glad that I’ve moved past my frustration with those years to see the humor in it.

And that 2006 Topps set is also pretty dire. If the knock on a lot of the sets from 1976–1985 is that they’re boring white-bordered sets, at least they’re simple designs which have aged relatively well. These mid-200s Topps designs though? Yeesh. Too many things going on on each card.

2007 is better. I don’t like the design but it’s got a better handle on what it’s doing. I’m baffled as to why the team card has the red and blue squares switched (the backs are all oriented the same way). And yes those two Zitos have different colored backs. This whole parallel/short print thing where Topps changes the color of something minor and treats it as something special really bothers me. If you’re going to do this kind of artificial scarcity crap at least do it with photo variations.

I really like the 2008 design. Kind of surprised about it but it reaches back into the past and does something which is reminiscent of 1964, 1972, and 1986 yet in a way which isn’t at all copying them. The only thing I don’t like is the little tab where the Topps logo is. Even the printed autographs are a nice change of pace (although as an autograph collector I generally don’t like them).

Sadly the 2009 design is a step backwards again. And that’s a 2010 Ginter mini which is fun but also represents a line of cards which isn’t my thing.

And to more-recent cards. The Minor League Heritage cards intrigue me. I don’t really like the Heritage thing but for some reason it bothers me less with minor league teams. I do enjoy having representative samples of the various Archive and Heritage releases though.

The Christian Arroyo 1968 Topps Game design is especially interesting in how different it is—larger size and thicker card stock—from the actual 1968 cards. I am also amused at the specificity of “Lead Runner and Batter Out” for the double play (yes I know this is accurate to the original).

Shane also included some more-random stuff. Fleer stickers are fun. I think this is from 1987 based on the team logo on the other side. The small one must be from a minis set. I’ve never seen anything like it before. And the 49ers cards are fun too. I’ve long since given up on the NFL but cards which remind me of the 1980s when I was a fan—I was a 49er fan before I was a Giants fan actually—will always be enjoyable.

The coin is a 1969 Citgo coin of Willie McCovey. The back has a gob of glue stuck to it but it’s a neat little object all the same. I don’t think we had Citgos on the West Coast (it’s certainly a brand I’m not familiar with) so these coins also represent a cool regional oddball as well.

Thanks Shane! I hope my package gets out of USPS purgatory* sometime this year. It’s not nearly as cool as this, or the previous mailday, but it is indeed enjoyable to send people things that’ll make them happier than they made me.

*Note. Never, ever, make a mistake on the zip code.

Kevin Mitchell

Kevin Mitchell 1987 Topps Kevin Mitchell 1989 Score

One of the most fun things about looking through my childhood autograph collection is remembering the stories which accompany those autographs and recognizing how those stories often reflect the time in which I acquired the signatures. When I was in Philadelphia in 1989, while Will Clark was the star face of the franchise, Kevin Mitchell was the breakout star everyone was excited about. And for good reason. Kevin had a monster 1989—especially if home runs and RBIs are your thing—and he and Clark were a fantastic team in the three and four spot in the lineup.

I optimistically brought two Mitchell cards with me to Philadelphia. One was his 1987 Topps rookie card* the other was his 1989 Score. As I camped out in the lobby along with the rest of the autograph seekers, I was one of the few Bay Area locals so with the lesser-known players I often was the first to react. But we were all looking and waiting for Kevin and I would’t have any advantage there.

*I never really considered the Traded cards true rookie cards. And even in the height of the RookieRookieRookie craziness, I didn’t buy in to chasing rookie cards as some sort of investment. I did however like the idea of getting rookie cards signed.

When Kevin did finally appear in the lobby—he was the last player to leave the hotel—it was obvious to everyone that he wasn’t going to stop or sign. He had that determined look and hasty walk and I don’t think anyone dared to even approach him until he’d gone most of the way through the lobby. It took a beautiful woman to asked him first. And he stopped. Of course he stopped. And then the crowd descended and he signed and signed and signed for everyone. I got my Topps card and went back in two more times, once for my Score card and then once again for the team ball.

I was, of course, super pleased with myself. THREE Kevin Mitchell signatures! And then my mom, and some of the other adults who were watching everything too, chided me for missing Hank Aaron. Unbeknownst to me, there was also an Equitable Old Timers game that weekend and Hank Aaron, cagey veteran that he was, had used the mob surrounding Kevin as cover to slip out of the lobby unbothered by anyone.

This put a damper on my mood that weekend and it took me a long time to accept my choices. My mom felt bad about teasing me too. I was 11 and Kevin was legitimately one of my heroes at the time. It’s easy to snark on kids being ignorant of the past. It’s much harder to accept that today’s heroes are the ones that resonate.

Do I wish I’d gotten Hank Aaron’s autograph instead of Kevin Mitchell’s? Sometimes. Still. But Kevin’s is the most 1989 of anything I got that trip. The story is better this way too.

What was I thinking?

I did not have a lot of money as a kid. I loved old cards. I couldn’t afford to buy them. Heck I could barely afford to get a pack or two from all the sets that the junk wax era was churning out. When I started collecting I was buying Topps, Donruss, and Fleer (plus a few randoms like Sportflics or Fleer Star Stickers). By the time the strike hit in 1994? Topps, Stadium Club, Archives, Bowman, Donruss, Leaf, Triple Play, Fleer, Fleer Ultra (and I could’t afford Flair), Score, Select, Pinnacle, Upper Deck, and Collectors’ Choice. My poor wallet couldn’t keep up.

I was able to save enough money to buy old wax packs going back to 1980 (except 1983 Fleer and 1984 Donruss which were both more than I could afford/justify so I bought Giants team sets for those years instead). But before 1980? No packs. No ebay lots coming up on the horizon. Occasional luck in repacks for 1979 (I had a handful). Extremely rare luck in repacks for 1978 and 1977 (I had one from each year). But aside from the lot of 31 1961 Topps cards my mom’s ex-husband gave me* my collecting goal was a single Topps card for each year.

*Beat up and a lot of spoke or flipping damage but not a bad pile of cards which included Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Don Drysdale, Lou Burdette, the Hank Aaron MVP, the first Minnesota Twins team card, and a Frank Robinson All Star. This deserves to be a different post but I’ll have to find the right angle for it.

And by “each year” I really mean each year since 1960. The pre-1960 cards never seemed to enter my radar as a kid. I knew they existed but I don’t think I ever encountered one which wasn’t crazy expensive. My local shop had a few star cards in those screw-down inch-thick lucite protective blocks but I don’t think I ever saw any commons.

Anyway I wasn’t even able to accomplish my one card per year goal as I never got my 1965 Topps card.* But I did get one card—occasionally more—from every other year. Last summer I got a chance to looking through my childhood collection again and enjoy all the memories. I chose many of those single cards for specific reasons and remembering why I did so is a fun reminder of my adolescent tastes.

*Making it holy appropriate and a wonderful coincidence that the first card I purchased on reintegrating into the hobby was a 1965 Masanori Murakami.

At the same time, a good number of those cards completely mystified me as to why I specifically purchased them so I’ve found myself going through them all and asking myself, “what the hell was I thinking?”

Orlando Cepeda 1960 Topps

This was my favorite card when I was little. It’s one of the only cards I spent “big”* money on at a card show. It’s not in pristine shape but it was the oldest card I owned until I found some treasure at my grandmother’s. I always had a soft spot for Cepeda and felt that he was overdue for the Hall of Fame. In some ways purchasing this card in 1989 represented an investment in my belief that he’d eventually make it. That he did is not why I loved this card though. He was the nicest guy and a great community representative for the Giants and a very easy guy to like.

*Probably $5 but it might’ve been more.

Roger Craig 1962 Topps

The original Humm Baby was the Giants skipper when I became a fan. It was fun to have a card of him as a player too, especially since he looked basically the same. The 1962 Mets card whatwith the whole ignominious balk start and everything is an added bonus of fun.

Looking at his SABRmetric stats now I can see he was one of the brighter spots on that team. Still not a great year but I’m not sure how any of those “above replacement” stats works when an entire team is replacement level.

Jim O'Toole 1963 Topps Jim O'Toole 1963 Topps

How could I refuse? The cartoon on the back of this is hilarious even today. And for an early teenager it was even funnier. I still can’t believe Topps shipped something like this.

The real mystery though is why I didn’t acquire any of the Claude Raymond unzipped fly cards or the 1969 Aurelio Rodriguez batboy card. Maybe that’s an oversight for me to address now that I’m older.

Young Aces: Al Downing and Jim Bouton 1964 Topps Jim Bouton 1967 Topps

Inspired by Ball Four. Obviously. Not much more to say except that I’m sort of surprised I don’t have more Bouton cards. I’m also surprised that I had no other Pilots or Astros cards from the book either. I loved that book when I first read it and I love it still.

Luis Aparicio 1966 Topps Luis Aparicio 1967 Topps Luis Aparicio 1968 Topps

Speaking of having a bunch of cards of the same guy. This is the first mystery. I have no memory of having so many Aparicios. None. And I’ve no memory as to why I got so many either.

If I had to hazard a guess? He was probably the best mix of star with pricepoint. I couldn’t afford any of the big name stars and just grabbing a random common would’ve handcuffed me with too many options (plus how boring would that be?). Grabbing affordable Hall of Famers on the other hand is the kind of pragmatic approach I’d like to give myself credit for thinking of.

Buc Belters: Willie Stargell and Donn Clendenon 1966 Topps

I had a soft spot for Clendenon after he signed for me when I had no idea who he was. I suspect that Stargell was another affordable Hall of Famer just like Aparicio. Getting both on a single card would’ve been very appealing.

Matty Alou 1967 Topps

I’m not sure about my thinking here either. Ex-Giant was certainly a big part of the appeal. This is also just a nice-looking card from back when Topps knew how to take decent headshots.

Cardinals Celebrate 1968 Topps

I’ve even less of an idea about what I was thinking here. At least I can think of a plausible reason for my Aparicio fixation. But I’ve hated the Cardinals ever since their fans dumped beer on Jeffrey Leonard in the 1987 NLDS so this card just confuses me.

Looking at it now I can at least appreciate that having a card which so blatantly features alcohol is pretty distinct. I also only recently found out that Joe Shultz is the Cardinal coach getting doused in champagne while he’s pounding a Budweiser. So maybe I should file this with the Bouton cards now.

Manny Mota 1969 Topps

Humor. Also the most pinch hits thing is pretty cool. And, I don’t know, with so many Aparicios plus Cepeda, Alou, and Mota I was on a pretty-good latino player kick. I certainly don’t remember that being a factor but this was all 25 years ago. Anyway this is a fantastic trainwreck of a card with some godawful airbrushing. It is however fun to have a first-year Expo.

Ken Harrelson All Star 1969 Topps

No idea here either but the All Star design is pretty cool. Although for the purposes of my one-card-per-year project I really should’ve been focusing on the base cards.

Vida Blue and Gene Tenace 1970 Topps

This must’ve been a decent price. The appeal is obvious to me. Vida Blue is a Bay Area legend. Great name. Starred for both the A’s and the Giants and continued to work in the community after he retired. And Gene Tenace wasn’t a slouch either.

Hal Lanier 1971 Topps Gaylord Perry 1971 Topps

Giants! The Perry must’ve been a deal too since he was elected to the Hall of Fame right about the time I would’ve acquired this. I knew Hal Lanier more as the Astros manager than as a former player but as with the Craig card it’s always fun to get cards of managers from when they were players.

Billy Martin 1972 Topps

While I couldn’t afford to chase the Billy Ripken Fuck Face card, I sure as hell could afford this older version. As with the Jim O’Toole I still find myself laughing at this card.

Willie Mays 1972 Topps Willie Mays In Action 1972 Topps

These were gifts and represent probably the best mix of pricepoint and age for my parents. When I was 10 or 11 all I wanted for Christmas was a real—Topps from when he played not TCMA or some new “cheapo” printing—Willie Mays card. I think I got the in-action card and was happy but also disappointed (where are the stats!). I did eventually get the proper card as a gift and, other than the Cepeda card, these were my favorites in my collection.

Dick Dietz 1972 Topps 1976 Topps Mike Caldwell

Many of my 1970s cards were cards which I acquired specifically to get signed. I just needed them to be designs I liked and something which qualified as affordable. If they filled holes in my one-per-year project? Even better.

Dietz was the manager of the Giants’ San José farm club and, after many attempts, I finally got his card signed. Caldwell was the manager of Campbell University and randomly showed up in 1990 as a 6 seed at the NCAA regional at Stanford.

Ron Fairly 1973 Topps

He was one of the Giants’ announcers when I became a fan and was paired with Hank Greenwald during the 1989 pennant-winning season. As with the Roger Craig card I found it fun to get a card from his playing days. This was probably a “good to have on hand in case an autograph situation comes up” card and since I sure as hell wasn’t going to get him as a Dodger, here he is as an Expo.

Bob Boone 1974 Topps Bob Boone 1976 Topps
Stanford Alumni. Growing up in the Bay Area, Bob Boone was sort of the only big success story for the Stanford system until a bunch of guys (McDowell, Buechele, Aldrete, Ballard followed by Sprague, Amaro and Mussina) took off with decent careers in the late 80s to early 90s. I always wished he’d show up at the Stanford Alumni game. I eventually got his signature at a game in Tacoma. These two cards sort of presage the Stanford Alumni project I’m starting on.

Tito Fuentes 1975 Topps

Giants again! Also an announcer for the Spanish-language Giants broadcasts. I may have gotten this for potential autograph reasons before deciding that I don’t like that with facsimiles.

So 24 cards for 17 years. For 17 of those cards I have a pretty good idea why I chose them. For the other seven I have to guess at best or remain completely confused at worst. Still it’s fun to remember back to when my collecting goals were ridiculously simple and my card buying was based on day-of gut-level decisions rather than having a plan and stalking a specific target.

Mailday from Al

Where many of my maildays have involved trading with people who I’ve gotten to know through baseball card twitter, sometimes someone will just post a call out about looking to clear out some space and get rid of some cards.* In this case, Al (@lamachine21) was** in the midst of a move, found a bunch of fun stuff that he preferred to clear out, and asked for people to send him their favorite team. So I did—expecting to some day receive a bunch of junk wax nostalgia that would make me smile and which I’d love to share with my kids.

*Peter was one such case and I’m very happy to have been able to keep corresponding with him on twitter and through maildays.

**Actually still is. 

Al certainly didn’t disappoint here. 1986–1994 covers my collecting years perfectly. The 1986 cards represent both the of my collecting consciousness and that Will Clark is one of the first cards I really coveted. Yes I eventually got it. But that doesn’t make me any less happy to see it show up unexpectedly in a stack of cards.

The 1990 cards are all wonderful since they represent so much of the pennant-winning 1989 team which will always have a special place in my heart. The way the Kevin Mitchell is—totally deservedly—the face of the team this year for a change. That Trevor Wilson card with the photo from the celebration. The Dravecky card and all the baggage it carries with respect to both the comeback from cancer game, the subsequent arm-breaking game, and the knowledge that he’d eventually have to get the amputation.

And after getting a couple of the 1954 reprints from Bru it was great fun to get some 1953 reprints (and cards that never were). I loved these as a kid. I, sadly, have no 1953 cards to compare to today so these are still a reminder of how much getting pre-1960 cards is something I should never take for granted.

The new (to me at least) stuff is also great. As a skeptic of these neue-retro cards I’m glad that people keep sending me samples so I don’t have to buy them. In this case, the Fleer and Bowman retro designs are fun to see even while they don’t quite do it for me. I find it interesting how much the Fleer is aping 1956 Topps. I wish they’d taken the Topps Big approach and made a design which translated the look to present (or in this case ~2000) rather than continuing to try to be retro.

Victory kind of weirds me out since it’s copyrighted to UpperDeck but has none of the branding. I was out of the hobby when this came out but from what I can tell there was a trend around 2000 when, after upscaling their products card companies tried to release a less-complicated lower-end product. That none of these sets seem to have lasted for more than a handful of years says more to me about the strength of the flagship lines of cards—what I tend to call the “cards of record”—and how those are the threads that allow collectors to indulge the way baseball cards connect us to baseball’s past.

Gaylord Perry 2004 Donruss

The first 24 items were enjoyable enough. This Gaylord Perry autograph though? Totally cool. Totally unexpected. I admit to not being a big fan of relics or chase cards. But if it’s a player whose number is retired by my team?* Hard to resist.

*Note, the Giants only retire your number if you’re in the Hall of Fame. 

Given the construction of this card I’m certain this is a sticker autograph. But I appreciate that the diecut on the top layer hides the sticker business. The entire card feels like a cohesive product rather than something that’s just a clear sticker slapped on top of a regular trading card. And yes, I completely understand how the sticker thing allows for all kinds of flexibility from the card companies, it just doesn’t feel right to me.

The downside of the diecut stuff is that this card is too thick to go into a standard 9-pocket sleeve. As with the relic card I’ve just got it in a top loader for now while I figure out what to do with it. I should probably ask around and see what other people do with these.

1983 Donruss Action All Stars 1983 Donruss Action All Stars

Al also threw in an unopened pack of 1983 Donruss Action All Stars because Greg Minton is visible through the wrapper. I have some of these at my parents’ house. This is a set I always liked because large cards are cool (these are 3½”×5″) even though a lot of the real estate on the card front is wasted on the TEAMTEAMTEAM greyspace.

I’ll hold off on opening this pack until I get 4-pocket pages. I don’t need a huge pack of them so I’ll have to visit a card shop to get smaller quantities. Until then keeping these in the pack will keep them under control. I’ll get to admire the Minton and the back of the George Brett until then.

So Thanks Al. I’ve got someone new to follow on twitter and figure out what kind of thank you is appropriate to send. But that’ll have to wait for a while since he’s in the midst of a move. Moves suck even if everything goes according to plan so even more power to him for being so generous in mailing out so many care packages.

The simple pleasure of a single ball

Terry Kennedy, Brett Butler, Kevin Mitchell

Terry Kennedy, Brett Butler, Kevin Mitchell

My family took a trip to Philadelphia in 1989 and we stayed in the Giants hotel. 10-year-old me was extremely excited about going autograph hunting for a few days. I had no idea what I was doing. What pen to use. What kind of balls to acquire. Whose cards to bring. I had no strategy. I just brought a bunch of cards—mostly 1987 Topps and 1989 Score—the cheap Giants-branded baseball we’d purchased at the Dugout Store when Rick Reuschel was there for a signing, and a bunch of optimism.

While my primary focus was on getting my cards signed, I often had the ball with me as well. It was handy for players whose cards I didn’t have or former players who were now associated with the Giants. Sometimes I’d have the ball and all the cards together. Other times, after having gotten a card or two signed, I’d get back in line and get the ball signed too.

And there was the time that Orlando Cepeda walked through the lobby without anyone recognizing him until my mom grabbed the ball and chased him down.

It was fun to see it fill up with signatures over the weekend and it’s a great memento from my trip. Yet for the longest time I was disappointed by it. I could only see all my newbie “mistakes.” Things I “should” have done differently. I used a cheap ball instead of an official National League ball. I used a Sharpie instead of a ballpoint pen (by the end of the weekend I’d switched to ballpoint).* I didn’t get a player-specific ball for bigger-name players. The mixing of old players and current players made no sense. etc. etc.

*You’re supposed to use ballpoint pens on official leather balls both for value reasons and preservation reasons. Fake plastic leather doesn’t work well with ballpoint. Sharpies can bleed into real leather. As it turns out though Sharpies and fake leather are a good pair.

Looking at it now? It reminds me of a simpler time and a simpler approach and fills me with joy. That instead of doing a lot of prep work and pulling cards then having to recognize the player, find the right card, and get it ready to be signed, all I needed was a single ball. And then afterwards, the ball exists as a perfect memento of the experience.

It’s not a “collectible.” So many of the “rules” I followed were with the idea that autographs were an investment. Yet that was never why I collected them. I enjoyed the interaction and the stories. Now, as an adult, I’m more likely to buy them since they remind me of stories from when I was a kid. But as a kid? That’s when you’re supposed to create what you’ll be nostalgic about later.

Seeing this ball reminds me of my trip. And that team. And being 11 again. I can recognize all the signatures and remember all the names and reminisce about the experience in a way that my single-player balls or signed cards usually can’t come close to.

Rick Reuschel, Ken Oberkfell

Rick Reuschel, Ken Oberkfell

Rick Reuschel was the first autograph on this ball and the only one which I didn’t get in Philadelphia. He was a notorious non-signer who the professional autograph hunters in the lobby told my mom and me to not even bother trying to chase. They were shocked when we showed them the ball.

Ken Oberkfell was one of the later signers on this ball. He was new to the Giants and, as a utility guy who entered late in games as a left-handed pinch hitter, was not a player who I had any real attachment to. Looking at his signature now I feel a bit apologetic at asking him to fit “Oberkfell” into such a small space. I’m glad he tried though.

And getting to the names at the top of this post, Terry Kennedy was our main catcher that year. He was also new as the Giants had just parted ways with Bob Brenly. He did well for us that year and held on to the position for a while until Kirt Manwaring could take over. I never really warmed to him as a fan though.

Brett Butler was our center fielder and leadoff hitter. There’s something about the everyday leadoff hitter which provides a certain amount of identity to the team. I know lineups don’t really matter all that much but as a fan, knowing that the game hasn’t really started for you until your leadoff hitter has come to the plate is just part of the ritual. Which is why I think we were all extra frustrated when he moved to the Dodgers in a few years.

And Kevin Mitchell. He was a stud in 1989 and getting his autograph was an experience which deserves its own post.

Orlando Cepeda

Orlando Cepeda

Cepeda had just started as a community ambassador for the Giants so his presence in the hotel I think caught everyone by surprise. His leg isn’t great but he still managed to get almost all the way through the lobby before my mom reacted. I love that he signed the sweet spot. All the current players had left it empty but Cepeda knew he had the statistics to take it. So he did.

Kirt Manwaring, Scott Garrelts, Roger Craig

Kirt Manwaring, Scott Garrelts, Roger Craig

Kirt Manwaring wasn’t ready to be the starting catcher yet but he was already turning into a bit of a fan favorite. The way he played was just enjoyable to watch. It’s no surprise that photographers loved him too.

Scott Garrelts was one of our many #2 or #3 starters. That the Giants had no proper ace is one of the reasons why, with the 10-day earthquake break—the A’s swept us in the World Series. I have no memory about who their #3 and #4 guys were. But between Dave Stewart and Bob Welch there was no contest. With Garrelts I do remember making the newbie mistake of handing him too many items. He was cool about it but I learned there that part of the reason not to have a ton of stuff is because it’s just a lot of work to deal with.

Because Cepeda had taken the sweet spot Roger Craig had to fit his signature into the tiny space next to it. I liked Roger. I think we all did. No idea if he was a good manager in general but he seems to have been exactly the kind of manager the Giants needed at the time. I’ll always be nostalgic for the original Humm Baby and the split finger fastball.

Jeff Brantley, Al Rosen, Dusty Baker, Tito Fuentes

Jeff Brantley, Al Rosen, Dusty Baker, Tito Fuentes

This is my favorite panel on the ball though. Well, aside from Jeff Brantley. Don’t get me wrong, he was perfectly fine as a closer the next two years, just, I’m glad the Giants picked up Steve Bedrosian in 1989. And compared to the other autographs on this panel he’s the least interesting.

Al Rosen was the Giants GM. An older me would’ve gotten him to sign an American League ball but I’m happy that I didn’t know better. While he had a couple great seasons in Cleveland I’ll always think of him primarily as the Giant GM and as such, he fits in perfectly here.

Dusty Baker was only the First Base Coach at this point. I know he played for the Giants for one season but in 1989 I had not really thought of him as a Giant yet. He was just part of the 1989 experience at that point. That he eventually became our manager—and was pretty popular for a while until the fans turned on him—makes me enjoy his presence on this ball even more.

And Tito Fuentes. Former Giant turned broadcaster. Our Spanish-language broadcaster. I was aware of KLOK but was a few years away from trying to listen to it as part of Spanish class. But I’m glad he’s on here as, like Cepeda, both a former Giant and a member of the larger 1989 organization.

Mailday from Bru

Another semi-surprise mailday, this time from Bru, an Astros fan and photographer who I’ve enjoyed discussing the photo-side of baseball cards with. I knew a mailday was in the works and have been pulling oddball Astros, or Astro-related cards from my collection to send in return. But then Hurricane Harvey dumped a shitload of rain on Houston and I was just hoping that he and Bob would pull through okay.

Anyway, as a result I was very surprised to find a bubble mailer in my mailbox this week. And it was a treat indeed to open it up.

A few fun cards from the 1980s. Krukow and Uribe in particular were—and still are—fan favorites.

And a handful of cards from the early 1990s when I was still collecting cards. I may or may not have these and will have to double check my holdings back in California. I’m reasonably sure I don’t have the Stadium Club as that stuff was spendy and I only got a couple of packs in general. And the two Bonds cards also don’t look familiar at all.

Another handful of 1990s cards which are from after I stopped collecting. Good. God. I’ve yet to run into any collectors who liked 1995 Fleer. Now I see why. This was my first in-person 1995 Fleer experience and yeah, I have no urge to acquire any more of these. I’m glad to have these as a reminder of how bad things got when I was out of the hobby though.

I’ve also handled a few 1990s Topps Finest now (there were a few in Shane Katz’s box too) and I have to admit that I don’t understand this set at all. It’s like once card companies realized that nice full-bleed photography should be the status quo they had no idea what should count as high end anymore.

And a bunch of more-recent cards. I not the biggest fan of Gipsy Queen or Allen & Ginter but it’s nice to have a sampling of them. I’m grateful that that sampling is turning out to be Giants. I also enjoy that I’ve been gradually filling up Giants from the first half of the 2010s with all these maildays since those World Series winning teams obviously hold a special place in my heart.

Matt Williams 1994 Sportflics Barry Bonds 1994 Sportflics Barry Bonds 1994 Sportflics

Now to the really fun stuff. For some reason I stopped collecting Sportflics before 1994. I really shouldn’t have. These remain fun in a wonderfully distinct way and my kids really like them even though they only have two frames of action now. Something about the tactile nature of having to interact with these in order to get them to move is much more exciting than just watching a video on the iPad. They were impressed and maybe I’ll have to get them some Sportflics or their own to rip.

I also appreciate these 1954 reprints a lot more now that I have the real 1954 cards to compare them to (the 1954 Don Liddle was not part of the mailday). It’s nice to see them in the high-gloss printing. I should look into getting more of these now—especially the gold variants with the gold signatures. The only weird thing for me is that the backs are no longer full-bleed.

Joe Strain 1980 KNBR San Francisco Police Department Joe Strain 1980 KNBR San Francisco Police Department

And the best card in the mailday is this 1980 KNBR San Francisco Police Department card which Bru reports was sitting in a bucket in a junk shop while his card was getting its post-Harvey cleaning. I’ve never seen these and have felt a bit jealous of Tony and all his Brewers Police cards. While I had Mother’s Cookies to enjoy instead there’s something about police cards and their bizarre insistence on being non-standard overlarge sizes with most of that extra card space being empty paper.

In this case I especially like the inanity of the tip on the back. I think my 8-year-old son would roll his eyes hard at this. I appreciate them trying to educate about safety tips but I can’t imagine this approach ever working. At least the card itself grew up to be supercool. I need to put a stack of Astros together to send back to Houston now.