Category Archives: collecting

Stanford Project

While focusing on Giants team sets is something I foresaw when I felt myself being pulled back into the hobby, I quickly found that I was interested in anther project—namely collecting cards of Stanford Alumni.

Stanford was the local college team I grew up with and is my alma mater. I used to love going to games and getting autographs from the players. I only stopped when I became a teenager and the age difference started to feel too close.  I realized that there was a high probability of my going to a different college and so I figured continuing to be a Stanford fanboy wasn’t the wisest course of action. When I did get in and attend Stanford, it just felt weird to treat classmates that way. And then once I got older than the players it felt even weirder.

Getting back into card collecting made me realize that searching for cards of the guys I went to school with would be a fun project that could help me get more acquainted with the baseball card landscape that I missed after I quit in 1994. Since I’ve got all of 1987–1993 covered as well as a decent amount of 1986 and 1994, I also figured that I may as well include the guys who played before 1986 as well. So I put together a list and have even received some maildays already as a result.

I’m concentrating on Topps (and 1948–1955 Bowman) as the cards of record here. I’m not against or excluding cards from other brands, it’s just that they’ve often had their own distinct niches and I don’t feel like growing the wantlist that much yet.

Also, any players who predate 1948 Bowman are outside the scope of this due to there not being a proper card of record then. Though yes, getting a Bert Delmas Obak card* or an Ernie Nevers Zeenut card would be awesome even though they’re not even Major League cards.**

*Such as the one at The Met.

**I do have the Conlon Collection Nevers card however.

I’m also focusing on distinct Stanford people which is why I haven’t included Bobby Brown (despite him being in the Stanford Hall of Fame). It’s not just that his cards are a bit more spendy because they carry the Yankees surcharge. He also only played for Stanford for one year and ended up playing for two more schools before he went pro.

And there’s a grey area of baseball guys who went into football (Elway, Lynch, Hutchinson, Gerhart, Gaffney) which I should think about. I wouldn’t want a complete set of football cards of these guys but including a few of them might be fun.

Anyway, I figured it would be fun to start this project off by getting cards from the 1950s. This is a decade from which I had zero cards when I was a kid and so I get a little giddy still when I handle any of these. Also, there appear to be only four guys on the list who played in the 1950s. I bought three of them but decided to leave Chuck Essegian for the 1960s.

Lloyd Merriman

Lloyd Merriman 1950 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1950 Bowman
Lloyd Merriman 1951 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1951 Bowman
Lloyd Merriman 1953 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1952 Bowman
Lloyd Merriman 1955 Bowman Lloyd Merriman 1955 Bowman

I’ve been a Topps only guy for ages so these are also the first vintage Bowman cards I’ve ever had. They’re fun. Printing is nice. It’s interesting to see how different the backs are compared to what I’m used to from Topps. I particularly love how the backs specifically mention Stanford—especially because these stem from a time before Stanford had become the academic powerhouse it is today.

Lloyd Merriman is also a nice throwback to when players routinely went off and did other things. That he was away in the military for a few years explains the gap between his 1952 and 1955 card. I’m a bit sad that I didn’t have an excuse to get a 1953 Bowman card but I’ll figure one out eventually.

Jack Shepard

Jack Shepard 1955 Topps
Jack Shepard 1955 Topps

Jack Shepard is an other example of a player doing more than just baseball. He continued his education in the offseason while he was playing pro ball and ended up going into business instead. As a result he has only one Topps card from his career.

Dave Melton

Dave Melton 1958 Topps Dave Melton 1958 Topps

Dave Melton on the other hand only played a dozen games in the big leages and spent most of his career bouncing around the Pacific Coast League. I do enjoy though that this card does double duty as both a Stanford Alumni card and as a sample of the Kansas City Athletics project I mentioned last week.

Anyway I wrote this post a while ago* and I’ve since acquired a bunch more Stanford Alumni cards. Many of them are more-recent players as I’ve been using this project as a method of catching up on the 1995–2016 baseball card landscape that I missed when I was away from the hobby. But I’m also gradually filling in the 1960s and 1970s guys and hope to be able to put together more posts like this as the project progresses.

*I blog in spurts and schedule them out well in advance.


Mailday from @mjpmke!

Another mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke). Where last time was a bunch of Stanford and Giants cards, this time involved an exchange of 2017 set needs since we each had a bunch of Update dupes.

Update is a weird set. I’m kind of trying to complete it and I kind of don’t care and a lot of my ambivalence is because I can’t figure out what it is. If it were like the old Topps Traded sets I’d want all of it. I’ve always liked the idea of filling in the holes in the Flagship base set with a small update of traded players and rookies who hadn’t made it into the base set.

But it also feels like a bloated All Star set where, rather than being a small subset like what used to be in Flagship, we have a whole bunch of stars with photos from both the All Star Game and Home Run Derby so we can get two cards of all the big-name sluggers. As someone who finds the special All Star uniforms and merchandise to feel like too obvious of a cash grab by MLB, seeing that gear on cards makes the cards also feel like an obvious cash grab.

Anyway laying all the cards out like this shows how monotonous the photo selections are. Each card looks good. The set though is kind of a snore. I am pleased however that none of these cards show the extreme purple hues that many of the Update cards show.*

*For whatever reason it looks like Topps screwed up their color profiling in Update and many of the blue tones skewed purple in that classic screwed-up sRGB conversion way. I’ve considered posting about this but it’s difficult to create the images for this without making things seem even worse.

Matt also included a bunch of Stadium Club cards which I didn’t have. comparing the photos from Stadium Club with the photos from Update is night and day. There are still a few of the standard action shots but more than half of these use images that are distinct and interesting on their own AND provide a lot of visual interest and variety to the set as a whole.

I’d love to complete this set (I’m not even halfway done) but after the last pack I purchased turned out to be 100% duplicates I’ve given up on buying any more of these. There’s a weird thing going on where it seems like Topps’s collation creates packs with either no overlap or massive overlap.

I suspect that part of this is because cards are being sold by-the-box more—whether a hobby box or a blaster—and at prices where getting 30%–50% duplicates from a box is no longer acceptable. So Topps has optimized its collation so that it can accurately stuff a box with packs that don’t overlap but if you buy packs (or blasters) by themselves you risk getting all duplicates instead.

Anyway, as much as people seem to complain about the old days when you could expect tons of duplicates in a box, I like the idea that the percentage of duplicates to expect in a pack roughly matches the percentage of the set I have.

And I’m including this Joe Borchard card which Matt sent me a few weeks ago. He found it in a Target repack and tweeted about how this counted as his “hit.” I mentioned that Borchard is a Stanford guy and a bit later it showed up in my mailbox.

Thanks for both maildays Matt!

Mailday from Peter

A semi-surprise mailday from Peter at Baseball Every Night. This is fun. Each mailday from him has worked further back into the past, first it was current cards, then it was junk wax from my collecting years, now it’s a bunch of cards predating my collecting years.

There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news* is that I’ve been doing very well at covering my mid-70s to mid-80s Topps Giants needs. What few holes I have now are all rookie cards where the Giant is sharing the card with someone else who commands a premium. Which means that the only truly new card for me here is the 1981 Fleer Vida Blue.

*Well for this mailday. It’s good news for my collecting goals.

Filling in non-Topps team sets is an activity which I haven’t officially embarked on—there’s no wantlist nor do I have plans at this time to make one. Yet I’m passively accumulating cards in the unused pockets of the past page of each Giants team set* and am enjoying adding the other brands and oddballs to the timeline of Giants Topps history.

*28 or 29-card team sets are the worst.

The good news about this stack though is that many of my cards aren’t in the best condition—especially regarding print quality. I don’t care much about dinged corners and usage wear but having spent over a decade in the print industry, if the actual card itself is badly printed I’m increasingly disappointed.

For some reason many of my early-80s cards are noticeably out of register. It’s like the designs got a little more intricate but the print quality wasn’t reliably there yet. So where in the 50s and 60s designs we just have big blocks of color—most of which are one of the seven colors you can get without screening the ink* and registration issues aren’t as obvious unless you really peep the photos—in the 80s the details are finer, traps are smaller, and additional colors come into the mix.

*Light Blue = 100% Cyan
Pink = 100% Magenta
Yellow = 100% Yellow
Black = 100% Black
Red = 100% Magenta + 100% Yellow
Green = 100% Cyan + 100% Yellow
Purple = 100% Cyan + 100% Magenta

As a result if a color is out of register it really shows up in the designs. In my cards this often means that the trapping isn’t large enough so there’s a white edge to some of the linework elements. Not something most people would notice but it really bothers me.

Kind of wonderfully, many of the cards in Peter’s mailday are better registered than the samples I had in my binder. So switching those out makes this print snob very happy. And since I’m increasingly being tempted by the siren song of TTM, having duplicates from these years is also very cool. Thanks Peter!

Walt Dropo

1961 Topps
1961 Topps

I skipped 1961 in my What Was I Thinking post because my mom’s ex-husband randomly gave me 31 (the Don Blasingame card isn’t pictured since it’s already in my Giants album) 1961 Topps cards with the jokey comment that I probably wasn’t going to be excited about a beat up Walt Dropo card.

Walt Dropo 1961 Topps At the time I hadn’t started my one-per-year project in earnest so this was a huge, exciting gift. This was ten times as many “old” cards as I had already collected and way more than any of my friends had either. Yet I was also disappointed with the condition. These are mighty beat up and I was a bit of a condition snob. The thing with getting into a hobby when penny sleeves and card savers and binder pages are everywhere is that the idea of using and interacting with the cards is very quickly beaten out of you.

Still it was fun to have cards of Brooks Robinson, Lew Burdette, Harmon Killebrew, Don Drysdale, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson. And this gave me a real kick in the pants to get one for every other year as well.

Frank Robinson 1961 Topps Brooks Robinson 1961 Topps Don Drysdale 1961 Topps Jim Gentile 1961 Topps Clete Boyer 1961 Topps Hank Aaron 1961 Topps

I’m also much less annoyed with the condition now. It’s funny. I “arrested” things 30 years ago and while they’re still not even close to “pristine” they look a lot better to me as 55-year-old cards then they did as 30-year-old cards. I also find myself increasingly touched by signs of use. It’s great to see well-loved cards and be reminded of how kids used to use them whether through bike spokes or flipping.*

*I’d honestly love to see a write up of the different card flipping rules that kids in the 1960s used since the whole practice is completely foreign to me.

And I’m finding other things about them to be interested in besides the “star” players. Like I’m especially interested in franchise moving and renaming things now. I haven’t put together a comprehensive wishlist or write up on this although I have a few things sketched out on my random wantlist. But I’m finding that I really love cards from teams which either no longer exist (name or location) or from teams which have just moved or been created.

With two brand-new expansion teams and a recent team move, there are a lot of these in the 1961 set—especially once you add in the teams which would move again before the decade ended. I’m very pleased to have a decent number of these situations in my sample of cards.

Lew Burdette 1961 Topps Art Spangler 1961 Topps

So I have two Milwaukee Braves cards (including Lew Burdette). It’s nice to see the Milwaukee caps and see that the Braves uniforms look very much like the current Braves uniforms. I don’t want or need a comprehensive collection of Milwaukee Braves cards but having a couple from each season there is fun. I’ll eventually be focusing on their first and last seasons but for now this is a satisfactory start.

Jim Archer 1961 Topps

I’ve one Kansas City A’s card. Similar to the Braves it’s nice to have a sampling from the years they were in Kansas City. I enjoy this one because I can see the full uniform and barely recognize the team without its now-traditional green and yellow color scheme.

Ken Hunt 1961 Topps Eddie Yost 1961 Topps

The Los Angeles Angels were a brand-new expansion team this year. I love that one of the cards I have is from a later series and so Topps was able to get a proper photo of the Angels caps and uniform. I’m so used to hatless photos such as Ken Hunt’s or blacked-out caps like my Manny Mota card that seeing a proper uniform is extra pleasing.

Rudy Hernandez 1961 Topps

I also have one card from the expansion version of the Washington Senators. Not hatless but definitely a photo taken to obscure the cap insignia. I highly doubt this is how Hernández wore his cap when he was actually playing.

Hal Naragon 1961 Topps Harmon Killebrew 1961 Topps Minnesota Twins 1961 Topps

And on the topic of the Washington Senators, I also have three Minnesota Twins cards from the old Senators’ first year in Minnesota. I’m a bit amused that Topps went with hatless photos here yet was just fine using a Senators team photo on the team card.

The Twins, Angels, and Senators cards are most exciting to me now because 1961 is the first year for all three of those clubs. I’ll be looking for more of those in the future too. Sadly the Angels and Senators don’t have team photos but I’ve already acquired their 1962 team cards to cover that absence. I also had one 1962 Mets card in my childhood collection which belongs with this project too.

Thanksgiving Surprise

Well this was a pleasant surprise. I was away for Thanksgiving weekend and returned home to find a plain white envelope from Marc Brubaker. Inside were a handful of cards and a mysterious object wrapped with blue painters tape. We’ll get to the cards later.

I dutifully started unwrapping. Maildays are always a fun surprise and since my Giants fandom is pretty well known now they usually consist of random giants cards—sometimes from my wantlist but more-usually from all the sets that have released in the past couple decades. Anyway I was primed to expect something featuring the Giants and was not at all expecting to find what was in there.

Holy shit. Marc had read my Old Timers post and he both had a duplicate of Bob Veale and was determined to send it to me. I’ve been slowly adding to that project but had yet to find the Veale card at a price I was willing to pay. It’s not expensive like the Danny Cater rookie but I like my card purchases to be maybe a couple bucks max for now.

Anyway this card looks great and it’s much more fun to be surprised by like this.

Only two cards left now on this project (Joe Christopher and Bill Fahey are also new additions since the previous post). The Danny Cater rookie is expensive so I’ll keep looking to see if anything cheap pops up. And the Charlie Wagner will likely be the most difficult addition since I don’t like the one mid-1970s TCMA card I’ve been able to find of his.

Anyway the rest of the envelope had six more Giants cards. I kind of dig the one of Bonds climbing the wall even though I suspect he’s watching a home run sail out of the park. Also the scan doesn’t show the way that the card is embossed with baseball stitches. The mid 1990s were a weird age for trying all kinds of funky stuff with printing as a way of trying to prove “quality.”

The pair of 1995 Donruss cards is also noteworthy since while Topps and Fleer’s 1995 designs are both so awful—Marc sent me some 1995 Fleer last time—the Donruss design is actually pretty nice and is one of the better picture-in-picture designs I’ve seen.

And these three 1983 Fleer stickers finished out the envelope. I don’t actively search for these stickers but they’re fun. I enjoy that these ones have a semblance of card information on the backs. Many stickers I’ve seen don’t waste their time on that stuff since the backs are disposable waste. Also as someone who’s probably* working on an Atlee Hammaker personal collection it’s nice to add some weird stuff to the checklist.

*It’s not official but yeah I should admit as much to myself and just put the want/checklist together.

So thanks Marc! This was unexpected on multiple levels and I’ve got to get something put together to send back. The good news is that since he’s a big through-the-mail (TTM) autograph collector that I don’t have to worry too much about sending him Astros cards that he may already have. TTM is one of those things that I’d love to try again but it works best if you assume the card is never coming back.

Always carry a spare ball

One of the things about collecting autographs was always being ready for the unexpected. It’s one thing not having an index card handy if a minor player is signing and you don’t happen to have a card of him. But missing an unexpected star because you weren’t prepared is one of those things you might find yourself regretting for a lifetime.

The thing I never mention about my Kevin Mitchell/Hank Aaron story is that I didn’t have anything to be signed by Aaron anyway. I only bought a ball after I realized Aaron was a possibility and then, as a kid, felt that I had to get it signed otherwise I would “waste” it.* This led to the only time I really got frustrated as an autograph hunter but also taught me a few valuable lessons—the primary one being “always carry a spare ball.”

*Note, I didn’t even “waste” that ball on that trip.

So I began carrying a spare ball, frequently three of them—two National League and one American League*—just to be ready for anything. I’m glad I did. Many of my favorite signatures were the unexpected ones where a player I wasn’t expecting ended up being in the dugout. I didn’t give up a ball easily but when I did it was for someone good. If my mom was watching me she’d know immediately that I got something special.

*As a Giants fan it was always more likely for me to run into a former Giants player. But back in the days before interleague play and one baseball with the Commissioner’s signature to rule them you had to prepare for both leagues.

Gaylord Perry

The first time this happened was at Tacoma Tigers game in 1993. We were on a family trip to Seattle but a large part of our trip involved going to baseball games—Tacoma, Everett, and the Kingdome were all on our itinerary. I was excited by Tacoma because I knew the seats in Cheney Stadium were from Seals Stadium and because Bob Boone was their manager. As a Stanford fan I’d wanted his autograph for a while so I duly prepared by acquiring his card. And I packed a couple balls just in case.

I did not know there would be an old-timers game going on in Seattle during our trip. I did not know that there was a 1963 Tacoma Giants reunion scheduled the same weekend. I definitely did not know that Gaylord Perry would be part of that reunion (I believe he was the only big name who showed up). I just saw a guy in a panama hat holding court in the dugout when I was getting Bob Boone’s signature before the game and kept my ears open to determine who he was.

I didn’t quite believe it when Perry signed. He was the first Hall of Famer I’d gotten and for a kid who couldn’t afford to buy autograph tickets at cards shows, any Hall of Famer was a white whale. That Perry was a Giants Hall of Famer—albeit one whose number had yet to be retired—was even more exciting.

The problem with getting such a big autograph before the game is that I don’t really remember the game itself at all. Faint memories of the Tiger mascot and the stadium being filthy. But what happened on the field? No clue. What other players I saw? No idea. I’ve looked over the rosters for both Portland and Tacoma and, while I recognize many of the names (this was AAA so there would’ve been many people with MLB experience) I don’t recall having watched any of them play.

Luis Tiant

I’m very glad that I brought more than one ball with me on that trip to Seattle.* The following day we drove up to Everett to catch an Everett Giants game.** I didn’t prepare for this one at all otherwise I’d have brought a Norm Sherry card with me. And I had no idea the Giants would be playing the Yakima Bears. Only after we were seated and I had a chance to look at the rosters did I realize that Luis Tiant was the Yakima Bear’s pitching coach.

*Looking back on it now, carrying multiple balls on this trip was wildly audacious and optimistic.

**The same game I mentioned previously.

This was exciting. While not a Hall of Famer, Tiant was—still is—one of those guys. Someone who probably should be in the hall. Someone whose legacy as an important, fan favorite, player shines stronger than his actual (also solid) statistics. When people talk about Tiant they talk about him emotionally.

That I had to wait until the end of the game to get his signature meant that I had time to enjoy Everett’s clean ballpark and minor league silliness (Trash Man and Garbage Boy!). I remember this game being nice and crisp and enjoyable. Once the game ended I wandered toward the Yakima bus and waited for Tiant.

If autograph collecting maxim number one is “always carry a spare ball,” maxim two is “always carry a spare pen.” The only time I ever had a pen fail on me was when Tiant started signing. You can see the aborted first attempt on the ball still. He seemed so apologetic when he told me the pen didn’t work. I’m just glad that I had an extra pen in my bag.

Billy Williams

I didn’t do a lot of autograph hunting at Candlestick when I was a kid. Minor league parks and Spring Training were definitely more my style. But I did occasionally hang over the visiting dugout rail when the timing worked out and if there was a star player who I really wanted to try and get. Ryne Sandberg was one such player so I spent the hour or two ahead of a Giants-Cubs game down on the railing.

I was not successful. Ryno did sign for some little kids but didn’t make it down the rail to me. By the time batting practice was winding up and we were all about to get kicked out of the box seats it looked that I was going to return empty handed. Then someone recognized that the guy who’d been sitting in the dugout the entire time was Billy Williams.

By that time there were only a handful of us left and I may have been the only other collector who had something appropriate for Williams to sign. So I handed down my ball and minutes later was getting shooed away from the dugout and back to my seats in Upper Reserve. To be honest, I wasn’t confident that I’d gotten a real Hall of Famer’s signature until I got home after the game and looked pulled out my reference books.


Donell Nixon 1989 Score I mentioned previously that my first big autograph experience in Philadelphia was mainly about cards. And sure there are lots of stories from that trip like Kevin Mitchell, Will Clark, Orlando Cepeda, Hank Aaron, and the Old Timers. But most of the experiences, while I’m glad I had them, kind of blend together into a whirlwind of a weekend.

My childhood autograph binder was roughly organized by event. This wasn’t because of any conscious effort to organize things autobiographically, it’s just that, as I acquired new signatures, they went into the back of the album. I’m trying to figure out how I want to reorganize things now. It’s nice to have the events but it’s also not the best way to present things.

Before I reorganize though, in much the same way that I felt obliged to scan my childhood collection of “old” cards before incorporating them into my current acquisitions, I’m going to post my autographs by event (where appropriate) so I can remember when and where I got them once they’ve been reorganized.

Kevin Mitchell 1987 Topps Will Clark 1987 Topps Brett Butler 1987 Topps Scott Garrelts 1987 Topps Pat Sheridan 1987 Topps Robby Thompson 1987 Topps Kevin Mitchell 1989 Score Brett Butler 1989 Score Scott Garrelts 1989 Score Craig Lefferts 1989 Score Candy Maldonado 1989 Score Kirt Manwaring 1989 Score Don Robinson 1989 Score Robby Thompson 1989 Score Jose Uribe 1989 Score Matt Williams 1988 Topps Don Robinson 1989 DonrussEarnie Riles 1986 Topps

I travelled with 1987 Topps and 1989 Score. I’m not sure why I chose 1987 Topps except that it was my oldest set and I’m pretty sure I liked the idea of getting the oldest cards I had signed. I have no idea why I didn’t take the 1987 Topps Don Robinson although I do like how the 1991 Donruss looks.

I chose the 1986 Earnie Riles instead of 1987 because the 86 was his rookie card. Similarly, the 1988 Matt Williams is his rookie card (I only started getting the Topps Traded set in 1988 so I didn’t have his 1987 Traded card either).

1989 Score on the other hand was a set which I just loved the look of. The action photos were great and the white card stock and semi-gloss finish were a welcome contrast to Topps. It manages to be both photo-centric and colorful and they all look great signed.