Art Card PC

William Klein died on the tenth. As a photographer he managed to combine street photography with fashion and really nail down how a photographic glimpse can suggest movement and mood. He also has a bunch of photographs of 1950s kids in New York, of which “Gun 1” may be the most famous.

I wrote a little about “Gun 1” and how it represents how we grow up, absorb, and reenact crime stories a few years ago but it was another Klein photo that came to my mind first when he died.

William Klein, “Baseball Cards”, 1955

Much like “Gun 1,” “Baseball Cards” is a photo of kids hamming it up for the camera and indulging in American mythology. Only this time it’s not a mythology of violence. Instead it’s baseball, baseball cards, and the way you want to show off that you have a card of your hero.

While a lot of art sites date this photo as 1954–1955, any baseball card collector will immediately identify the cards as 1955 Bowman. A quick check through the couple dozen light-bordered cards shows that the featured card is Yankee Gil McDougald. This is perfect for a photo taken in New York City.

I tweeted out a RIP from the SABR Baseball Cards account and included an image of “Baseball Cards” because the number of times cards show up in art is pretty small. Then I promptly realized that for some reason I’d never considered getting a McDougald card despite being an art/photography junkie. Mark Armour promptly offered to send me a copy before I had a chance to even go to COMC.

The card arrived a week ago. Turns out that this was Mark’s only 1955 Bowman duplicate so there’s a certain amount of kismet involved here. It’s fantastic and you can see that it is indeed the card which is featured in the Klein photograph. McDougald is also not a player whose career I’m particularly familiar with but looking up his stats I can see that he’d absolutely be the kind of player a Yankees fan would be happy to have. A very good 10-year career, 6-time All Star, and a key part of 5 World Series championships and 8 Pennants.

I still need to identify the other card in the Klein photo* but this is joining a bunch of 1979 Topps cards in my Art Card mini-PC. This isn’t cards as art but cards that show up in art.

*The current leading candidate is Randy Jackson. That Jackson and McDougald are both pretty low numbers on the checklist also suggests that the kids might have their piles sorted by number. 

The 1979 Topps cards of course are the cards that show up in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Anti-product Baseball Cards. I mentioned a checklist in my post where Marc set me a few of these but I may as well put everything here.

William Klein’s “Baseball Cards”

☑︎ 1955 Bowman #9 Gil McDougald
☐ 1955 Bowman #87 Randy Jackson

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Anti-product Baseball Cards

☐ 1979 Topps #58 Bob Randall (JERK)
☐ 1979 Topps #82 Mets Team Card (checklist)
☑︎ 1979 Topps #196 Steve Kemp (HOT DOG)
☐ 1979 Topps #315 John Matlack (Wally)
☑︎ 1979 Topps #343 Ed Glynn (BUS PASS)
☑︎ 1979 Topps #445 Steve Henderson (JOE)

I currently can’t think of any other cards for this PC—maybe the pair of Pete Rose 1985 Topps cards even though Andy Warhol’s print doesn’t match either of them—but I’m hoping more will come to me. Until then this is a fun thing to have going on in the background.

Liebig 1925 Le Piu Belle Piazze d’Italia

It took a while after getting my first Liebig set but I finally picked up some more earlier this year. The oldest one I grabbed was from 1925 and features “the most beautiful piazzas in Italy.” The artwork is great with vibrant chromolithography that works perfectly with the scenery but the main reason I got the set was because half of it depicted places that I’d visited in my first trip to Europe twenty years ago.

I’ve only been to Europe a couple times but my first trip was to Italy. While we flew into Rome our tour group immediately got on a bus to Assisi. Which mean that my first real experience was making the walk to San Francesco and seeing that piazza for the first time.

assisi-sanfrancesco.jpg

Replace the monks with tourists and you have pretty much exactly what I saw. I really like the night scene with the stars and the way the stippling adds texture to the roof. There’s also a lot more wear and tear visible on the buildings. When I visited, the rebuilding after the 1997 earthquake was just about complete and everything looked so brand-spanking new that the whole town felt a bit Disneyfied.

I also visited Florence and Venice on that trip. No photos that match these views but the images are still great reminders. As with the Assisi photo I love the skies and the way the stippling provides texture on the buildings. It looks like stone on the Palazzo Vecchio and simulates the design on the Palazzo Ducale.

There’s also something wonderful about chromolithography in the way small bits of color remain incredibly vibrant. This is most evident in the San Marco detailing but you can see it in other parts of the cards as well.

I don’t want to say that being in these old Italian cities is like being in a time machine but it’s impossible to not be aware of the history of the place and how it’s been depicted in various media over the centuries. Seeing them on 100-year-old cards and how they’re very much the same (aside from being less crowded) is a bit of the same phenomena.

The other three cards in the set are Rome, Milan, and Trento. I would have loved if there were a Siena card but alas. I don’t have much to add about these aside to say that the flowers on the Spanish Steps are fantastic and I can’t not think of Richard Scarry* whenever I see them in an image. Also the skies continue to be fantastic as does the stippling detail and texturing.

*Yes and Roman Holiday.

The Trento card however does deserve a few notes. This set is dated to 1925 which puts it right at the border of Mussolini going full fascist and declaring himself Duce. I can’t help but note the basic Italian tricolor without any additional flags or markings which makes the card almost dateless instead of being clearly fascist. At the same time, that piazza is no now named the Piazza del Duomo rather than after Victor Emmanuel III and I wouldn’t surprise me if that changed happened in the post-WW2 years.

The backs are blurbs about the squares. Some, like Assisi’s are pretty brief. Others are a lot more involved.

San Francesco in Assisi celebrates the life of Saint Francis, was designed in 1218, and features gothic architecture influenced by Germany due to German architects helping after construction difficulties.

In Florence, the Piazza della Signoria is formed by the Palazzo Vecchio (built in 1298), its 95-meter bell tower “La Vacca,” and the Loggia dei Lanzi (with Andrea Orcagna given credit for the design). The card also mentions Cellini’s Perseus and Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes as being in the Loggia a well as copy of Michelangelo’s David in the square. I need to point out that Judith and Holofernes was in the Loggia from 1506 to 1919 when it was moved to the front of the Palazzo Vecchio which makes either the card or the dating of the set incorrect.

The Venice card lists seven of the buildings that make up the piazza and then handwaves the rest. This takes up most of the card back but it also mentions that the Venetian republic was very prosperous at the time of construction. It also specifically addresses how the campanile collapsed in 1902 and was subsequently rebuilt in 1912.

Rome is clearly the first card of the set since much of the back introduces the set theme and how an Italian piazza can stand in for the entire city in representing the region, the way the buildings form the square, and reminding us of historical moments. It doesn’t say a lot about the Piazza de Spagna aside from noting the steps, Trinità dei Monti, and Bernini’s fountain.

The Milan card is interesting because it claims that a statue of Oldrado da Tresseno was the first equestrian statue of the Middle Ages but said statue has since vanished and been replaced with a well. Replacing a statue with a well seems weird to me plus I can’t find anything online that suggests that such a statue existed. There is a statue/relief of Tresseno on horseback on the Palazzo della Ragione, which the card describes as “the most glorious building in Milan” (l’edificio più glorioso del Comune di Milano) due to its place as the center of official communication. The card also mentions that the colonnade of that palace has interesting acoustics, ostensibly to encourage the discovery of conspiracies. Finally it mentions the Loggia degli Osii (oddly spelled as OSII).

Finally, to Trento and what’s now known as the Piazza del Duomo. According to the card this was known as the Piazza Grande before it was named after Victor Emmanuel III. The fountain of Neptune gets special mention due to Trento’s Roman name being Tridentum and Neptune’s trident therefore being the symbol of the town’s name. The Cathedral and its construction from the 10th to 16th centuries is also mentioned (but not the Palazzo Pretorio whose bell tower features so prominently on the card) as is Santa Maria Maggiore which, despite not being pictured at all, gets a call-out as the location of the Council of Trent.*

*All of a sudden why the Tridentine Mass is named what it is makes sense to me.

Is funny. In typical pre-war fashion, the cards which most attracted to me to the set ended up being the ones that I was least interested in once I read the backs. I had zero interest in the Trento card until I really looked at it but in some ways it’s the most interesting of the set.

¡Por Fin!

A quick roundup of a few mailings that I haven’t posted about yet but which I did not receive while I was on vacation. The first one came from Mike Sommer before I left. Mike blogs over at Wax Pack Hero and is one of the few guys who are big into the selling side of the hobby who I can stand.

There are a lot of guys on Twitter who sell cards and claim to be collectors but who are really just flippers looking to make a quick buck without offering anything of value themselves. Mike though specializes in the long tail and is willing to put the work in to turn large lots of cards into organized 18¢ singles on his Sportlots.

While I’d love to dig through big unsorted boxes of cards like he does, I’d much rather pay him 18¢ a card just for the cards I want rather than spending 100 times as much and having to deal with sorting and storing everything.

Anyway a couple months ago he was sorting through some 1984 Fleer and tweeted that he’d come across the legendary Glenn Hubbard card. I responded that I still hadn’t purchased one  for my collection and he just offered to send this one to me. Which means that at least one gaping hole in my 1980s and 1990s iconic card photos* is now filled.

*Still need Jay Johnstone, Billy Ripken, Bo Jackson, Gary Pettis, and Mike Perez.

This is such a weird card in how it’s both a common and not. No one wants to spend a ton of money on a Glenn Hubbard card just because it has a silly photo. At the same time, everyone wants one of these and holds on to them. They‘re frequently not available on any of the card purchasing sites which is an astounding thing to say about any card from the junk wax era.

Thanks Mike! I’m super happy to finally have this one in the photography binder.

On the topic of photography, a couple weeks ago Shlabotnik Report saw me mention my appreciation for the goofiness on 1976 SSPC and promptly filled up a PWE to send me a few. Only three SSPCs but they definitely fit the bill—especially the Jim Colborn card.

He managed to fit a dozen cards into the PWE though and managed to hit with most of them. Lots of Willie Mays inserts which I didn’t have. A shiny Kris Bryant insert.* A fun Joe Panik card from San José Giants. And of course a SPAM card** for the Python collection.

*Interesting to see Panini trying to keep Donruss Elite a thing still. As if the hobby would go bananas about a /10,000 “limited edition” card nowadays.

**Oh lord is it dangerous to know that SPAM cards exist. One of these days someone out there is going to send a whole mailer of SPAM cards. Also I should definitely consider converting a 1980s/90s food oddball to be a SPAM oddball for a se of Hawaiian-born players. 

Awesome stuff, thanks Joe Shlabotnik!

Gartmann’s Chocolade

I’ve mentioned @prewarcards’s Twitter sales and how they’ve cost me money before. Sometimes I buy from him* but more often he just puts things on my radar that I’ve never seen before and want more of than just one card. Sometimes these are content-based desires but the usual thing is for me to see artwork that makes my jaw drop.**

*Calcio Storico, Zeenuts, Carl Hubbell, Italian soccer

**I’d link more but I forget all of them.

The latest sets in this category are chocolate cards from Germany made by the Gartmann’s Chocolade company. As with Stollwerck, Gartmann appears to still be in business. They even have a fun section of their website devoted to their trading cards. Unfortunately though I haven’t been able to locate a website that details the various sets and albums.

While the ebay listing just says “early 1900s” the first set I got is actually listed in TCDB with a release date of 1907. Described as “Mood Pictures,” I thought they depicted various climates from around the world. I got them because I liked how they looked—in particular the card which seems like it depicts Monument Valley—and how they were more dramatically colored than most of the landscapes I see on prewar cards.

Turns out I was a bit mistaken since the six cards are evocatively named “in the desert,” foothills, cliffs, “grail castle,” evening, and barrow while the text on the backs is even moodier and darker than the fronts.

The backs feature verse which describes each scene. It’s interesting to me that the same rhyming schemes differ card-to-card but I was surprised at how dark the actual verses were and how often death is mentioned.

“In the Desert” talks about camping out in with Bedouins, moonlight on the Nile mountains, sands drifting past bleached skeletons, the occasional vulture’s screech, and a ghost caravan (Geisterkarawane) of spirits who previously perished on the route.

Foothills describes almost a dance between a mountain (male) and a cloud (female) as the mountain tries to catch a cloud as it passes in order to drink of its water after a day of baking in the sun.

Cliffs are as dark and moody on the back as it is on the front. Miserable pines. No joyful springtimes. Just rocks covered in moss which dulls all sounds.

What I thought was monument valley is in fact “Grail Castle” instead of being rock formations is a literal castle by the sea in late sunset red light with a moon in the sky, fog all around, and a soundscape mixing festivities from the castle with the sound of wind and waves. I don’t quite understand the last stanza but it looks like it gets kind of dark in a way that suggests the writer is dead.

Evening is about the winds blowing leaves off the trees, forests getting ready for winter, and the way a denuded willow tree reminds the author of a dead friend they’ll never see again.

Barrow—which I’m really not seeing on the card front, maybe Hünengrab means something else too?—is the weirdest verse of the bunch since it’s only concerned with a portentous sky that threatens rain before the sun breaks through.

The second batch is from Album 16 instead of Album 7 so I’m assuming it’s a (relatively) more-recent issue. That it uses the logo that Gartmann still uses today is another important sign here. I got these because mainly because the set includes a printing card and I may just be collecting those.

Anyway the whole set is is about artists and the six featured cards are a painter, silhouette cutter, wood carver, lithographer, engraver, and sculptor.

The text on the backs is not verse this time and, except for one card, offers a short history of the art form. The painter is the exception and instead of history is a vignette about the generic painter depicted on the card front. He has a fourth floor attic studio with high ceilings and clear natural light from North-facing windows. Sketches and pictures cover the walls while the smell of paint and turpentine fills the air. And he’s all dressed to go out but has one last adjustment to make to the painting.

Everything else describes the art form but I appreciate the silhouette cutter description the most because it’s not a craft I’m especially familiar with beyond its existence. I don’t see silhouettes in museums unless they’re of famous people and it occurs to me that it’s the outlier of the six arts in this set because it’s never become a “fine” art.

According to the card silhouettes appeared in 1757 and are named after the French Finance Minister at the time, Étienne de Silhouette, as a bit of snark about how cheap they were. Aside from specifically mentioning its popularity in Rococo and Biedermeier periods the card is very clear that silhouettes are now unfashionable, consigned to fairs and similar large markets. This is consistent with how it remains the kind of thing you can find in Disneyland’s Main Street but really no where else.

Woodcarving mentions how carving is universal but its German heyday occurred in churches from the Middle Ages. It also suggests that wood carving was recently regaining popularity along with other arts and crafts—which I’m assuming is referencing Art Nouveau/Jugendstil.

Lithography is about how the art was invented by Alois Senefelder in 1796 and really tries to explain how it works. The card mentions transferring drawings to porous slate*, etching the stone with acid, and making impressions on paper but misses the key element of how it’s an oil and water resist method. It does however flag how color printing has become popular and how printing in color requires multiple plates.

*note, it’s actually limestone.

Unfortunately though both of these Gartmann sets are not printed via chromolithography and are merely basic halftone screens.

The Engraver covers how it’s a German invention from the early 15th century with the earliest dated Copper plate being 1446. It names Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer as the most important representatives. And it mentions the multiple ways (line, dot, stipple, etc.) that the drawing can be executed.

Finally,  the sculptor card, like the woodcarving one, references the long human history of sculpture as reaching back to the Stone Age. According to this card the pinnacle of sculpture was ancient Greece and Rome (yeah no mention of the Italian Renaissance and guys like Bernini) and while it mentions there are still excellent sculptors around no example is given.

And that’s about it. Two fun sets from a new-to-me manufacturer.

So some of you may have noticed all the ſ characters…

One thing I expressly have to point out. While these cards all use Roman/Antiqua lettering, the artist cards also use the long-s (ſ) This is something that most typefaces/languages had dropped at least a century earlier and persisted mainly just in Fraktur typefaces in Germanic states.* The German Wikipedia page about the long-s ties its usage in Antiqua with the rise of the “ß” character** and how for much of the 19th century “ſs” and “ſz” were used until the spellings were standardized and, starting in 1904, the “ß” became normal in typefaces. It took a decade for “ſ” to be expressly ruled out in the 1915 Duden.

*I mentioned some of this ages ago when I got my first Sanella card and got into the Antiqua-Fraktur dispute.

**Which has its own interesting story

As a type nerd seeing “ſ” in the wild in non-intentionally-archaic 20th century printing is kind of special. Hard to read but definitely not something I’ve come across before. Some of the cards feature both “ſſ” and “ß” in their typesetting which only confirms the transitional nature of the type.

Vacation PWEs

While I was on vacation, in addition to the sixteen TTM returns I was also pleasantly surprised to find a handful of PWE trade packages waiting for me as well. Always nice when it’s not just bills and junk mail waiting.

The first package is from Greg/Night Owl and includes a page’s worth of fun. I missed out on his giveaway* and apparently these are the only remaining 1985 Fleers he had to get rid of. I’ll gladly take them though and remind myself to put a need list together.**

*Relying on an RSS reader means I miss out on any timed contests.

**Though I also don’t have enough cards to feel like a needlist is necessary yet. Who puts a set needlist up with over 600 cards?

The two 2009 O Pee Chee black borders are great. The more I look at the last 25 years of baseball cards the more sets like this one stand out for being distinct in both feeling like a traditional set while also not directly copying an old design. It would’ve been nice to see what Upper Deck did with this brand had Topps not grabbed an exclusive license in 2010.

Not much to say about the rest of the cards though I do appreciate the 2022 2021 Big League Crawford since I’m not hitting that set hard at all. Also I’m super curious how Greg, as a Dodgers fan who doesn’t go for all the fancy shmancy new stuff, ended up with a 2019 Montgomery Club Giants team card.

A PWE from Jeff Katz almost works as a TTM return. Years ago I was playing around with photoshop and throwing together some Ginter-like cards. Jeff was one of the first I ran through the Ginterizer since his moment wearing the Mayor Quimby sash for the Simpsons day was brilliant. Yeah I couldn’t get all of “Mayor” to fit without making Jeff look like Kingpin.

When Marc printed these all up he sent them to everyone. I got my copies but when Jeff got his I asked for a signed one. He signed small so it would fit on the paper. I’m curious how a silver sharpie would’ve worked instead but not everyone has those lying around.

Another PWE had two packs of John Racanelli’s Literal Cards. This has been an ongoing thing on Twitter where John posts often awful but also often hilarious tweaks on existing cards. I never expected him to actually produce these but I’m glad he did.

There’s something about making them real cards that takes the joke to the next level. My kids also enjoyed them—especially Les Rohr and Willie Mays—which surprised me a little because they always groan when I make these kinds of jokes.

And finally a mini-zapping from Kenny who came into a nice lot of Card Gens and generously decided to spread the wealth. These are always welcome in part because it gives me an excuse to link to Kenny’s You Tube video again but because the actual use of these cards is so far outside how we’ve thought of using cards in the US.

The few Card Gens I have have all come from Kenny and to-date, have been from the 2010 set. This is the first 2012 I have and the fact that it’s a Giant is even cooler. I still hold out hope that I’ll run into the 2012 Sam Fuld on of these days since it’s the only card he got that year.

Very cool guys and thanks for livening up my post-vacation mail pile.

1926 Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures

This post is about a set of cards I got way back in the beginning of March and totally forgot to blog about. Sometimes I’ve put a post off because it’s a lot of work. This time I actually thought I’d already scanned and written about the set and wasted way too much time driving myself crazy by searching my blog for the post.

Anyway, Player’s Cigarettes Straight Line Caricatures set from 1926 is one I had been eyeballing for a long time. A lot of the caricatures sets are either too cartoony or feature no one on the checklist who I recognize but this one has striking art and a decent checklist of prominent men in the British Isles.*

*“British Isles” used purposely as I’ll mention later. As is “men” since no women made it into the checklist. There is however one non-white guy as The Aga Khan is included.

I’m not scanning all the cards and instead am just grabbing a nice gallery of recognizable names to give a flavor of the set. Charlie Chaplin is probably the most exciting card due to his fame and how excellent his iconic look works with the art style.  But it’s fun to see authors like J.M. Barrie and Rudyard Kipling as well.

Churchhill and Marconi are obviously big names. In 1926 Churchill has yet to become famous for what most of us know him for while Marconi is 30 years past demonstrating his wireless telegraph and has gone full fascist.

Jack Hobbs is one of the few sportsmen in the set and is probably the best choice for this time period in British sport. I don’t know much about Cricket but certain names have made their way into my consciousness and Hobbs is one of them.

Like Marconi, Douglas Fairbanks is one of the few subjects who isn’t from the British Isles. But in 1926 he was on of the biggest movie stars around.

Finally the G.B. Shaw card is why I say “British Isles” since 1926 places this set after Irish independence and there are a decent number of cards that feature Irish statesmen or artists and even mention the settlement of the “Irish question.” Shaw is another card with artwork that I really enjoy but he’s also written some of my favorite plays.

The backs are generally positive descriptions of the subjects which omit a ton of specific highlights from their careers. No mention of Chaplin having just released The Gold Rush* in 1925 or Fairbanks and The Sheik in 1924. Shaw winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 isn’t mentioned nor are the titles of any of his plays. None of Kipling’s books are named though I do love the last line of the card about how “the British Empire is his world and Imperialism his religion.” The only work which is named is Peter Pan on Barrie’s card and that’s used in a way that assumes that you’ll understand the reference.

*Not at all surprised at no mention of the Lita Grey scandal.

This trend is consistent with the other cards as well. Zero description of Hobbs’s performances in any specific matches or setting the record for first class 100s. Lots about Churchill’s personality but, aside from a vague reference to him as a turncoat which could be referring to either or both times he switched parties, nothing about his politics.

Marconi is one of the few who has a specific achievement mentioned and dated. This makes me wonder if he was perhaps less well known at the time and the cardmakers thought that they had to name him as the inventor of the wireless telegraph in order to justify his placement in the set.

One of the most interesting things about this set though is how it captures a moment in time right before everything was about to change. Talkies were about to take over Hollywood and while Chaplin has his greatest movies ahead of him, Fairbanks career was about to basically end. In Europe, fascism and the rise of the Nazis were on the horizon and Marconi would go a very different direction here compared to Kipling and Churchill.

August returns

This is really the second half of July plus August since I was away on vacation for a month and a half. I filled up the hopper before I left and was pleasantly rewarded for it.

Elapsed time on these includes my time on vacation (hence nothing shorter than 60 days) but much to my surprise I got a decent number of stragglers back as well.

We’ll start with the stragglers and a 502-day return from Brad Komminsk. Way back when, Komminsk was one of those “can’t miss” prospects. Unfortunately he could never translate his minor league success to the majors.

He did however play 8 games for the Giants in April 1990 as he was picked up off of waivers at the beginning of the season. So despite having zero Giants cards he slips into my Giants binder.

Pat Rapp is another straggler with a 488-day return. HE’s also another short-term Giants who I saw in San José before he debuted with the team in 1992. He was picked up by the Marlins in the Expansion Draft the following year but did make it back to San Francisco in 1997as part of that magical season.

Not officially a straggler but Brian Holman returned a pair of cards in 207 days. Holman had a short but very respectable four-year career that got cut short by injury. His career highlight was retiring 26 straight batters before losing his perfect game.

While the end of the 1993 season kind of stung as a Giants fan, we did find a little amusement in the Phillies beating the Braves in the NLCS and a lot of amusement in Danny Jackson’s Hulkamania celebration. When I found a photo of it I knew I had to turn it into a custom and send it out. 196 days later it came back. Jackson kept the extras and I hope he enjoyed them.

A 146-day return from Bud Black sort of twisted the knife a bit on my disappointment in how the Giants no longer sell game-day programs. Their covers used to be fantastic and while this one may not have the goofy humor of Will’s World or Caveman the photo composite is fantastic and, as with the Jackson return, is well worth the wait.

Mike Loynd is a bit like Brad Komminsk in terms of big hype which didn’t pan out. Loynd was the 1986 Golden Spikes winner and made it to the majors that same year, only two months after being drafted. 1987 ended up being his last MLB season though since after the Rangers traded him he never got back. He sent this back in 145 days.

A good portion of my returns this month are 1987 Topps since that’s wha I was filling the hopper with. The oldest of these that I got back last month was a 117-day return from Chris Codiroli whose signature looks pretty nice o this card. Codiroli was a pitcher for most of the 1980s with six of those seasons being as a regular part of the A’s rotation. He was even the Opening Day starter in 1985.

Manny Sanguillén doesn’t need much of a bio even though he gets lost in the deep catching pool of the 1970s. Anyone who can beat out Johny Bench for an All Star slot is special and his part in the first all-black MLB lineup is also worth mentioning. I’m glad I had a 1976 card handy since it looks great signed and the 87-day turnaround was absolutely worth it.

A 65-day return from Teddy Higuera added a player and card which immediately brings me back to my first years of collecting. He had great 1986 and 1987 seasons and to me he’ll always be an All Star first despite his career getting derailed by injury.

Ray Soff got into a bunch of games in 1986 and only a dozen in 1987. But he managed to get onto a pair of cards in the 1987 Topps set since the Cardinals Leaders card features a nice candid shot of him on the mound. This return clocks in at 65 days which means it was one of the last requests I sent out before my vacation.

Cliff Speck is a single-season guy but he does have a notable career highlight. Well “highlght.” He gave up the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 33rd inning in the longest professional baseball game in history. H returned this in 63 days.

A 63-day return from Bob Tewksbury brought the kind of player I miss in the modern game. Tewksbury was a right-handed junkballer who put together a very good 13-year career. He’s third all-time in walk rate among modern pitchers and threw a 79 pitch complete game one-hit shutout with no walks and only three strikeouts. I like Game Score as a stat for fun but it definitely shows its faults when someone throws up a Maddux.

Another 63-day return this time from Bob Kearney. He made his MLB debut with the Giants in 1979 but didn’t become a full-time player or really show up on proper cardboard until 1983. These still slide into my Giants album though.

Rich Yett had an intersting career. He started off in the bullpen, became a starter for over a year, then ended up back in the pen. This was in 62 days and I kind of like how the 1990 Topps card turned out.

Bill Gullickson had a nice 14-year career and led the AL in wins in 1991. It also looks like he proved to be a bit of an inspiration in Japan because he was able to play despite being diabetic. I also like the story about him inspiring Sam Fuld. This came back in 61 days.

A 60-day return form Bryan Oelkers means this was probably the last card I sent out before leaving. Oelkers is one of four MLB players to have been born in Spain and, when he debuted, was the first from Spain since 1913.

A good month and lots of fun to return to after a vacation. Next month will likely be super dry since I haven’t sent anything out in over 60 days. But who knows there are always more stragglers out there and I never give up on a return.

Some Random Pickups

A short post of a few pickups that came in before I left for vacation. These are all cards I never expected to get since they’ve been generally out of my league pricewise but one day my phone lit up with multiple Twitter DMs linking to the same ebay auctions for these at actually-reasonable prices.

Y’all are bad influences. But let’s go through these in order from oldest to newest.

Starting off we’ve got a 1958 HiRes Rootbeer card of Darryl Spencer. I have mixed feelings on this design. I don’t really like it on a personal level. At the same time it’s so weird and goofy that it’s the perfect oddball card. I also love this particular image since the khothole gang design works way better with action photos than portraits and the outfield advertisements add a ton of visual interest.

This design is also especially noteworthy as being one of Bowman’s three 1956 prototypes. One reason I don’t like it is that it’s way too visually similar to 1955 Bowman’s wood-paneled TVs. But I can totally see it being the starting design for 1962 Topps’s peeling posters on wood design (and by extension 1987’s wood panel homage to 1962).

I always wanted one of these, never thought I’d get one, so having one in the binder now makes me super happy.

Next is a 1966 Topps Rub Off of Jim Hart.* Unlike the Hires cards these never really appealed to me. Besides the reversed image they’re also pretty flimsy and blurry. At the right price though I can obviously be convinced to get a sample.

*Which confuses me a little because so many of the letters in his name are symmetric and I can’t not read this as Trah Mil. 

It is indeed fun to get to know all the different things Topps tried in the 1960s and I’ve only scratched the surface with the Rub Off and this 1968 sticker of Mike McCormick. I’ve no stamps, decals, stand ups, or god knows what else but these are definitely fun to add to the binder even though I never search for them.

I think the McCormick sticker was peeled off and stuck to something at some point since it feels like the kiss-cut outline of a real sticker instead of a janky handcut. Plus the back could totally be no-longer-sticky adhesive. This set is more fun than the Rub Offs with it’s brighter colors and heavy black outlines and while I don’t feel it for these small stickers I absolutely feel he appeal for the full-size ones. Those however are definitely out of my price range.

Thanks goes to everyone who let me know about these. You troublemakers know who you are and my collection is definitely better and more interesting as a result.

Admiral Moffett

I’ve been away for about a month now* finally spending time in the Bay Area again for the first time in three years. Before I left though I did scan a bunch of stuff to write about if I felt like writing on my vacation. For the most part I haven’t felt the urge but this one card seems appropriate.

*Observant readers (optimistically using the plural here I know) may have noticed that posts have dried up a little.

The 1934 National Chicle Skybirds set is one I’ve admired for a long time. The artwork is great and early aviation is kind of wonderful to read about. At the same time the set itself is a tough one to work and I’m incapable of buying singles just to have singles. I need a hook of some sort.

In this case, with no Stanford guys in the set, I found my hook in the Admiral William Moffett card. Moffett is an interesting guy, not a pilot or flyer himself but the leader of the development of US Naval Aviation in the post-WW1 period. For my purposes though he’s both the namesake of Moffett Field and the proponent of the project that resulted in Hangar One.

I grew up under the Moffett flight path. I got to hear and watch P3-Orions* most days and see the Blue Angels roar overhead for a week each summer. It was just normal to see and hear planes at very low altitudes turning overhead in their approach to the base.

*I wish there were a P3 card in the Power for Peace set.

Getting a card of the man who is credited of the creation of the base is the perfect hook, especially since it was named after him after his death. Those are very much key childhood memories (even though I’ve never actually been on the base) and I should probably grab an old postcard to go with the Sky Birds card.

It goes beyond just the base though. Moffett’s involvement in dirigibles represents something that continues to fascinate me. I knew better than to exalt in the blatant pro-war nature of stuff like the Blue Angels and having a large Naval Air Station nearby as a potential target during the Cold War was a little unnerving. Lighter than air aviation though is a complete alternate history which represents a path not taken in both aviation and combat.

When I was a kid the Goodyear Blimp was a novelty that showed up at sporting events for aerial shots and advertising. The idea of those being actual functional aircraft that people used to travel is the kind of thing which ignites my imagination.

I remember looking at old books about the Macon (and Akron) and reading about how they were used. Hanger One is an unforgettable sight from the freeway yet I can’t even fathom how big it actually is. I can’t help thinking about how different air travel could’ve been had things broken differently and I love seeing movies where this kind of thing is explored.

In some ways it makes perfect sense that I now live down the road from Lakehurst. While it doesn’t make sense to visit Moffett until Hanger One is restored I should look into scheduling a visit to Lakehurst and seeing its Hangar One as the East coast equivalent.

Little Giants!

Much of my love for Minor League Baseball is because I grew up going to San José Giants games. Their affiliation started in 1988—right at the beginning of my baseball fandom*—and the idea of seeing players who I could later see at Candlestick was definitely compelling right out of the gate. But the games were just fun. A more raucous environment. Being able to sit nice and close. Crazy contests like Smash for Cash.** They all made me appreciate minor league ball and we were quickly going to multiple games a year and I even had my birthday party at a game.

*I knew about the Bees and even got the one and only foul ball I’ve ever gotten when I was walking past a Bees game a the exact right moment but never went to a game.

**Late in the game when the Peter Gunn theme started and the Rotten Robbie truck rolled out onto the field was always a highlight.

I missed going to a game when I was visiting California in 2019 and had zero idea that it would be another three years before I had a chance to go back. Thankfully I finally got back to a game last week. Turkey Mike’s BBQ is still there. As are the Churro guy* and the Beer Batter.** Since our tickets were free we got BBQ and churros. Unfortunately though Smash for Cash is gone…so it goes.

*I still need to get his card.

**A gimmick that Trenton tried this year but hasn’t figured out how to do it as well as San José. Sadly it looks like Martinelli’s has dropped its sponsorship so he’s no longer the apple juice batter after the 7th inning.

The big news is that the Giants are in Low-A now. And it kind of shows with baseball that’s closer to what I saw in the Draft League at Trenton than in AA Somerset. The Giants spotted Stockton with a 7–0 lead after 1.5 innings (making us question whether we’d wasted our money on the tickets) and proceeded to tie everything up at 8 apiece via a grand slam and Earl Weaver through three complete.

Utterly wild but absolutely in keeping with this level of ball where no lead is big enough and no pitcher can be relied on. Or fielder. The second Giants pitcher (Joe Kemlage) took over in the 3rd and pitched a great game—2 earned runs in 5 innings—with his biggest problems coming as a result of some sloppy shortstop play that gifted Stockton a run.

Unfortunately the Giants could never get the lead despite making it exciting in the 9th and lost 10–9. Kemlage got hung with an undeserved Loss but we went home happy after a game that started off so badly ended up being surprisingly crisp and exciting.

Oh, and the Beer Batter hit the absolute tar out of the ball all night as he not only never came close to a strikeout but got thrown out trying to stretch his second double into the cycle in the 9th inning.

The boys and I also got some autographing in. Travis Ishikawa is the Giants hitting coach and we caught him before the game. San José Muni is one of the lousiest places I’ve ever seen to get autographs* so I counted that as a win. Both boys know Ishikawa and his eponymous game so they were very happy too.

*It wasn’t easy when I was a kid but it’s gotten worse. There’s basically zero access to the players on the field and no place to hang around after the game.

We got some excitement as well. Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy were in the house that night (probably in town for that weekend’s 2012 reunion). We saw both by the cages and it was nice to say hi. We had nothing proper to get signed (plus we’ve gotten them TTM) so we didn’t bother them much. It was funny to see the boys get a bit star struck by Boch since they did not expect him to be so big.

Really interesting for me to compare the player behavior to what I see on Somerset. Guys in San José are clearly still excited to have cards and are perfectly willing to not only sign a ton but chat about what pens they prefer. A shame they lose that joy by the time they reach AA.

All in all a great night. San José Muni is celebrating its 80th birthday this season which sent me to the googles to see how many professional baseball stadiums in the US are older than it. From what I can tell there are 7 older stadiums (5 MiLB and 2 MLB) currently in regular use which is about what I expected.

Stadiums don’t really last that long and Muni is definitely showing its age. It’s almost embarrassingly bare bones compared to Trenton or Somerset but it’s got a lot of character and has definitely gone around to being funky old instead of just a dump (replacing the fiberglass bleachers with aluminum ones helped a ton) and as the Bay Area has gotten increasingly new and shiny and characterless it’s nice to spend time in those places that essentially haven’t changed.