October Returns

Not a lot of returns as I’m still not sending out a lot of requests. But I’ve gotten a few which are over a couple hundred days old and those are always a lot of fun to open up.

The month started off with a 32-day from Steve Buechele. I’d tried sending these to spring training a couple years ago but they got rejected because he wasn’t there so it was nice to have a success on a my second try (this time c/o the Rangers stadium). Always great to add another signed custom to the album too even though he didn’t keep any of the extras I sent. It’s also always fun to add a signed 1993 Upper Deck card. I’d love to try building that set but I’m scared of the UV bricking.

Another great return, this time Larry Walker in 100 days. I saw a lot of people blaming Coors Field for Walker’s numbers while he was on the Hall of Fame ballot but my enduring memory of him is watching him crush balls to all fields during night games at Candlestick. Dude could rake anywhere in the league and is a totally deserving member of Cooperstown.

A 210-day return from Kevin Tapani brought a nice 1991 card back to me. I remember him being a solid pitcher for the Twins that year (and he was) and, since 1991 is right in the sweet spot of  my childhood fandom, that means that I think of his 1991 form first and forget pretty much everything that happened to his career afterwards.

My third spring training return of the year came back after the season ended. Giants pitching coach (and 2009 AL Rookie of the Year) Andrew Bailey has been working through his fan mail during the offseason and returned a pair of customs (he kept none) in 217 days.

This is one of the few private signings I’ve taken part of. While I never saw Jack Clark as a Giant I both remember the stories about him and appreciate his part in Mike Mandel’s 1970s photography. Also, I’ve been grabbing autographs of Willie Mac Award winners* when I come across them. Since Clark is the inaugural winner he’s a good key part of the collection.

*Currently at 21 out of 42 different winners. Plus Willie McCovey. 

Since signings are scheduled the timing is a little less important since I need to get the card there early enough before the signing and then I know to expect it a couple weeks after the scheduled date. That this came back in 43 days is about the expected time.

A 10-day return from  Jerry Kutzler brought me the kind of card they don’t make anymore. Kutzler pitched in 7 games in 1990 and got cards in multiple sets in 1990 and 1991. This 1990 Donruss is particularly nice with a great photo that works really well with the red border. So many players slip through the cracks now though and never get cards it’s really sad.

Don Stanhouse has two great nicknames. “Stan the Man Unusual” would be sufficient for most people but the “Full Pack” moniker that Earl Weaver gave him is even better. I just wish I’d had an Orioles card to send him. He turned this around in a quick 9 days and the big bold signature overpowers the pre-printed facsimile in a nice way.

And that’s about it for this month. The quality more than made up for h lack of returns. Next month should continue to be slow as my send rate has just slowed down and I don’t like to hit people over the holidays. With any luck though some more stragglers will make their way back.

September Returns

A slow month due to refilling the hopper after being away all summer but I got a few good returns nonetheless.

First return of the month was a 77-day turnaround which arrived a week and a half into the month. Guy Hoffman was one of those AAAA players who went undrafted but pitched great in the minors. He finally stuck a bit with the Reds in 1987 as a fourth starter who was good enough to last the season but not be asked back afterwards. I like how the personalization works on this card.

Vern Law is one of those TTM legends who I’ve been meaning to send to but just never had a card of. Last summer though I visited a card shop by my parents in order to dig through their off-grade vintage boxes* and found this 1963 card for a buck. A great-looking card that works perfectly with a signature…and everything else that Law likes to write on his cards.

*Sadly these boxes are being allowed to wither and die since they’ve clearly been strip mined for anything with flip value and the card shop no longer sees them as being worth maintaining. A shame since my favorite part of any card shop is a well-stocked box of old cards to dig through.

Law’s inscriptions mean that I don’t have to write anything about his career since his highlights are all listed. But he was a very good pitcher in the 1950s and was a big part of that 1960 Pirates team. True to his legend form he returned this in only 11 days.

Best return of the month was this 167-day one from Rachel Balkovec. I made this custom way back in the beginning of 2020 as part of my preparation for that year’s Trenton Thunder season. She’d just been hired and between her and Alyssa Nakken I was enjoying making customs for important people who I didn’t expect Topps to make cards of.

Then of course COVID happened, the Yankees dumped Trenton, and Balkovec was named the manager of the 2022 Tarpons. Before this season I sent her a handful of customs, explained why I’d made them initially, congratulated her on her position in Tampa, wished her luck, and said I looked forward to seeing her manage in Somerset.

It seems like as soon as she finished up her season she sat down to answer her fan mail. She kept the extra customs and I’m very happy that she sent this one back. The Tarpons had a rough first half of the season but had a very respectable second half so I’m hoping the Yankees keep her around.

A 13 day return from Joel Youngblood brought another wonderful signed team postcard to the collection. I’ve mentioned it before but Youngblood featured prominently in my first ever MLB game. Despite being a 9th inning pinch hitter he wound up with a 2 for 3 game, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 3 innings of defense at 2nd base, and 3 innings at shortstop.

Jim Gosger has a card as a Giant in the 1970 Topps set even though he never played for the team. Thankfully that card is a high number which I’d never send out TTM and so I get to avoid having to make a decision on the “does this go in my Giants album” question. I wish I had a Pilots card of him to send but the best I had was this 1968 Topps card with the blacked-out Kansas City cap. He sent this back in 7 days.

A pair of cards from Vic Correll came back in 9 days. He was a backup catcher through most of the 1970s but these two cards are both really nice. The 1978 is a nice portrait at Candlestick and the 1979 (possibly also at Candlestick) is a great catcher’s pose.

Del Unser had a 15-year career as a utility player and pinch hitter, bouncing around with five different teams in the 1970s before settling back with the Phillies at the end of the decade. For the Phillies he’s notable for both homering in three straight pinch hit appearances (for which he got a 1980 Topps Highlights card) and for a few timely doubles in the 1980 World Series which played a large part in the Phillies victory. He returned this pair in 12 days.

I’ve not been so good about keeping the hopper full this month. Yes I got some requests out but I always forget how much work it is to get back into the swing of things in the new school year. All of which means that next month looks to be pretty thin.

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.

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.

July Returns

I sent a ton of stuff out at the end of June because summer activities were starting to fill up and as a result July and August were likely going to be zero-request months. Always nice to fill the hopper and see what happens and returns did continue to come in.

A lot of the requests were 1987 Topps duplicates and sure enough the first return of the month was one of them. Marvell Wynne is one of those guys who I definitely remember seeing a Candlestick with multiple visiting teams back in the late 1980s. As a Giants fan, thankfully his back-to-back-to-back game was in San Diego. He signed this pair in 8 days.

A 7 day return from Steve Farr brought both another 1987 Topps and another 1991 Studio. Something about those 1987s with powder blue uniforms really hits the nostalgia button for me. And it’s always nice to add another 1991 Studio. I’m not trying to build a signed set but this takes me to over the 10% mark (aka 27).

An 11-day return from Pat Pacillo was not on a 1987 card but a 1988 duplicate. Pacillo was part of the 1984 Olympic team and has a USA card in the 1985 set. Unfortunately I didn’t have one of those handy but he played for a couple years with Reds and ended up in all the 1988 releases as a result.

I got a bunch of Dennis Leonard cards back in 8 days. Sometimes you just have a bunch of duplicates. I made a joke on Twitter about how he barely aged from 1976 to 1987 then someone pointed out that the photo on his 1987 card has to be from 1982 because the Royals switched to the script Royals in 1983. This is now the second card I know of in 1987 Topps which uses a year-old photo as the Giants team card features Jim Barr in a photo from 1983.*

*Has to be 1983 because of the uniforms. TCDB claims it’s Jim Gott but Gott wore number 51 and the pitcher in the photo is wearing a number in the 30s. Also Barr has signed the 1987 card TTM.

An 11-day return from Bill Krueger brought another 1987 Topps card back. Krueger had a 13-year career in which he played for 8 different teams. His longest stint was with the A’s at 5 years and then he pitched no more than 2 years with anyone else. His seasons with the Brewers though did result in a net-positive WAR and his second-highest number of innings pitched.

Continuing on the 1987 theme is a return from John Stefero in 8 days. Stefero was a backup catcher who played in parts of three seasons but managed to get into 52 games in 1986. The most noteworthy moment in his career seems to be his game-winning hit in a game that the Orioles scored six runs in the 8th inning to turn an early 7–0 deficit into a 9–7 lead only to blow it in the 9th inning  and need a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th for a 10–9 win.

Mike Boddicker is the kind of pitcher we just don’t see anymore. A right handed junkballer whose stuff Rod Carew famously called “Little League slop,” he had a very-respectable 14-year career including a big part in the 1983 Orioles World Series championship as well as winning 20 games and leading the league in ERA in 1984. He signed this pair in 10 days.

Mike Smithson was another 10-day return with a trio of cards. While he was part of the 1987 Twins team he didn’t feature in the postseason and only played there once Boston started running into those late-80s A’s teams.

While I pulled a 1987 duplicate of Jose Cruz from my pile I decided that I preferred to send this pair of 1981 cards. Cruz is one of those all-time underrated guys who resonates with anyone who saw him play but has kind of been forgotten by everyone else. A shame since he had a great career with a run of consistently good and occasionally excellent seasons from 1975 to 1986. Very happy to add him to the binder in a quick 12 days.

An 11-day return from Mike Vail brought one of those players who I didn’t realize played for the Giants. His only Giants card is in the 1983 Mothers Cookies set so there’s a reason I missed him. Vail put together a 10-year career by playing for 7 different teams. He had a 23-game hitting streak as a rookie but never rally found that form again.

And finally a 15-day return from Steve Fireovid to wrap up a 1987-heavy month. He was in the majors for 6 years but aside from a 1992 Bowman card just featured in the 1987 sets. He’s probably most notable for keeping a journal of his minor league experiences in 1990 which he then turned into a book. I’ve not read it but it seems like a lot of people were expecting something like Ball Four and got something a lot less silly. Probably an interesting read now though given the amount of action going on with regard to finally fixing the situation for minor league players.

And that’s about it for the month. Very 1987 heavy but that’s a good thing. I’ve been avoiding this set for a while because it gets used way too often but it does make me happy to see them signed. It was my first real set from my first real season as a fan and even though Topps has been trying to ruin the design through constant reuse the actual cards themselves still bring me right back to being in elementary school.

June Returns

A decent month making May’s requests look very good as stuff arrived at the beginning of the month and just kept on coming.

June started off with a pair from lifetime Met Ron Hodges. Always fun to find a guy who played at least a decade for only one team. His 1985 is a career capper card and features a nifty catcher image that I really like. He returned these in 14 days.

A pair from Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki in 35 days added a interestingly-framed 1992 Topps to the collection. Milacki had a relatively short career but pitched a couple highlight-worthy games. The main one is a 3-hit complete game shutout in which he faced the minimum 27 batters. It’s an amazing and impressive game to look at since Milacki also walked two guys and only struck out three in 101 pitches. But he got 16 ground balls, four of which turned into double plays and one player got caught stealing. Milacki also pitched the first 6 innings of a combined no hitter in 1991 (exiting the game after being struck by a batted ball).

An 11-day return from Elliott Maddox brought another interesting story across my awareness. Maddox was a decent player but kept suffering leg injuries. The injury he got in 1975 (which derailed a very promising season) led him to sue the City of New York for the shoddy field conditions. While he won his initial suit he eventually lost on appeal as the court ruled that it was his responsibility to refuse to play if the filed conditions were unsafe. This strikes me as incredibly unfair.

Dale Berra sent back a 1981 Topps card in 8 days. He’s unfortunately, probably the most memorable for his baserunning fiasco with Bobby Meacham.* In 1983 he also became the first player since 1939 to play for a team that his father was managing when he joined the Yankees.

*Yes I’ve mentioned this before.

I feel a little bad mentioning the baserunning though since Berra also included a bonus 1980 Topps card and thank you note. Has been a while since I got a bonus card and it’s always nice when that happens.

Back to working sets from my youth. Tom Trebelhorn was the manager of that Brewers team which started 1987 with thirteen straight wins (let’s not talk about what happened after that). That being my first season as a real baseball fan it still stands out prominently in my memory. Was fun to add this, my fourth signed manager card of the set, in 34 days.

Kevin McReynolds is one of those guys I remember watching when he came through Candlestick. Those late-80s Mets teams were always noteworthy opponents with a scary lineup that was always in contention for the division and winning 90+ games. This was a quick turnaround in just 11 days.

Jeff Russell was another 11 day return.  I didn’t get to see him pitch but as the 1989 Rolaids Relief Award winner he was one of those extra notable players whose names I remember. He’s got a lot of nice cards but I like the photo on this Upper Deck.

I probably should’ve gone with a Cardinals card for Tom Herr since that’s how I remember him but I like 1991 Studio too much. That Cardinals team was just pesky. Get on base and run run run to the point that Herr managed to drive in over 100 runs one year despite fewer than ten homers. He’s  close by in Pennsylvania and got this back to me in 13 days.

Sometimes I wonder what it means to send cards to guys who are famous for being busts. Kirk Dressendorfer was one of the A’s vaunted Four Aces along with Todd Van Poppel. Unfortunately it seems like he had been overworked in college* and didn’t have anything by the time he reached the majors. Still, as someone who lived through the hype, his name brings me right back to that promise and I’m happy to get this card back in 42 days.

*I cut my teeth keeping score at college games and the amount of pitches college guys threw back then was insane. It didn’t make sense to me then and I totally understand why pitch counts have become so important now.

An 8-day return from Johnny Ray brought another of those names which just takes me back. Ray had a very good 11 year career with the Pirates and the Angels as a switchhitting second baseman who was a tough out—especially a tough strikeout—and for most of his career an above average fielder.

This is a pretty run-of-the-mill photo for 1986 Topps but is an example of how good most of the catcher cards are. Jody Davis started off as a big stick, no glove catcher but by 1986 had turned himself into both an All Star and a Gold Glove winner. He returned this in 17 days.

This was not a May request. I sent to Dave Lemanczyk in March and it came back in 98 days. I very much appreciate the extra photo of him on the Blue Jays since he was one of the originals and led the team in Wins that first 1977 season. And yes it’s a photo print of a JD McCarthy postcard which looks pretty good considering that the original was halftoned.

Both of these Gregg Olson cards are ones I distinctly remember from my youth. He was one of those hot rookies who turned out to be a great closer in those early days when everyone was trying to find their own Dennis Eckersley. Good fastball and a vicious curveball which was more like what you’d expect from a lefty. All his requests go through the Auburn baseball program so it was completely fitting that I sent the Auburn card. Both of these came back in 60 days.

The last return of the month was The Bull, Greg Luzinski in 24 days. I only ran into White Sox cards of him when I was a kid but I obviously had to send a Phillies card. One of these days we’ll get to a Phillies game and, hopefully, he’ll be there at his barbecue and the boys can get cards signed of him.

And that’s June. Summer is going to be a bit of a lull as vacations and things will get in the way of both sending and receiving mail. Hopefully some returns still trickle in though lord knows I have enough out there still.

May Returns

As expected, a slow month with a very slow start. I didn’t even get my first returns until after a couple weeks.

The first return of the month was an 11 day return from Scott Cepicky who I should’ve googled before sending. I know a lot of the guys I’m sending to are pretty conservative but Cepicky is one who’s actively getting in the way of COVID vaccinations and writing anti-trans legislation. Sigh. So it goes. I google the older guys who I don’t know but the ones from my youth who I sort of remember? I often go with my memories.

Second return of the month is from former Pirate and current Pirates broadcaster John Wehner. Definitely one of those guys I remember from my youth in par because his name is very very close to the name of one of my childhood friends.  He sent this back in 18 days.

The last round of customs I printed had a few empty spaces. I asked around for suggestions and one of them was to make cards of good TTM guys who played in the 1950s. This made sense to me since I don’t really have cards, let alone duplicates, from those years.

One of the suggested names was Bobby Morgan who was a utility infielder in the 1950s for multiple teams including the Dodgers and Phillies. Dodgers photos were either more prevalent or I just liked that multiple-bat photo the most. rue to his rep he signed and returned one custom, keeping the rest, in only 9 days.

Charlie Maxwell was another good recommendation who returned all three cards in 9 days. I always feel a little guilty when this happens. Maxwell was an All-Star outfielder who was known for rarely committing an error. In this case I was able to get a pair of photos of him with the team he had his best years with.

A private signing brought a nice autograph from John “The Count” Montefusco back in 44 days. I did not request the inscription. I love that he added it anyway. Montefusco was a San Francisco legend in part because he was a bright spot in a pretty bad period of club history. I also knew him as the last Giants no hitter—a feat that seemed ancient in the late 1980s and which took another 20 years after that to finally happen again.

Montefusco is also one of those guys who’s got a really ugly section of his wikipedia page. Big yikes there which I’d somehow missed when it happened.

Danny Tartabull returned a great pair of cards in 16 days. His 1987 Rookie Cup card is a fun one but I really remember him as a masher and All Star with Kansas City. He fell off after leaving he Royals but in my mind he’ll always be that offensive threat from the early 1990s. This is also the first 1990 Leaf card to enter the album.

A 14-day return from Todd Zeile added another guy I remember from my youth. Zeile was a big prospect for a few years and, while he never became a star, put together a nice 15-year career which he finished with an above average OPS+ and over 250 home runs.

Wikipedia claims that he’s the only member of the “hit a home run for over ten MLB teams” club but a quick look through the Baseball Reference Octavio Dotel All Stars list shows that there are a half-dozen guys in that fraternity. Zeile and Matt Stairs are the only two who have hit a home run for eleven teams though and Zeile is the only guy to have hit over five home runs for each team. The other “homers for ten teams” guys are Henry Blanco, Russell Branyan, Marlon Byrd, José Guillen, and Kenny Lofton.

While I’ve sent to Turk Wendell before, I couldn’t not send again with this card. Wendell is a character and this 1994 Collector’s Choice card captures his habit of leaping over the foul line. H sent it back in 16 days. It looks great signed and features his standard blackened corner and card edges.

Bill Schroeder is one of the current Brewers announcers and, as a former catcher, ended up on a few very nice cards. I’ve long liked his 1986 Topps card but his 1991 is also very nice. I sent these care of the Brewers and he sent them back in 56 days.

And the last return of the month is from Ron LeFlore in 8 days. LeFlore is a great story as well as a total throwback to an era of baseball when the stolen base mattered. Very cool that he was the first guy to lead each league in stolen bases and  very impressive hat he averaged over 50 steals a season in his 9-year career.

Not a bad month all things considered. I’ve done a little better sending requests out too (LeFlore was the first of those to return) so hopefully next month picks up a little.

April Returns

April picked up where March left off with a flurry of returns in the beginning of the month and a couple nice spurts as my full pipeline paid off.

The first return of the month as Gary Nolan in 15 days. I found more duplicates from my 1978 set build but I had to send Nolan a Reds card as well since he was one of the primary pitchers for the Big Red Machine. It’s kind of amazing that he even got a 1978 card though since he retired in 1977.

On the topic of 1978 duplicates I also got a 15-day return from Stan Bahnsen aka the Bahnsen Burner. he most interesting thing when I looked him up was learning about and recoiling from Chuck Tanner’s pitcher usage in the 1970s. As much as modern bullpenning drives me nuts apparently I respond even worse to old-school “blow out your aces’s arms by pitching them as often as possible.”

Barry Foote was, for a while, a better catching prospect than Gary Carter before settling into a role as a career backup catcher. HE did however put together an eight-RBI game in 1980 which is a pretty cool accomplishment. This card was beat up when I sent it and didn’t get USPS’d in its 10-day round trip.

I got a nice 14-day return from Ed Ott who was a bit of a Pirates fan favorite before the Tony Peña years. I don’t normally send 1982 cards but with the different team I figured it would be more fun getting it signed than letting it just sit in a box.

Bobby Mitchell was the Trenton Thunder manager when I first started going to games. I wasn’t collecting autographs then (which means I missed out on Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres) but it was nice to write him and thank him for being part of what became a fun thing to do with my kids. He sent this back in 12 days.

Okay this is a fun one. While I’m not an A’s fan and didn’t even like them much when I was a kid, I also find myself remembering those late-80s, early-90s teams kind of fondly now. They were good and the players on them were definitely some of the big names in the Bay Area. So while I didn’t collect them much as a kid I definitely enjoy getting autographs from guys like Dave Stewart, Jose Canseco, and Terry Steinbach now.

Dennis Eckersley is definitely one of the key guys from those teams and he was as close as you could get to a force of nature in a few of those seasons. I had ton of options to send him but I went with a nice action image and a nice portrait. Very very happy to get these back in 15 days.

Mickey Weston appeared in five Major League seasons but never reached double digit games in any of them. He got the most work in 1989 and 1990 and ended up on cards from my peak collecting years a a result. He sent this back in 46 days and included a tract card as well.

I got a nice 5-return day mid-April with a great range of cards including one of my longest ever returns. This isn’t quite Max Venable’s length but Andrew Lorraine got a Stanford custom back to me in 664 days. I was just a kid when he started pitching at Stanford but his parents used to sit by us at Sunken Diamond. I got his autograph on the season ticket when he was a junior since he was one of the most-promising prospects that season.

A 27-day return from Darin Ruf brought some more spring training returns. His roster card is the always-fun dugout celebration but I especially like the card of him pitching. I hope he enjoyed it too; since he kept one of each custom I think he did. When I made it last year I was still in “this is going to be this kind of season” thinking and I could not have been more wrong.

Jim Kern is kind of the original “Fear the Beard” and even now has a great look for baseball cards. I had an extra 1981 but his 1982 photo captured the bear glory so well I had to send it too. These came back in 21 days.

Kern’s nickname is the wonderful “Amazing Emu” and he’s selling a book about his experiences with the Rangers. Given his status as a character in the game the books probably  decent read. I’m also wondering if anyone’s sent him an emu card to get autographed.

I’m not actively collecting father/son autograph combos but I decided it would be fun to send a duplicate card to John Mayberry Sr. and include a custom I made of his son. I’d watched Junior play at Stanford and have customs printed and ready to go if he ever starts signing. Senior kept the custom and sent my card back in 10 days.

And the last card of that 5-return day was the custom I made for SABR’s 2022 Burdick Award Winner. James Beckett is probably the most controversial pick we’ve made so far. He sits right on that fine line between promoting a common culture and creating a hegemony. For my generation his name and price guides bring back a ton of fond nostalgic memories and I’ve met countless people online who share those experience. Which is great.

The flip side of this is that many of my generation also still feels like there are certain rules to collecting—many of which have to do with value and playing the market. As much as Beckett is responsible for so much of what I loved about the hobby as a kid, he’s also responsible for why I was able to walk away. As an adult, I’ve chosen to focus on the good stuff and how he captured the zeitgeist of the excitement behind cards for over a decade and was happy to thank him for that.

It only took him 10 days to send my card back plus he included an extra 2005 Fan Favorites as well.

I’m pretty sure every rookie/prospect from 1990–1992 resonates with me. I was in junior high and we were all tuned in to every player who could be “invested” in. It’s only fitting that my first return after the Beckett return was one of those guys. Not a “dated rookie” with a ton of hype, just a good solid ballplayer who had a ton of potential. Sadly he’s one of those guys who just couldn’t stay healthy. I was happy to get these back in 33 days though.

I found myself with a few 1984 duplicates and decided to try sending those out. I don’t have a lot of 1984s signed since I’m thin on everything which predates 1986. Frank LaCorte began his career as a starter but found a good home in the Astros bullpen. He signed this in 12 days.

A 12-day return from Jack O’Connor added another signed 1984 card to the collection. For guy who played in parts of six major league seasons he didn’t get a lo of cards so I’m glad I had on of his available.

Back to 1986s this time with a 12 day return from Dave Van Gorder. He’s another guy who despite a handful of years in Major League Baseball only has cards in a couple of years. This time though one of the cards is from the first set which I collected and so all those cards and players bing me right back to my first year in the hobby.

I decided to send a request to Clay Dalrymple to thank him for being part of the Old Timer’s letterhead I got when I was ten. I need to have at leas one signed Phillies card from that group and this one looks really nice signed. He sent this back in 10 days.

I’m not sure how the only Jim Slaton duplicate I had was from 1978 but I’m glad I had one of him as a Brewer since he’s the franchise leader in wins and innings pitched. He sent this back in 16 days.

The same day I got the Jim Slaton return I got another 16-day return on a 1978 card from Bill Atkinson. I’ve come to really appreciate the 1978 design with autographs and the handful of action cards like this one work especially  well signed.

Mike Caldwell is one of my favorite autograph stories. He was the coach of the Campbell Fighting Camels who cinderella’d their way into the NCAA tournament in 1990. I managed to track down his 1976 Topps card before their game at Sunken Diamond and it was a lot of fun to surprise him with it after the game.

He’s a good TTM guys so I figured it would be fun to thank him for being so cool 32 years ago. I figured it made sense to include a Brewers card seeing how he’s one of the more successful pitchers in their history. He didn’t respond to my note but did sign both cards in 32 days.

I wasn’t able to keep my pipeline full over the course of this month so things ind of trickled off ion the last couple weeks. A combination of he kids being on spring break, getting my 2022 Giants Customs up and running, and dental issues ended up taking my focus. I’ll hopefully get up and running again soon and with any luck other returns will continue to straggle in.

March Returns

March picked up where February left off with a good flurry of returns as I’ve kept my sending rate up. When the lockout ended I got a bunch of spring training requests out and even got one back.

Ted Sizemore spent a dozen years in the majors. A couple pretty good years in the first half of his career, one of which resulted in him him winning he Rookie of the Year in 1969. He’s one of those guys who I’m aware of because many of his cards, including this one, features photos taken at Candlestick. This one came back in 23 days.

Gene Garber had a whopping 19-year career and had appeared in over 900 Major League games by the time he retired. While he spent the most years with Atlanta, by the time I was collecting he was with the Royals and had one of those card backs stuffed with stats that I loved to see when I was a kid. As with Sizemore these also came back in 23 days.

A quick 9-day return from Paul McClellan brought my first Giants cards of the month. He debuted in 1990 and appeared in over a dozen games in 1991. One of those names I definitely remember because of my peak fandom years. I appreciate that he signed these in silver even though neither of these cards needed it.

Len Gabrielson was a Giant for only a couple seasons. His 1966 season though involved him beating out the Orlando Cepeda as the starting left fielder.* Gabrielson bounced around the majors for most of the 1960s before finally sticking with the Dodgers for the last four years of his career. He signed with a nice personalization in 17 days.

*Cepeda’s bum knee was threatening to end his career and resulted in him being traded to St. Louis early in 1966.

It’s a little hard to read in the scan but Rick Leucken not only personalized my card he added two bible-related inscriptions. One, Romans 1:17, is pretty standard. The other says “Saved by Grace” but I totally read it as “Saved 34 Games” at first and was really confused since that’s neither something to brag about nor did he save anywhere near that number of games.

He only pitched for parts of 2 seasons but they just happen to cover my peak collecting years so I’ve got a bunch of dupes of him. This came back in 10 days.

An 11-day return from Mike Rochford who spent a couple of years with Boston before heading abroad to Japan. I’m meanwhile in the midst of hitting some of my 1990 Upper Deck duplicates since I accumulated a few during my set build.

I got back pair of Upper Decks in 9 days from Matt Young. Always nice to get a couple of teams. Young’s most notable achievement in baseball is that he’s a member of the “pitched a no-hitter and lost” fraternity. He lost a 2–1 game at Cleveland on April 12, 1992 in which he walked 7 guys and didn’t have to pitch the bottom of the 9th inning. He gave up one run to a walk, two stolen bases, and RBI ground out, and the other to two walks followed by two fielders’ choices.

Another 1989 Donruss dupe came back in the form of a 35-day return from Craig McMurtry., who has a pretty nice-looking signature. He was the runner-up to Darryl Strawberry for the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year Award and even picked up six first place votes.

Jack Brohamer’s claim to fame might be that he’s the only player to hit a home run while wearing shorts. He also shows up in a nice pair of cards in 1973 which have been of interest to the baseball card community in that they show two pars of the same play. I went with his pair of 1976 Topps cards which he returned to me in 34 days.

Xavier Hernandez was one of those prospects I remember from my youth. I remember him mainly as an Astro and had totally forgotten about him being a Blue Jay first. He sent these back in 12 days.

This looks like a huge return but it’s probably fake. Mike Schmidt has been a notorious ghost signer for years (and is apparently not particularly pleasant if he’s asked to sign for free in person either). Still, I figured it was worth a shot to see what happened. Wasn’t going to send any nice cards but a 1986 Topps duplicate (which reflects 1985 and might be the only year he shows up as a first baseman) is totally fine. 188 days later I got back what I’m assuming is a secretarial signature.

I’m not working 1991 Leaf but I have a bunch of them and occasionally raid the pile when I see returns from a guy. This Mark Lee is one such card and it came back in 38 days. Lee played in parts of four MLB seasons over eight years with 1991 being the year he played the most.

Pete O’Brien put together a respectable 12-year career, even earning five MVP voting points in 1986. I sent the Cleveland card since I’m going through my 1990 Upper Deck duplicates. I unfortunately did not have any Mariners cards to send him. This pair came back in 16 days.

I sent a bunch of customs to Spring Training as soon as the lockout ended. No idea what to expect but in only 11 days I got a return from Kervin Castro. He kept no duplicates but as one of those guys who just made his MLB debut and has no real cards out there, he’s exactly the kind of player I enjoy sending customs to. He’s one to watch and has the perfect name for a pitcher who relies on breaking balls.

Franklin Stubbs is one of those names which resonates from my youth. He was one of the Dodgers starters in my first MLB game and I definitely saw him multiple times at Candlestick.  He’s also a great TTM guy and sent these back in only 7 days.

I’m clearly also working my 1991 Upper Deck duplicates. Bill Sampen returned this in 7 days and added a great photo of the Expos road uniforms that I remember from my youth. The unique uniforms plus the extra national anthem combined to make Expos games always feel a little special.

I think I’d conflated Garth and Dane Iorg when I sent to Dane. (My brain now keeps making Dane and Garth in Dane’s World jokes) I realized I should get the pair to add to a passive collection of baseball family autographs that I’ve been building. Iorg is a fast signer and returned this in 7 days.

As these things go, I promptly got another family card in my next return. This time it’s a 10-day return from Gary Sutherland whose brother Darrell is part of my Stanford project. Since Gary went to USC there must have been some good school rivalry stuff going on between the two of them. Gary had a decent 13-year career and even scored the first run in Expos history.

While I knew Lee Elia as the Phillies manager, I had no choicebit to send him a 1983 card since his rant is legendary. I didn’t have the guts to ask him for a “print it” inscription but it’s definitely a fun card to have signed and anyone who knows, knows exactly why I selected it. Besides being a quick 8-day return, he also included an extra card from his time managing the Clearwater Phillies.

I found myself with a bunch of 1981 duplicates and figured I’d try sending those out. 1981 isn’t my favorite set but I like how it looks signed. Mike Tyson was somewhat of a defensive specialist in the 1970s with St. Louis. It felt weird sending him just a Cubs card so I pulled the much-nicer 1980 card out of my collection to go with it. I don’t normally like the double-signed look but every once in a while it’s nice to change things up. He’s a reliable signer and returned these in 8 days.

The next day I go another 1981 return, this time Craig Chamberlain in 9 days. Chamberlain had a short career but he started off with three complete game victories. This is kind of mind boggling when compared to the way today’s game is pitched.

The las return of the month is a 56-day one from David Segui. He had a nice 15-year career which started and ended in Baltimore. It’s been a while since I got a 1991 Studio card back and those are always nice to add to the collection.

All in all a very good month. With spring training winding down my single spring training return looks to have been a false alarm of sorts. I haven’t given up but I’m also not optimistic. At least the pipeline is full of other requests still so fingers crossed for April.

February returns

Finally getting some requests out again. Which meant that I started to get them back too. Always surprises me how fast things come back. Feels good to be back in the saddle even though I didn’t get to send things out to Spring Training as I was hoping to.

The first return of the month came from junkballer Chris Hammond in 21 days. He had a rough start to his career. Was having a decent 1994 when the strike hit but everything else was kind of mediocre. In the late 90s he reinvented himself as a reliever and by 2002 he’d put things together and had a pretty good three year run. His 2002 season in particular was kind of amazing as he pitched 76 innings over 63 games with a 0.95 ERA.

A 21 day return from Tim McIntosh brought another 1991 Studio card to the collection. I’m really enjoying working these duplicates as it’s one of the most-unique sets from my youth and it taught me so much about what I can consider a baseball card to be.

I got a  super fun return from Brian Johnson in 44 days. One of my favorite things about sending extra customs is getting notes back thanking me for them. Knowing that I’m offering the players something is one of the best parts of sending customs and it’s always nice to hear that they appreciate my work. This card in particular has photos from two highlights of his career. The Stanford photo is from the post-championship celebration in (I think) 1987 while the Giants photo comes from his eponymous game in 1997 (which I attended).

Johnson had an interesting career. One of only two positions he didn’t play at Sanford was actually catcher (the other was 2nd Base and of course he also played Quarterback) so of course that’s what he ended up playing in MLB. He put together an 8-year career with his 1997 season in San Francisco being the clear highlight. It’s always nice when a journeyman player manages to get a game named after him for all the right reasons.

A fast 6-day return from Richie Hebner brought another 1981 card to the collection. I wish I had more cards of him since he’s a bit of  character whatwith the gravedigger nickname and offseason profession. I also enjoyed his chapter in the Wax Pack book.

The same day I got the Hebner return I got a 207-day return from Ed Hearn. I enjoy both catching photos but there’s always going to be something about a catcher standing in a cloud of dust which takes a baseball card to the next level. I’m convinced that they don’t make dirt like that anymore and it’s a shame photographically.

1990 Fleer is a design that gets maligned (completely fairly) as boring and forgettable. It is however often transformed by an autograph. No signature this Roy Smith card would be kind of awkwardly cropped and forgettable. With the signature it has a certain something. Smith’s a bi of a baseball lifer and returned this in 12 days.

I always like being able to send cards that are like a decade apart. It’s nice to get a range of a guy’s career—especially when it’s someone whose last card is from my youth. This 8-day return from Buck Martinez is the perfect example with a card from 1976 and 1985. I only wish I’d had a card of him managing as well.

A 9-day return from Steve Balboni made me think about the way I react to players as I go through my duplicates from the late 80s and early 90s. Much to my surprise I’m finding myself having strong reactions to America League guys like Balboni or Kelly Gruber. I think this is because as a National League fan I only heard about the  more-prominent American League guys. I might remember more NL guys but the prominent AL ones are the ones that I learned through hype.

Balboni, for a few years, was a bonafide star. A ton of home runs in 1985 and even when his production declined he still hit bombs. I don’t think I ever saw him play but I definitely knew who he was.

1987 being the first full season of baseball I ever watched means I was actually invested in the World Series for the first time. I don’t normally remember mangers but I do remember Tom Kelly who makes a nice pair with the Whitey Herzog return. He returned this in 10 days.

Thad Bosley’s 1986 Topps card is one of those that sticks out to me from my youth. I didn’t include a 1986 card in my Reminiscence Bump post because I wasn’t collecting that year but either his card or Jerry Don Gleaton would be my choice for cards I remember collecting from packs of that year (the Traded set of course consisted of cards I coveted). Anyway it was fun to get a signed copy back in 11 days.

I got a 17-day return from Mike Mason who had a decent 7-year MLB career. It makes sense to get him on a Rangers card but I really wish I’d had a copy of his excellent 1988 Topps card as well. Alas I probably sent all mine to One Million Cubs years ago.

A 211-day return from Don Carman brought my second multi-hundred day return of the month. Carman spent a decade in the majors—mostly with Philadelphia—but is most noteworthy for his list of boilerplate interview responses.

Charles Nagy is a name I remember from my youth. Not so much my childhood years but my adolescent ones where despite the strike I couldn’ ignore those mid-1990s Cleveland teams. He was also on the 1988 Olympic team that I got to see practice at Sunken Diamond.

These came back in 18 days. Was surprised I had multiple cards of him. I don’t usually use 1993 Donruss but this one works. And I really like the 1997 Topps even though it’s a typical “fonts are upside down when in the pocket” horizontal design.

For whatever reason I’ve accumulated a ton of these 2010 Franchise History cards. Realizing I should send one to Renel made me realize that I should also send on to Jon Miller. It’s not summer if I don’t hear his voice and I’m a bit worried about what this summer will bring. I know that announcer Hall of Famers are a different category but it’s nice to get a HoFer back in just 11 days. It’s also nice that this is a card from the year he got inducted.

All in all a very good month. Good to be back and I’m hopeful things will continue in this manner. I’ve especially enjoyed adding a bunch to my 1986 and 1988 piles. I’m not going for signed sets (I’m amazed by everyone doing this but am not at all tempted) but the fact that I have almost 70 of each of those sets signed is still pretty cool.