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.

January Returns

Another slow month as I continue to send out like three requests per month. But at least stuff is still coming back.

First return of the year was a great one. It’s always nice to get a return from a guy that everyone likes. Dusty Baker is the only reason I was rooting for the Astros last World Series since I’d be so happy to see him finally win the World Series. I definitely enjoyed a lot of his time with the Giants but never got his autograph on a solo Giants card back when I was a kid.

Dusty appears to let his mail pile up all year and then signs a big batch in the offseason. I sent him these last March and they came back 301 days later.

A 12-day return from Brian Keyser brought some more signed Stanford customs to the collection. He was a decent player for Stanford who existed on the edge of my awareness since he was playing in the years before I really started following the team but only had his MLB debut after I stopped collecting in 1994.

A 26 day return from Dick Green brought both my first signed horizontal 1974 card and my first signed 1975. The 1975 is great since it captures the way Green dominated the 1974 post season defensively. It’s not often you hear about World Series heroes based on their defensive prowess (especially when going 0 for 13) but in 1974 that was Dick Green.

The last return of the month was a 9-day return form Bob Oldis. Oldis is an interesting guy in that he has seven cards for seven MLB seasons but only accumulated 135 games as a position player. Definitely one of those players who never gets cards after his rookie season now. Kind of a shame that these guys don’t get cards anymore but with 30 teams running 50+ guys per season that would result in extremely unwieldy set sizes.

Next month would typically be a month I looked forward to. Unfortunately, with the lockout there’s no spring raining to send to.

2021 in review

A little late but still plenty of time to get my 2021 in review post out. Last year was a weird year. Nothing in stores. COMC not shipping (I finally got my shipment with over 2 years worth of cards right before Christmas). I even started to run out of things to post over on SABR. Usually I have close to fifteen posts. This year I needed a late flurry to get up to twelve.

In any case I’ll start off with a recap of the posts I especially liked over in SABR. First off, I wrote one of my favorite posts ever this year where I looked at the history of baseball cards as it fits into the larger history of photography and vernacular imagery. I’m too much a photo geek to not be annoyed by the way baseball card collectors ignore the larger context of the hobby and this was my attempt to provide some contex.

I also had some fun with more wiggle gifs as I scanned another set of Viewmaster discs. These aren’t as nice as my first such post but it’s always fun to do the wiggle gif thing. And I got to go down a bit of a rabbit hole into baseball at the 1912 Olympics thanks to a T218 card of a Track and Field Olympian.

Moving to specific projects of mine. I made a huge step in my Giants Retired numbers project with a couple purchases of autographs of Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, and Willie McCovey—all players who I never really expected to have autographs of. I’ve gone ahead and put together a page to keep track of the current status of this project. I do not expect to update it very frequently. The cards/autographs I’m missing are all super tough and even updating the depicted cards to older ones is unlikely at this point.

Another project I decided to start tracking is my San Francisco Seals type collection. I went ahead and included Oaks cards from sets that don’t feature any Seals as a way of including more variety.

With that in mind I had a couple cards in my COMC pile which I’ve added. The 1930 Johnny Miljus Zeenut is the 5th Zeenut in the collection. It would be nice to get cards from other sets but Obaks aren’t cheap nor are the 1949 PCL Bowmans. Since there are no Seals in the 1933 Goudey set I grabbed the Floyd (Pete) Scott for Oakland Oaks reasons instead.

I did complete one set last year. Lanny gave me a heads up that he had a couple lower-grade copies of the last two cards I needed so I jumped on those. Yes. Lower grade for Lanny means the centering is off on an otherwise perfect-looking card. And yes I left the two big cards for last.

I know common wisdom is to hit the bigger cards first but since I like building sets to get to know the sets better, I don’t mind waiting until a deal comes up for the big cards. After all, they’re always available. The Murray is a fantastic photo and legitimate contender for both the best card in the set and the 1970s.

This leaves me one card short on two other builds—1994 Topps (Joey Cora. Totally gonna happen this year) and 2017 Stadium Club (Aaron Judge. No likely while his prices are still elevated). And for my other builds I’m ~85 cards short on 1989 Donruss and only 65% complete on 2014 Topps.

I made decent headway in my vintage Giants team sets. Being in a holding pattern of sorts where I need just Willie Mays, HoF rookies, and short prints (typically high numbers) I’m biding my time and picking things off when they hit an acceptably low price point.

I think my favorite here is the 1953 Bowman Monte Irvin but the 1961 McCovey is pretty nice too. The 1966 Mays meanwhile represents the kind of cheap low-grade card I’m waiting for now. I don’t mind the writing at all.

Which brings me to the past year in autograph hunting. Not much done in person since I only made it to like three Minor League games. I did however grab Jeff Manto and Derrick May at a Trenton Thunder Draft League game and got Casey Candeale at a Buffalo Bisons of Trenton AAA game. These were especially fun since all three are in the 1991 sets that my kids have. My eldest has been working on signed in-person 1991 Topps for a while while my youngest just started with 1991 Score.

This was a good year for TTMs. My longest return was Max Venable in 785 days. I don’t “give up” on returns but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a surprise. It’s always special to get a straggler back.

Meanwhile my shortest return was from Mark Leiter in only 3 days. Not sure I’m ever going to get one this quickly again. Pretty sure it’s impossible to get a faster one too.

I sent out a lot of customs this year and got most of them back. It’s been a very good year for the 1956ish design. Lots of fan favorite players. Lots of great photos. A few fun inscriptions. Impossible to pick a favorite and I had a hard enough time winnowing the samples here down to twenty.

Spring training was not nearly as good to me. Seems like Covid protocols kept a lot of guys from their mail. I did get a few Giants customs back at least. Tyler Rogers is probably the best of these—I remain confused how Topps hasn’t issued a solo card of him yet. Will be interesting to see how this year goes with the lockout but I’m not optimistic that I’ll be able to send anything right now.

A few Giants returns covering cards from across the decades. I’m kind of split between liking the George Foster or Renel Brooks-Moon best. Foster’s clearly the best player here though he barely counts as a Giant. Brooks-Moon meanwhile is a fan favorite whose whole return was probably my best of the year. Also I need to mention how great the Rick Parker photo is.

I just enjoy being able to flesh out the Giants binder in general though. Seeing it grow has been a great experience and writing the letters as a fan is also just a lot of fun.

A few other favorite returns this year. I’m not actively pursuing A’s but it turns out I got a lot of the guys from my youth. I didn’t like that team—mostly Tony LaRussa’s fault—but all those guys hit me in the feels now. Also a lot of guys here who fall into the “great players for a certain generation” category. A couple fantastic photos like Wynegar and Bordick, and an unexpected inscription from Davey Johnson which was perfect for me since the 1986 World Series was the first one I watched.

A lot of last year though was spent working duplicates from the cards from my youth. I’m not paging these by set in the binder—everything is alphabetically—but it’s fun to see a page-worth of each set that I’ve been working. I’m especially enjoying the photography on the 1986s.

1988 is a design that was underwhelming when I was a kid but which I really appreciate now. Its simple nature also works really well signed and lets the signature make the card.

1989 meanwhile is just a classic look. It’s missing the interestingness of he photos in 1986 but screams Baseball Card™ in a great way.

Not a ton of pre-war cards to mention. I have a few more that I need to scan and even more I still need to post about but I got some of my oldest cards in general,  a couple sets about polar exploration, and some more Garbatys. As the hobby has exploded, the pre-war deals I used to enjoy have started to dry up. Hopefully I’ll still find a few but we’ll see.

And that about wraps it up. A productive year despite everything. The kids have managed to stay engaged—thanks in part to the Giants having a season to remember. I haven’t been able to share the hobby as much with them as in previous years but we’re working on it.  I’m hoping that we finally turn a corner in 2022. Stay safe out there.

Addendum

As soon as this posted I realized that I had neglected to include a section about all the trades and maildays I received last year. I’m not going to recap every one since here are way too many but I do need to show the highlights.

A big thanks goes out to Donna, Mike, Scott, Jeff, Gio, Julie, Greg, John, Shane, Attic, Bob, Marc, Mark, Mark, Jason, Kerry, Shlabotnik, and everyone else who sent me stuff last year. I really love the variety and in a year when access to product was way down, being able to brighten people’s lives with trades and random gifts was fantastic.

We all tend to get caught up in tying our hobby enjoyment to what we can buy. I don’t think this is healthy either mentally or financially. It’s so much better to scratch those itches as a community and get cards that we aren’t enjoying to the right people who will enjoy them much much more.

December Returns

Wasn’t expecting really any returns last month but I got a few including the two requests I sent out in December.

The first December request came back in only 12 days. And it was a fun one. I had the boys look at these cards and neither of them picked up that Greg Harris was pitching with two different hands. While he didn’t end up switch pitching until his last season on the majors in 1995, his 1991 Score card is the only one that actually depicts him throwing lefty.

The pair of these make a great combo since they almost look mirror image. It’s also just a lot of fun to add a guy who’s “in” the Hall of Fame as the first modern switch pitcher. Now I get to speculate about whether or not he signed these with each hand. No way to tell for sure but the difference in signatures makes me hopeful.

Kelly Gruber came back only a couple days later as a 14-day return. He’s usually more like a couple hundred days so this was a nice surprise. He was one of those players from my youth who I remember particularly strongly. Looking at his stats now and I can see that his peak years (which were very good) matched up perfectly with my peak childhood years.

A 101 day return from Nate Schierholtz came in right before Christmas Eve and finished out my month. He was a key part of the 2010 World Series team as part of a right field platoon all season and a consistent late-inning defensive replacement in the playoffs. Which means that I really appreciate the inscription on his 2012 card.

I’m planning on refilling the hopper this January so hopefully things won’t be slow much longer.

November Returns

A very slow month as I’ve sent maybe one request per month for the last couple months. Thankfully some longer returns are still coming in.

After about two weeks without any returns to close out October, I got one on the very first day of November. Of course I did. Jim Adduci and his interesting signature came back on a 1989 Topps duplicate in 52 days. Adduci falls into the “names I recognize” category but it also turns out that he was a Giants for a week in 1987 even though he never played a game for the club.

It took another couple weeks for a second return to trickle in. This time Tommy Barrett in 67 days added another family card to the collection. I got Marty’s autograph back when I was a kid. I enjoy adding signed 1989 Topps cards because it’s one of the sets from my youth and even the no-name guys are memorable in that way you never forget things form your childhood.

An 80-day return from Ron Tingley was kind of a fun one. He debuted in 1982 but was still getting Rookie/Prospect cards a decade later. This isn’t just Score being desperate to label everyone a prospect since he still officially qualified as a “Rookie” in 1991. Is actually a pretty impressive level of commitment to stick with things that long and I’m glad he stuck around in the majors for another couple of seasons after too.

A 28-day return from Armando Ríos brought my first signed 2001 Fleer. He’s a player who I watched in San José and then saw premier in the majors right about when I returned to being a baseball fan in the late 1990s. The Fleer is a card and design that signs especially well since the weird Photoshop filter they did to the action image works great as an autograph background.

And that’s it. Super low expectations for December given what’s out there. I’ll have to get back on the horse and reload the hopper for next year.

October Returns

My sending has gone way down just like my blog posting has. But cards are continuing to come in so that’s been fun.

Th first card of the month came in the dreaded damaged-envelope envelope. My SASE was intact, it had just been dropped in a puddle or something and fully saturated. I don’t mean any disrespect to Bruce Fields here but I was kind of glad ha the soaked card was just his 1989 Topps duplicate. Thankfully Sharpies use acetone as a solvent instead of water.  Anyway this came back in 24 days and despite the damage looks and scans well enough to go in the album with the rest of my 1989 duplicates.

Rich Monteleone was a Giant for that ill-fated 1994 season. I’m glad I had a card available to send and 1994 Fleer always looks good. I wish I’d collected more 1994 cards as a kid but it’s clear I was already drifting away before the strike did me in. Monteleone sent these back in 14 days.

Kurt Stillwell is one of those names I remember from my youth since he was a bit of a rookie prospect in my first years as a collector. I was happy to try a 1987 Donruss since I haven’t sent many of them out yet. It’s also been way too long since I got another 1991 Studio signed so I was very happy to get both of these back in just 13 days.

A 24-day return from Jim Palmer is one of the last from my most-recent batch of customs. It’s always a good day when I get a custom back though and it always makes me happy when the player keeps some of the ones I sent.

I got a surprise 238-day return from AJ Hinch who looks to be getting to his spring training mail now that the season is over. I’m glad he bounced back with a decent season with the Tigers this year since, while I don’t condone what the Astros did, I also think Hinch got treated as the fall guy for something that the league both enabled and condoned and which is pervasive across all the teams.

I was a little disappointed with this return because he didn’t sign any of the customs I sent. Maybe he’s a strict one-signature-per-request guy. Maybe he doesn’t sign Astros cards anymore. Or maybe he just wanted to keep all the customs. I’ll assume the last one since it makes me happiest even though I can’t add another signed 1978ish custom to the collection.

I couldn’t be too disappointed though because signing the 1993 Traded card makes for a fantastic pair with the card I got signed back in early 1994 when Hinch was still a teenager. It’s always fun to see how someone’s signature has evolved—especially from teenage years to middle age—and I appreciate how he still avoids signing right on top of the black chest protector.

Another longish return, this time 74 days from Bobby Meacham who’s definitely one of those names I remember as a kid. Unfortunately it’s probably in part due to his shenanigans with Dale Berra but I think there’s more to it than that too. Plus it’s always nice to add another signed 1988 Topps to the collection.

A pair of cards from Eric Soderholm came back in just 7 days. I felt a little bad sending the 1976 card since he missed that entire season due to injury but it was the oldest one I had. Plus, Soderholm won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1977 after coming back from that season.

A 204-day return from Roy Thomas brought anther 1986 Topps to the collection. After working my dupes pretty hard I’ve already stopped expecting to see them come back. This isn’t the best representative of the set with Thomas looking very much like a guy whose career is wrapping up and who’s seen a lot.

And that’s about it. Nothing the last two weeks due to my sending being way way down. November looks to be super light as well though I should try and send some out before the holidays. Maybe I should just buckle down and sort through dupes for next year.

September Returns

I didn’t send out a lot in the second half of August. Between visitors and trips I didn’t have the time. Which is fine. Like most things, balancing the routine while keeping it from feeling like a slog is how you keep a hobby fun. I don’t ever want to feel like I have to write or that something is taking me away from it.

It does however mean that my September returns started off a bit slow. I’m also in the midst of sending out mostly 1988 and 1989 duplicates so there are a lot of household names this month.

The first return of the month was a really fun one. I couldn’t not use this photo for a custom and Bill Lee is an all-time favorite character. These came back in 63 days, he kept one, and I only got the Earth 2021 inscription on one card.

1988 Topps are still coming in. This pair from Dan Pasqua came back in 16 days. Always fun to to the multiple teams thing especially when it’s a guy who really only played during my peak collecting years.

I played a bit of a mean trick on the boys with this return when I told them I got a Trout autograph. They got pretty excited until I told them it was Steve Trout. Anyway, while I’m working my 1989 duplicates, I was happy that I also had a Cubs card of him to send since those were his best seasons. These came back in 36 days.

A return which hits both 1988 and 1989 duplicates. Tim Birtsas played a bit for the A’s but is more notable for going to Cincinnati with Jose Rijo as Dave Parker went the other direction. His 1989 was interesting with his only MLB hit (a home run) as well as his only save (4-innings!). He signed these in 22 days.

A 51 day return from Pete Harnish brought a 1989 DOnruss dupliocate as well as my first signed 1993 Fleer. Harnish was a good, borderline great, pitcher in the early 1990s before he hurt his arm as the Astros pulled one over on the Orioles by getting him and Curt Schilling in exchange for the ghost of Glenn Davis.

I continued to work my 1989 Topps duplicates with a quick 6 day return from Paul Mirabella. I’m happy I had a 1985 to send for the multiple team coverage. I do wish I’d had a card from 1981 though since Mirabella put together a decade in the Majors.

The first Giants return of the month was Guy Sularz in 9 days. He played parts of four seasons with the Giants but only got official Major League cards in 1983, his last year as a big leaguer. His 1982 season was his best as he appeared in 63 games and hit his only major league home run.

A surprise return from Caleb Baragar improved this year’s abysmal Spring Training return percentage. Past years have been good. This year not so much. I’ve basically given up on all my requests but 214 days later this one made its way back to me. Baragar actually lead the team in wins in 2020 and has been part of the extremely-deep Giants bullpen and taxi squad this year. The silver sharpie also looks great.

Mark Lewis was only a Giant for one season but it was that magical 1997 one that brought me back to Major League Baseball. Is kind of fun that my kids get to enjoy a pennant race this year. Not quite the same due to the Wild Card but still nice to see two teams trade blows all the way through September. Lewis, as a single-season guy didn’t have many Giants cards so I just sent this one. It came back in 14 days.

Continuing on the 1997 theme is another Giant who only appeared for that team. Wilson Alvarez was a trade-deadline pickup who was supposed to bolster the starting rotation while Roberto Hernandez strengthened the bullpen. Hernandez worked out well, Alvarez less so. Still, his name reminds me of that season in a good way and it’s nice to get one of his few Giants cards signed in 15 days.

Back to 1989 duplicates with a 14 day return from Brad Moore who, interestingly, played in the majors in 1988 and 1990 but not actually 1989. But yeah pretty much anyone from those early sets is a name that rings a bell deep in my childhood memory.

Not many more customs out there now. While it scanned a little dark, this 11 day return from Ryne Sandberg came out great. I’ve been really liking the say this design looks signed and it’s fantastic to see them all together.

Van Snider only player in 19 Major League games but he showed up in the 1989 sets. I kind of love his Donruss card with the bright afternoon sunlight on the colorful Dodger Stadium seats behind him. A basic pose and image but he light is good and the colors pop. He’s a fast signer and got this back to me in only 8 days.

And that’s about it for September. October looks to be pretty light too since I’ve continued to not send out much. But there’s a decent number of old requests out there so maybe I’ll get some surprises.