Last TTMs of 2019; 1st TTMs of 2020

I’ll start off with the last returns to arrive in 2019. It was a good, fun first year of sending out requests. I sent out 131 requests and received 90 successful returns. My 2019 TTM folder has 173 scans in it so I consider that a resounding success.

A lot of those requests involved custom cards and sending to guys I remember from my youth. I still prefer in-person autographs and the way they’re part of a larger experience, but letter writing and customs creation has been extremely rewarding. I love it when someone keeps the extras or sends a nice note back.

Anyway, to the returns, both of which are stragglers that were out for a quite a while and had been sitting a my parents’ for a couple months.

I sent to Rich Schu while he was the Giants Assistant Hitting Coach. By the time his card came back 183 days later the Giants had completely revamped their coaching staff with three hitting coaches including one called the “Director of Hitting.” I don’t know what’s going on over there now.

Schu is also one of those guys I remember from my youth. He moved to the American League in 1988 but even though I had only been a fan for one of his years in the National League I think of him as a Phillie. Basically, whatever team a guy is with in his 1987 Topps card is likely to be the default team in my mind because that was my first set and the only one I truly studied every single card in.

Mike Kingery took even longer to get back. At 211 days this is now my longest return. I enjoyed writing to Kingery because I remember him coming to my local park as one of the instructors in the Giants Community Clinics.

I was prepared enough to bring a Mike Sadek card but since I had no idea who the players in attendance would be, I never got Kingery’s autograph. Where Sadek covered fielding, Kingery taught hitting. I really wish I could remember who the pitcher was that year (probably 1990).

Moving on to 2020 returns, I don’t expect to send as much out this year but things have already started off nicely. I’m still working through my stack of customs and am enjoying writing those letters.

My first return of the new year was Ron Cey who responded in 8 days. I created a Cey custom for Greg/Night Owl* and liked it so much that I decided to send it off to Cey as well. I included a couple Cey cards to get signed and am happy to have them back.

*His response to the customs I sent him is very nice.

It’s flattering that he kept all three customs. It would look nice signed in silver but all that black in the photo doesn’t lend itself well to any other ink. I do really like his 1978 Topps card* but by the time I was collecting I knew of him as a Cub (or an A) so it was fitting for me to send one of each. It’s clear that Cey thinks of himself as a Dodger first though since he includes his uniform number only when he signs Dodger cards.

*Note, this is actually an O Pee Chee card.

I didn’t send him a custom but as with my Bill Lee request last year, Al Hrabosky is one of those guys who I grew up reading about and am very happy to add to my collection. No Mad Hungarian inscription but still very very cool.

I’ve been getting a lot of these non-Giants autographs on 1978 cards. Part of this is that as I build that set I’ve come into duplicates, but I’ve also come to like the design and its photo-centric nature as one that is enhanced by a signature. Most of the head shots aren’t too tight and the design is so minimal that it doesn’t distract from the signature.

Former A’s pitching coach Dave Duncan came back in 8 days. I was not a fan of the Tony LaRussa A’s when I was a kid. Respected them but I just never liked them as a team. As I got older I realized that most that was about LaRussa, his school of over-management, and the weird chip on his shoulder which would get him upset about all kinds of stupid little things.

Amidst all the Bash Brothers stuff and everything else I was in awe of the A’s starting pitching and the way Dave Stewart and Bob Welch became some of the best pitchers in the game during those years. Dave Duncan played a huge part of that and I’m very happy having his autograph to commemorate those A’s teams of my youth.

This 1969 card is another simple design like 1978 which I’m liking a lot for signatures. Unfortunately 1969 suffers from the player boycott and the resulting images are all old. Duncan’s is from 1967 (or earlier) and so the KC logo on the cap has been blacked out. I’ve been louping various blacked out caps (my childhood 1969 Mota is another) and have found that they’re achieved in different ways. Some are stripped in while others are airbrshed onto the artwork that’s photographed. Duncan’s is in the second category.

Jim Rice was a fun 8-day return. He’s another Hall of Famer to add to that section of my binder. After my first Giants game in 1986 my parents pulled the TV out* for the World Series. As a result, most of the players on both teams are still memorable to me but since we were rooting for the Red Sox I do find myself especially happy to get signatures from guys on that team.

*Long story. TL;DR version is that my family kept our TV in the closet and only pulled it out for special occasions.

I especially love how this card turned out. I looked at my available Rice cards and selected this one because I saw the potential for the photo looking great with a signature. It’s an interesting image—a bit of baseball ma capturing a moment of non-static downtime*—and Rice signed it in the perfect location.

*Previously mentioned on here with regard to a Darren Lewis card and a Hisao Niura card.

Another 1978 card. This time Cy Young Award Winner Ron Guidry whose return took 19 days.  As before, I like the way this design works with signatures but in this case the 1978 card is especially appropriate because Guidry’s 1978 season was awesome. He not only deservedly won the Cy Young award but also came in second to Jim Rice in the MVP voting.

This is a fun one. Last summer my mom and I were talking about the Hawaii Islanders and how she followed baseball when she was a kid.* I pulled up the rosters and we started to go through names. I recognized a decent number of them—e.g. Bo Belinsky, Jack Hiatt, Diego Segui, and Dave Marshall—but for her the name that triggered her memory was Bob Duliba who she referred to as the Dennis Eckersley of the team.

*She wrote a letter to Harry Kalas about this back in 1989 which resulted in us getting tickets to a Giants–Phillies game during our trip to Philadelphia.

Looking at his stats for the 1963 season he spent in Hawaii confirms that he was indeed the Islanders’ relief ace, appearing in 53 games and having one of the best WHIPs on the team. I can see why he would make an impression since that’s a lot of appearances for a pitcher to make and a good reliever is one of those things that fans remember.

When I looked up his cards I saw that they were pretty cheap. I wanted one which had his Hawaii stats on the back but no luck, so instead I grabbed one from 1963—the year he was in Hawaii. I also noticed that he’s a reliable TTM guy so I wrote him a note and mentioned how my mom had told me about listening to him pitch. I did not expect him to write me back.

Notes like this are what Make TTMs so fun. In this case it was nice to see that he enjoyed being reminded of his time in Hawaii but also sent me on a bit of a search to find out about the Hawaii Major League. It comes up as different types of local semi-pro ball over the years but by the 1950s it appears to be a military league.

I ended up searching dvidshub.net for “Duliba.” It spat out a bunch of Windward Marine PDFs including one from April 1957 which details Cpl Bob Duliba’s first league start. Yeah I know his note says 1955 but the back of his card says he was in military service from 1956–1958. That 1957 season appears to have sent the Hawaii Marine team to the finals of the Marine baseball tournament.

Former Giant and current Padres broadcast Mark Grant came back in 14 days. Mark Grant is one of those guys who was part of the first team I really paid attention to. Even though he got traded halfway through the season he’s still someone whose name triggers memories of my first year of truly paying attention to baseball.

The last return to make the publishing deadline for this post is this 19-day Don Demeter return. Demeter is not the kind of guy I’d usually send to since he’s not a player I have any familiarity with. But in this case my hand was forced since I wanted to confirm the hive mind’s conclusion about the Al Kaline mystery player.

Mystery solved! Or well… Assumed solution confirmed! Demeter used the index card to answer my question about whether he was indeed the mystery non-Kaline player. Do I still feel sheepish about the Kaline mistake. A little. But the mistake has also resulted in more-interesting requests and returns and this kind of response makes my autograph album a lot of fun.

A decent start to the year for sure. I haven’t been sending out too many so far so it’s been nice to have a surprise in my mailbox every couple of days.

New Year, New TTMs

Happy New Year! I haven’t sent out anything new but returns are still trickling in.

The first one came from Frank Duffy in 10 days. This is another repeat send and is the fourth Stanford custom I’ve gotten back. I’ve only made nine of these so far so I’m liking the return rate for this mini set.

The only (small) problem I have with this design is that it’s clear that there’s no obvious place to sign. I don’t like big SIGN HERE designs but with a single photo the variance in signing location doesn’t jump out at me. With two pictures to choose from, the players have to pick which one to sign on. Or, in the case of Duffy, sign on the fence between them.

This is why I love sending customs. For every mistake like the Kaline there’s a couple fun notes like this that make me happy that I’m not just mailing requests but offering something to the players too. I especially love that this is on St. Joseph’s Indian School notepaper since it feels appropriate for the content of the note.

This note does remind me that I briefly considered making these 1978ish customs be Indians or Cardinal cards instead of the Major League team but I decided I wanted the variety of colors that pro teams would bring.

Don Carrithers came back in 24 days. He showed a bit of promise in his rookie season and I’m happy to have gotten his rookie card signed. Carrithers couldn’t quite put it together for the Giants but he did have a couple good years in Montreal.

I never really bought into the rookie card mystique when I was a kid except when it came to getting cards signed. And there I liked it. With young players like at Stanford Alumni games it was fun to see guys excited to see their first big league cards. With older players? It was just fun to get as old a card as possible for them and the rookie is the logical extreme of that.

Now this is a fun one. Dave Dravecky came back in 27 days. I was just happy to be able to write to him and thank him both for being part of the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen and an inspiration in general. I don’t expect to ever be at a sporting event with fans as keyed in to every moment the way his cancer comeback game was. The ticket stub from that game is the one item of memorabilia from my youth which I most regret losing.

The Mother’s Cookies card is from 1989 and the Score card captures his challenges and triumphs over that 1989 season. Both of those are fully appropriate for my album and my memory.

Getting the Dravecky autographs also has me thinking about starting a Willie Mac Award project. There are currently 39 winners and I have autographs from 13 of them.

Back on the TTM horse

It’s been busy whatwith the move and everything. I haven’t had a chance to write any letters since Spring but I finally got back on the horse and sent a few out before Thanksgiving. This is the first batch which includes some of the latest round of customs I designed and printed. It’s especially fun—in some cases even more fun than expected—to get those back.

Roy Face came back in 8 days. It’s always nice to see the generosity of some of these players. Face is not a Giant but I pretty much had to make a custom with this photo. This template is my adjustment to the 1956 Topps design so it can also work with vertical images. I like it a lot and really enjoy just making a card here or there as I come across a cool photo.

Face though is an interesting player in his own right since he’s sort of the first reliever who we can point to as starting us on the path toward the way modern baseball uses bullpens. It’s kind of wild for me to read the back of his 1968 card and see it gush about his saves and consecutive games played as being new and notable accomplishments. And yes they are but in 1968 no one knew what would happen with the game 50 years later.

Another custom so I have no one to blame but myself. How embarrassing. Oh well. Kaline still has a wonderful signature and something like this makes it pretty clear that he’s signing things. Also I can’t kick myself too hard since I double checked Getty’s records before making my card.

Heck this kicked of a decent discussion on Twitter (as well as a lot of people laughing at/with me) and a bunch of Tigers fans confirmed that they’d always thought this was Kaline too. Suggestions for who it might be instead? Don Demeter appears to be the Twitter hive-mind consensus. Right-handed. Similar build. Correct playing years.

Anyway it’s always nice to add a Hall of Famer and the fact that this came back in 10 days was very nice. Even with the wrong image it’s a fun piece to have. I only ever saw cards and photos of the older Kaline when I was a kid so I very much like having one of him in his youth. Maybe I’ll re-make this with a correct photo and try again.

Another 10-day return, this time from John Cumberland. He had a fantastic 1971 season with the Giants so I’m very happy to have his 1972 card signed. As a Giants fan I’ve most enjoyed learning about one-season wonders like Cumberland. I remember how important those were to my enjoyment as a fan and it’s players like this who symbolize a particular place and time in the team’s history.

And yet another 10-day return. John D’Acquisto won the Sporting News National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year award in 1974. I did not ask for the inscription but I like that it’s there. D’Acquisto was a fireballer but could never quite put it all together to become dominant. He was formidable enough though that I became aware of him while I was a Giants fan over a dozen years later.

I sort of wonder what would’ve happened if someone with his skill set had come up now and only had to throw for an inning at a time. That he stayed around in the Majors for a dozen years suggests he had the stuff.

Outfielder Frank Johnson came back in 11 days. I always wonder what stories  guys like Johnson could tell. He was stuck trying to break into a pretty crowded outfield but still got to play with Willie Mays. He’s a got a great signature which looks fantastic on that 1969 card too.

Kong! This is a fun one. Dave Kingman also came back in 11 days. I don’t particularly picture him as a Giant despite the team-specific rookie records and achievements he racked up. But I did grow up hearing about his prowess as a power hitter and his penchant for hitting balls into suspended elements of domed stadiums. It’s one thing to be known as a slugger. It’s quite another to be the guy who got a ball stuck in the Metrodome roof.

Dave Rader came back in 13 days. Rader started off his career with the Giants in impressive fashion as both the runner up to the Rookie of the Year and the winner of the Sporting News Rookie of the Year. This 1973 card reflects that rookie season and features one of those photos that could only come from this set.

Steve Dunning also came back in 13 days. Most of his cards have astonishingly awful photographs. Thankfully his 1972 is a nice classic pitchers’ pose at Yankee stadium. It’s the only good photo of Dunning I found s0 I had to scan this card for my custom.

I modified the 1978 manager template to reflect Amateur/Professional status and have been digging through Stanford Daily and Stanford Quad archives to pull photos of guys when they played at Stanford. I’ve been enjoying sending these out and this is the first one that returned.

Frank Linzy came back in 20 days. This was a fun request to send out at the same time as Roy Face since both are part of the first generation of dedicated relief aces. As with John D’Acquisto I can’t help wondering how these sort of players both feel about today’s game and how their careers would’ve been different if they’d played during an age of bullpen reliance.

Lots of players can kind of be compared across time but the bullpen guys are different since bullpen usage has changed so much. I’m not one of those guys who professes to say that one era was better than another. Yes I miss longer starts but I also don’t miss seeing managers leave pitchers in too long. hat does excite me is that bullpen usage is one of those things where it’s clear that managers and teams haven’t settled on a by-the-book strategy and are still trying different approaches.

Bruce Robinson is the first repeat send for me. He had an awesome return the first time and I’ve owed him a response letter ever since. Between my moving and trying to put together customs it took me a long time to write back. But I finally did and sent him a bunch of customs.

He was apparently away for a bit and took 20 days to get back to me. Another nice letter and it’s especially gratifying to be thanked for the customs. It’s cool when guys keep some but getting a thank you letter back is even better.

As much as sending out these requests and doing the research to write nice letters is fun, putting together customs and pulling the stats and everything is even more enjoyable. I love adding them to the binder (yes even that Kaline).

Jim Lonborg is another repeat request. I sent him versions of both my 1956ish design and 1978ish design. He kept one of each and sent the rest back in 6 days. I really like how both of these came out and it’s fantastic to start off with so many of these customs getting signed out the gate.

Time for a break until next year. I know I’ve got at least one return waiting for me at my parents’ house still and there are a decent number just out there in general. But it’s too close to holiday season to send anything.

I’ve got more customs to try though but until then I’m just going to put all the signed one at the bottom of this post since I’m so happy about how they turned out.

A handful of TTMs

I haven’t sent any autograph requests out for a few months but things continue to straggle in to my parents’ house. They’ve just delivered another handful of returns to me so let’s go through them in order from shortest to longest time out.

J.T. Snow, fan favorite and the first first baseman to make us forget Will Clark came back in 99 days. I sent this to his work at the Pac 12 networks where he’s one of their announcers.

I really like the Fleer Ultra card. I’m not keen on the type/design for these but the photography is consistently good and this is a nice action photo which doesn’t look like the usual first base action photos.

The 2001 Topps card is more of a classic image. These cards are super glossy. Even though I treated the surface the signature still smudged a bit.

Lefthander Shawn Estes is also announcing now. He’s with NBC Sports but I actually heard him on one of the free YouTube broadcasts this year. His cards came back in 108 days.

I like how the horizontal and vertical cards produce different signatures. The uncoated 96 Fleer doesn’t scan well but looks great in hand. The horizontal image on the 99 Fleer design though works really well and I love having a photo of a pitcher running the bases.

Bryan Hickerson is coaching for the Indianapolis Indians. These two cards came back in 121 days. It’s always nice to add another signed Mother’s Cookies card to the collection. It’s extra-nice when it’s one of the pitchers with bats cards.

My favorite card that came back is Trevor Wilson’s 1990 Upper Deck card. The “We Win” cap, champagne-soaked tshirt, and goofy grin are fantastic. That the shirt gives a perfect place to sign is even better.

The 1992 Fleer is a photo I like and I just like the way 1994 Pacific with its low-contrast photo-processing looks signed. These came back in 180 days.

The last return took 188 days and I’d sort of given up on it because I’s seen other people get returns from him in under a month. Where Estes, Hickerson, and Wilson are all guys I grew up watching in the 1990s, Rich Robertson is one of those lesser-known players who fills out checklists in the early 1970s.

I’ve been enjoying getting returns form these guys because it forces me to looks up their careers and see what the teams looked like in those seasons. Robertson was the #3 starter for the Giants in 1970, the only year he was in the rotation.

End of summer TTM round-up

Since I wasn’t sending out letters all summer my TTM returns fell off dramatically after the initial rush. But one would still trickle in every couple of weeks. So in order of arrival here are the rest of the returns of the summer.

Former Giants pitcher (and current Phillies coach) Jim Gott came back in 54 days. The Mother’s Cookies card looks great; the black Pirates jersey not so much (though it looks better in person). I new Gott as a Pirate when I was a kid but I’m happy to add him to my Giants album.

Cory Snyder had one of the best arms I’ve ever seen and is one of the few players who wasn’t cowed by Candlestick’s right field. He wasn’t a Giant for long but I enjoyed watching him while he was. His cards came back in 51 days.

I’d sort of given up on Aramís García since I sent it to spring training. But 182 days later I got another of my customs signed. Sending customs to guys who didn’t have real cards during spring training is one of my favorite parts of TTMing. It’s a nice way to celebrate a big league debut and I’m very happy to receive this return.

He kept most of the customs I sent (I asked for him to sign his favorite and keep the rest). This one commemorates a 4 for 4 day he had in a late-season series in which the Giants were swept by the Reds.

I sent my customs out to a lot of the guys last spring. At this point in the season I have 20 different cards signed (out of a checklist of 162) by twelve different players—exactly 25% of the roster. I think that’s pretty good and it’s definitely been a lot of fun even though only three of the players have been mainstays on the 25-man roster this season.*

*Reyes Moronta, Tony Watson, and Will Smith

The nature of who responds to TTM requests is biased toward less-established players who get less mail. So it’s not surprising to me that I have a couple returns from players who have bounced up and down between SF and Sacramento* and one from a guy who only go called up at the end of August.** Nor is it surprising that I have bunch from guys who have been traded of designated for assignment*** since I started off getting cards from guys who left the team last season.****

*Dereck Rodíguez and Aramís García

**Abiatal Avelino

***Ty Blach, Ray Black, Sam Dyson, Derek Holland, and Chris Stratton

****Gorkys Hernández and Chase d’Arnaud

Brett Butler is supposedly a good signer but I’d written these off as well. 174 days later though and this pair of Mother’s Cookies cards found their way back to me. Butler was our lead-off hitter during the late 1980s and he was one of those pain in the ass guys who always tried to bunt and annoy the pitcher. He was good at it as well as a fielding a decent centerfield.

Oh man did we hate it when he went to LA but that degree of enmity was because of how much we’d liked him as a Giant. It was nice to see him take part in the 1989 celebrations this past season and see how the fans preferred to remember him as part of that team.

Even though my new requests will come back to my new house now I expect that they’ll also continue to show up periodically at my parents’. I’ve got a fair amount still out there and while most of those will be write-offs I’ve seen enough multi-hundred day returns to know to never truly give up on a request.

Another TTMer enters the fray

While I wrote about my eldest taking a stab at TTMs, I haven’t provided much of an update on his activities. He’s only sent out a couple more requests and hadn’t gotten any returns yet. This is more what I expected (and had warned him to expect) and reflects both how much work it is to write a letter and how hard it is to send duplicates when your inventory is already so small.

Yup I’m making him write the letters himself. I’ll take care of postage and even stationery for now but he’s got to write the letter. I’m a bit more lenient on providing cards though. Current-year cards are difficult to get duplicates of in a timely fashion* but I’ll provide all the junk wax he wants.

*Especially because I’m having a hard time finding breaks in recent months.

Late last week his drought was broken with a junk wax return. He’d been inspired and excited to try to send to Bruce Bochy after he saw my return so I pulled out an extra 1988 Topps Bochy for him to send. It looks like Boch spent some of the All-Star break answering his fan mail and after 81 days of waiting my son got his second return.

Oh, and my youngest got his first return too. Yup, I had a bunch of 1988 Topps duplicates so I told him that if he wrote a letter I’d help him mail it. Challenge accepted.

I love this letter very much and I really hope Boch read it. I’m not going to take photos of all their letters but I’m very happy to have a copy of their first letters. Whether or not they continue in this hobby, they’ll still have these cards and letters and a memory of what they did. Until then it’ll be fun to encourage them and see what kind of players they choose to pursue in the future.

A batch of TTMs

Where my previous TTM post consisted of only a couple returns, I’m now visiting my parents and there was a nice big stack of envelopes waiting for me.

Yup. Over a dozen returns and, since I’m away from my scanner, iPhone photos are going to have to suffice until I get around to scanning and replacing all the images in this post.

Since the returns this time are almost all Giants I’m breaking this recap down into the different sections I’ve organized my Giants autographs into.

Old Giants

The first part of my album are “old guys” who predate my time as a Giants fan. Many of them are guys I’ve only learned about through cards. Some though are guys who I was well aware of even though they’re not “stars.”

Ed Halicki is one of those guys. The Giants when I was a kid specialized in close calls for no-hitters. No Giants pitcher could close out the 9th inning. As a result John Montefusco and Ed Halicki held a certain amount of interest as marking the time from when the Giants had last no-hit anyone. This wasn’t a huge deal in the 1980s when the drought was only a dozen years but as the seasons went on the drought started to become a bigger and bigger deal. Montefusco gets most o the press but Halicki, as the last Giant to throw a no-hitter in San Francisco before Jonathon Sanchez did it in 2009 was also worth remembering.

I had a duplicate 1979 card as a result of the packing that Mark Armour included in his “chain letter” so I sent it out and got it back 43 days letter.

Mark Armour gave me a bunch of duplicate 1979 Topps cards and this 16-day Marc Hill card is another one of those. Hill played a bunch for the Giants in the late 1970s and was the preferred catcher for a few of those seasons as he and Mike Sadek sort of battled each other for the position. Hill is most notable for me though because he shares his 1975 rookie card with Gary Carter and as a result was a bit of a thorn in my side in terms of collecting.

Vic Harris, also on one of Mark Armour’s 1979s, came back in eleven days. Harris is listed as an outfielder but was a real utility guy who appeared in over two dozen games at six of the nine positions. He never pitched, caught, or played first base but he did everything else.

The last of this batch is David Green who was only a Giant in 1985. He came to the Giants in the Jack Clark trade* and I like him for the way the 1986 team set includes guys names Brown, Green and Blue. Not a big Giants player but I’ve got two cards, he looked like a good signer, and these came back in 29 days.

*This basically amounted long term to the Giants trading Jack Clark for Jose Uribe and, while I liked Uribe, that’s not one of the Giants better moves.

Roger Craig Giants

To the Roger Craig Giants who were the formative team of my youth.* And we’ll start with the big name player who embodies those teams. I’ve written about Will Clark before and I love that he’s such a good signer now. Only one item at a time and this one came back in 23 days. I thought a long time about what card I wanted before picking this one since I like the way the chewing gum offsets his still-intense look.

Jeff Robinson was a relief pitcher by the time I became a Giants fan and is probably most-notable for being traded for Rick Reuschel in the 1987 season. For me though he’s one of the fun notes about my first Major League game ever in that I got to see him play right field for two innings instead. And yes that absolutely went in to my letter to him. His 1987 Topps card with the weird red name box (all the other Giants cards are orange) came back in 39 days.

Ken Oberkfell is someone who I have on my 1989 ball but who for whatever reason I didn’t bring a card of his to Philadelphia. He’s a single-season Giant who was mostly a late-inning pinch hitter or sub but that 1989 team was one of the highlights of my childhood and getting these in only six days sort of fills in some of the gaps in my childhood collecting.

Gil Heredia is another guy who wasn’t with the Giants long but he represents my interest in minor league baseball. He was one of the first San José Giants to make it to the Majors and seeing him play in Candlestick cemented the promise of how watching minor league ball can pay off years later. This is one of his few Giants cards and it came back to me in 23 days.

Dusty Baker Giants

Switching managers and moving to the Dusty Baker Giants who I saw at spring training when I was in high school and who got me back into baseball after the strike. William Van Landingham is another San Jose Giant who I got to see pitch at San Jose Muni and Candlestick. He sent these two cards back in 29 days.

Glenallen Hill is another fixture of those 1990s Dusty Baker teams. He wasn’t bad but always felt like he was poised to break out into something awesome. He’s now the manager of the Albuquerque Isotopes and sent these back in 24 days.

Current Giants

Moving to current Giants and one of my favorite returns of all time. Hensley Meulens is the current bench coach and everyone in the Bay Area is convinced that one of these days he’ll be an MLB manager. I sent him this card and a couple of my GiantsNOW customs. He kept the customs and 17 days later sent me this fantastic “Sir Hensley Meulens ‘Bam Bam’” signature which looks awesome on the Studio 91 card.

I think I like this one even better than the Bill Spaceman Lee return.

I didn’t expect to get any more spring training returns but Derek Holland’s found its way back to me after 127 days. Very cool. He’s had a rough 2019 but he was the most reliable starter on the team last season. Nice signature too.

Holland also sent me one of my customs so it’s pretty cool to still be adding signed versions of those to the album too. I like the way he signs these cards over the name/team graphic on the bottom. I kind of wonder what he does with diagonal graphics now.

Other players

And wrapping up this post with a couple non-Giants players I sent to. The first here is Bert Campaneris who’s a bit of a Bay Area legend. This 1976 card is kind of beat up but I love the 1976 design and it’s always nice to add another to the album. He sent this back in only 8 days too.

Campaneris also signed an index card. These are always fun to get back. I’ll need to figure out something to do with these eventually but for now they’re nice to have in the album

The second is this 104 day return from Charlie Hough. I’ve been toying with starting a guys-from-Hawai‘i collection and Hough’s a clear standout there. I just wish I’d had a Marlins card but since I stopped collecting in 1994 I didn’t pick up too many expansion team cards and that’s not an area I’ve been collecting yet.

A couple of TTMs

In addition to the mailday from Jason I also received a package from my parents with an assortment of items of the kids and some mail that I’m still receiving at their house. Yeah, until I move my parents’ house is still the most-permanent address I have. Anyway, tucked into that envelope were a couple TTM returns so I figured I should get those scanned and stored as soon as possible lest they get lost in the move.

This pales in comparison to the first couple of return roundups but since the home buying experience has pretty much killed my letter writing the past couple of months I’m happy with whatever straggles in.

The first return is a 51-day turnaround from Dave Marshall. He’s one of those guys who was lucky to play outfield next to Wille Mays. In 1969 in particular he was part of a platoon with Jim Ray Hart and played half of the season in Left Field left to Mays and Bobby Bonds.

He’s also got a great signature which looks fantastic on this card. I’ve gotten a number of 1970 Topps cards signed now and it’s made me reconsider some of my feelings about the design. I’ve long liked the photography but was never moved by the design itself. finding out how well it takes autographs though makes me appreciate the understated nature of the grey borders .

Speaking of understated cards that looks nice signed, Manny Mota signed his 1978 Topps card in 28 days. I’ve gotten a few of these signed now too and as with the 1970s, really like the way the autograph ties the card together.

Mota’s one of those players I’ve always liked because he was such a pinch hitting legend. And while I didn’t mention Airplane* in my letter to him I can’t deny that that was a huge part of why I wanted his signature.

*“I’ve got to concentrate!”

Mota also signed the index card I include as a stiffener. This was very nice of him and I’ll slip that into the binder for now until I think of a proper project to use these index cards for.

I’m looking forward to being able to receive these at my own house. The next batch of letters I send out will hopefully have the new address on the SASE though there are still a bunch of stragglers out there that will trickle in to my parents for a while.

TTM roundup, April edition

Another visit from family means another big batch of TTM returns delivered from my parents’ house. Not as many as my first batch but still 18 returns in a month is pretty good. Especially since my requests have tailed off a bit.

Though to be clear, I expected requests to tail of. I sent out a ton early and expected things to take over a month at least. The first batch of returns was overwhelmingly better than I expected and this batch reflects a lot of the kind of returns I was expecting to occur.

To the returns, again broken down by category.

Stanford

Pete Stanicek was one of the first Stanford guys I sent to. He had a lot of potential in the late 1980s but just couldn’t stay healthy. By the time I was going to alumni games he was already in that grey zone of being done with his career but still young enough to play with the active pros. Which explains a bit why he never showed up. This card came back in 47 days—much more the timeframe I expected returns to happen.

Steve Buechele was coaching at the Rangers Spring Training so I sent him a couple Upper Deck cards. I got his autograph on a ball at my first major alumni game autograph hunting experience. Then I brought his 1989 Upper Deck card to all subsequent games I attended only for him to never come back. I’m very happy that this card came back in only 24 days.

Drew Storen is another Spring Training return. He’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery and was in the Royals organization this spring. I haven’t been able to figure out he’s up to right now—he doesn’t appear to be assigned to a team—so I’m thankful he was able to return my cards after 53 days.

Former Giants

On to former Giants and starting off with one of my favorites. The Original Humm Baby Roger Craig signed my 1989 Mothers Cookies card in 22 days. I have no idea how good Craig was as a manager in general but he seems to have been the right man for the job. Anyway he was the skipper for the teams I became a fan of and as a result I’ll always have a soft spot for split fingered fastballs and suicide squeezes.

Ken Henderson played outfield for the Giants next to Willie Mays and Bobby bonds. As a result he tends to get forgotten a little but he was no slouch himself for a couple years in the early 1970s. He signed both of these in 11 days.

Jim Barr set a Major League record by retiring 41 consecutive batters. He was  a long-time fixture in the Giants rotation as well with a dozen solid years . These three cards came back in only 8 days. I usually don’t send this many but I like the variety of images here.

Ron Bryant was a a twenty-game winner in 1973 but got injured in the off-season and never really recovered. So he chose to retire and spend more time with his family. He signed both of these in 13 days. I particularly like the 1972 In Action card with the bunting photo.

Tom Bradley had a couple great years with the White Sox but was more average with the Giants. I do like him as a member of the sunglasses club even though he’s nowhere near as cool as Lowell Palmer. The 1973 card is an airbrushing disaster as well but the 1974 is  fun action photo showing him wearing shades and pitching at Candlestick. These took 44 days to come back.

While Mike Krukow was already announcing when I was a kid, Kuiper only entered the booth after I stopped autograph hunting. As a result I only have a signed Krukow card and was missing half of the duo that has defined the sound of Giants baseball for the past two decades.

Kuip’s 1983 Fleer card with the broken bat is one of my favorites so I’m excited to have it signed. That it took only 8 days is even better.

He also signed an index card for me. Very cool. It’s been a joy and pleasure to listen to him on the air and makes me feel really lucky to be a Giants fan.

Shawon Dunston was one of my favorite players to watch when I was a kid. Ozzie Smith was obviously the prime shortstop of the age but no one had an arm like Dunston’s. Even though he wasn’t a Giant I could never watch enough highlights of him gunning guys out from deep short. When he moved to the Giants I was glad I could finally root for him. He’s still working with the organization and signed these two cards in 15 days.

Like Dunston, Manny Trillo is also a former Cub who moved to the Giants later in his career. A great fielder with a strong arm, Trillo was more of a utility guy with the Giants. He has a great signature and returned this card in 18 days.

Current Giants

On to current Giants and there’s no better return to start off with than the man who will most-likely become the first Giants Hall of Famer I’ve watched (as opposed to Hall of Famer who played a year or two at the end of his career with the Giants*). Yes I think Bonds should be in already but in terms of predictions Boch is a safe bet. I sent him a nice note thanking him for everything and he sent these back in 22 days.

*eg Goose Gossage, Gary Carter, and Randy Johnson. 

A Giants manager card was an obvious choice. The 1960 design is an all-time classic and even though I don’t like some of the Heritage fake-retro effects it’s still a nice looking card that looks nice signed. I also wanted to send a card form his playing days. I was leaning toward a 1986 Topps one but then I found this 1981 Fleer and it was too good not to send.

Tony Watson sent me a great return from Spring Training. His two 2018 cards look great. I’m kind of sad that horizontal cards weren’t that common when I was a kid since they look nice when signed. These came back in 39 days.

Watson also signed both of my customs. I suspect that the first one he signed where he usually does and then he signed the second one in the light area so you can read his name. I appreciate that he put this kind of care into it.

My last return from Spring Training also took 39 days but was even larger than Watson’s. Ty Blach signed everything I sent him even though I only asked him for a couple. His 2018 cards look good and it’s nice to see than Big League signs as well as it looked to sign. It’s not just an old-school set it looks old-school after being signed too.

Blach signed all my customs. I’m still pleased that Topps picked the same photo I did. This is from his start on Opening Day where he out-dueled Clayton Kershaw. He also signed the team roster card I made.

And more importantly Blach signed the ugly sweatshirt card as well. This means I have half the set signed. Will Smith and Abiatal Avelino signed theirs. Sam Dyson and Ray Black did not. I do not expect Evan Longoria to send a return back.

miscellaneous

I’ve started sending some letters out to some players who aren’t directly related to my projects as well. I’m starting off with good signers who are particularly resonant from my youth. Ryne Sandberg is a great example here. I tried and failed to get his signature when I was a kid* so I’m particularly pleased to add this 1988 Topps after only 9 days.

*Don’t worry I ended up with Billy Williams instead.

Andre Dawson is another player who was just a joy to watch. I’m pretty sure no one disliked Hawk. Plus his signature is a thing of beauty. While I knew him as a Cub I had to get his signature on an Expos card. 1987 Topps is never a bad choice for reliving my youth too. This came back in 15 days.

Wade Boggs was the gold standard for batting when I was a kid. I didn’t know too many American League guys but Boggs is one I knew enough about to watch. I went with his 1988 All Star card for this and I love how it came out. I super pleased that this came back in 16 days since he’d stopped signing for a bit after getting hammered by collectors.

And last but not least, I was lucky to get a Spaceman version of Bill Lee’s signature. He’s a great signer—only took 19 days—but doesn’t usually include this unless you ask. I did not ask but I don’t know maybe my letter prompted him to do it anyway. Anyway while I did not grow up watching Lee, his legend is such that stories about him in the game still exist. My sons have read the same stories in their books and were excited to see this card when I took it out of the envelope.

I suspect returns will dwindle down a bit more as I’ve been too busy to send out many recently. But I’ve still got quite a few out there and know that some will eventually find their way back.

First TTM roundup

A post as promised when I wrote about getting into TTM requests. I’ve now received all the envelopes that have been accumulating at my parents’ house.* Did I say over a dozen before? Turns out it was closer to 30.

*Yup. I’m over 40 and my parents’ address is still the closest thing to a permanent address that I have.

Yeah. I’m a firm believer in the “fill up the hopper” approach for this kind of thing. Send a ton out early and then take things easy and not worry about sending out as many later. I expected returns to trickle in bit by bit—taking two or three weeks at best—so having a good batch of returns I was waiting for made a ton of sense.

I was not expecting so many returns to take between one and two weeks instead. That’s been a super-pleasant surprise and meant that I perhaps front-loaded my letters a bit.* Anyway aside from a second Neshek return I’ve been getting everything sent to my parents’, tempering my excitement, and biding my time until my sister brought everything over.

*Although trying to get everything to Spring Training sort of forced my hand.

This is going to be a big post so I’ve broken it up into three different sections that cover the main categories of people I’m sending to.

Stanford

I sent a bunch of request to Stanford players. Guys who pre-dated my autograph-hunting years. Guys who came after. And in the case of Ryan Turner, guys who I watched play during those peak autograph-hunting years.

Ryno was the first return I got back. Only 7 days too. I was very surprised. I mentioned him a bit in my Mussina post but he’s noteworthy for being the first player in the Colorado Rockies organization and his 1992 Bowman and Upper Deck cards are the first Rockies cards produced.

Jeremy Guthrie took 10 days to get two cards back to me. As a player who’s about the same age as me, Guthrie is exactly the kind of player who I would’ve felt super uncomfortable getting a signature from back in the day. This isn’t a bad thing or a regret, just an observation.

I like that Guthrie changes his uniform number to match the team he’s playing for. Some guys use their current number. Others stop doing that after they make it to the majors.

Bruce Robinson’s 8 day return shows the promise and fun of TTM requests. I sent him one card. He sent me back five signatures. My card, the signed index card I use as a bit of stiffener in the envelope, and two signed and personalized business cards are pretty cool but he also wrote me a very nice letter in response.

I guess it shows how much I enjoyed writing the letter to him. Robinson gets credited for modifying the catcher’s chest protector to have a hinged protective flap on the throwing shoulder. It’s even called the Robby Pad. I mentioned how, as a Product Design guy, just seeing the ubiquity of that invention in today’s game must be pretty satisfying.

It looks like I need to check out brucerobinsonmusic.com and write him back now. Kind of surprised that I’m the first Stanford collector out there too. But I guess it’s nice to have such a solid collecting niche too.

Jim Lonborg was another fast return in only 8 days. As the 1967 Cy Young Award winner he was arguably the most-prominent Stanford player in terms of winning awards until Jack McDowell won the Cy Young in 1993.

Lonborg represents my first custom return too. I whipped up a “1949 Bowman plus 1954 Topps” custom of him for Mark Hoyle since Mark has so much stuff that he’s impossible for someone like me to send anything to. The thing about using the 1954 Topps template though us that it sort of needs a signature to really sing so I figured I’d try and get one signed. He kept a couple copies, returned one, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Chuck Essegian’s card also came back in 8 days. He’s the last of the guys who started playing in the 1950s but I chose to leave him for whenever I did a summary of 1960s Stanford players.

Essegian is most famous for hitting two pinch hit home runs in the 1959 World Series—there’s even a cool 1970 Laughlin card of this—but he bounced around playing for 6 different teams (Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles, A’s, and Indians) over 6 years of cards.

Doug Camilli is another 1960s guy. His card came back in 8 days as well. I went with 1965 Topps because it’s one of my favorite sets. He was mainly a backup catcher but did get to catch one of Sandy Koufax’s no hitters so that’s pretty cool.

Camilli is tough since many of his cards are high numbers. His 1962 high number rookie I’m never going to get. His 1966 high number is as crazy as the rest of the 1966 high numbers. Thankfully I found a deal on his 1967 high number.

Bob Gallagher sent back my card and a nice note in 10 days. when sending these letter I sort of wrestled whether to out myself as an alumnus but eventually settled on it making the connection to my project even better.

Gallagher had a short career—only 2 Topps cards, one with Houston and one with New York—so I chose his 1974 card since I’ve never liked getting cards with facsimile signatures signed. I should probably track down his SSPC card as well since that one will probably look best signed.

Don Rose signed his only card in 11 days. Rose is one of the Stanford guys who intersects with my Giants fandom. Unfortunately he never got a Giants card.

Darrell Sutherland signed my 1966 Topps card in 14 days. Sutherland, as with Rose, had a pretty short career so I’m glad that he got a couple of cards out of it. His 1968 is one of those hatless awkward crops so I’m happy the 1966 is such a traditional pitchers’ pose.

Drew Jackson was my first Spring Training return coming back in only 11 days. He’s been bumping around in the Mariners organization for a few years but the Orioles picked him up as a Rule 5 draftee last winter so he’s on a Major League roster now. It’s fun to write a “congrats on making the show” letter and these Bowman designs look pretty nice signed.

Frank Duffy had a nice long career in the 1970s. His 1976 card came back in 18 days with a fun “Go Cardinal” inscription added. I had a lot of card choices here but 1976 is a design I’ve always liked to get signed.

Duffy is also one of those guys who played for the Giants but never got a card.

Jed Lowrie has signed on and off so I didn’t know what to expect when I sent to him. These two came back from Mets Spring Training in 18 days complete with the inscription. Getting A’s and Astros is wholly appropriate since he’s bounced between those two franchises a lot. He’s yet to show up on ay Topps checklists this year so it’ll be interesting to see what product he finally shows up in with the Mets.

This has been fun enough that between the Alumni Game post and Sunken Diamond post I’ve put together a page of all the Stanford Autographs I have now.

Former Giants

I figured I should go through my Giants duplicates to see who was worth sending out. It’s been a fun exercise of letting my duplicates guide me into doing some research and learning about players who I never got to see play.

Joe Amalfitano came back in 10 days. As one of the last New York Giants Amalfitano’s a fun addition. That he’s also a baseball lifer who’s not only still working in the game and actually working with the Giants is an added bonus.

This is the big return that makes everything else worth it. Juan Marichal took only 10 days. When I was a kid Marichal was on the “don’t even think about mailing to him” list so seeing him turn into a reliable signer is pretty cool. I kind of wanted to send a 1974 Topps or 1972 In Action card since the leg kick is so iconic but I eventually went with the extra 1965 I got from Dimebox Nick.

I’m still amazed that I have duplicate 1960s cards let alone duplicate Hall of Famer cards. 1965 is a beaut of a set and never ever a bad choice for signatures.

Bob Bolin also came back in 10 days. When you think of the 1960s Giants pitching you think of Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal or Mike McCormick but in 1968 only Bob Gibson had a better ERA than Bob Bolin in the National League.

Tito Fuentes came back in 8 days and included a nice index card. I’ve always liked Tito’s signature with the star dotting the I plus the nice baseball tail. It reminds me of how my son signs his name right now in all the best ways. Plus he’s one of those players who everyone likes.

He was the Giants’ Spanish-language announcer on KLOK when I was a kid and while I didn’t listen to every game in Spanish we’d turn it on on occasion and try and listen to the game. Sports is a good way to help learn the language.

I had his signature on a ball but I always intended to get him on a card. I’m glad I had a 1970 card handy instead of the 1975 I had acquired for this purpose 25 years ago.

Ken MacKenzie was another fast 8 day turnaround. While he played for the Giants he’s much better-known as an original Met who Casey Stengel immortalized as the “lowest paid member of the class of Yale ’56.”

Hobie Landrith took 9 days. He’s most famous for being THE original Met as he was their first selected player in the expansion draft.* Landrith also caught Juan Marichal’s first game so it’s nice to get the pair of them in this first batch.

*This is in comparison to Ryan Turner being the Rockies first player taken in the amateur draft rather than the subsequent expansion draft.

The 1978 Rob Andrews came back in 11 days. This card is a family favorite. Since it was double-printed I come across it a lot. As a result it’s become both boys’ oldest Giants card and they really enjoy having it in their collection.

And I got the Jack Hiatt that Night Owl sent me back in 11 days. Hiatt was the Giants back-up catcher for a number of years but had a great stretch in the first half of 1969 while Dick Dietz was injured. It’s nice that this card includes that stretch in its stats.

2018 Giants

A huge batch of the requests I sent out were packages including my customs from last season. I would call this “current Giants” but I sent to, and got returns from, guys who are no longer with the team as well. Most of these requests included a Topps card or two plus a stack of customs with a request to sign one and keep the rest.


The first return here was a big surprise. Dereck Rodríguez sent four cards back in only 10 days. As the sort of breakout rookie last season I had him pegged as a long shot of a return but he appears to, so-far, be a great signer.

I especially like the two customs he signed. As one of the breakout stars of last season I sent him a bunch. I’m especially happy with the one of him batting but there’s also something nice about a classic horizontal pitching action photo.

Will Smith also signed in 10 days. This is a great return. I love the way the Heritage card looks signed. So happy Topps stopped using the Giants in black Spring Training uniforms. I’m pretty sure the 2019 card is not of him but he signed it anyway and the custom of his roster card looks great.

Smith also signed both Wille Mac Award cards. Not sure why but this is appreciated nonetheless even though the black ink doesn’t show up well. It occurs to me that a Willie Mac Award Winner project could be an especially fun one for a Giants fan to embark on. I already have a few: Brenly, Krukow, Uribe, Bedrosian, and Manwaring from my youth and Speier, Dravecky and Pence as gifts from the wonderful members of Card Twitter.

And finally, Smith signed the silly Skybox-Basketball-style cards I made of the players in their ugly sweatshirts. As soon as I saw that post I thought there had to be something I could do with them. When I saw those 1990s Skybox designs I figured I should give it a shot and make a run at those 1990s colors and gradients. I didn’t really expect to get these signed but they were too much fun not to send off.

Ray Black signed his sort-of-disturbing 2019 Rookie card in 14 days. I had sent him an extra for him to keep but he signed both.

Black kept his ugly sweatshirt cards as well as the ones commemorating his relief no-hitter (9+ innings of no-hit relief work) last season and sent me back his signed roster card. I very much appreciate that he changed pens and used a silver sharpie on this custom. It’s a sharp look for the dark background and shows that he’s a very sensitive signer.

Sam Dyson signed his 2018 card in 14 days. Dyson made the most pitching appearances last year and was an integral part of the Giants bullpen. Unfortunately this also meant that he rarely showed up in any highlight situations since he just racked up holds and neither finished games nor was on the mound when the wheels fell off.

Dyson signed both of his roster cards but he did keep his ugly sweatshirt cards. I hope that, as with Black, this means he liked them instead of just tossing them.

Reyes Moronta signed everything I sent him in 16 days. I’d sent him an extra rookie card since I’ve heard that Topps doesn’t provide them to the players but he sent both back. I probably should’ve written to him in Spanish.

He also kept none of the customs. It’s cool to have doubles but I also feel guilty getting this many cards back. I don’t want to be one of those guys who contributes to the burnout that players end up feeling for TTM signing by sending too many in a request.

I was excited to get an Abiatal Avelino return in 16 days. My eldest’s first reaction to the Andrew McCutchen trade was to ask if the Giants got any guys we’d seen at Trenton.* He was excited to learn that Avelino was part of the trade and even more excited when Avelino got called up in September.

*I was extremely impressed at the maturity and baseball purity of this response.

It’s things like that that help prevent my son from converting to being a Yankees fan like so many other local kids. Trenton is a great Minor League experience and seeing players like Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres make a splash in the Majors only a year or two after we watched them is pretty exciting. Realizing that they might not make the majors as Yankees and instead appreciating them wherever they end up—including the Giants—is a much less dangerous mindset for the kids.

Avelino also signed his sweatshirt card! This is just too cool and I can tell he thought about where best to put his signature.

Chase d’Arnaud is tied at 7 days for my fastest return.* He seems like a super-nice guy since he’s already responded to and reacted to my tweet thanking him. I especially love the position player pitching card.**

*Ryan Turner and Pat Neshek are also 7-day turns. Given the way USPS works I’m not sure anything shorter is even possible. 

** I also sent one to Pablo Sandoval but I don’t expect that to come back.

Gorkys Hernández sent a great return in 14 days. He was another breakout player last year whatwith being one of the team leaders in Home Runs. I understand why we let him go but I’ll miss him just the same. I’m happy to have him in the album.

He signed one each of all the customs. I really like the variations in the photos here and he’s got a nice-looking signature too.

My last return was also my longest so far. Chris Stratton in 32 days coming in much closer to the way I expected things to turn out. He kept all the customs I sent him—kind of flattering actually—but it’s nice to have the signed Topps card. Stratton’s final stat line didn’t look that great but he pitched the best game of 2018 and really held the staff together at times in the season.

When I received this card Stratton was still a Giant. He’s since been traded to the Angels and while I understand why he went (no more minor league options) I’m a bit sad to see him go.

And whew. Almost 3000 words. I didn’t expect this many returns at all but what a wonderful “problem” to have. What a great start to this whole TTM thing. Pretty sure things are going to calm down a bit moving forward but we’ll see where things go. I’m looking forward to sending a few more letters out here and there as things come back.