March TTMs

What a month. All things considered this was pretty successful. Spring training returns continued to come in and a few other requests I sent out also came back. With the whole Covid-19 debacle I stopped sending requests early in the month and things sort of dried up in the last two weeks. I have no idea what to expect for returns moving forward but I am looking forward to being able to start things up again some day.

Also it’s worth noting that the boys wrote a few letters and began getting returns this month as well. They’ve been pretty quiet since last summer but this is a fun activity to share with them plus it gets them writing.

They have a few more out there but who knows what to expect now. Anyway to my returns for the month.

I tried sending to Dave Righetti early last year. Was hopeful I’d get a return when I saw everyone else get returns around June. No dice. I figured that I’d try again this spring and send to Scottsdale instead  of Pac Bell. 27 days later a nice 1993 Topps Gold card came back signed.

Rags was one of those guys I liked watching before he became a Giant. Some pitchers you can just watch how they move the ball around the zone and really appreciate the art of pitching. Once he came to San Francisco I was happy to have an excuse to cheer for him. That he went on to become the pitching coach during the Even Years run of championships makes him even cooler.

Same Selman is yet another Giant who made his Major League Debut last year. These came back in 24 days. He didn’t keep one but I hope he liked them.

Two years into making customs and I’ve come to realize that I love sending out “congrats on your MLB debut, I made some customs for you” letters. This season I’m going to have to try and make debut or notable firsts (hits, home runs, wins, etc.) cards for all the guys making their official debuts.

Tommy Edman is a Stanford guy who was not on my radar for making it to the majors last year. But he did, had a great first season, and was literally the last guy to make it into the 2019 Update set.* I didn’t mention it when Big Shep sent me the Edman cards last year but Shep sent me an extra Edman for TTM reasons.

*Seriously. Edman debuted on June 8 and Yordan Alvarez debuted on June 9. Edman is included in 2019 Update. Alvarez had to wait until 2020 to get his first Major League card. Not sure whether the MLBPA union insisted on that cutoff or if Topps proposed it. Either way it left Update feeling like a badly-thought-out set which isn’t able to include either the top Rookies or the trades that occurred before the deadline.

Edman sent this back to me in only 19 days. Very cool and I’ve already added it to the page of Stanford Autographs. Up to 92 different athletes on there now.

Felipe Alou is probably my favorite return of the spring. I wish I’d had some vintage doubles of him (ideally 1960 0r 1962) but I also really liked him as the Giants manager and the way he used his platform there to speak about his experiences in the game and how society has changed in the decades since he started playing.

His baseball stories were great but the one that sticks with me the most is appropriate for his status as the first Dominican player. His first time traveling into the South and being informed that certain people had decided that he was black.

Needless to say I’m very happy with this card. He was one of the first letters I sent out and 31 days later I was very happy to add him to the binder.

I figured I shouldn’t just be sending to Spring Training so I sent a couple other requests out in February. Goose Gossage is one such request. His 1986 Topps card came back in 17 days. I just love the attitude in this photo. I would’ve sent him a 1989 Mothers Cookies card but I traded my duplicate a long time ago.

Chuck Essegian is another re-send for me. Once I started making Stanford customs I figured I should go back over the guys I got the first time around. The hard part is often finding photos. With Essegian I was stuck between showing him on the A’s since he never had an A’s card or putting him on the Dodgers since his pinch-hitting heroics make him a Dodger legend of sorts. I went with the Dodgers and after a couple of tries this came back in 8 days.

Spring training returns continued to trickle in after the first burst. Jandal Gustave signed in 34 days—still not a long wait. He was a bit of a surprise last season who came with no expectations and turned out to be quietly effective out of the bullpen.

After 10 days, Doug Gwosdz became the first signer to take advantage of the Mother’s Cookies “autograph” line on the backs of the cards. I’ve always wondered about that line as it felt both optimistic and a bit weird to have on the backs of the cards. It doesn’t feel like something that Mother’s Cookies would have invented but it’s not something that’s exactly common either.

I’ve gone ahead and scanned the front of the card as well. I would’ve preferred the signature be there but I can’t complain. This is actually a zero-year card since Gwosdz never appeared in the majors with the Giants. I don’t collect this theme but they’re certainly fun things to note and don’t really pop up that often (I didn’t see any Giants on the list I linked to). I appreciate that he signed the index card with his Giants number instead of the #10 he wore with the Padres.

Catcher Steve Nicosia came back in 9 days. He was a World Series winning catcher with the Pirates in 1979 and later spent two seasons with the Giants as a backup/platoon guy.

Roberto Hernandez’s 10-day return continues the theme of short-term Giants. He was only on the team for half of the 1997 season but since that pennant race is what brought me back to being a fan I remember him very fondly. His two-inning save of the game before the Brian Johnson game will be my lasting memory. He wasn’t our main closer but at that time it was quite a weapon to have a guy who could hit 100mph on the gun.

Yet another short-term Giant, Gene Richards signed in 11 days. Richards was primarily a Padre whose 56 stolen bases was the Rookie record from 1977 to 1980. This 1985 card is his career capper as he retired after his 1984 season—his only one with the Giants.

After the Richards return my mail pretty much dried up as the country went into the Covid-19 lockdown. My two-week dry spell was broken by a nice 44-day return from Alex Dickerson. The autos got kind of beat up and scratched in the return envelope but that was totally fine because Dick included a nice note as well.

This encapsulates everything I enjoy about sending out these requests. I mentioned in my letter how much fun it was to see the way he energized the team last season and giving the customs to players is a way to demonstrate my appreciation as a fan. In these days where everyone’s just waiting out the impending disaster and trying to stay safe there’s also something wonderful in just the simple “take care” sort of response everyone is giving each other.

I know the month isn’t over quite yet (will it ever end?) but this feels like an appropriate last return for the post. This blog doesn’t have many readers but I agree 100% with Alex. I hope all is well and that you’re all staying safe. Take care out there.

February TTMs

February was supposed to be a month of stragglers where only a few items trickled in and I concentrated on sending things to Spring Training. Since I didn’t send out a bunch in December and January I didn’t expect a lot of returns. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many Spring Training returns I’ve already gotten though.

We’ll start off with a non-Spring Training return though. This is a fun one. Paul Molitor came back in 22 days. Signature looks great on that 1985 Fleer too. I’m very happy. It’s always nice to add a Hall of Famer to the collection and Molitor is a special one. His 44-game hitting streak in 1987 was part of my first season of fandom and the excitement over that is something I still remember staying on top of in the newspaper ever morning.

Former Giant, now World Series winning manager, Dave Martinez was the first Spring Training request to return. He signed his 1993 Upper Deck card in 11 days. I love this set and based my initial Giants customs on it, however I’ve never gotten one signed before. This is mainly due to a lack of inventory since it ticks off all the things I like best for getting cards autographed.

Tyler Rogers was my first return of my 2019 customs. These also came back in 11 days. Rogers was a fun addition to the team last year because a submariner is always enjoyable to watch. I hope he sticks around. Also yes these are signed in two different inks. I’m curious which he used first and why he changed since they both look fine to me.

I haven’t blogged about these customs like I did with my 2018 set mainly because there’s not much new to add. I scaled back my set and did only a dozen highlights. And I changed the size of the roster cards to be business card sized so they can fit in 10-pocket sheets. The main reason I did that was so that I could have Bochy plus the opening day lineup on the first sheet but I also like the aspect ratio too.

Conner Menez returned one custom to me in 13 days. Yes, Conner not Conor. I screwed up and misspelled his name on his card. I apologized in my letter to him and I’m thankful he was gracious enough to still sign. Menez and Rogers represent exactly why I enjoy sending customs out. These are guys who debuted in 2019 and don’t yet have their first real cards so being able to send something I made to commemorate their Major League debuts makes me feel like I’m offering them something instead of just asking.

Shaun Anderson’s 15-day return confirmed my approach. I sent him a bunch of customs as well as his 2019 Topps Rookie Card with the request to sign the Topps card and one of his favorite customs. Instead he returned a signed copy of each custom and kept a copy of each plus the Topps card.

Which I’m perfectly happy with. A return like this suggests to me that he enjoyed the customs and might not be signing all of his requests. As a bigger-name rookie in the organization this wouldn’t surprise me at all.

And yes. I sent him three customs. In addition to the general roster card I produced a highlights card for his debut since he went 2 for 2 from the plate as well as pitching a decent 5 innings. I always enjoy getting a pitcher batting card signed.

Anderson also took part in the dress like Pablo Sandoval day. Those photos were so ridiculous that I had to turn them into cards. There was only one possible card design to use for this which means of course I had to create a Giants-specific spin on 1992 Bowman. I really like how these came out and I hope the players get a kick out of their cards.

Erik Kratz was only a Giant for a brief while last season but his walk-off fielder’s choice ended a memorable 18-inning game. Not the greatest highlight but weird baseball is weird baseball. Kratz is now with the Yankees and his customs came back in 16 days. These got mangled a bit but that’s the risk of sending things through the mail.

Where everyone celebrates what their first 2020 card is when they opened their first pack, I get to celebrate Jaylin Davis being my first 2020 to be autographed. I mailed his card the same day I got it which means this request might have been his first time seeing it in person. In any case I hope he enjoyed seeing his first real baseball card. He got it back to me in only 12 days too.

Davis tore things up in Sacramento last year but struggled a bit after being called up in September. His first career Home Run was a walkoff though and made for a great highlight card. I’m very happy to have that signed.

Nick Vincent’s custom came back in 14 days. His season got messed up by injury the Giants eventually designated him for assignment. I’m kind of happy that he’s getting a chance to win a position on the team this year. Never sits right when a guy gets sidelined by injury and then doesn’t even get the chance to come back.

Wandy Peralta also came back in 14 days. He signed both customs. Each time I get another mailing of signed customs I’m increasingly happy that I’ve been doing these projects. Yes it’s fun to chase the stars and big names. But there’s something about caring about September depth guys like Peralta which I find very satisfying.

Sam Coonrod signed his 2019 Rookie Combo card as well as two customs in 22 days. With Rogers, Menez, Anderson, and Davis, Coonrod makes the fifth return of the month from a guy who debuted in the Majors last season. I’m not expecting much from the team this year but it should be fun to see all these young players sort things out. Also it’s great to add another “Dress Like Panda” custom to the autograph binder.

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.