2021 in review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum

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

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

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

December Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

November Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

October Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August Returns

Continuing with customs and my junk wax dupes. The more customs I get back the more I’m inspired to make more of them.

First return of the month was Kent Hrbek in 34 days. Those Minnesota Twins World Series winners were pretty prominent in my early baseball fandom and Hrbek in particular is one of the players I remember most. I couldn’t help but make a card of the play where he pulled Ron Gant off the base. It’s definitely a moment that stands out to me today and I kind of love how it’s become a thing between Braves and Twins fans on Twitter.

While I was expecting a decent number of customs back, I was not expecting this 282 day return from Chad Hutchinson. I chose to make a football version of the 1978 Topps template I’m using for Stanford Alumni. This was partly because he had a longer NFL career and patly because I wanted to challenge myself to expand on the template. I did however include both his MLB and NFL stats on the back.

Another custom, this time from Padres slugger Nate Colbert in 44 days. when I was growing up, his five home runs in a double header was one of those feats that either really made an impression on me or which got mentioned an awful lot in the books I was reading. Either way, despite him being somewhat forgotten now he’s one of those guys who resonates for me.

While Tito Fuentes was one of my first TTM requests, I figured it would be fun to send him a custom. He’s one of my favorite characters and as I mentioned in my previous return from him, was the Spanish-language announcer who I listened to when I was learning Spanish as a kid.

Fuentes is a good TTM signer and sent these back in 10 days. He also sent me a great note which encapsulates why I enjoy sending customs out so much. It allows me to give a little something to the players and it’s clear that many of them appreciate the gesture. Hrbek, Hutchinson, and Colbert all kept at least one custom as well.

I’m not sure if there’s another player like Dave Parker who has so many cool portraits. I put two together on this custom and was very happy to get it back in 45 days. I hope he enjoyed the custom as well since he kept the two extras.

Ted Kubiak took part in SABR’s Burdick Award ceremony for Doug McWilliams. I sent him a quick note thanking him for his participation and he sent my card back in 22 days. Given that this card is shot at Candlestick it’s a decent bet that McWilliams took the photo.

Kubiak sent me a separate envelope with four more signed cards. I would’ve liked to have sent him an A’s card but I only had his 1968 and it was asking for a face sign. I won’t complain about getting extras as a bonus though. I much prefer having him in the binder as an A and the 3x World Series  inscription is a nice touch.

Another fun return. Yes I’ve sent to Al Hrabosky before but I wanted to try and get the “Mad Hungarian” inscription this time. I didn’t ask but I sent a much-more-obvious photo in the custom. He didn’t keep any but sent them all back in 9 days.

My first 1988 return of the month was Tim Stoddard in 15 days. He had a nice 13-year career which ended around 1988 but I wasn’t able to find any earlier cards of his in my collection (I have some in sets but I’m not pulling those out for TTM). 1988 always looks good signed though.

A quick 9 day return from Bill Landrum brought the first 1991 Studio back in a long time. These always look nice signed although they tend to scan a bit dark. Landrum played for 8 years in the National League during my peak Giants fandom. His longest stint was with the Pirates and it turns out that that’s where all my duplicates are too.

I had to make a Juan Marichal custom since none of his cards really capture his leg kick to my satisfaction. I was very happy to get this in 18 days. I’m curious how much longer he’s going to be signing too since his signature has gotten a lot shakier than it was two years ago. It’s not bad yet but thw writing is on the wall.

A 13-day return from Maury Wills brought another signature from a guy who’s probably not going to be signing much longer. As with Marichal you can kind of see where things are going. Still, Wills is one of those great players who I always forget is not in the Hall of Fame. When I was growing up during in the 1980s, the historical path which led to Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson began with Wills establishing the stolen base as a legitimate offensive weapon. It’s possibly the part of baseball I miss the most now.

I’m starting to get into my 1989 duplicates and after 16 days, Mark Parent is the first of them to return to me. I like his catchers’ pose on the 89 and it’s nice to have a different team on his Stadium Club card. For a light-hitting catcher he put together a pretty nice 13-year career.

A 32 day return from Blas Minor brought my first 93 Fleer Ultra to the collection. These cards look nice signed, I just don’t have a bunch of them. Minor has an interesting inscription too. It’s a nice-sounding bible verse* though zooming out and seeing that the context is specifically about the behavior of slaves takes some of the shine off of it.

*“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

One of my favorite returns of the month. I sent a 2010 Topps Giants Franchise History card to Renel Brooks-Moon because I realized that it would be fun to add her to the binder. She’s been the voice of he Giants for over 20 years now and is as much a part of the experience of attending a game at Pac Bell Oracle as the product on the field. I’m glad that my kids both had their first MLB experiences in San Francisco and that she’s the voice they heard and imprinted on for what a Major League game should sound like.

19 days later, I received a small manilla envelope with a San Francisco Giants return address. At first I was a bit confused and was trying to remember what I’d ordered directly from them. The I realized it was probably Renel’s return. Inside was my card but also a lot more. The 2020 Opening Day card was a fantastic addition since I think it’s the only official card she’s ever gotten. But there was also signed photo and a nice note.

The photo is ~5″×7″ and looks to be the same photo session that Topps used. It got beat up a little in the mail but it’s still great. I love the Go Giants inscription as I’m not used to getting returns from fellow fans. And it’s always nice to be thanked for the letter.

A 75 day return form Len Matuszek brought another 1988 to the collection. His 1984 is a nice add since, not only do I not have many of those (signed or otherwise), it represents his best Major League season as well sinc ethat was the year he took over after Pete Rose left the Phillies.

An 11 day return from Steve Rosenberg on another 1989 duplicate. While I’ve started sending these out, I haven’t gotten as far into them as I expected to. It’s another nice and simple design that takes a signature well and I’m looking forward to increasing my variety even with guys like Rosenberg who only played a couple years at the peak of my card collecting youth.

The last return of he month was an 11 day return from Andre Dawson on a custom. Finishing me off where I started with my seventh 1956ish (or as someone on Twitter pointed out, also 1960ish) custom of the month. These all look great and Dawson’s signature on this one is especially nice.

Next month looks to be light since I’ve not sent out much in August. Maybe once the kids go back to school I’ll get some more out. Fingers crossed that there’s no COVID complications as school gets roaring back into session.

July Returns

A decent number of customs coming back this month plus a bunch of guys from my childhood as I work through my 1988 duplicates.

The first return of the month was a 15-day return from Tom Poquette who unfortunately never got a chance to endorse Motel 6. Jokes aside (and they’re impossible to avoid) he was a decent player for the Royals and demonstrates one of the interesting things about the TTM hobby in that requests and returns have a tendency to interact in unexpected ways. In this case, Willie Wilson’s emergence is what spelled the end of Poquette’s Royals days.

Frank DiPino is one of those names from my youth. As a Giants fan it’s the National League guys who I rally got to be familiar with. DiPino fits that bill between being a somewhat distinct name and a NL guy who, by being a reliever, I’m pretty sure I saw in person even if I don’t remember any highlights. I don’t usually use 1990 Donruss for requests but it works well with a red-colored team like the Cardinals. This came back in 11 days.

Another 11-day return brought the first 1994 Donruss to the collection. I just don’t have many of those since it came at the end of my time in the hobby but after pulling a 1988 duplicate I figured I’d look through the rest. Bill Wegman was a Brewers lifer who pitched for 11 years and put together a nice respectable body of work.

Ken Schrom was an All Star in 1986. His stat line shows a 91 ERA+ that year so it must’ve been slim pickens over in Cleveland. I like that I was able to hit two of my childhood sets and get two different teams here. The photos are also pretty good—both cards are good representatives of their years. They came back in 53 days.

Bob Gallagher was one of the first people I set to a couple years ago but I had yet to send him a custom for the Stanford Album. He kept two and sent one back in 10 days. I’m up to two dozen different subjects in that set and every new one I get back is a lot of fun.

This was a fun one. I’d previously sent to Bobby Shantz and Frank Thomas but hadn’t sent to Bob Veale despite him being the best part of my Old Timers story. I finally put a custom together and sent them out with a letter thanking him for being so cool to a ten year old kid who had no idea who he was. 10 days later I got a couple customs back and a couple notes as well.

Two notes is interesting. Veale continues to be a good guy and it sounds like he appreciated my memories of him. I like the 1971 World Series Champions tag and I couldn’t help but smile at him trading me one of his cards for one of mine. It’s always fun to find a player who collects.

The card that he sent me in exchange for one of my customs (I usually send three and only ask for one to be signed) is a 1960s era Pirates team issue which I understand were used to giveaway for getting autographs on. It’s got a big Giant Eagle logo on the back for the full local tie-in* and is definitely one of the cooler player-provided photos I’ve gotten even though I don’t recognize Veale without the glasses.

*Giant Eagle is a Pittsburgh grocery chain.

Amos Otis is another of those players who I remember learning about when I was a kid. He had a good career in the 1970s and is definitely one of those definitive 1970s players who make a good fit for my customs project. I was happy to get these back in just 8 days.

Not sure if this was a thank you note for the extra customs but maybe it is. In any case, it’s always nice to get a note back from a player.

A couple more customs, this time Luis Tiant in 14 days who didn’t keep any extras. The 1956ish design is obviously the main one I’m working on but the black border is based on my Giants customs for this year and is proving to be a versatile one for images that don’t fit my main custom design.

Tiant is of course on of those guys who every fan from the 1970s loves and, despie no being in the Hall of Fame, is clearly someone who everyone would embrace being enshrined. I got his autograph on a ball decades ago but it’s nice to add a few cards to the collection too.

Mike Matheny is the current Royals manager but he also had a brief stop in San Francisco 15 years ago. Not long enough to make an impression on most people but I do remember him playing in those weird years when Barry’s career was ending and it wasn’t clear what the Giants’ next identity would become. He did however end up becoming the first Giants catcher to win the Gold Glove Award while he was in San Francisco.

I sent him in the beginning of the season when the Royals were doing well with a .600 record after April. Unfortunately, 67 days later when I got this, the Royals had kind of fallen off the pace with an abysmal June in which they only won 7 games.

A 14 day return from John “Blue Moon” Odom brought another custom back to me. Odom has one of the all-time great nicknames and is also a bit of a Bay Area legend due to his time with the A’s in the 1970s.

Paul Assenmacher was kind of the definitive LOOGY as he pitched in 884 games over 14 seasons but only amassed 855.2 innings pitched. I remember seeing him pitch at Candlestick before he fully became the one-out guy and it was nice to get these back in 42 days.

Sometimes you just find a good photo. I’m a sucker for these multiexposure action images and really like how they end up looking on customs (Tiant above and Elroy Face a while ago). So I sent this out to Guidry and was very happy to get it back 20 days later.

Joe Sambito is a guy I remember from my youth but never realized how good he was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As much as I studied card backs, I was not too smart about relief pitching and wouldn’t have recognized how dominant his 1979 season in particular was. The 22 Saves doesn’t look like much but the 1.78 ERA in 63 games and 91 innings is a lot more impressive. I was happy I had an Astros card to send in addition to his 1988 card and was pleased to get them back in 8 days.

A 10 day return from Don Gordon brought another 1988 duplicate to my collection. Gordon included this very nicely made custom card which confused me for a moment because I thought it was a real Big League card and couldn’t remember sending such a card out.

Gerald Young was one of those guys who was full of promise when I was  a kid. He never panned out but he’s definitely one of those names that I remember. I don’t like the outsize influence that prospecting has in the hobby but there is something about the rookies who were big when I was a kid and whose entire careers I was looking forward to watching. These two came back in 30 days and I was very happy to get them.

I sent another request to Frank Thomas because I wanted to thank him for his Christmas Card 9 days. I put a custom card together from his time with the Pirates and another SABR member asked if he could order a couple hundred for Frank. So I took care of that and sent him a couple hundred to keep in addition to my request.

As usual I got a nice letter back (in only 9 days!) written in his miniscule handwriting. This time I need to send him a letter back though since he asked me some questions about the custom cards.

One of the things I especially liked about the 1988 set are the Team USA cards in the Traded set. Some of this is because of the number of Stanford guys in the set but I also just like the way Topps did the text. For whatever reason I had an extra Billy Masse card so I sent it out since I enjoy getting them signed. He never played in the Majors but an official Topps card is an official Topps card. 51 days later it came back and I got to add my 6th card (and 5th different member) of the 1988 Gold Medal winners.

Moving to customs. This time a 12 day return from Wade Boggs who signed all three cards despite my asking for him to only sign one. I love the chicken photo and one thing that I love best about making customs is how I can pick photos that you don’t usually see on cards.

Steve Garvey, like Boggs, also sent back all three cards in 12 days. This is a great photo which Getty has tagged incorrectly as Garvey scoring in a game in Dodger Stadium instead of the play at Yankee Stadium where the umpire blew the call and called him out. Still, the photo is fantastic and everyone of the right age who sees this card on Twitter (even Yankee fans) responds with “Garvey was safe.”

Back to my 1988 duplicates. Bob Kipper, as a middle-relief guy for the Pirates, is another of those guys who I probably saw pitch at Candlestick at some point. I’m really enjoying the look of the 1988 cards signed and was very happy to add another one in 14 days.

Vida Blue is a Bay Area legend for his time with both the Giants and the A’s as well as his continued involvement as a Giants community representative. I got his autograph on a ball during Spring Training decades ago but wanted to make a custom of him as well. These came back 17 days after I sent them. Should I have made an A’s custom? Probably. But I’m a Giants fan first and foremost.

Denny McLain is a guy who I made customs of because I didn’t have a card. His 1968 season was the stuff of legend when I was a kid and has only gotten more amazing since whatwith how the game has become so bullpen dominated. I sent these out the same day as Vida Blue and got them back the sam day as well for a bit of fun kismet in that they’re two members of the exclusive club of players who won both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the same season.

McLain didn’t keep any customs but instead gave me different inscriptions on each of them as well as signing the backs.

A fun one to go into the weird section of my binder. I love the Sidd Finch story/joke. It was fun to read about when I was a kid and it remains a the gold standard of April Fools jokes in sports even today. Joe Berton is the guy in the famous Sidd Finch photo which in many ways became the most iconic part of the story. I figured it would be fun to make a Finch card and send it to Berton. 28 days later I got two nicely-inscribed cards as well as a note thanking me for the copy he kept.

Kevin Frandsen is currently one of the Phillies broadcasters but I remember him as on of those fun examples where a local kids ends up being drafted and playing for his local team. He grew up in the Bay Area, went to high school in Santa Clara, college in San José, got drafted by the Giants, played minor league ball in San José and Fresno, and finally ended up in an Francisco. Very very cool. I sent this to the Phillies ballpark and he sent it back in 67 days. It’s a fun photo and his signature works really well with it.

A 27-day return from Cy Young Award Winner Randy Jones brought back my first Padres customs. Jones is one of those guys who I remember learning about as a kid but just hadn’t managed to get a card of. Customs to the rescue. Jones signed two and kept one but he signed each one differently which is kind of interesting.

The last return of the month is a new longest return for me. I sent to Max Venable back in May 2019. 785 days later his return showed up at my parents’ house. It looks like he moved some time between my request and his return since the return came from a completely different state. Venable started with the Giants and hung around the majors for a dozen years.

And that’s it for July. A very good month indeed and I’ve still go a few customs pending to look forward to in August.

June Returns

A good month. I’m continuing to work my 1986 duplicates and am moving into my 1988 duplicates as well while mixing things up with some random Giants. That I got a few 100+ day returns is also a lot of fun.

The first success of the month was a 34-day return from outfielder Billy Sample. Sample played primarily with the Rangers so this Yankees card represents the end of his career. He had a decent 9 years in the Majors with a couple particularly nice seasons such as 1983. I was sad to not have a Rangers card to send but it’s always nice to add another 1986.

Sample included a very nice note on this photocopy of his 1987 Sports Illustrated article (Sample’s post-playing career has seen him publish, broadcast, and get involved with filmmaking). It’s the last page of a particularly nice issue which focuses on a single day of baseball. Looking through the online copy hits me right in the feels since this is the baseball I grew up with.

While at one level, the way I’ve been hitting my 1986 duplicates is opportunistic, it’s been especially refreshing to remember what baseball used to be like when I fell in love with it. Cards serve as that entry point but everything about the process serves to remind me why I still care about the sport despite all the crap that Manfred and the owners are pulling to make me hate it now.

A 7-day return from Mark Thurmond added a very short-term Giant to the collection. Thurmond bounced around a bit but is primarily a Padre. He’s strictly a one-per signer otherwise I would’ve included a Padres card as well. This is his only Giants card and also represents my first signed 1991 Fleer card. Not a set I reach for but sometimes I have no choice.

Thurmond is noteworthy for the somewhat ignominious achievement of losing both games in a double header. This was on June 16, 1985 against the Giants in San Francisco. Thurmond started the first game and gave up 5 runs in 3 innings before being pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the 4th. In the nightcap, the Padres tied the game in the 9th. Thurmond was brought out to pitch in the 12th inning only to surrender the winning run an inning later. A rough day for sure but the Padres bullpen must’ve been totally shot in the second game.

Willie Wilson was an established veteran by the time I became a fan (even playing for the A’s a bit) which means that he was one of those guys whose card backs caught my attention when I was first starting off in the hobby. Nothing like a back full of agate type and with the occasional bold-italics that signified someone led the league.

Wilson had a lot of bold italics in the triples column and his 1980 line also shows him leading the league in plate appearances, at bats, runs, and hits. His single-season record remains the second-highest number of at bats in a season and it was fun to get this card back in 10 days.

This is a fun one. Johnnie LeMaster wasn’t even a replacement-level shortstop but his stunt with the Boo jersey is the stuff of legend. It’s not his fault that he was the best shortstop the Giants had for like five years. I loved the story when I was a kid; reading about it now and finding out that he only wore it for an inning makes it even better. It’s a priceless bit of Giants memorabilia and it’s fantastic that he’s kept and treasures it.

When I came across a photo of him in the jersey I knew I had to make a custom. He kept an extra and sent the rest back in only 6 days.

I also included this post card in my request. This photo is also kind of stupidly amazing since he’s not the player I’d think of most for wielding a hot bat (although his 1983 season was probably the best of his career). The signed result means this return is one of the best ones I’ve gotten ever.

So this was kind of amazing. I sent a request to Mark Leiter on a Monday and it arrived back in my mailbox the following Thursday. The only way this could be any faster than 3 days is if he somehow mailed the cards out the same day he received them AND everything at the post office went perfectly.

Anyway, Leiter wasn’t a Giant long but he did win the Willie Mac Award and it’s always cool to add an autograph of one of those winners. He also added the 1996 Score card featuring him with both a camera AND his son for the quintessential mid-90s baseball card photograph. His son is actually playing in AA right now and if they were signing at Minor League games I’d seriously consider bringing this card to a Somerset-Erie game.

Fred Lewis is a guy I remember from the Barry Bonds years and I love the story about how he flew himself out to Barry Bonds’s number retirement and ended up as part of the ceremony. Definitely the kind of thing the Giants do well. It turns out that Lewis also has a very-nice looking signature which looks great on this card. He sent this back in 37 days.

A 20-day return from Kurt Kepshire brought my first 1986 of the month. I’m mostly finished with my duplicates so it’ll be interesting to see how many more come back. This is the 59th in the collection which is pretty good considering I’m not pursuing a signed set.

Kepshire had a decent rookie season in 1984, wasn’t as good in 1985, but then only appeared in two games in 1986. It’s always amazing to me how a guy can disappear out of the league that quickly.

Of course the day after I received the Kepshire return, I received my 60th 1986 return. This time it was Andre Thornton in 63 days. Thornton was sort of the only Cleveland star when I was a kid. There were some up and coming guys (Carter, Snyder, Butler, etc.) but Thornton was the only heavy hitter.

Jim Lindeman is another guy who I watched in the 1987 post season. Even though I hate the Cardinals, I can’t deny that that team also brings me back. I was happy to find a card of him with the Phillies as well and enjoyed getting these back in 11 days.

Al Worthington is a bit of  a TTM legend. One of those guys who returns quickly and sends lots of extras. He’s also one of the few remaining New York Giants out there so I was very happy to get these back in only 10 days.

Worthingon is an interesting character. A lot of the stuff he sends back is tract stuff but he’s noteworthy for basically quitting two teams (one of which was the Giants) because they were stealing signs and signaling the batters. As much as this kind of cheating has been going on forever, not many players had the spine to make a stand about it like Worthington did.

Mike Bordick is one of those names I remember from my youth in the Bay Area. He’d go on to try and fill Cal Ripken Jr’s shoes in Baltimore but it’s his time with the A’s which resonates with me. This is also a fantastic photo the likes of which we couldn’t even conceive in the hobby when I started collecting only a handful of years earlier and I was very happy to get it back in 68 days.

A 27-day return brought a second Willie Mac Award winner to my collection this month. This time it’s Marvin Benard who was a bit frustrating at times but was definitely a big part of the team in the late 1990s. He brings my total of Willie Mac Award Winners up to 18 (out of 40) which is pretty good for something I’m only building casually.

At 353 days, Gary Thomasson is now my third-longest return.* He had a decent career as a Giant before a flurry of trades in 1978 sent him all across the league. I really like his 1974 card because of the view of Candlestick in the background.

*Only Jim Willoughby at 494 days and Juan Gonzalez at 418 days are longer.

Thomasson though is most noteworthy for his two years in Japan. Not because of his baseball prowess there but rather the way he inspired the concept of a “Thomasson.” It’s a snarky term architecturally in that it implies that something is not only useless but expensively useless. But for photographers it’s actually something inspiring.

Thomassons are wonderful and evocative as they suggest both the past usage of a building and the way a building live as an entity of its own. As a photographer, they’re the kind of detail I’m always looking for and the kind of detail I love to see when others find them. I especially like the concept when it applies to old roads and rights of way which have been abandoned or repurposed.

Some cards just kind of resonate. Sammy Khalifa’s 1987 Topps card for example is one which a lot of guys my age remember. Kind of the perfect combination of an interesting name and photo to stand out as a memorable common in the set that introduced my collecting generation to the hobby. I still like the photo today in the way it’s somewhat distinct from other cards. I enjoyed writing the letter about this card and was just as happy to get it back in 96 days.

Khalifa himself is an interesting story. Besides  being the first MLB player of Egyptian descent, he also quit playing when his father was murdered by an extremist.

Four home runs in a game is a big deal. When I was a kid though it had only been accomplished twice since 1961, once by Mike Schmidt in 1976, the other by Bob Horner in 1986. As such, Horner was kind of a big deal to me in my nascent baseball fandom. Getting a 10-day return on a 1986 card no less is the perfect way to remember that.

A 9-day return from Mike Ivie added another 1981 card to the collection as well as a second KNBR Police card. There’s something especially fun about sending out team issued stuff—even stuff like this card which breaks most of my rules for what kinds of cards I like the get signed*

*awkward size plus facsimile sig in this case being two things that typically disqualify cards.

On the topic of facsimile autographs, this 10-day return from Dan Schatzeder is another example of why I break my rule against using these cards. Since this is his only Giants card—and it’s a stretch to call it a Giants card—I decided that I should send it. It’s a little crowded but it’s a fun addition to the Giants album. I actually didn’t realize he was a former Giant until I pulled his 1988 duplicate so I’m happy I even had this available.

I’m solidly into my 1988 duplicates now but this 106-day return from Mike  Birkbeck was one of the first to go out. Birkbeck is currently a baseball coach at Kent State and just completed a decent season over there.

Another 1988 duplicate. This time only a 12-day return from Keith Hughes. He had a short MLB career and bounced around with five different teams over four seasons. According to Wikipedia though he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Mayagüez the Puerto Rico Winter League championship.

An 8-day return from Davey Johnson brought a great 1986 Topps card to the collection. I wanted to send his Giants card but didn’t trust the mail. Instead I sent a 1986 and mentioned in my letter how that World Series was the first one I ever watched and represented when I really began to be a baseball fan. That he inscribed it with “86 WS Champs” suggests that he read my letter and that’s pretty cool.

Back to 1988 duplicates. Terry Leach was a 107 day return and I enjoy the difference between his 88 Topps and 89 Donruss photos. Leach bounced around a lot in his professional career but 1987 and 1988 were his statistical high points so it’s nice that these cards cover those seasons.

Orioles fan favorite Floyd Rayford came back in 16 days. The 1985 represents his best season (131 OPS+) and the 1988 is a career capper. One thing that’s been fun as I work my duplicates and pull cards of names I remember from my youth but who had pretty pedestrian careers has been noticing that even guys like Rayford whose overall stat lines are pretty basic (7 years, 1 WAR, 86 OPS+) tend to have one good, maybe even great, season.

Eric Bell’s 1988 card captures the only full season he played in MLB when he went 10–13 in 33 games for the Orioles. Not a good season but he was good enough enough to stick in a Major League rotation all year. His 1991 is kind of amazing in that he pitched 10 games in relief and racked up a 4–0 record and 0.50 ERA in 18 innings. I wonder why he didn’t pitch more that year. This request came back in 16 days.

The last couple returns this month are customs. The first one is the 2021 Burdick Award winner, Doug McWilliams. Since I wrote the SABR post I don’t have much more to say about Doug here except that as a photographer who formed his visual literacy in part through collecting cards, I am extremely appreciative of Doug’s work and how he’s been so open in discussion the conditions it was made in.

He sent me back a very nice note too. I’m looking forward to the official award presentation later this month as well. I should probably start working on my intro.

And the last return of the month is a super-fast 6-day return from Bill Mazeroski. I put an order of customs together since there were a bunch of guys I wanted to send to who I didn’t have cards of and it’s faster and cheaper to make customs than order what I want online now.

The Maz photo choice was obvious but I really like how the rest of he card came together and I love how it looks signed. A great sig and it’s placed perfectly. A great way to both end the month and step into the next one as I’ve sent out a bunch of new customs now.

May Returns

No mail today so there’s no sense in waiting to publish this post next week. May was a decent month as I mostly worked through my childhood duplicates. But I did pick up a few fun bigger-name players.

Let’s start off with a couple signatures from guys who were a big deal in my childhood. Jeff Reardon was one of the best closers around before LaRussa and Eckersley completely changed the position.

I didn’t send a Twins card even though he was a part of that 1987 World Series Championship since I didn’t like any of the options available to me. I did however like the photo on his 1987 and I’ll always send a 1991 Studio card if I can. I was very happy to get these back in only a dozen days.

Howard Johnson was even a bigger deal than Reardon. Besides the fact that he used to kill the Giants, he also was one of the guy whose inserts and special cards I always used to pull. I’d want a Will Clark or Kevin Mitchell but I’d invariable get a HoJo. Kind of amazes me how much he’s been forgotten now but third base was a pretty deep position in those years.

I of course had a ton of inserts to choose from for this request but I went with a 1986 Mets Fan Club card because it was my favorite of his oddballs and also represented the World Series year. This came back in 24 days.

A 9-day return Shane Rawley continues the run of guys who had their best seasons during my formative fan years. With modern stats we can see that Rawley put together a very good 12-year career with a handful of solid WAR and ERA+ seasons. At the time though that 17-win season in 1987 (for a sub-.500 Phillies team) was impressive instead.

This is the fist time I’ve gotten a base and All Star card signed and I kind of like the way that having the pair together works. Not a lot of reliable signers who I can do this with though.

Since I’m not a huge college football guy, I was unaware of Cris Carpenter’s college career as an all-SEC punter. He was just one of those Rated Rookies from my youth whose career I lost track of in the strike year. I do remember being confused when Chris Carpenter debuted with the Cardinals in the early 2010s though. Nice to add a Rated Rookie signature in 9 days though..

A 7-day return from George Wright brought another 1986 card to the collection. Wright had an excellent 1983 season and a historically bad 1985 season. I’m not a huge proponent of WAR but his –3.7 WAR i 1985 is one of the worst on record.

I associate Tim McCarver with many of the big games I watched in TV when I was a kid. I didn’t get to see a lot of TV and so bringing it out of the closet for playoff baseball (or the Olympics) was always a special occasion. That McCarver was frequently part of those occasions means I think of him fondly. This came back in 9 days

A 54-day return from Erik Hanson added another 1989 Rated Rookie to the collection. I also like this 1991 Topps card and it captures his career-high 18 wins in the 1990 season.

Stormin’ Gorman Thomas is one of those fun nicknames and I enjoy the attitude in this career-capping 1987 Topps card.  I would’ve liked to use an older card but I didn’t have any good ones handy. But I was happy to get this one back in 10 days.

Thomas also included a signed index card for his Stormin’ Sauce business. I’m not a huge sauce guy in general but I have to admit I’m a bit curious.

And Thomas also included this note about how to order. I enjoy how different the St. Jude notepaper is compared to Thomas’s fu manchu image.

I thought this return had gotten lost. In late March I received an envelope that had already been opened. It had a Michigan postmark and the only person I’d sent to there was Ernie Whitt so I figured these were gone. Turns out it was another card. No idea who but the Whitts came back after 72 days.

Whitt was the last original Blue Jay to play for the team and put a solid career together in the 1980s. He’s since become the manager of the Canadian National baseball team as well.

It’s always fun to get a postcard back.  I would’ve sent this out a long time ago but I didn’t realize that Darrell Evans signed. I was starting to thing I may have lost this too but it came back in 70 days.

Evans is one of the definitive underrated guys, a couple amazing seasons with the Braves in the 1970s and a decade of solid, or better, production from the mid-70s to mid-80s. His name doesn’t come up as often as it should considering that he’s that near-Hall of Fame tier type of player.

It’s especially nice that this postcard is from 1983 which is both his best year as a Giant and the year he won the Willie Mac Award.

Since I’m not building 1979, I’m okay sending out non-duplicate cards to reliable guys. Barry Bonnell is one such player and returned these in only 8 days. One of the things I enjoy a lot about hitting my 1986 duplicates is finding guys whose cards I have in earlier sets.

The difference between 1979 and 1986 doesn’t seem that big to me now but I haven’t shaken my understanding of these two sets as being the difference between OLD and current. This mentality works for Bonnell’s career in which he’s just starting off in his 1979 card while 1986 represents his last year in the bigs.

Funny how things work out. Back-to-back returns of 1979 cards and I’m not even working that set. I remember Jim Beattie’s 1987 card from my youth. Such a distinct photo and definitely different than most other photos in the set. Beattie is also an interesting player in that he went back to school and turned himself into a General Manager, with the Expos first and followed by the Orioles.

This was a weird return. I write my address in both slots of the return envelope just in case something happens. Still, I never expected to find an envelope that had been ripped completely in half with the stamp and half my address missing. Someone taped up the ripped side and the return address took care of the rest. Inside I found a 62-day return from Mark Eichhorn and the cards no worse for wear.

Eichhorn had a distinct sidearm motion that you can get a sense of in these photos. He’s also currently a high school baseball coach in Aptos.

I only caught the end of Cecil Cooper’s career but he’s one of those guys I kept running into cards of during my youth. I couldn’t avoid him in all those 1980s oddball sets and as a result I always think of him as being a bit of a star. He definitely had a good decade-long run in the majors and it’s nice to add another 1988 card in only 18 days.

A 12-day return from Bert Roberge increased my 1986 count to 54. I’m not trying to build a signed set but it’s been fun to work my duplicates. Roberge is the first of those 54 to sign with a ballpoint pen. This is pretty common even with 1970s players but the 1980s and later guys seem to understand that sharpies are better.

Always nice to add another Stanford custom. I got Willie Adams’s autograph when he was at Stanford and I was a teenager. I didn’t mention the story about his dad asking him to “sign one for the little guy” (I was pushing 6′ at time but Adams was 6’7″) but that was a fun in-person memory from three decades ago. Comparing to his college sig these are pretty close. He did not keep any customs and sent everything back in 31 days.

The Team USA cards are fun but I enjoy having a signed card of him as a pro. It’s also nice to add my first 1998 to the collection.

Frank Eufemia is almost local and returned his card in just 6-days. He had a short career but also featured as a replacement player for the Yankees in the 1995 fake spring training.

Another 1986 return. This time from Jack Perconte in 8 days. He’s written a couple books about hitting and seems to be a decent guy in terms of wanting to help kids and their parents navigate the world of youth baseball.

Ed Wojna also sent back a 1986 card in 8 days. Wikipedia states that this card was massively overproduced but I have my suspicions since the assertion isn’t sourced and I haven’t run into as many of this card often enough for it to stand out as a double or triple print.

Wojna sent back a really long letter which represents the first Jehovah’s Witnesses’ pitch I’ve received. I’m not surprised to receive evangelical tracts and personal testaments but many of them feel like they come from similar churches.

A 25 day return from current Ranger broadcaster Mark McLemore was a fun one. I remember him as an Angel since that’s who he played for in my formative years but he put together a more-than-respectable 19-year career with seven different teams.

I’ve been working a Scott Erickson collection of sorts because of high school reasons so I figured I should look up what other players attended my school. It’s a short list consisting of four players,* only three of which have cards showing them with a Major League team.** Sandy Wihtol was the only one with flagship Topps cards so I grabbed one and sent it out for a request.

*Doug Clarey, Sandy Wihtol, Scot Erickson, and Evan Marshall.

**Clarey only has 1970s minor league issues. Marshall meanwhile has only a Bowman card and a Total card to his name.

It came back 35 days later. Wihtol is now a high school coach for a rival school but I got a nice “Go Mustangs” note on my letter. The high school project doesn’t have enough players to be a real project like my Stanford one but it’s a fun little mini collection to have going.

And that’s it for May. I’ve been slowly working on customs and am close to placing an order. But for now next month looks to be more of the same as I work through my duplicates.

April Returns

April continues my returns of junk wax and players from my youth. Lots of players who my parents would sarcastically refer to as household names but every single one of them jogs one of those “oh yeah that guy” memories from my childhood. I kind of miss being able to remember every card I owned while I’m also quite glad that I’ve trained my mind to no longer have to hold on to that information.

The month started off with a 15-day return from catcher Chris Hoiles. He had a 10-year career with Baltimore, including an especially excellent 1993 season, catching a no hitter in 1991, and and hitting two grand slams in one game in 1998.

Bruce Benedict is another one-decade catcher who spent his entire career with the Braves. He stuck around as a good fielder who backed up maultipe catchers who the Braves hoped could provide good offense. He returned these cards in only 9 days.

A 31-day return from Dick Schofield prompted me to add a families tag to my database because his father played for the Giants in the 1960s. Schofield had a nice 14-year career, most of it with the Angels, in the majors.

Stewart Cliburn added another 1986 card to the collection in 12 days. In addition to being a set that I’m using a lot for TTMs, this specific card has his very good 1985 stat line on the back. Cliburn only played parts of a couple seasons but his 1985 line of 44 games and a 2.09 ERA is impressive.

A 22-day return from Scott Medvin added a pair of 1989 cards. Medvin is another guy who only played a few seasons in the majors. but he managed to time it with my peak fandom. Both of these 1989 cards are from sets that I like to get signed but which I usually don’t select due to other cards looking better.

This is a pull from my dentist haul instead of my childhood cards. There were a couple Paul Popovich cards in the pile so I decided to try sending one out. Seven days later it came back. Popovich is primarily a Cub who was known for being a bit of a “super sub.”

An 8-day return from Buddy Groom added a cool photo of Turn Back the Clock day in Cleveland. Took me a long time to figure out that that weird Detroit uniform was a throwback and Municipal Stadium has the same kind of pillars in the grandstand at Tiger Stadium for me momentarily think this photo was a home game. Something about all the textures in the dugout really makes this work as a card. I can’t imagine any modern park looking this beat up ever.

Okay this is a fun one. As a Giants fan, Jose Canseco wasn’t one of my guys when I was a kid. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t he wasn’t a big deal on the playground. My junior high self would’ve totally expected him to make it to the Hall of Fame and the fact that he played locally made him even a bigger deal.

I went with the 1989 card for 40/40 reasons since it lists that season on the back. It’s also just a nice clean photo and design featuring him at the peak of his powers. My teenage self would be very pleased by this. Heck, three decades later I was still excited to find that in my mailbox after 55 days.

The same day I got Canseco I also got a 10-day return from Rick Parker. While he’s not a childhood hero of sorts, his excellent (it’s possibly the best photograph in the set) 1991 Score card made this a return I enjoyed a lot as well. The fact that Parker was a bench player for the Giants made it relatively easy to track down the actual play depicted.

The bad news, Parker is out here. The good news, this is the end of a play where the Giants were down a run with two outs in bottom of the ninth inning and Will Clark doubled with runners on the corners to tie the game. Parker was thrown out to end the 9th but the Giants won it in 10 innings.

I recently read The Wax Pack by Brad Balukjian. It’s fun and touches on a lot of the things that all of us who collect cards feel when we look back on those cards from our youth. It’s a bit more about Brad than the cards and players but some of the vignettes wth each player are great. The Jaime Cocanower chapter is a good one. He’s one of those distinct names that’s memorable to a kid and which, as a result, is able to evoke an entire age.

While I didn’t mention the book to him, as someone who’s using this activity to reminisce a bit about the guys from his youth, I couldn’t help smile and enjoy some of the overlap between my project and the book. Not all the guys in the book are good signers but Cocanower returned his card in 27 days.

I had put off sending to a couple Stanford guys because I wanted to make customs for them. Unfortunately, finding photos of a number of them has proven to be quite elusive. So I decided it would make sense to send out index cards to a few of the players who I don’t have cards of. Former Angel and Stanford catcher Jim Hibbs set this pair back in only 11 days.

I sent two index cards because I’ve noticed that a lot of the Stanford guys like to write notes back due to the nature of my project and I like to give them something to write on. Hibbs instead signed bith cards and enclosed a nice note on his own stationery.

Von Hayes doesn’t have the strongest stat line but his best years happen to correspond to my first years as a baseball fan. As a result, he’s one of those players who still stands out in my memory. Very nice to add another 1986 to the collection. This one took 12 days to come back.

A 66-day spring training return from Daniel Robertson caught me by surprise. This one came from Milwaukee where he’s playing this season. Always fun to add a signed custom and this is one which I think turned out really well. He did not keep one however.

Back to the 1986 cards. Dane Iorg came back in 13 days. Most of his career was with the Cardinals but his career highlight in many ways is his game-winning hit in the infamous Don Denkinger game in the 1985 World Series. This 1986 card sort of commemorates that World Series victory.

I bought this Brett Jodie card a year and a half ago because I was planning on trying to get it signed at Somerset. Sadly, the season got cancelled and Somerset affiliated with the Yankees and, as a result, Jodie got left without a job. He’s now the manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs and I sent my card out thanking him for his time a Somerset and wishing him luck in his new gig. He sent this back in 12 days.

Journeyman infielder Mike Fischlin was a quick 9 day return. He put together close to a decade in the majors but is probably most notable for being both one  of Scott Boras’s first clients as well as a member of the Boras organization.

Bryn Smith was also a 9 day return. He was on multiple National League teams so I know I probably got to watch him at some point. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a Rockies card since he has a notable place in Rockies history as having recorded the first win for the franchise.

Harvey Shank is like Jim Hibbs and represents a Stanford guy who has no cards nor any photos online that are high-enough resolution to make customs.  I’m not going to go down the index card rabbit hole but they have a place in the collection and I will eventually do something more with them than just having pages of index cards.

Shank’s return actually confused me a ton because it came back in a bubble mailer. I didn’t recognize the sender nor had I ordered anything. Only after I opened it up did I realize it was a TTM request coming back after 13 days. Inside were my two index cards, a very nice note, my unused SASE, and this book which is blurbed by John Ortberg (among other people). I’ve gotten tracts before but this one seems to be aimed at atheists rather than being a general “here’s my personal story” testament.

A 10-day return from Rich Thompson added another 1986 Topps card to the collection. I like the photo on this one quite a bit and favor photos like it for my custom cards.

Kevin Elster set a MLB record by playing in 88 straight games in 1988–1989 without making an error. He also hit 3 homers in the first game at Pac Bell Park. His card came back in 12 days.

While the first Series I ever watched was 1986, the first one I watched as a fan was 1987. Tom Lawless was an extremely light-hitting infielder—good glove and speed but his 1987 batting average was .080—who happened to surprise everyone with a home run (and bat flip) off of Frank Viola in that series. He sent these back in 57 days.

Willie Montañez had a dozen-year MLB career—even making the All Star team in 1977—but from 1975–1982 he managed to play for eight different teams including two different stints with the Phillies. His two-seasons with the GIants were actually pretty good and it’s nice to add him to the Giants album after only 10 days.

A 9-day return from Mark Wasinger added another two-year Giant. Wasinger though was only ever a bench guy even though his second game with the team involved him going 4 for 5 with a homer and scoring 3 runs. He stands out in my memory though as one of the Mothers Cookies cards I always needed.

Mike Easler was wrapping up his career when I was starting out as a fan but he was one of those names I just knew. His “Hitman” nickname certainly didn’t hurt here either and while it would’ve made sense to get his autograph on a Pirates card, these are the two I remember him from.

Easler in the midst of writing a book and included a business card soliciting donations for his project. It’s clear that a lot of other fans remember him fondly too.

Another short 10-day return and another short-term Giant. Alan Fowlkes only pitched for the team in one season but that got him cards in the 1983 sets. 1983 is one of my favorite Topps sets and designs too but for some reason I just don’t have many of them, signed or otherwise.

And i’ll finish the month off with a 20-day return from Justine Siegal. I made these customs way before she got a Ginter card last year but never sent them out. Siegal does great work with Baseball for All and, as a Little League coach who’s both coached girls and had to tell his players to knock it off when we played against girls, I very much support and believe in her mission.  I was a little surprised that she didn’t keep any of these customs.

And that’s it for the month. A good one with a few great returns and a lot of fun ones. Lots of pending stuff out there still so here’s hoping that next month is more of the same.