New Years Mailings

A new year and some new trade envelopes rolled in. Not as many as I was expecting to receive (some appear to be stuck in the eddies of the USPS backlog) but with my local Target completely dropping cards from its inventory it’s nice to get a card fix from somewhere.

The first mailing of the year was a PWE from Marc Brubaker containing almost a dozen cards. The oldest ones are three 1983 stickers which include a couple fun photos in the Milt May catcher action and Al Holland sporting a fantastic warm up jacket. As for the Matt Williams card, I have no idea what kind of release it’s from but it’s wonderfully odd.

The rest of the cards from Marc were newer ones including a bunch from retails issues that I refuse to purchase. Bowman Platinum remains a product I don’t understand. As does Topps Gallery. As always it’s nice to include a sample in the binder for variety’s sake though. I can’t imagine looking through pages of either of those but a couple here and there makes things interesting.

A week or so later I received a bubble mailer from Robby which contained a bunch of more-recent cards. I’ll start off with a half dozen inserts from the past couple years. These are again, the kind of thing I don’t chase but enjoy sliding in to the binder. I have mixed feelings about the design re-use but I much prefer seeing such things done in inserts rather than as complete sets.

The #1 Draft Pick Joey Bart is a particularly great use of an old design since Topps can’t do draft picks in flagship anymore. I’m be curious why Topps hasn’t done draft picks as inserts in other Topps sets though.

The rest of the mailer was a bunch of 2020 cards. A few Updates, two Diamond Kings which I didn’t have, a decent amount of Big League and Donruss which finished off my team sets. Highlights here are the orange Big League parallels and the Gold Star Flagship parallels.

I’m not a huge fan of colored parallels but the Big League oranges look great with the Giants cards. If we could dump the whole rainbow of variants and just have a single team-color parallel set then I’d probably like them.

The Gold Star parallels meanwhile are one of those things that dissuaded me from buying a factory set this year. I don’t want to pay marked up prices for a chance at a bunch of parallels I don’t desire. Getting a team set in the mail though is completely different. Since these are the kind of thing I actively avoid it means that they’re the kind of thing that I never have in my albums. I’m perfectly happy sliding them in as an example of what kind of things were going on in the hobby that year.

Thanks guys and Happy New Year!

Christmas cards

Catching up on a few more PWEs which accompanied holiday wishes. It’s getting to the point where I’m considering making hobby-oriented holiday cards to send out to people I’ve traded with over the past year.

The first card came from Mark Armour and contained a 1977 Willie Mays exhibit. This is a nice reprint of the 1947–1966 era exhibit photo and even feels like it has better tonality than a lot of the vintage exhibits do. The border is kind of goofy though and the less said about the apostrophe catastrophe in the bio text the better. Still this is the kind of thing I enjoy adding to the album and it’ll slide in right next to a bunch of Jeff’s bycatch.

Mark also included a custom card of himself. This is also something I’ve thought about doing but have never gotten around to. A lot of traders have their own custom cards that they toss in like business cards and I enjoy keeping those around.

A few days later I found an envelope from Tim in my mailbox. Nothing big, just an insert from 2020 Opening Day which doubled the number of 2020 Opening Day cards in my collection. This is one of those products that I buy for my kids and stay out of for myself.

This isn’t a critique of the product. If anything it’s a critique of how flagship has effectively pushed my kids away. Neither of my kids wanted a complete set of flagship this year for Christmas. They’ve both realized it’s not the set for them. Too expensive and not really any fun.

A pack of flagship costs like $5 now and that’s a lot of money to pay for a bunch or guys they’ve never heard of. Opening Day at least is mostly players they know. And yes Major League Baseball does a lousy job marketing guys, but Topps also creates checklists that are dominated by rookie cards instead of guys who are actually playing.

So they’ve gravitated toward Opening Day and Big League and I let them enjoy those products. As a result, I don’t get much Opening Day so if it comes in via trade I’m happy to slide it into the binder.

A PWE from Lanny brought me a single 2002 Kenny Lofton card. This might not look like much (though it’s one of Lofton’s few Giants cards) but it’s actually part of Topps’s trainwreck of a Traded set where someone at Topps decided that intentionally shortprinting the first 100 cards was a smart idea.

It was not. I have heard of way too many people who swore off all Traded/Update sets for years just because the 2002 set was so bad. The shortprinted cards meanwhile are impossible to find yet no one actually wants to spend serious money for them.

A perfect storm of awfulness which I would avoid completely except that I wanted the complete 2002 team set for World Series reasons. This Lofton completes the set and I no longer have to think about 2002 Topps Traded ever again.

I also got an envelope from Jason with a couple Giants first basemen. A couple retired numbers even. No it’s not just two 1991 Will Clark cards, these were the packaging surrounding the card Jason intended to send me.

The two Will Clarks were sandwiching this beauty which is not only a great example of the National Chicle Diamond Stars artwork with its solid blocks of color and industrial backgrounds* but represents the first Giants retired number from before the modern era of baseball cards to enter my collection.

*It still doesn’t compare to the South African United Tobacco cards though. Also I remain confused by the scoreboard listing visitors underneath Giants.

One of my long-term collecting goals has been to try and get a card of each Giants retired number from their playing years. I have all the obvious ones who played during the years when Topps was the card of record. Irvin, Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, Marichal, Perry, Clark, and Bonds* all have multiple Topps cards as Giants to the point where I have multiple cards of all even players like Irvin who I never expected to own any cards of.

*Interesting to me to realize that all besides Bonds of those debuted in MLB with the Giants. And yes I’m going to be distinguishing between MLB and “major leagues” from now forward.

McGraw, Mathewson, Terry, Ott, and Hubbell though were always going to be tougher. Fewer cards in general, and the affordable ones are often super ugly in terms of design* or just through being well loved. The Diamond Stars cards of Terry, Ott, and Hubbell are some of the more-desirable options out there and I’m astounded at Jason’s generosity at sending me my first one form this set.

*/me waves at M. P & Company.

Thanks a lot guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed this holiday season and I hope next year brings better tidings all around.

Nachos Grande’s Ginter Bracket

A couple weeks ago I received a notification that Chris (Nachos Grande) was sending me a package. I was very confused. He’s been running a lot of cheap fun breaks but I’ve not signed up for any in a long time.* And I couldn’t think of why else he would be sending me cards.

*This is a reflection of my collection becoming large enough that it no longer makes sense for me to buy into a break for the off chance I get one card I don’t have.

When the package arrived it all made sense. Way back in July he ran an Allen & Ginter mini set bracket on his blog. I took part because the insert minis are really the only thing I actually like about Ginter. I was a bit disappointed that the winner was a baseball set but it was a fun way to learn about all the different mini sets Topps has created. I very much like the social studies and science based sets and how they remind me of how interesting card collecting used to be.

Chris had multiple contests set up to reward people who were voting and participating and I ended up on a list of prize winners. Since I wasn’t participating for the prizes (and given everything else that’s gone on in the world since July) I promptly forgot about expecting a mailing. It took him a while but my prizes arrived a week and a half ago.

The list of offerings was all kinds of stuff. Sets, relic cards, autographs, etc. When I submitted my list of what I preferred I think I prioritized the autographs. Despite being somewhat lower on the pick list  it looks like other people wanted other items since I ended up with two of he autographed cards.

The Trevor May framed mini is pretty cool. I’ve never handled a Ginter framed mini card before. It’s an interesting object with the card floating loose in the middle of a cardboard frame and two plastic sheets on each side to create a nice little display. Much to my surprise the resulting object isn’t that thick and in fact fits just fine in a 9-pocket page.

I’ve been a bit curious about these since I wasn’t sure how they were manufactured nor how they handled. They’re definitely neat little cards and I very much like them over relics. I’m less impressed at the plastic feeling since it seems at odds with Ginter’s overall brand but there’s no other way to do this kind of thing.

Griffin Jax meanwhile is still in the Minors. He bounced between AA and AAA in 2019 and scored a non-roster invite to Spring Training last season. No call-up to the Majors but he remains on the bubble.

He’s more interesting though for what he’s going through to play baseball. As an Air Force Academy graduate, he’s been jerked around a bit by the military in terms of being allowed to pursue a baseball career instead of being active duty. It’s very interesting to note that he can’t be paid by the Twins and is still fulfilling his reservist duties while playing baseball.

Chris also tossed in a dozen or so Giants cards to “make up” for being so late with the package. Definitely not something he had to do especially since this was a free package anyway but I’m certainly not complaining.

A lot of these I have already so they’ll go on the duplicate pile that I’m using to create piles for my kids. My youngest for example will love the Metal Mark Gardner and the more 2013 Heritage World Series cards I can give them the happier they’ll be.

There are however a handful of new ones that I’m very happy to add to the album. The 1998 Upper Deck Darryl Hamilton doubles the number of Giants cards I have form that set. As does the Pacific Bill Mueller. The Jesse Foppert is new to me as well and reminds me of a name I’ve not even thought of in decades. He was such a prospect back in the day. The Upper Deck Goudey Noah Lowry is an interesting retro design. I don’t know if I hate it or love it but I like that it didn’t try to make the photo a fake painting. And the Pinnacle Buster Posey is a fun addition from Panini’s first year back in the hobby.

Very cool stuff Chris and thanks for both the  cards and running the bracket/contest.

To Be Eleven Again

A recent post from Night Owl coupled with my Bill Bathe return in October has me thinking about the equivalent Giants team from my youth which I truly followed all the way through the postseason. Where Greg chose the 1977 Dodgers, for me it’s the 1989 Giants who represent my peak youth fandom.

No surprise that we are both eleven years old for these teams. There’s something magical about that age when you’re old enough to truly geek out out about sports while still being young enough that all the other distractions haven’t materialized yet. When you’re eleven you have an allowance—or at least birthday/holiday money—with nothing to spend it on except for what you want. It’s a great year to follow sports and collect cards.

This was also a magical year for me because of our Philadelphia trip. I didn’t just get to know the players as players, I learned how to recognize them in their civvies and got to meet most of them in person. This also gave me a massive head-start on putting to together a complete roster of signed cards.

For example, the starting lineup* are all guys I met in Philadelphia. The Roger Craig and Terry Kennedy cards are later acquisitions since they’re on my team ball but every other card is an in-person signature that I got when I was eleven. Of these nine, Kennedy is the only one who doesn’t count as a fan favorite.

*Organized as I described in my mission creep post.

Yes even though we booed Brett Butler once he went to the Dodgers, I think we all still prefer to remember him for the good years he had in San Francisco.

The pitching staff wasn’t as simple to assemble. Garrelts, Robinson, and Lefferts are from Philly while Reuschel, Hammaker, and Brantley are other in-person experiences.* There are also three notable pitchers missing. Kelly Downs and Mike LaCoss are the only two players on the postseason roster whose autographs I don’t have and Randy McCament is the only other pitcher who appeared in over twenty games

*I have an in-person Trevor Wilson too but I couldn’t not use that 1990 Upper Deck for this post.

Of these, Gossage is the only one who I forget was a Giant. The rest are all memorable even if they only played with the team a short while like Bedrosian.

Filling in the rest of the post-season roster. Gossage and Wilson weren’t on it despite appearing in a decent number of games that season so these last seven (a mix of in-person and TTM returns) take my total to 22 out of 24 players from the post-season roster (just missing Downs and LaCoss as stated earlier).

Of these seven are guys like Earnie Riles who was the third baseman for the first half of the season until Matt Williams became a star. Despite Williams’s emergence, Riles actually played more games at third. Sheridan and Nixon meanwhile both played a lot of games in the outfield, Manwaring was the backup catcher, and Oberkfell, Litton, and Bathe were among the standard pinch hitters.

The last eight cards here join Gossage and Wilson on the list of players who appeared with the Giants in 1989 but who didn’t go to the playoffs. A fun mix of players. Fan favorite veterans like Speier, Krukow, and Brenly whose careers I didn’t get to see but who I saw enough of to learn why the fans loved them. Prospects like Benjamin, Mulholland, and Cook who I remember for their potential. A veteran rental like Joe Price. And of course the incomparable Dave Dravecky who only played in two games but provided both the highlight and the lowlight of the season.

So this means I have 32 out of 45 players* who appeared for the Giants that season. Notable players I’m missing are Tracy Jones and Ed Jurak, both of whom appeared in at least 30 games. The other eight players played anywhere from two (Stu Tate and Russ Swan) to 17 (Mike Laga) games and include a couple names like Jim Steels and Jim Weaver who I not only don’t remember, I don’t even recognize them at all.

*The complete list of missing players: Mike LaCoss, Kelly Downs, Randy McCament, Tracy Jones, Ed Jurak, Mike Laga, Bob Knepper, Ernie Camacho, Jim Steels, Jim Weaver, Charlie Hayes, Stu Tate, and Russ Swan.

One of the reasons I’ve not been a completist about this is that a few of the down-roster guys don’t resonate for me and the point of a project like this is the memories that it does bring back. Settling on just the postseason roster plus whoever feels right is fine.

The feels right concept is why I’m happy to have all but one of the coaching staff from that year as well. Not sure why I knew who al the Giants coaches were but I did. Things were simpler then, just 5 coaches—hitting, pitching, bench, 1st base, 3rd base—and nothing like the current team* where I can’t keep anything straight.

*In addition to the bench, 1st base, and 3rd base coaches, there are two hitting coaches, a director of hitting, a pitching coach, an assistant pitching coach, a director of pitching, two bullpen coaches, and two other assistant coaches.

The only coach I’m missing is Norm Sherry. Also it’s a shame that Wendell Kim never had a proper baseball card. He’s on a couple Mother’s Cookies coach cards but aside from a few minor league issues he never got his own.

Will these ever get framed like Night Owl is doing? Not a chance. But one reason I like scanning everything is that I can mix and match sorting  and put things into posts like this or just have a dedicated category for the 1989 autographs. I can throw something together digitally, see all the guys again, and remember that 1989 season when I was the age my eldest son is now. I hope he’s able to have a team next year which is as memorable to him as mine was to me.

Chromos desde Artie

It took me a while but I finally sent a thank you note with a custom Keith Hernandez card to Artie (who’s now blogging over at SABR). He promptly asked me if I was interested in some of his extra 1994 Topps Spanish cards.

Apparently he grabbed a huge lot of commons and ended up with tons of duplicates. No stars but enough for a team set of Giants minus Clark/Bonds/Williams and the All Stars. And yes I was interested. I actually had a handful of them already (including Matt Williams) but I’m a sucker for anything Spanish-language and it’s great to be close to a full team set.

Just showing the backs since the fronts are indistinguishable from base 1994. I also don’t have much to add over my SABR post so I’ll just reiterate that one reason why I love bilingual cards is how they remind me of how I learned Spanish via watching soccer on TV and listening to baseball on the radio. Sports vocab can be very different than school vocab.

Also, the Giants had a lot of guys whose last names started with B this year. Seven on this page makes eight including Bonds.

I appreciate the full-color backs and action photos on this design. I do not appreciate the way the card numbering moves card-to-card. Nor do I like it when said number is not located in the corner. That said, as a photographer, I’m glad that Topps has thought about what direction the player is looking and letting him look into the card.

Last page includes the Matt Williams card I already had as well as my Orlando Cependa Leyendas card. Looking at the Steve Scarsone card I noticed that Topps included a Rookie Card badge under the logo. I want to say that this is the first year Topps denoted regular base cards as being Rookie™ cards. I much prefer this method to using the RC badge on the card fronts.

¡Muchas gracias Artie!

Awesomeness from Shane

Shane Katz has been working on a “Tools of Ignorance” album for a while now which has turned into a great type-collection* of catcher cards from all kinds of baseball card sets. It’s been fun to watch it grow and the choice of catcher cards makes a ton of sense since those are often some of the more interesting photos in a set.

*A type collection is one where the goal is to get one card from every set. My childhood goal of one card per Topps set was a type collection.

A couple weeks ago I figured it would be fun to send a bunch of my customs over for his album. Give it even more variety and I like sending my work to my friends. Turns out that Shane had the exact same idea and had put a bubble mailer in the mail the day mine arrived.

His bubble mailer was cooler than mine. By a lot. Three 1949 Remar Bread cards sort of stole the show. Yes I’m technically only doing a type collection of Seals cards but there are a bunch of cool Oakland-only releases like the Remar Baking and Signal Oil cards plus there’s even an Oaks card in 1933 Goudey. And besides my family is actually from Oakland.

So yeah 1949 cards are cool. The Pacific Coast League before 1958 and the Giants moving West is cooler. Oakland Oaks cards are even cooler. And having a baking card of Cookie is the coolest. Not quite metacard material but close enough to be fun.

Cookie Lavagetto is of course the big name in this batch. He grew up in Oakland, went to Oakland Tech and played for the Oaks in 1933 before playing 10 major league seasons with a gap four years for military service in the middle. He was an All Star for the four seasons prior to his stint in the military so he clearly lost a lot of his prime to WW2. He then returned to the Oaks for his last three professional seasons before managing the Senators/Twins over five seasons.

Earl Toolson meanwhile was finishing up a decade in the minors. Not much to say about his career or card except to note that it’s interesting that the number or earned runs must not have been recorded by his previous team.*

*Baseball Reference says 81 which gives him an ERA of 5.21.

Ray Hamrick played parts of two seasons with the Phillies in 1943 and 1944 but appears to have lost his chance at a spot in the Majors by serving in the military until 1946. He bounced all over the minors until 1953 and never clawed his way back up. I do have to note his absolutely fantastic nickname of “The Guv’nor” though.

Other noteworthy cards in the package included three cool oddballs: an always-appreciated Kellogg’s 3D card, a 1981 Topps sticker of Ed Whitson, and a 1992 Muscular Dystrophy Association card of Orlando Cepeda. I’m always amazed at how well Kellogg’s cards scan and the Whitson, while small, is a nice photo which shows off 1980s Candlestick. The Cepeda though is a new-to-me oddball which, while it shows him in an airbrushed Cardinals uniform is a full-career card and so claims all six teams he played for on the back.

Shane also included this TCMA Charlie Wagner card. Wagner is the last guy I’m missing from my old-timers project. I’e held off on getting this card since the reflex blue photo isn’t the most appealing nor are the typewritten backs. A the same time, it’s very nice to slide a Wagner card into that page and have one card for everyone who signed the sheet.

Another wild oddball was this 5-panel 1987 General Mills “booklet” which features the usual airbrushed MSA photos that showed up on so many of the unlicensed MSA cards of the era. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this. It’s a cool piece and a good mix of the big names in the National League in 1987. Definitely all names I recognize and remember. At the same time it won’t binder unfolded. I’m currently thinking about bindering it so only three or four panels show.

Moving through the package. Four 1979 KNBR Giants cards that I actually might’ve sent Shane years ago when he was building his 1980s oddballs binder and I got the years confused (these look basically identical to the 1980 set). Duplicates are fine here. I’ve sent some TTM and these are sufficiently odd that they’re good trade bait for other Giants fans too.

Finally into more regular-issue cards. First off, five from when I collected. I think I have the Litton as part of the MLB Debut set but I’m not sure. It’s definitely not in my Giants binder. I really wish that Topps was still making MLB Debut sets. With so many guys on the 40-man taxi squad only getting a couple games and never really appearing on a true Major League card, it’s really annoying to me that Topps has chosen not to give them cards because they want to print thousands of RC-badged cards of whoever the hot rookie ends up being.

The Bazooka 4-in-1 is another fun oddball. I think these came in Bazooka boxes but I don’t remember. I have a bunch but not this one so that was a nice discovery.

And a half-dozen modern cards to round out the package. I actually needed the Leaf Salomon Torres. The Orange/Gold Big League parallels are also cards I didn’t have since I only grab the base team sets of that product. I don’t usually like colored parallels but when they end up being team colors I tolerate them a lot more.

And that Red Schoendienst Then and Now is pretty cool even though it also confuses the heck out out of me. Yes I know that these typically depict two statistics leaders together (in this case NL Hits Leaders) but the designs always make it feel like they consist of two players who have nothing to do with each other. It is however cool to have a Giants Schoendienst insert since he wasn’t a Giant long and is associated so strongly with the Cardinals.

Very very cool, Shane. Thanks for kicking me down the Oakland Oaks type collection road as well.

Mailday from Bru

A surprise bubble mailer from Marc Brubaker arrived last week. I’d sent him a bunch of the Astros from Jeff’s mailday and those have now been transformed into Giants and Stanford cards I didn’t have. Not a lot has been going right hobby-wise this year with cards becoming impossible to find in the store* but thankfully card twitter is doing its thing and circulating cards until they find their forever homes.

*In a somewhat ominous sign my kids are no longer saving their allowances for baseball cards.

Marc has obviously had better luck than I have in finding cards in the wild though he also clearly isn’t as picky about what packs he buys. The four releases here are all things I don’t purchase but which add a bit of variety to the binders.

The top row of Archives is actually kind of fun. The Piscotty in the 1974 design looks pretty nice and they chose a very 1955 Bowman photo for the Hoerner.* The 1955 TV design is one I really didn’t like but it’s grown on me a lot.

*The backs of these 1955 inserts though are professionally embarrasing. I’m annoyed at how relics/autos have useless backs which just state what’s on the front of the card but at least those still serve as a certificate of authenticity of sorts. And I can excuse online-only releases as a “jam them out as fast as possible” cash grab. But doing these half-assed backs in a retail product is inexcusably offensive to me as a designer. As is the fact that multiple people laso signed off on it. Peak milking a cash cow and zero professional pride.

This year’s Panini/Donruss/Optic design isn’t half bad either. They’re still operating on the “let’s evoke late-80s/early90s Donruss” wavelength that makes their products look mostly indistinguishable year in and year out but they’re gradually doing a better job with team colors. Would be nice to see them really lean into the team color thing and use two colors for each team sometime.

And this is also my first 2020 Bowman in hand. I should get more of these just in case we have games at Trenton next year since it’s a nice simple design that’ll look good signed.

Marc also included a bunch of Allen&Ginter including one of the only cards I was actively going to look for. I don’t like Ginter as a baseball card set. I do like the non-baseball subjects and this year Brianna Scurry was one I really liked.

Most of the time Ginter’s fake-paint, fake-stipple photoprocessing looks pretty bad. This year though the photos look surprisingly good. Is a shame that the design is doing this weird double shadow thing where the drop shadow on the photo is coming from a different light source than the drop shadow on the brand name. This isn’t as obvious in the gold minis though so that’s pretty cool.

Beyond the new cards, Marc included a bunch of random coolness, none cooler than these three 1968 Dexter Press cards. These are nicely-printed glossy postcard-sized cards. Colors really pop and there’s lots of nice detail.

I especially like the Jim Wynn with the spring training outfield fence in the background but the John Bateman and Ken Aspromonte show off the Astrodome logo patch better. No idea why Aspromonte is wearing his batting glove on the upper hand though.

1991 Donruss is one of those sets where there are two different versions of each card,* one released in packs and one in the factory set. The two Bud Black cards here show both how the borders can be different and how unless you know there’s a difference you can totally miss the fact that there are different borders.

*Three actually but I don’t care at all about “INC” vs “INC.” in the small text on the backs.

Marc apparently came into a factory set of these, decided he just wanted the Astros, and figured that sending out team sets to various team collectors would be fun. For me he also included a few of the Stanford guys in the set as well. The Stanford guys look nice paired in the Stanford binder but it took me a while to figure out how I wanted to display the two different variants in my Giants binder.

I eventually settled on having alternating pages of set/pack cards so I can flip back and forth and see the differences. There are a few empty spots for cards that don’t have multiple versions (eg the Gary Carter Highlight) but I’m happy with the result.

A few more random cards including a pair of Mother’s Cookies cards I didn’t have. The Joe Niekro is from 1986 and is part of the all-time Astros All Stars set. Mother’s Cookies also did a set like this for the Giants in 1984* as part of the All Star game at Candlestick that season so it’s only fitting that the Astros got one when the game was at the Astrodome. The Nolan Ryan goes nicely with a card I pulled out of a bag of Iced Animal Crackers** three decades ago.

*Albeit with more of an Allen&Ginter style design. 

**I’m assuming.

Two 1993 Fleers I didn’t have. Steve Reed isn’t exactly a Giants card but he’s wearing the uniform so I have no problem sliding him into the binder. A couple Just Minors cards from Marc’s recent break which I now feel a little bad about not entering except that I really don’t actively seek minor league cards. They’re fun to add to the binder but I’ve never sought them out. This design though is an interesting one with the bar across the middle of the card and the photos sized and cropped so as to place the player’s face in the section above the bar. I don’t like it but much to my surprise I don’t hate it either

A 2012 Jed Lowrie which is some fun color but also fills a hole I didn’t realize I was missing since I didn’t have his 2012 flagship in the binder yet. A fun diecut of Mark Appel. And finally a pair of 2018 Stickers which feel so underwhelming now that Topps has switched to card-sized stickers.

Last batch of cards in the envelope were these Twilight Zone and Star Wars cards. The Twilight Zone ones are from this year but there’s unfortunately no Mighty Casey card that would allow me to sneak a post onto SABR. They’re still pretty cool though. The Twilight Zone is my favorite TV show of all time and seeing these imagined episode posters is pretty neat.

The Star Wars cards are from 1996 which is definitely a long time ago in a galaxy far far away now for that franchise. This is before the Special Edition rereleases let alone the prequels when the only expanded content out there were things like Shadows of the Empire. These cards were part of that multimedia blitz which were intended to prime the pump for the Special Editions. I don’t remember them at all though I do know that people were hyped for the movies to come out again.

Very cool stuff Marc. Thanks!

Thanks USPS

So I moved a year and a half ago. Which means that among other things I had to set up mail forwarding and notified people of my address change. Still I expected some people to send things to my old address. I did not however expect USPS to lose packages for months though.

But that’s exactly what happened. Last April, Matt Prigge sent me a package and it never got forwarded to my current address. I drove over to my old address mid-summer, swung through the garage, and saw that my old mailbox had been taped shut with forwarding information stickered to it. So I figured it would come eventually.

No dice.

Then last month a couple other people sent us packages addressed to the old address. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to swing by again. Mail forwarding had expired but according to our old neighbors no one had moved into the apartment yet. So I drive by and found a ton of mail in the mailbox including the packagaes that had been misaddressed last month, a plain white envelope that I wasn’t expecting to find there, and buried at the bottom of the mailbox, Matt’s package from April.

Yeah. Instead of forwarding it apparently USPS saved it for when forwarding expires and then redelivered it to my old address. Oh well. Better late than never. Let’s take a look.

Matt’s package was mostly modern cards but there were these two 1972s in the pile. There are a lot of Giants whose cards look exactly like Carrithers’s (a card I’ve gotten signed) but the Jerry Johnson is a fun stadium photo which stands out in the team set. I’m slowly working through the giants on this set but the high numbers are killing me. No idea how people do a complete set of these.

Moving more recently, a team set if 1987 Topps Traded is very nice and a bunch of 1995 Upper Deck SP is kind of amazing in that it’s only a year after I stopped collecting cards but looks completely different than anything I remember collecting. Also the Bond diecut is pretty fun.

I’m going to assume that this 1993 Matt Williams is a TTM request. Williams was a decent signer for a while but I never sent to him since he moved to Korea before I was ready to do so. I did get his autograph back in 1989 but it’s nice to have a signed card from his years as a genuine star of the team as well.

1997 Fleer and 1999 Pacific Omega make for an interesting pair. Fleer on its uncoated paper stock is always a nice change of pace while Pacific is always doing something crazy. I  this case Pacific has applied a halftone texture to the foil stamping which duplicates the portrait image on the card.  It’s a super-coarse screen but it’s an interesting effect despite all the loss of detail.

The other two cards here are a 2011 Topps Lineage 1975 mini parallel and a god only knows what Topps was intending red parallel form 2011 Heritage Minor League. The 75 mini works better than the “Venezuelan” in that it’s actually a mini and uses the 1975 design. Topps’s common backs for these meant that the spanish-language back is underwhelming.

Last batch of cards in the package were these modern ones which as usual includes a lot of cards from sets I never buy. Very cool Matt. I’m glad this turned up even if it was over five months late.

Also stuffed into my old mailbox was a package from Tim Jenkins. I’m still meting out cards from his last box to the boys but this package was aimed more at my interests.

We’ll start off with the heavy hitter. Topps was “nice” and made Willie Mays a high number in both 1970 and 1971. This took what I thought would be more easily-attainable Mays cards and turned them into trouble. Mays is of course always hard but adding high numbers into the mix is insult upon injury.

Tim had this lower-grade sample sitting in a display case and generously offered to send it to me.* I was a bit sad when the package seemed to go missing and was very happy when I found it again.

*I will always be happy to receive a lower grade Willie Mays card.

Much to my surprise there were other cards inside. Two Globe Imports cards are indeed as bad as advertised. Nice to have a couple samples. I have no desire to add more. Three Laughlin cards included my first black back though are very cool. I haven’t been actively looking for these but now I’m thinking I should at least get the Giants cards.

This Ron Hunt confused me because I had no idea what it was from. I’ve since found out that it’s from the 1969 Milton Bradley baseball game. Twitter to the rescue. And yes it’s a shame that there’s no hit by pitch option on his results since that was Hunt’s core competency.

A handful of 1975 Minis are always welcome. I’m not seeking these out either but I kind of love them. I also love all the pocket schedules. Between these, the ones, Cliff sent, and my own from my childhood, I now have schedules from 1978 to 1993 except for 1981.

I didn’t collect these as a kid as much as just accumulated them but I’ve fond myself really enjoying them since they include a lot of other great information such as ticket prices and promotions which is hard to find online.

And lastly Tim included a Supreme Court Sluggers card of Arthur Goldberg and Marvin Miller, a commemorative pin for Barry Bonds’s 600th homer run, and a 1979 Baseball Digest featuring Jack Clark on the cover. I think I like the Supreme Court Sluggers card most for its weirdness but the Baseball Digest reminded me of how that was the first sports magazine I ever had a subscription to.

I no longer have my copies so I don’t remember exactly when I had a subscription. But that was a fun magazine to get and read and flipping through this copy brought back a lot of memories. Things don’t seem to have changed much by the time I was a kid in the late 1980s. The next decade though is nearly unrecognizable. Thanks Tim for the trip down memory lane.

And finally there was a plain white envelope from a different Tim. Nothing super fancy but this Buster Posey National Baseball Day card is a nice addition. I only got one pack this year and yeah, Posey was not among my cards.

Last National Baseball Card Day in general was a bit of a disappointment. The “local” shops aren’t as nice as the ones in the Bay Area and one didn’t even have any inventory due to the storm.

It  wasn’t just that we weren’t able to get a bunch of packs, there was nothing for the kids to buy. For a promotion which is designed to get kids into card shops, Topps did a piss poor job coordinating its product release schedule to be kid friendly. The only stuff for sale were packs of Chrome starting at $10 for a pack of four cards. Major fail.

Anyway, thanks (other) Tim! Hopefully everyone has updated their address books now.

Complete! Take 2.

While I have a previous post on here celebrating the completion of my 1986 Topps set, it turns out that one of the trades fell apart* and left me needing still seven cards to complete the set. Twitter however did its thing last week and a bunch of guys sent me envelopes with cards inside to finish my set.

*It happens. Life, emergencies, moves, etc mean a pile of cards can totally be misplaced. Better a pile of 1986 Topps than somehting valuable or important.

So big thanks goes out to WalkerHOF!! (@Focustheframe), Kurt Humbertson (@FlyinWV79), and 20th Century Baseball Man (@20thBaseball) for finishing off my set. For real this time.

It’s been a fun build. As I stated in my previous post, while 1987 is my first year of collecting, 1986 represents the cards that just were around when I entered the hobby. I didn’t try and get them, they just sort of accumulated as I got cards. As a result, 1986 often represented the oldest card I had of a player and, as the decade went on, depicted a lot of players and managers with different teams than I would get to know them with.

Seeing Tony LaRussa with the White Sox or Dave Stewart on the Phillies was weird. Same as Rick Reuschel on the Pirates or Candy Maldonado on the Dodgers.* Yes I knew players could change teams, but 1986 still felt current to me back then and it was just jarring to be reminded of of how out of date it could be by the time I was a full-fledged fan in 1987.

*Or, heck Harry Spilman on the Astros.

1986 Topps was the tip of the iceberg in introducing me to the fact that collecting cards was a way to time travel into the past and see what the game used to look like. It’s one thing as a kid to fall in love with accumulating the new and shiny,* it’s quite another to be suckered into the world of discovering where the players I was getting to know used to play and seeing what they looked like in older, different uniforms.

*As shiny as wood-panelling can get.

As I’ve come back to the hobby with a more discerning eye to print, design, and photography, I’ve also come to appreciate 1986’s distinctness. Big bright colorful team names in the team colors don’t come around very often. The boldness of the font allows the design to work as a team-color design even though it’s technically just colored text on a black background.

There’s no extra design going on either. The font has enough character to make everything else distinct and Topps wisely steers clear of adding any other design elements aside from the black background that makes the colors pop.

The photography too is somewhat distinct compared to other years of cards. Lots of over-the shoulder candid images and a bunch of great action shots at home plate. A decent amount of in-game candids too such as can be seen on the Evans, Lopes, and Oester cards here. Where modern cards tend to be all action all the time, the in-game candids portray the way baseball is a game of ma(間) where much of the time is spent actionless.

I’ve come to love the 1986 photography and the way that the cards allows the photos to just be in a rectangle with nothing weird going on. It’s become a set I particularly like getting signed as well.

What am I building next? I’m not actually sure. I’m intending to start 1989 Donruss at some point. I should get cracking on 1994 Topps so I can complete the run of Topps sets that cover my complete youth fan years. Watch my set needlist for updates.

I can say that I’m tempted to try building 1985 Topps. Not in the sense that I want a complete set of it but the more I learn about it the more I’m thinking that it’s one of the most interesting sets that Topps has ever released. 1985 appears to mark the true boundary of the junk era, not in terms of production runs but in its design and conception. It neither fits in with the sets that precede it nor those that follow it yet it has a foot in both worlds.

Utz and Oddballs

Last week I got a fun envelope from Mark Hoyle. He lives in a location where he’s able to buy lots of the Utz chips that came with cards inside. While the rest of the hobby has moved on from this promotion, Mark’s still working through stock of chips from this spring.

Which is good news for me. I’d sort of given up on finding the Buster Posey (or Nico Hoerner) from this set since the window had sort of closed. Card sales online are operating in a mode where the only cards worth selling are the hot new product and everything else isn’t even worth listing. But Mark found a Posey and knew I needed one.

Seeing this card takes me back to spring before Covid hit and we were all looking forward to the season. A much more innocent time and the fact that Buster elected out of playing this year just drives the point home.

I very much appreciate that Topps used a completely new design instead of just slapping the Utz logo on the base design like they did last year. It’s kind of a perfect oddball design in that it’s slightly garish but also doing a lot without a lot of design elements. I don’t think this would work as a full-size set but it’s great for what it is. The only interesting thing to me is that the Utz logo is completely absent from the front.

Mark packaged the Utz card with a handful of 1983 Big League Collectibles cards that commemorate the original All Star game. The team card is a nice who’s-who of the National League that year. It’s a bit of a shame that the 1980s printing is a bit too coarse for the details in the photo

The other four cards are the four Giants in the team. Carl Hubbell, John McGraw, and Bill Terry I’m all familiar with. Hal Schumacher I was not. This was a good Giants team though which went on the win the 1933 World Series.

Image handling of these is interesting. Clearly colorized but, for the most part, finding that sweet spot between looking like a fake photo and looking like Beast Jesus. Hubbell’s card is particularly nice. The only weird part is the retouched teeth on Shumacher and Terry which feels almost like the source images still had 1930s pre-press contrast painting on them.

So two fun things to add to the binder. Thanks Mark!