Assorted small maildays

A couple small maildays arrived in my mailbox last week. Yes it’s fun getting a big box of cards but the small maildays almost always represent something special which fills a specific hole in a search list.

For example, these two cards from Big Shep which represent both my first non-Giants 2020 cards and keep my Stanford project at its “basically done” state. Always nice to add a rookie card to the binder and I hope Hoerner keeps on developing the way he has been.

A couple comments on the 2020 design. First, I generally like even though it feels more Bowman or National Baseball Card Day than what I expect from Flagship. The photos have been more interesting than previous years and putting the design on the side creates more interesting croppings than the previous three years of transparency effects on the bottom.

It looks best with colored uniforms like in these two cards. The Edman in particular looks especially nice since those blue Cardinals away uniforms are fantastic. With the regular grey and white uniforms this design has a tendency to go monochrome in a bad way It would’ve been interesting to see, instead of the white transparency effect,  a solid team color in that section of the card instead.

And I wish the name and position text was rotated 180° so that they weren’t upside down on the horizontal cards. I was worried that Topps was going to have this happen as soon as I saw the mock-ups last year. This is one of those cases where it feels like no one at Topps collects cards and thinks about how people are going to store them.

Also, for some reason Nico Hoerner’s card back lists his 2019 cumulative Minor League stats but doesn’t include his Major League stats. I don’t get it.

Finally, Hoerner’s card is appallingly printed. There’s some weird purple/magenta toning going on which results in his uniform going all splotchy. I know that’s a tough color to print but this is more than just running one ink too heavy. One thing modern cards usually have over older cards is that they’re manufactured much much better. In this case though something went wrong on the press.

Speaking of things going wrong on press. Lanny came back a me with yet another off-condition Willie Mays card. Instead of surface damage, paper loss, or disintegrating corners, this time we’ve got a trimming fiasco. Not just a mistrim, this is also slightly diamond cut.

Aside from the trimming though this is possibly the best-conditioned 1969 Topps card I have. Color is great. Surface is great. Corners are great. Printing is on-register and sharp. Of all the flaws a card can have, centering is the one I care least about so this is an awesome addition to my Giants binder which takes me to needing only one more 1969 card for the team set.

Who do I still need? The high-number Bobby Bonds rookie. It’s not ridiculous but it’s not cheap either.

Anyway, thanks guys, all three of these are great additions to the collection!

Oddballs from Shane!

Earlier this week I found a fun bubble mailer from Shane Katz in my mailbox. Shane’s been on an oddballs binge for a couple years now and it appears that he’s spreading the wealth in terms of sending extras to people who can use them.

Two such extras are this Mike Sadek from the 1979 or 1980 KNBR/SFPD* Giants set and Steve Buechele from the 1988 Smokey Bear Rangers set. Both of these sets are from the heydey of 1980s (plus or minus a few years) oddballs where teams and sponsors would print out photos on some sort of card stock and issue them as baseball cards without any consideration as to the traditional baseball card size.

*I don’t have the ganas to look this up. Both years look nearly the same with the only difference being that one has a bold font and the other uses an octothorpe with the uniform number. Oh. Wait. The Sadek matches the Joe Strain which I previously identified as a 1980 release.

Yup. Both of these are oversized. KNBR/SFPD is like 2¼”×4″ and Smokey Bear is 3½”×5″. Makes these a pain to binder but I like all the weird sizes and the reminder that the Topps standard we’ve had since 1957 was something we played fast and loose with even when I was a kid.

The Sadek is a lot of fun. I like Sadek for nostalgia reasons and Dennis Desprois’s team photos are always good for a view of Candlestick as well. Also despite my not liking facsimile signatures I do like the way this one works. The overprinted black signatures frequently bother me but when they become more pronounced—whether foil stamped, reversed, or in cyan like this—I end up treating them more as a design element than a facsimile.

Buechele meanwhile makes a great type card for the Stanford binder. I love oddballs but chasing ALL of them is madness. That the Stanford Project gives me an excuse to pick one from the set is one of the reasons I like the project. I can add all kinds of odd cards and stay on topic.

Two more highlights from the mailer are this 1979 Hostess Vida Blue and 1997 Fleer signed Rod Beck card.* I’ve been slowly getting into Hostess cards. I was hesitant about them for a long time due to their handcut and grease-stained natures but I’ve come around to loving the fact that they existed at all.

*The Hostess is obviously smaller than the Fleer in real life but here on the web images can be sized to the same dimensions and  create an alternate reality.

It’s great that cards were part of the boxes of junk food in the 1970s. As a parent* now I’m glad that this no longer exists but I look at those janky edges and can’t help but smile. I don’t want these to be perfectly trimmed. I want to see the evidence of a child in the 1970s lovingly, carefully cutting out the card and squirreling it away.

*And as a 40-year-old card collector with a sweet tooth.

The 1997 Rod Beck is awesome. I’ve discussed Shooter on here in the past but it’s worth reiterating how much I miss closers whose strikeout pitch was also a double-play inducing pitch. Aside from Beck being a fun guy and deserved fan favorite where ever he went, he never scared me like other closers do because I knew he could get double plays with that splitter.

Not as cool but great nonetheless. Shane finished off one of my team sets. The last 2000 Giants card I needed was this one of Barry Bonds. Topps printed five different variants of this card number* but I only wanted one.

*The other three: 40/40, 1990MVP, and 1993MVP.

I refuse to get drawn into all the variants crap that the modern hobby pushes and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be suckered into it where it began twenty years ago. One checklist number. One card. Set complete.

If the others show up then of course I put them in the binder. But the idea that Topps printed a flagship set consisting of fewer than 500 cards but had the time to create a bunch of variants for some of the cards is everything wrong with what Flagship should be. It’s the set of record and should strive to be as good a set with as many current players in their correct uniforms as possible.

The last couple odd cards are a pair of Japanese cards. Dave Hilton is a 1979 TCMA card which was released for the US market. I actually want to say I have it already and that it came with my Baseball Card Collecting kit. I have now idea why it would’ve come with that kit but I feel like it came with a dozen assorted TCMA cards that, instead of being pirnted as part of a team set were printed by, or for, Hygrade. Anyway this card is eerily familiar to me and there’s no good reason why it should be.

The Tadashi Kashima is interesting in that it’s a Japanese release. Slightly smaller than traditional cards at 60mm×85mm and I kind of love that it is. What I find interesting is that B8 paper (62mm×88mm) is almost the same size as a baseball card but instead we’ve rounded down to the nearest multiple of five.

I always like looking at the backs of these so I’ve gone ahead and scanned it event though I have nothing to say about it.

Last batch of cards are more-modern Giants cards. The Opening Day insert is new. So is the Heritage insert. It’s weird, these Then and Now inserts have very clear connections between the players—in this case Batting Average Leaders—yet somehow feels completely random.

The rest I think I have—yes even that green Logan Webb (I don’t have a base version but I do have two of these somehow)—but will go in the duplicates pile for the boys. Well except for that Triple Play Buster Posey which is the stuff of nightmares and which they won’t let anywhere near their collections.

Very cool. Thanks Shane!

New Years Zapping

Last week Kenny gave me a heads-up that he’d sent me a package. I was expecting a small bubble mailer or something and kept an eye out…especially after we realized that the package had been sent to my old address. Then on Friday though my old neighbor gave me a call and said that a box had arrived for me.

A box? That was unexpected. So last weekend I popped on by (we only moved down the street), said hello, and picked up a medium priority mailing box filled with a lot more than just Yankees prospect cards.

Assorted vintage and junk wax. I love the 1975 Len Randle and am looking into other Len Randle cards now since his 1978 is one of the best of the set. The more I see of 1981 the more I like about it even though I really dislike the floppy caps still. But the bright, solid border is great and the photography has character.

A pre-A’s Dave Stewart is always fun and I’m very happy to have the giant glove Mickey Hatcher. I don’t have all the classic fun Fleer cards* but every one I do add makes me smile.

*Still missing the 1984 Hubbard and Johnstone cards among others. 

I’m also never going to be upset to add another Topps Gold card and while Collectors Choice was a set I barely collected due to 1994 reasons I like it more and more each time I see it.

Some more-modern cards starting off with a great photo on the Mark Bellhorn and then moving into more-expected territory with Yankees and Mets cards. Nice image on the El Duque card and it still weirds me out to see Derek Lowe as a Yankee.

A bunch of 2016 Archives in the 1979 design. Nice to get a couple Giants. Brandon Drury is also appropriate since I saw him rehab at Trenton. These cards all have pretty nice paper too, they just have some slightly weird photo processing especially the Billy Williams and Maz cards which feel like the backgrounds have been messed with a little.

It’s especially instructive to compare the Archives cards with the big batch of over 60 real 1979s in the mailer. Archives does a decent job at mimicking things but can’t quite get the photography right. This is partly because there’s been a standard Topps portrait setup used for all of Archives and Heritage recently and, while it’s fine for what it is, it’s not trying to capture the 1979 look either.

Some of this is the poses (the hands over head pitching posed windup is a thing of the past now). There’s also the slightly lower angle which, results in lots of sky-dominated, if not sky-exclusive, backgrounds. But it’s really cards with candid shots like the Garry Templeton which just no longer exist now. They’re not super-common in the 1979 set either but they’re there and tend to be my favorite shots of the set.

I still don’t like the 1979 design but it’s growing on me. Very photocentric and the splash of color is great. The fact that it’s the base card for Basquiat’s anti-product baseball cards is an added bonus.

Some more 79s. Larry Cox is a great catcher card. Clint Hurdle has a wonderful cheekful of chaw. I will never understand why the Cubs team cards were the way they were in the 1970s with all those floating heads. Mike Lum is a key addition to the not-yet-official Hawaii-born players project I keep telling myself I should start. And Nino Espinosa is an addition to the Candlestick binder.

Almost done with the 1979s and I have to admit that the Ken Landreaux stopped me cold when I was flipping through the stack. I joked on Twitter by calling it Vermeer lighting but in all seriousness I’ve never seen a baseball card lit like this before.

Indirect windowish light is not a situation that occurs that often in baseball as it is. The fields are exposed. Dugouts are usually open. Photographers are usually shooting into dugouts or out into the field. So getting a side shot of a player looking back from an open window? Even if it’s just a grab shot it’s one of those moments and lighting situations that makes the photographer side of me look closely.

Last handful of 79s includes another Candlestick card with the Jamie Easterly. I’m slowly putting together a page from each set showing just cards taken at the Stick. No specific searchlist, just pulling cards as I come across them This batch took me to five 1979s of Candlestick and also pushed my non-set-building accumulation over 200 in general.

Kenny included a few Giants and Giants-related cards. The Panini Joey Bart is especially nice. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get to see him in Trenton since he’s projected to end up at Sacramento but I’m hoping he’ll start the season in Richmond and only move up after they visit Trenton.

Chrome Suarez is cool and I know that Yastrzemski is an Orioles card but it just looks like a Giants card to me. The bunch of Pence cards is also fun. It’s weird to see him looking so clean cut as an Astro and I’m glad he regained some form with the Rangers.

Moving to Stanford guys. I don’t actively collect relics but this is one where I can see why people do. Not just a half-inch square of material, this is instead a big swatch which shows off how well-done Stanford’s ink/fabric color matching is. The photo is small but legible. The autograph is on-card. I don’t like the red uniforms but the color really pops here.

I’m not super-collecting Quantrill but he’s the one guy who debuted this year who got a bunch of cards from Topps. As a result I’ve picked up a lot of them and this is arguably the nicest of them all.

Three more Stanford guys in the mix. Bleich is also a former Trenton player and I’m not sure Kenny realized Ramos and Osuna were Stanford. that Osuna card is fantastic though.

Girardi on the other hand is a Spanish-language card and so fits with another of my mini collections. I’ve written about this set before and while I only have a handful of these total it’s always great to add a new one.

Speaking of non-English cards, Kenny sent me a couple Japanese cards as well. From what I can tell on his blog, Kenny visits his family in Japan and comes back with all kinds merchandise, much of which he’s generous enough to send out to other people.

God help us all if he starts bringing back mid-70s Calbee cards since these Kanebo and Card Gens are cool enough as it is. The Kanebo Bonds card is a massive improvement over the regular 2003 Topps design* because it’s deleted the Topps logo. The logo is often intrusive as it is but in 2003 it’s doubly annoying because it’s bright red instead of being reversed, black or, as is the case today, foil stamped.

*Also it uses the Opening Day photo.

Sega Card Gen is something that really intrigues me because it’s part of a video game that really has to be seen to be believed.  The card itself is pretty neat too: stiffer than a regular card and rounded corners. I actually have one on my Stanford Wantlist because San Fuld’s only 2012 card is a one of these but never expected to actually get one. Very very cool to have a sample in my collection.

Looking at the back of the Kanebo card is pretty wild. I appreciate that they translated his height and weight into metric. I also recognize that the team name is listed as “Jaiantsu” instead of “Kyojin” and am noticing the connection in voiced and unvoiced katakana syllabic pairs (in this case the BA in “Barry” and PI in “Pirates”).

Sticking with Japanese issues, There was a huge stack of close to 80 Japanese Panini Soccer cards. Even better, many of them were from 2010 to 2012 and so cover the years in which I was most interested in the game.*

*I’m still a fan but ever since Suárez came to Barcelona I’ve found myself less interested. Plus the inequality in the game itself has gotten worse and it’s become increasingly difficult to actually follow what’s going on as even highlights are going behind paywalls.

The biggest highlight in this batch is a Messi card from 2005–2006. Not technically a rookie card but pretty damn close. Messi debuted in 2004 and so probably only shows up on commemorative Campions Lliga type sets from that seasn. 2005–2006 would be the first time he’d be included from the beginning and what a season that was. A good time to be a Barça fan.

Two early-career Cristiano Ronaldo cards are also very nice. I also like seeing Keisuke Honda and Guiseppe Rossi. And even the Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid guys bring back good memories of that period of time.

More Soccer. Another Rossi. Diego Forlan. Bojan Krkic. Gianluigi Buffon, Shinji Kagawa. So many players who I watched play in Europe and int he World Cup. They won’t all make it into my album but it’s going to be difficult to cut things down to a couple pages.

Last bit of soccer takes us into current-year cards and stickers. These don’t resonate as much although Mathieu and Vidal are both players who’ve played at Barça. Rodrigo Taddei is also a former AS Siena player. I used to follow Siena when they were in Serie A but after going out of business and restarting in Serie D it’s been much harder for me to follow them. I do know they’re in Serie C now and doing well while not competing for promotion.

Also it‘s worth nothing that these cards are all mini-card sized and feel like the B5 equivalent to regular cards A4/letter size. I haven’t compared them to the classic Calbee size yet but it’s close and feels similarly satisfying to handle. Like the Card Gen cards these are part of a game and have backs that detail each player’s strength number within the game.

Okay now we’re getting into Kenny’s wheelhouse. Mostly Yankees. Mostly minor leaguers. These are from nationally-released minor league sets and as such I don’t really recognize many of the names. Jim Walewander may be the only one actually since the Melky Cabrera and Mike Stanton are part of the Major League side of Bowman.

A few more-modern Minor League issues with some Major Leaguers mixed in. Not much to say here except to note that while I like these Bowman designs they’re also some of the designs that I have the hardest time telling apart.

I also need to comment on whatever Topps did in that 2013 Heritage 1962 design. Design looks good but the photo processing looks like the black plate just didn’t print. At first I thought some of these were blackless variations but they all have the same look. It really weirds me out.

Sticking with minor league releases, Kenny included a dozen cards of guys I might see in Trenton at some point.* Most of these guys were in Tampa last year and can reasonably be expected to be in Trenton this year. The big name is Florial who I’m hoping won’t jump Trenton after a couple years in Tampa.

*Assuming there’s even minor league baseball in 2021 and beyond.

Another dozen or so cards related to Trenton. A handful shows guys who pre-date my time as a fan including three more which show the weird photo processing. Always fun to expand the Thunder collection though.

The rest show guys who I saw last season. Kyle Holder might be back though I expect him to move up to AAA.* It would’ve been nice to have had that Bowman card last year though. Same with the Jeff Hendrix although the fact that Hendrix was released early last season means I didn’t miss out much. Jhalan Jackson is another guy who didn’t make it through the season. And Casey Mize isn’t a Thunder player but was part of Erie’s excellent pitching staff which was impressive whenever I saw them play.

*Unlike Trevor Stephan who struggled with injuries last year and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at least start the season at Trenton.

It wouldn’t be a proper zapping from Kenny if there weren’t a bunch of Yankees minor league team set cards. I never properly appreciated how long he’s been Yankees prospecting but the first cards here are from 1992. I don’t like these cards individually but there’s something about seeing the progression of designs and the increased production quality which I find fascinating.

The 1992s are full bleed but the typesetting is an afterthought and the paper is super thin. By the time we get into the 2000s the cards feel and look like proper cards. I don’t know if the designs are used across all the different minor league teams the way that TCMA designs were consistent across all the teams in the 1980s but they increasingly look like national releases.

These show the 2000s and 2010s designs which are much less loving-hands customs and much more professional looking. They still don’t pass as Major League cards in part due to the print quality but they’re not bad. The stock and finish is much much better now though.

The last items in the box were three mini-binders. I’ve been intrigued by these for my Mothers Cookies sets since the four-pocket pages are perfect for 28-card sets. Unfortunately Ultra Pro seemed to have discontinued these right when I started looking. This is also probably part of why Kenny decided to dump these. I know he’s trying to condense his collection but these are a nice way to have some things on display without taking up too much space.

These came with pages inside too so that makes them perfect for me to give to the boys. They have plenty of big binders but I can see the small ones being great for the cards they want to show off the most.

It’s a good thing I opened the binders too since there were a dozen autographs in there. Bobby Brown is the big one and now forces me to make a decision about my Stanford Project. To-date I’ve not included him because he was only at Stanford for a year before enlisting in the Navy and finishing his education at UCLA and Tulane. Part of this is me preferring guys who ended finished off their collegiate careers with Stanford* and part of this is me not wanting to pay the Yankees tax on Brown’s cards.

*Or, in the case with Bill Wakefield, Stanford graduates who didn’t play college ball.

At the same time he’s in the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame so it’s clear that he kind of should be part of the project at some level and I’ve added this to the binder to reflect that.

The rest of the autographs are all guys from the 2004 Battle Creek Yankees. I’m going to assume these were TTMs and, since none of these guys made it to the majors, Kenny’s willing to include them in his clean-out. Battle Creek was a low-A level team in the Midwest League and so demonstrates how hard it is to predict who’ll make it to the majors at that level. Only seven guys on the entire team made it al the way with Melky Cabrera the only real success story.*

*For my interests Stanford-wise, Jason van Meetren was also on this team but I’m not intentionally going into Minor League team issues for this project unless it’s the only way to get a card of a guy who eventually played in the majors.

Wow. That was a lot of stuff to get through and a lot of fun to look at. Thanks Kenny! I’m going to have to touch base after Spring Training as I prep for the Trenton season.

Post Cards from Marc

Late last week I found the patented Marc Brubaker surprise second envelope in my mailbox. This is the second or third time I’ve gotten a mailing from Mark and, within a week, find a second envelope in my mail. This time though it wasn’t a plain white envelope but instead a large 9×12 envelope.

Inside I found a cereal box with soccer cards on the back. As a family which only buys Cheerios in bulk at Costco, I never even walk down the cereal aisle at Wegmans. I wish Topps would do this with baseball cards. Even though these are backless this is the kind of thing that makes collecting fun.

MLS-wise, I still don’t pay attention to the league. I appreciate what it’s been trying to do but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for what they did to San José. Plus at a larger level the state of US Soccer development is so messed up that it’s even driving me away from the Men’s National Team.

All of which means that the only player who I recognize on here is Zlatan. He had a weird spell at Barcelona where he hit the ground fitting in with the team better than any new signing does and spent the rest of the season going into a funk because he wasn’t the guy. A talented player for sure but that season leaves a bad taste in my mouth as well.

Of course, the cereal box was really meant as packaging for other cards. Why a cereal box? Because there’s no better way to package 8×10 photos. I’m assuming these two came from Mark’s motherlode a few years ago but maybe he picked up a second big stack of photos.

These are fun. I think they’re from 1990. Bob Boone’s a newish member of the Royals and Jack McDowell’s still wearing the older White Sox uniform. The McDowell photo in particular really pops as it’s both exposed and printed perfectly. These will both slot in nicely into the Stanford album.

The last item in the package was a nine-pocket sheet containing ten more cards of Stanford guys. The McDowell Hostess is from a set I’ve mentioned previously and is a good fit for the Soccer/Baseball nature of this mailing.

Three Chad Hutchinson cards basically doubled my count of his cards. The SP Prospects card is especially nice (though it scans poorly) since most of my cards of him use the same photo as the Victory card.

The four Carlos Quentin cards are also new to me. I have his Topps and Heritage cards but these were off my radar. The Toppstown one in particular is the kind of card I’d never acquire on purpose but which I kind of love having in the album.

And two Alex Blandino cards round out the package. It’s a shame that he doesn’t appear to sign through the mail since that Heritage card would look really nice scanned.

Thanks Mark and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from Marc

So Marc Brubaker managed to sneak a bubble mailer in right before Christmas. I couldn’t wait until Christmas morning and decided to open it up and look through the day it arrived. Marc’s mailings are fun because they tend to include random stuff from all across my searchlists rather than being just Giants cards. This one was no exception.

Starting off as usual with Giants. You’d think that I’d have as much 1988 Donruss as I ever wanted to own but nope, that Rick Reuschel All Star is both a new card and a new set to my collection. While it’s technically a Pirates card, because of the photo it’ll fit perfectly in my Giants binder.

This batch actually has a lot of new-to-me sets. The Will Clark sticker, Brandon Crawford Pro Debut, and three shiny Prizm cards are all sets I’ve never seen cards from.  Meanwhile most of the rest of these are cards that I don’t have.

The more-recent cards include a bunch of inserts I don’t have. The Cepeda and Bench.Posey ones are fun but that Ballpark Evolution card featureing the Polo Grounds on one side and Pac Bell AT&T Oracle Park on the other is my favorite of the batch.

Eighteen Stanford cards including a surprising number of 1989 Upper Deck cards that I didn’t have. For such a seminal set of my youth I never acquired much of the cards. Part of me wants to collect more. The rest knows that the Griffey rookie is still overpriced and that I much prefer the 1990 set anyway.

I love Ballard’s 1991 Upper Deck. It’s nice to get an unsigned version of the Chitren Error. This is my first 1997 Studio card. The dual Bowman Chris Carters are nice. I’m not a Panini collector at all so the Drew Storen is very different than most of what’s in my binder. And the same goes for Gypsy Queen and that Mussina.

A handful of weird cards. The Archives Wagner is interesting. I have mixed feelings about old guys in modern cards and the colorized photo in a 1993 design is especially odd to me. At the same time it’s a neat photo and I like having it on a card.

The coins meanwhile are a set that I either never saw as a kid or consciously avoided (and subsequently forgot about). I don’t have any of them and they kind of fall into the category of things I’m not sure what to do with. Cool to have a few rattling around though.

Moving on to the next portion of this package takes me to the set building pile. First off, filling in some holes in sets I’m close to completing. Two 1991 Scores for my son.* One 1991 Studio for me takes me to needing only six. And six 1994 Topps cards leaves me 39 short.

*He’s building the set that my dentist sent me and is only two cards (403 Eric Davis Master Blaster and 417 Nolan Ryan Highlight) away now.

This selection hits me square in the feels for my youth with Studio and Score showing off how varied card sets were getting while 1994 Topps is quietly showing off photography that we no longer see on cards.

A larger batch of 2014 Topps includes a decent amount of star power. I didn’t expect to get a Trout in a package so that’s very cool. As I stated when I first saw this set, for whatever reason I particularly like all the colored uniforms in this set. Something about the design and the photo processing makes me like the variety of colors depicted despite my being a staunch “home whites and road greys” guy. I still need over 200 of these, mostly series 2.

Last bit of set building is a couple dozen Bonds Home Run History cards. I thought I’d accumulated a couple hundred of these but I forgot that there was also a lot of Upper Deck Documentary in the box of cards from bullshit sets that I’m accumulating but refuse to binder.

Anyway this is an awful awful set but I’m happy to give these cards a home. I have no idea why anyone who’s not a Giants fan would want these in their house though.

Last card of the package is this autographed relic of Garret Williams. Williams was probably a Giant when Marc started putting this pile together but he got traded to the Angels earlier this month as the player to be named later in the Zack Cozart and Will Wilson trade.

He had a decent year last year at Richmond but after two years in AA gets to face his future this coming season. Maybe this autograph will end up going to an Angels collector. But who knows, last year I got a Zack Cozart auto and there’s a decent chance I’ll get to slide it into my Giants section now.

Very cool stuff as usual Marc. I hope your Christmas was a good one too!

Basically done

I received a plain white envelope from Tim (@BigShep79). Tim blogs a little at bigshepscards.com but he mainly runs the About the Cards podcast which has turned into a fun summary/discussion of things going on in the hobby each week.

I’m leery of a lot of card podcasts and videos because they tend to feel like guys who’ve managed to get industry hookups and, as a result, feel like they have to be positive about everything lest they risk being cut off from their supply.* Tim keeps things from getting too negative and the conversational format allows for multiple opinions and points of view.

*There are a decent number of blogs like this as well which purportedly review products but read like sales sheets.

He’s a Royals and Giants collector who, since he’s often looking to offload cards of the other 28 teams, I’ve never traded with. When he put out a call for people looking for 2019 Update I mentioned the two cards of Stanford guys that I needed for my project.

I don’t much care for Update as a product but it’s always nice to get those first Major League cards of guys I’ve been tracking as part of my Stanford project. Cal Quantrill has been someone who showed up in Bowman for years as a top prospect. He finally made it to the bigs last season and did okay in a mix of starts and relief appearances. I suspect the Padres, and everyone else, expects him to take another step forward in 2020.

Tommy Edman though kind of came out of nowhere. There have been no Bowman or any other prospect-related cards of him so 2019 Update was the first real card of his at all. He had a great 2019 too as a versatile fielder and above-average hitter and I’m very happy to add him to the binder.

With these two cards and a couple pending shipments my Stanford Project is at a stage of being essentially complete. There are of course always more cards to add. There are 10 guys who are active in the bigs and many more in the minors. And there are multiple oddballs and weird cards of players who are already in the binder. But in a general sense there’s only a handful of cards I’m actively looking for.

Three Topps cards that I don’t have:

  • Doug Camilli’s rookie card is a 1962 Topps high number that he shares with Bob Uecker. It retails for close to $100 and so I don’t expect to ever get it.
  • John Mayberry Junior has a 2010 card that is only available as part of the Phillies Topps Team Set. I’ve never seen it sold individually.
  • Sam Fuld’s 2013 card is similarly only part of the Rays Topps Team Set that year and is also one I’ve never seen sold individually.

Seven cards that show players on a team or in a year that’s not currently represented in the binder:

  • Steve Dunning is only depicted as a Ranger on a 1993 Keebler All-time Rangers card.
  • Sam Fuld’s only 2012 card is a Sega Card Gen card from Japan.
  • Mike Gosling’s only 2007 card is a Kahn’s Reds team issue
  • Steve Hovley is only depicted as a Brewer on a 1994 Miller’s Brewing All-time Brewers card.
  • Brian Johnson’s only 2000 card is a Royals Police card.
  • Dave Meier’s only Rangers card is also only in the 1993 Keebler Rangers set.
  • Don Rose’s only Mets card is in the 1991 Wiz New York Mets set.

And that’s it. A very small set of holes left. The Keebler, Miller, and Wiz cards are available but are often overpriced. Card Gen, Royals Police, and Kahn’s cards on the other hand are as hard to find as the Topps Team Sets.

Still things will get picked off nice and slow and each one will be savored. It’s nice to have so few holes and be fully in sustaining mode. Thanks Tim!

A few Stadium Clubs

One of the more interesting Twitter contacts I’ve made is Andrew Aronstein (@AndrewAronstein) who, as the scion of TCMA, has both a lot of cool stuff to show off as well as a lot of great insider stories. This has been a ton of fun since TCMA sets were one of my* entry points into baseball card collecting and history. I couldn’t afford “real”** cards of the legends but the TCMA issues had stats and bios and I consumed every bit of information on them.

*and it turns out pretty much everyone else my age as well as everyone born the decade proceeding me.

**vintage

TCMA cards were also great for getting autographs of those stars since they not only weren’t valuable but were cheap, and accessible. Plus they were generally photo-centric and featured nice minimal designs. I wish they still existed today since they’re the kind of thing I’d love for my kids to have access to as a primer into the history of the game.

What made TCMA so great was its photo archive. Andrew’s maintained the archive and is, in addition to cards, a big-time collector of vintage photos. This has been of special interest to me since I can learn about how and when different print and negative technology got adopted.

I know how the technology works but seeing it in action in the sports photo newswire world is not something that I’m an expert in. Andrew meanwhile has both the prints and the negatives as well as their dates of creation and so is a great resource for all kinds of photo-nerd questions I may have.

He was snowed in last week so opened up the floor to trademaking as he had a bunch of boxes of doubles. He’s also a New York Giants guy so reached out to see if I had encountered anything interesting in my collecting experience.

I did not. My New York Giants collecting is very new, very low grade, and very efficient. In other words, I need everything, don’t care about condition, and have still been picky and cheap about what I acquire. This is good for me and my wallet but leaves me with zero tradebait.

However if someone asks for your wantlists, you send your wantlists. While Andrew is a Gypsy Queen and Ginter collector now, he also had some 2017 Stadium Club extras that I needed and graciously sent them off even though I had nothing worth sending back.

Stadium Club is of course a perfect first mailing to get from Andrew since it’s the photo-centric set. 2017 in particular is a set that I especially love. The photo selections are better than other years and it’s the set that convinced me that modern cards were worth collecting.

The wonderfully-clean typesetting along with the crisp, varied, and interesting photos makes this a set that I just like looking at. These three mean I’m only missing 22 now.*

*11 36 41 43 47 53 55 57 64 70 84 89 91 137 168 175 181 203 211 228 285 300

Thanks Andrew!

Surprise from Scott

Earlier this week I found the dreaded USPS plastic bag in my mailbox. I didn’t even need to read the note to know that the contents were a mangled package. In this case it was a half-ripped envelope that had clearly been folded in half despite the big DO NOT BEND writing on both sides. Ulp.

I opened it anyway and found a nice note from Scott Berger which referenced three cards. There were still three cards in the envelope so it appears everything came through unscathed. Moral of the story? Assume your envelope will bend and just make sure that you give it an obvious place to bend that’s not a card. Scott did this by having two toploaders side by side. The toploaders were fine and the envelope folded right between them.

Anyway enough about the packaging. Scott’s an Arizona State guy who watched a bunch of the same Pac 10 baseball players in Tempe that I did in Palo Alto. When he comes across Stanford cards he thinks of me. When I come across Arizona State cards I think of him.* There aren’t a lot of us doing college collecting projects so the company is nice to have.

*My end of this bargain has mainly been on Twitter since, unfortunately, the only Arizona State card I’ve come across in person is a card of Jacob Cruz which talks about him being drafted by the Giants.

The first card is a 2008 Donruss Elite card of Sean Ratliff. Ratliff played after I graduated but when I could still attend a decent number of games at Sunken Diamond. He wasn’t what I’d call a star of the team but he was always one of the more consistent players and it was no surprise to see him get drafted. He doesn’t have a lot of professional cardboard out there so it’s always nice to add a new one.

Ratliff’s been the hitting coach in Brooklyn for the past couple of seasons now. I might have to whip up a custom to send his way if he’s still there next season.

Bryce Love is a product of Stanford’s recent resurgence as a Football School™. I’m so done with football that I haven’t paid attention although my understanding is that things have reverted so Stanford Football is back in its traditional spot of propping up the table and no longer being the hot ticket on campus.

Still, it’s nice to add some variety to the album. Most of the football players I have are guys who played baseball but I’m gradually fleshing out the album with non-baseball-related cards. Not looking to be a completionist here like I am with trying to get all the Stanford Baseball Topps cards, it’s just nice to have some different designs and looks while I flip through the pages.

And the last card is just a wonderful Gary Carter Archives card. On the Expos like he’s supposed to be. With that pink color that’s a perfect choice for the Expos uniforms. In that fantastic 1959 design that I should dislike except for some reason it feels like the most-distinctive Trading Card™ design off all time.* I just wish that Topps had centered the names correctly.

*Seriously. It shows up around the world and there’s a reason my 10-year-old son chose it for his Halloween costume this year.

Thanks Scott! I’ll get you some ASU guys eventually.

Starting a new set

So late last month Matt Prigge decided that he wanted to clear out a bunch of sets and cards that he’d accumulated for accumulation’s sake. Matt just moved and while he had moved with all his cards, I guess that he realized that he didn’t want to buy enough Ikea Kallax units to get them all his basement floor.

I haven’t gone through such a downsizing yet but it’s coming. I have to get what I have organized first though. But with cards it’s easy to fall into the accumulation trap and taking a step back to figure out what I really like is a healthy activity to do every once in a while.

Currently, aside from my Giants, Stanford, and a few mini-projects, I’ve found that I’m enjoying filling out the cards and sets from my childhood but am enjoying just having samples—preferably Giants or Stanford players—from the other years. I’ve been enjoying building a 1978 set but it’s really the guys from 1987–1994 that I remember best. That’s my youth and all I cared about was baseball and cards.

I had collected complete sets of 1987–1993 Topps as a kid. I’ve been building 1986 since it represents the cards that were in existence when I became a fan and I acquired a couple hundred of them over my childhood collecting years. I only had a couple dozen 1994 Topps for comparison. By then I’d realized that I shouldn’t be spending money on packs if I was just going to get the set. When the strike hit and I dropped the hobby cold-turkey I never picked up any more 1994 Topps cards.

As a result I have no real memories of 1994 as a set. It’s not a design that I liked at the time* and I just didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the cards. But I’ve seen more examples in recent years and have found myself liking a lot of things about it. Plus the players are still the guys I knew and the set itself serves as a bit of commemoration of the single best Giants season I’ve ever witnessed.**

*As an autograph hunter I found myself skeptical of glossy cards since we hadn’t figured out the best way to get them signed. In many ways my preferences for non-glossy cardstock and older-style designs versus the fancy-shmancy modern cards the the 1990s pulled the hobby into is rooted in autograph hunting practicalities rather than any design-based critique.

**Yes winning a World Series is great but there’s also something wonderful about seeing your team dominate the regular season. The sting of getting pipped to the pennant by the Braves still hurts but looking back on it I just remember a heck of a run and pennant race.

So when Matt sent out feelers for who’d be interested in various junk wax sets I said hat I’d be interested if he had a set or partial set of 1994 Topps. The price was more than reasonable (especially since it was coming already-paged) so I sent over the money and a week later (thanks to Thanksgiving) the box arrived.

Yeah they don’t make sets like this anymore. I’m still not sold on the design but it’s not as bad as I remember and the only time it makes itself noticed is on cards like the Brett where it brilliantly mirrors the scoreboard. Photography-wise though this is fantastic stuff. A great mix of close action, distant action, experimental action, quiet candids, and poses.

What I like best is how much stadium detail I get. There’s enough depth of field to see what the grandstands are like. Many of the candids are wide-angle shots that show off all kinds of dugout details.

There are also plenty of horizontal cards too with the same mix of images. These are things we have to look for the photo-specific Stadium Club set to see nowadays and it’s a shame since this set is three times as large and so offers an abundance of photographic riches.

One of the things I like best about the photography in the set is how it allows the photos to remain grounded. We can see feet on the ground and know where the play is occurring. How far off the ground a dive is. That plays at second base refuse to hide the baserunner and bag behind the card graphics. These are cards that have been designed by people who know and understand baseball.

While it’s easy for me to rue my bad luck about getting into cards at the peak of card worthlessness, comparing these to what 1986 Topps looks like allows me to be thankful for being able to witness the incredible improvement in the quality of baseball photography.  Just the fact that I got to see the changes as they happened was a lesson in and of itself.

Anyway, Matt’s cards plus the ones I had already left me 45 cards short of a complete set. Most of those holes are in Series 2, much like my 2014 build. Full list of what I need is here. I’ll also keep an updated list on the set need page but this one will mark my starting point.

155 200 387 408 411 416 417 421 428 442 447 465 473 476 477 480 484 486 528 549 586 589 593 615 626 637 649 662 664 668 670 671 672 677 678 679 688 702 718 733 736 738 750 772

Matt, of course, was not content to just send me what I paid for and instead packed assorted other goodies into the box. Two packs of Topps Baseball Talk are so cool I almost don’t want to open them. Since I don’t have the player I need to go to YouTube to listen to the cards but the cards themselves are pretty cool too. As oversize versions of the 1989 design they feature nice big images and with the record grooves on the back are among the oddest to the oddballs.

Most of the packing though was assorted Giants cards from over the years. Many of these I have but I have two boys who are more than happy to take my duplicates too. I’ve already given them each a 300-count box each of cards from 1960 to  2019 as a house-warming present and need to put together other gift packs of duplicates for them now.

In the batch here it turned out that I was missing a bunch of the 1985 Donruss, 1987 Donruss, 1987 Fleer, and 1988 Donruss cards. 1989–1991 though were my peak years and if there’s a hole in my binder it’s because the card is autographed and so is merely in a different binder.

Which means I fastforward to 1992 here and mention that I’ve never seen those blue Classic cards before. They’re kind of horribly printed but I’m amazed that I’m still finding out about new cards from my peak collecting years.

The 1994 Bowmans are also mostly new (I do not remember this design from my youth even though I had a bunch) and the Upper Deck Fun pack represents a set I never saw as a kid. I’ve gotten some Fun Pack cards in previous trade packages but the Pro Files Bonds card is a completely new one to me as well.

Past the strike now and into cards I never saw as a kid No idea if the red lettering on Pinnacle means anything but all that gold foil still kind of amazes me. The 1996 Donruss Steve Scarsone though is a perfect demonstration of how quickly cards designs went from grounding the action to covering it up.

Instead of looking like a fantastic play Scarsone looks like he’s trying and failing to imitate the Karate Kid. Unfortunately, this school of card design is what Topps does repeatedly in modern cards and it’s noticeable enough that my 10-year-old complains about it.

Getting into the 21st century. Standout card here is the First American Church of Baseball Tim Lincecum. I have no idea what this set or organization is (its Facebook page suggests it is/was a Giants fan club) but it’s wonderfully odd and hand-numbered to 500 on the back.

Also the two Buster Posey 2015 cards are part of the Giants team set and NL All Stars set. Needless useless variants that I refuse to chase. But having a sample in the binder is fu none the less. The only reason I actively want those team set cards is if they included a guy who otherwise doesn’t have a Giants card that season.*

*A few of the hardest Stanford cards for me are guys who only showed up in the team sets.

And finally the 2018 and 2019 cards. I appreciate the Gypsy Queen since I categorically refuse to buy these. Ditto to Gallery. Not my cup of tea even though seeing how they’re made is of interest to me from a technical point of view. Like it appears that 2019 Gypsy Queen cut back on the logo and nameplate stupidity of 2018 and doesn’t feature any areas that look like they were printed in a second printing pass.*

*This is a long-overdue SABR post.

Lastly, buried in the stack of Giants cards was this Bill Swift autograph. I had to double check that this was included on purpose but Matt confirmed that it was. Bill Swift was a good Giant whose two full seasons were good enough that I forget that they were his only two complete seasons with the club. His 1993 was especially fantastic and he fully deserved to be in the running for the Cy Young Award.*

*As an aside, how awful was Jose Rijo’s run support that season since he was pretty damn good in every other stat besides Wins/Losses.

This card in particular has always been one of my favorites since it includes the Giants’ awesome Turn Back the Clock uniforms. I liked this card so much that I got it signed back in the day.

Yeah. This is from Spring Training 1993. And this isn’t a complaint about having two but rather an observation at how much Swift’s signature is different. I’m assuming Matt got his card signed TTM at some point in the past couple decades. The signature there more closely matches the neat signature examples Google pulls up. My card meanwhile is a hasty scrawl while getting into or out of the Scottsdale clubhouse.

Anyway, thanks Matt! I’m looking forward to finishing this set build too.

Jay’s Housewarming

Last week I came back from picking the kids up at school to find a bubble mailer from Greg/Night Owl waiting in my mailbox. This time he’d addressed it to my new address. It felt “off” when I picked it up. I’ve gotten enough of these now that I know what cards usually feel like. This one was different, sort of more dense and rigid and I was more curious than usual to open it.

Inside I found a stack of over a dozen Jay Publishing photopack cards. I’ve picked up a couple of these over the years but to-date they’re tended to be outside my collecting radar. When Greg received a huge batch of them earlier this year I began to realize that I’d been ignoring some good stuff.

As someone who got back into baseball cards because of photography reasons, these team photopacks are especially relevant because they represent a different branch of the image sharing/collecting culture that started in the 19th century. They’re basic halftone prints but they represent another way that photos circulated.

Unlike cards—whose size and thickness encourages handling—the photo packs are paper and are clearly meant to be put on display or pasted into an album. The ones I received from Greg are all in petty good shape and don’t have any pinholes or tape residue.

Jay Publishing printed these team packs for about a decade. They all look mostly the same with a large black and white photo over the player’s name, city, and team. In 1962 the font changed from san-serif to serif but other than that the only clues for dates are knowledge of the roster and the team uniforms.

Thankfully, Trading Card Database has photos of all the different Giants photo packs so I was able to determine that my stack was a combination of 1961 and 1963 photo packs.

Eight of the photos are from 1961. There are two doubles. That photos are often reused year-to-year makes determining if things are truly doubles kind of difficult. The ones here though do in fact appear to be identical in terms of the photo cropping but from different print runs.

In this batch I particularly like the Sam Jones photo which shows off the spring training facilities and the Bob Schmidt which is just a great image with the mask flying out one corner and his shadow anchoring another. The other four images aren’t bad either.

Of the six missing images it’s no surprise that Mays, Marichal, and Cepeda are among them. The thing I’m most confused by is how McCovey didn’t make the checklist and how Bob Schmidt, who only played two games for the Giants in 1961, did.

The 1963 photos to my eye aren’t quite as nice. Sanford is a bit blurry, O’Dell and Pagan are awkwardly cropped. Hiller’s a decent baseball pose though and Pierce is similarly strong. Haller’s meanwhile isn’t a bad image either but the crotch-eye view is a bit weird for me.

It’s kind of amazing to  compare Pierce and O’Dell though since they’re identically composed and timed but one is great and the other not. The difference in angle makes so much of a difference here.

From these six I’m missing Mays, McCovey and Cepeda this time (Felipe Alou and Al Dark are also missing from both 1961 and 1963). Again, not a surprise since those will be of interest to a much wider audience while  the rest of the players resonate only for Giants fans.

Greg also took the opportunity to clear out a dozen unwanted Giants cards. We’ll start off with a handful of older cards. Many of these I have so they’ll go to the boys. The 1984 Jeffrey Leonard though is new to me and doubles my 1984 Fleer Giants holdings. Yeah. Even though these all come from the overproduction era and represent sets my kids still pull from repacks I only have two 1984 Fleer Giants.

Some newer Giants cards. That Bumgarner All Star is one of the last cards Topps made of him. It’s nice to add it to the binder. The Stadium Club Hunter Pence is also quite welcome since I somehow only had the gold and black foil versions. And that Bergen/Coonrod Rookie Combo card confuses me since Bergen also has his own card in that set.

The last four cards are Archives cards using the 1975 design that Greg loves so much. As a non-collector of Archives I always appreciate getting these in the mail. I like seeing how Topps remakes its old designs even though it typically screws things up in an uncanny valley way.

These aren’t too bad: Team name is a bit small. Autographs are super bold. Colors are slightly off. But all in all they feel about right, especially when I see a group like this where every card is a different color combination.

Super cool Greg. Thanks!