I’ve been looking back on my 2018 post which reflected the beginning of my reintegration into the hobby and recognizing how much my collection and interests have shifted and grown in the past year. So rather than doing a belated New Year’s Resolutions post, it’s time to revisit Tony’s 30-day baseball card challenge.
I’m not sure if this will become a repeating post. It really depends on how much my answers change year-to-year. And since some of Tony’s prompts do not allow for change there may be a point where doing this again no longer works anyway. but for now I think I have new and improved answers for almost everything.
1. A card from the current year with a photo you like
2018 Topps Big League Ichiro
As with last year’s post, “current year” is going to be the previous year. I just really like this card with the photo of Ichiro’s back and all the fans. It’s a wonderful way to cap his career (yes I know he’s not officially officially retired) and shows how adored he is by the fans. He’s a great player who’s truly distinct in the game and we’re all that much richer for his having come to the US.
2. A card with more than one player on it
1941 Double Play Harry Gumbert / Burgess Whitehead
One of my collecting goals for 2019 is to go older and focus on pre-Topps-monopoly cards. I’m also trying to acquire cards from sets that I have no samples of. This 1941 Double Play card is one such example. It’s a fun set and I love how there are two different orientations—horizontal for portraits, vertical for action. I got my first examples early this year and they’ve made me very happy.
3. A card from the first set you tried to complete
1986 Topps Bob Brenly
I started collecting cards in 1987 so while I didn’t explicitly purchase packs of 1986 Topps, I ended up accumulating a lot of it. I found a couple hundred of them at my parents’ house and decided hat I should try and complete the set the “hard” way now. It’s been fun. It hits a lot of feelings as I look at the cards and reminds me of the great unknown and potential collecting possibilities that opened up to me back when I was nine years old. Collecting the current year was safe. Collecting last year was the first step toward collecting the year before that, and the year before that…
4. A rookie card of one of your favorite players
1988 Topps Matt Williams
Not going to get into the “what’s a Rookie Card” discussion this year. Where picking Will Clark last year was easy I’ve found it hard to pick someone else this year. I’ve found favorite in this case to have to be a Giant who I watched when I was little and whose career tailed off about the same time my interest in the game tailed off in the mid-2000s. There aren’t many guys who fit this profile but Matt Williams does.
It was fun to see him go from that pinch-hitting late-game Shortstop to the slugging starting Third Baseman. It was fun to watch him do his Babe Ruth impersonation on Turn Back the Clock day. And it was fun to watch him just field his position and show he was more than a slugger.
5. A certified autograph card of one of my favorite players.
1996 Leaf Signatures Mike Aldrete
Mike Aldrete will always be one of my favorite players because he was one of my first in-person autographs. That I don’t have many certified autograph cards makes this an easy choice for this slot. I like this one because it fills a hole and is the only card representing his time with the Yankees.
6. A card you spent more than $10 to get
1953 Topps Monte Irvin
A bargain bin find but a beaut of a card of a Giants Hall of Famer. This is also the oldest card of a Hall of Famer that I own. It’s a bit embarrassing that it took the Giants so long to retire his number but he totally deserves the honor for his career, his status as one of the first Black baseball players to play for the franchise, and his presence in mentoring Willie Mays.
7. A card you bought in person and the story behind it.
1950 Bowman Mario Pieretti
Sometimes you just can’t say no. While the first night game occurred in 1935, cards depicting nighttime baseball are pretty uncommon until the 1970s—and even there frequently limited to the post-season subsets. Which is a shame because the cards showing the light standards are all kind of wonderful.
This Pieretti is the oldest night card baseball Twitter has found so far. I was unaware of this when I bought it. I was just stuck by the artwork and how nice the light standards looked. 1950 Bowman is one of my favorite sets and yeah, I couldn’t say no even though it doesn’t “fit” anywhere in my collection.
8. A card that reminds you of a family member
2017 Topps Update Austin Slater
My son gave me this card for Christmas a couple years ago. He’d pulled it from a pack and was excited to get a Giant. I told him it was also a Stanford guy. Since he already knows what I collect he took it upon himself to wrap it up nicely in an envelope and slip it into my stocking. So yes whenever I see it I’ll remember that a little boy raided his collection to find a card he knew his father would like.
9. One of your favorite cards from the 1950s
1955 Bowman Roger Bowman
The only reason I own this is because it’s a Bowman card featuring a player named Bowman. It’s a ridiculously stupid reason to buy a card (also why I was fine with it being so beat up). But I’ve yet to run into a collector who isn’t amused by this.
10. One of your favorite cards from the 1960s
1961 Topps Frank Robinson All Star
I mentioned this card previously but for a long time this was my most-favorite non-Giants card. I’m ashamed to say that it was because it was also the highest book value card I owned back then but yeah that was part of it. But it was also a vintage card of a Hall of Famer in that super-cool All Star design. Plus that Reds uniform is fantastic.
11. One of your favorite cards from the 1970s
1974 Topps Dave Kingman
This is straight up modern art. Crazy catadioptric bokeh. High-contrast light and printing. I want to say that they just don’t make cards like this anymore but they didn’t make them like this back then either.
12. One of your favorite cards from the 1980s
1983 Fleer Duane Kuiper
Fleer has a number of wonderfully goofy photos in the 1980s but Kuip with the broken bat is the only Giants card of the bunch. It never fails to make me smile
13. One of your favorite cards from the 1990s
1999 Bowman International Ntema Ndungidi
I’ve joked that I could write 2000 words about this card. I won’t but I’ll briefly touch on everything I love about it. I love that it’s a non-English language parallel. I love that it appears to be in Lingala. I love that the height and weight are not only in metric but are written using a comma as the decimal operator. I love that it represents a country that no longer exists—by 1999 Zaire was no longer a country and was instead the Republic of Congo.
And I’ve come to be fascinated by how Topps manufactures Chrome cards. I don’t like Chrome as a product but the process of printing the image on the backside of the plastic* and then fusing it to the foil-faced cardstock was kind of a wonderful thing to realize.
*Chrome printing plate cards are reversed image.
14. One of your favorite cards from the 2000s
2009 O Pee Chee Randy Johnson
I had hard time picking anything from this decade but having had a lot more experience in this area over the past year I’ve found myself increasingly appreciative of the 2009 O Pee Chee release and how it’s one of the few releases in the past tow decades that feels like how cards used to feel without being an explicit rip-off of something else.
We’ve had Fleer Tradition and Topps Heritage and Upper Deck Vintage all trying to capitalize on nostalgia by trotting out old designs, or cards inspired by old designs* but the underlying message is that current-year cards have to look different. Glossy. Foil-stamped. Action-packed. Etc.
*And I get it. I do the exact same thing when I’m making customs.
2009 O Pee Chee is none of those. It’s an original design that feels like it could be from any year back to 1957. I selected the Randy Johnson because his cameo with the Giants is sufficiently weird. But I also like the wide angle photo and sever foreshortening effect.
15. One of your favorite cards from the 2010s
2017 Allen & Ginter Krazy George Mini
I really don’t like Ginter. It just feels so effortful but pleased with itself for being so damn clever. The photo processing bugs me. The gimmicks bug me. The price bugs me. I refuse to buy it and reward Topps for this kind of thing.
And yet I’m beginning to see the appeal. It’s a horrible baseball card set. It’s a fascinating set for all the other stuff and playing with the concept of who deserves to be on a trading card and what other kinds of people should be recognized. The political and famous ones are often interesting but as a Bay Area native I was particularly pleased to see Krazy George make an appearance a couple years ago.
I grew up with this guy and his drum and his jorts. I sort of rolled my eyes when he was at Candlestick* but seeing him in the sun at The Coliseum or San José Muni or Spartan Stadium? Perfect.
*His shtick didn’t quite fit the Candlestick gestalt.
This card reminds me of my youth and a simpler age of going to ball games. The mini makes it just a little more fun. I’m happy Topps threw a bone to the West Coast with this. Now if only they could make a Ginter card of Emperor Norton…
16. A card of a player who you appreciate but don’t like
1990 Topps Paul O’Neill
You know that one player who always killed your team? That was Paul O’Neill for the Giants when I was a kid. He was always the guy with the clutch hit right when the pitcher was about to work out of a jam. He was the one who broke up the only no-hitter I’ve come close to seeing live. He was always there tormenting the Giants.
My family called him “Oh, him again” because it was always him. Again and again and again.
17. A card from the first set you put together hand collated
Still blank. Still working on 1978 Topps, 1986 Topps, 1990 Fleer, 1990 Upper Deck, and 1991 Donruss. One of them should be finished this year though.
18. A card of a player who managed your favorite team
1986 Topps Dusty Baker
May as well pick up with the manager who succeeded Roger Craig. I got this signed in Spring Training 1993 when he was brand new. Have to say that even though the ending wasn’t so great I was mostly happy with the team while he was in charge.
19. A favorite card from a country other than the United States
1976 Calbee Sadaharu Oh
It feels like a bit of a cop out to go with another Oh card but after having these Calbees for a year I’ve found I like them even more than I did when I got them. There’s something just satisfying about these as objects with the thick card stock and the slightly smaller size. Plus the photography is so different from what Topps was doing at the time.
This Oh, with its night game, low angle view from directly behind the plate, and perfectly timed photo which captures Oh’s distinctive leg kick is a winner all around.
20. Your favorite parallel card based on the parallel
1975 Topps Mini Hank Aaron
1975 Minis will always be fun. For some reason I had three of these—including this Aaron—when I was a kid but only the solitary Tito Fuentes from the regular base cards. Because I had this stored with my oddballs I didn’t remember I had a vintage Hank Aaron until I revisited my collection at my parents’ house.
I admit to not understanding the current yearly release of mini parallels but the 1975 ones are special. Something about how they were the only mini cards until Topps started releasing the mini leaders in 1986 made them distinct.
21. A card of a rookie you thought you were “investing” in
1991 Mike Mussina
I sort of covered this previously. This was the only rookie autograph that didn’t bust within a year of me acquiring it and I’m still riding that high of him getting into Cooperstown.
22. A card of a common player that always seemed to elude you
2002 Topps Traded Rick Helling
Not a player who I cant find but a card that continues to elude me. I’ve found it in Chrome, Gold, and Refracter versions but for some reason the base card is impossible to find except when it costs twice as much as any of the others. And yeah I refuse to spend that much on a base card.
23. A favorite oddball card from the 1950s
1952 Mothers Cookies Bill Boemler
I’m an admitted Mothers Cookies fanatic but I never expected to get any from its first sets in the early 1950s. However I found one for a good price recently and am very happy to have this Bill Boemler in my collection. That it’s a San Francisco Seals card is especially nice.
24. A favorite oddball card from the 1960s
1967 Dexter Press Willie Mays
Another card I never expected to own. The Giants Dexters are tough to find ungraded—let alone affordable, let alone Mays—but sometimes you get lucky. Their reputation is fully deserved and the printing is such that they look much better in person than they do in any scans or web images.
25. A favorite oddball card from the 1970s
1970 Kellogg’s Willie McCovey
I love lenticular cards. This McCovey from the first year of Kellogg’s 3D issues was in a surprise mailday of many cool items but stood head and shoulders above them all. Like the Dexter, this card just can’t scan well. Not only does the 3D not translate, the crispness of the portrait is lost too. These 3Ds look so much better in person and are bizarrely sharp compared to the usual standard of late-69s, early-70s printing and registration.
26. A favorite oddball card from the 1980s
1986 Mothers Cookies Greg Minton
If Greg Minton’s 1978 card is famous for its awful airbrushing and colorization, this 1986 Mothers deserves to be as well known for its goofball pose.
27. A favorite oddball card from 1990 or later
1993 Fleer Fruit of the Loom Will Clark
🎶Cards were everywhere, man
Cards were everywhere, man
With food and gas I swear, man
Even in underwear, man🎶
I don’t exactly like this card. I do however love the idea that it came with underwear. If that’s not the definitive example of the nature of the hobby in the early 1990s and how cards were literally everywhere, I don’t know what is.
Also, as with the Fantastic Sams discs, I kind of wonder about the viability of making this a 66-card set. Yes I know that they came in packs of six but that’s still a best-case scenario of purchasing 11 packages of underwear for a set and that’s neither an impulse purchase nor something a kid’s going to save his allowance for.
28. A favorite relic/manufactured relic card
2016 Diamond Kings Mel Ott
I’m still not a fan of relics or the idea of cutting up old equipment to insert them in one-inch squares into cards. I do however find them fascinating in terms of just how they’re made. This Ott is probably the best example I have. It’s not just a relic but a couple different kinds of paper and printing methods.
29. A favorite card from before 1950. Whether you own it or not
1934–36 National Chicle Diamond Stars R327 Carl Hubbell
I wish I owned this. One of these day I’d love to try and get vintage cards of all the Giants retired numbers. I have the most-recent seven of the twelve players. Hubbell (and Ott) are the next most-recent. I don’t have any specific cards in mind for which ones I like but this Hubbell is one I’ve long admired for both the quality of the portrait as well as the wonderful colors and detail in the background.
30. Your favorite card in your collection
1917 Zeenut Del Baker
Unchanged from last year. My oldest baseball card. My oldest San Francisco card. And one that reminds me of my Grandmothers’ house.
For the sake of keeping score and breaking things up in various ways.
12: San Francisco
5: Autographs, New York, Retired Numbers, 1980s, 1990s
4: Stanford, 1950s, 1970s, 2010s
2: Mothers Cookies, Orioles, Reds, 1960s, 2000s