Alchemy

One of the best things about Card Twitter is its ability to transform stuff that doesn’t interest me into stuff that does. In this case, my stack of 1967 Topps Football cards has been sitting in a box for months. I don’t really feel like selling things but I figured it was only a matter of time before I found someone building the set.

About a month ago Jeff Katz turned out to be that someone. I almost blew the trade by overthinking things* but I eventually realized that if I had a magic wand that could simply transform my football cards into baseball cards I’d be perfectly happy. So that’s what we ended up doing. After like 10 days of watching my package bounce between Pittsburgh and Jersey City it finally arrived yesterday.

*The downside of having a focused searchlist is that I can get hung up on just focusing on the list of what I “need.” 95% of the time this is a good instinct but this was an instance where it got in the way.

Two Hall of Famers in the stack. Stargell is a little beat up (I knew this before Jeff sent it) but the Drysdale is in good shape for my collecting grade that doesn’t care about softish corners, centering, or diamond cuts.*

*I won’t comment on the registration.

1967 is a design I’ve never really cared for since I don’t like facsimile signatures. I’ve come around to appreciating the photography though and the way it interacts with the design. This will be a larger post over on SABR some day but the short version of it here is that layering the text on top of the photo forced a looser crop that Topps usually does.

This is especially the case with the name and position text in the top of the frame. Mid-1960s portraits will be shot on, at smallest, medium format film and be composed in-camera with a lot of room for cropping downstream. That extra quarter inch of space at the top of the frame coupled with the extra half inch on the bottom results in a lot more background information than is typical for any other  Topps set from 1957 to 1969.*

*After 1969 we see 35mm photography, candids, and action shots start to creep into the mix so we really can’t compare those sets to the portraits that dominate the 1960s.

Another card in the batch gives a complete page of 1967 A’s cards. 1967 is the last year the A’s were in Kansas City and I’ve been trying to put a page together for each of the teams that moved. Not a major project just one I’ve enjoyed keeping an eye out for as I accumulate other cards.

Four horizontal cards including a pair of designs in the World Series and  Thumpers cards I’ve not encountered before. I also need to mention that the ERA Leaders card is one of the rare instances of a player showing up in a set which he doesn’t officially appear in due to retirement. In this case, Koufax retired after 1966, has no 1967 card, but does show up in a couple of the Leaders cards.

The rest of the 1967s give me a good start on completing my new colorwheel project. One of the things I’ve found myself missing as a team collector is seeing all the different colors of cards in a set. This is especially something I miss in the more colorful sets but even something as minimally designed as 1967 the colors jump out at me and my Giants pages look like an awful lot of green.

1967 features team names in cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, green, red, purple, orange, and light purple. With this batch I’m over halfway to putting them into a page. Current plan is to colorwheel around the outside of the page with whatever color doesn’t fit in the center. Since most of these colors are printer-simple solid process colors this will be a fun way to see how so many of Topp’s colors come up year after year.

Jeff also included a signed copy of his book (making this a Split Season 1981 from @splitseason1981 mailday). I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and what better time to do so than when I don’t plan on leaving the house for two weeks.

A couple more items include a beat-to-hell-and-back 1967 McCovey poster that’s going to turn into a four-panel puzzle if I breathe on it and a kids book from 1982 about the Giants.

I love the poster and its photography. Pretty sure McCovey never took a bad photo when it came to baseball cards. There’s also some of the “turn the background into cyan-only sky” effect going on with how much of the bating cage is being printed in just cyan ink.

The book is pretty great and the boys have already grabbed it to look through. I especially like the bright colorful cover with the baseball as tennis ball photo treatment.

Back to cards. Two 1971 Topps cards take my 1971 team set needs down to missing only one for completion. Unfortunately it’s the high-numbered Willie Mays card. I’ll get it eventually. I just need to be patient until one drops  into my price range.

Destined for the same binder as the 1967 Jim Nash card, here were five 1972 Rangers to take me to eight Rangers for my page of first-year Rangers cards. This is an ugly team set with most of the cards featuring the same up-the-nose photo coupled with blood-red airbrushed caps. Ted Kubiak is a nice change of pace as he gets the same hatless treatment that he got on his 1968 A’s card.

I should probably consider adding a page of 1973 Rangers (as well as 2nd year cards for the other new teams) just to show the new uniforms.

And finally, two Fleer Famous Feats and a panel of baseball stamps from back when it only cost 39¢ to mail a letter. I have yet to get into the Laughlin cards that Fleer released in the 1970s. I haven’t avoided them, I just haven’t gotten into them. I do like adding them to the binder though and they’ll keep Cy Young company.

Thanks Jeff. The hobby, and the community around it, is going to help me keep my sanity over these coming weeks. Stay safe and good luck completing your 1967 football build.

A few maildays

Catching up on a few maildays that came in over the past couple weeks. School being at home has meant we all have had to adjust and has left me with less time for other things. But it’s been too long now so it’s time to acknowledge a number of things that came in the mail.

We’ll start off with these two Carl Aldana Seals customs of the lesser-known DiMaggio brothers from Jason. These cards are in the 1950s Mother’s Cookies style but feature photos from the 1930s. Mixing the two eras works pretty well but for me draws the photos into looking more 1950s because of the colorization.

Two neat little objects. I’m apparently a sucker for rounded corners. And I enjoy seeing Vince in his Hollywood Stars uniform.

It’s also worth showing the backs of these cards. No stats but not blank either. The image used could be a bit higher-resolution but I appreciate making it a vintage dairy advertisement. Is a nice riff on something that should fit right in with cookies.

I also got a nice postcard from Mark Armour just wishing us safety and health in these strange times. Why bother with a PWE when you can just send a postcard by itself? Anyway this is making me think that I should start mailing small things out to people just as a way to say “take care.” It’s indeed a strange world out there but there’s also something wonderful about seeing 90% of us in agreement about what’s most important and trying to support each other in surviving.

Does this go in a Giants binder? Maybe it does. Maybe it does. It is after all the closest I ever expect to get to a T206 Christy Mathewson.

Another mailing that came in was a handful of cards from Shane Katz which included my first 1981 Topps Scratch Offs. This is one of those sets that never appealed to me with its small photos and perforated edges.

Seeing them in panels helps a lot as the different colors make things more interesting. I can’t imagine filling 9-pocket (or even 10-pocket) sheets with these but picturing a full 4-pocket page appeals to me

Meanwhile my printing side appreciates that each photo is framed in a different process color. One of these days I’ll write the Topps and process colors post I keep saying I’ll write and the colors of 1981 Topps will definitely be a big part of that.

The backs of these are are great because they explain how the game is supposed to work. It’s actually something I can see my kids enjoying although I can already tell that the game has little replay value since you’ll quickly learn where to scratch for maximum run scoring.

The advertisement panels are also a ton of fun. I don’t know anyone who sent in for these things but that cap just screams its age/era and I do know a lot of guys who stored their cards in baseball card lockers like that.

Shane also included a couple other cards including a 2020 Heritage Willie Mays insert which takes my accumulated total for this set to six. Am I actively chasing and trying to build it? No. Is it something that I enjoy slowly adding to? Absolutely.

Thanks guys and take care in this season unlike any other.

Home Base

It feels like years ago but it hasn’t even been two weeks since I made the trek out to Queens to check out a small exhibition that Ralph Carhart had put together at Queens College CUNY. I went partially to support another SABR member in my backyard but I would’ve wanted to see this show anyway since the hstory of baseball in New York is something I should know about.* Plus I hadn’t been out to Queens and have wanted to check out Corona Park** and the Queens Museum for a long time.

*Much to my chagrin I totally blew it and missed a show late last year about New Jersey baseball that was almost literally in my back yard.

**Irony not intended.

Initially this was looking like a possible meetup for a bunch of us on Card Twitter but between work, family, and virus concerns, only Mark Hoyle made it down from Boston. This also saved him a stamp since he was able to hand-deliver me a nice Gypsy Oak print of Marvin Miller before we even got to meet Ralph and start our private tour of the exhibit.

Having just sent Mark a set of my printed out Viewmaster scans I was unable to reciprocate. Still, it’s always great to put a face to a contact. I haven’t met many of my twitter contacts but on the rare times I do I’ve really enjoyed it even though there’s always a lot of apprehension due to meeting someone who you already kind of know even though you only know that small portion of their interests which you overlap with.

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Ralph met us at the Library and opened up the exhibit for our tour. I’m not usually a big talker when I’m at a museum but we spent more time talking about the stuff on display than reading the descriptions that Ralph had worked so hard on (sorry!).

The show is laid out roughky chronoligically which meant we started off with vintage base ball. Which was great. Of course we’d all seen games and had paid enough attention to know some of the rule evolutions. Ralph though pointed out the differences between the New York game and the Boston game and suggested how a similar show in Boston would be very interesting.

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My favorite part of the show was Jesse Loving’s Ars Longa cards which he had used to create and illustrate a timeline of New York (and its environs) baseball up to around 1920. The cards are all customs but the choice of design and the treatment of the photos* really works to make the whoel timeline come to life.

*I’m not usually a fan of colorizing black and white photos but it really works here since so many of the old cards that inspired these customs are paintings based on photo originals. 

It’s not just an image of a player that jumps out but the style of the card and way things are depicted that adds so much more richness to just a simple timeline concept. I love a lot of these but my favorite is probably the Arnold Rothstein Pea·Nut custom since Zee·Nuts are one of my favorite things.

As we moved more into the 20th Century, the artifacts became a bit more standard. This isn’t a bad thing as it reflects the game becoming the game we all know and love. One of the best things about baseball is how it’s truly recognizable throughout the decades. Yes there are some equipment changes and things but at a base level the game is unchanged.

There was also a decent amount of art, specifically paintings, on display. They were nice, the Graig Kreindler in particular kind of glows and I certainly understand why people love his work. The paintings leave me a bit unmoved as art* but they certainly work well in this exhibit since they illustrate the history of the game and frequently lavish attention on the New York ballparks in the backgrounds.

*This is probably not-that-latent art snobbery on my part but while I can appreciate the craft of the work there’s something about the palpable nostalgia that the paintings evoke coupled with the fact that large realistic oil paintings haven’t been my art museum jam for decades that leaves me with a “that’s nice” reaction. I do however love the idea of these paintings as postcards or trading cards so it’s possible that there’s something to the scale of the pieces that I’m also responding to.

The show finished up with a nice wall of trading cards depicting every New York player who was born in another country.  Ralph detailed a lot of this collection already but it’s just a fun wall to browse over and see how different countries appear and how much more diverse the game has gotten in the past couple decades.

I was pleased to see that Adonis Rosa made the cut since he had only played one game for the Yankees last season. I also remarked that Ralph was lucky that Johnnie Williams played for the Tigers since he was born in the Kingdom of Hawaii and probably wouldn’t have been an obvious non-USA player. I love the research that went into putting the checklist together for the wall.

A shame that the last week of this show got stomped by a viral outbreak since it was well worth the visit. I’m hoping Ralph gets a chance to mount it again since I think my ids would really dig it too.

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!

Last TTMs of 2019; 1st TTMs of 2020

I’ll start off with the last returns to arrive in 2019. It was a good, fun first year of sending out requests. I sent out 131 requests and received 90 successful returns. My 2019 TTM folder has 173 scans in it so I consider that a resounding success.

A lot of those requests involved custom cards and sending to guys I remember from my youth. I still prefer in-person autographs and the way they’re part of a larger experience, but letter writing and customs creation has been extremely rewarding. I love it when someone keeps the extras or sends a nice note back.

Anyway, to the returns, both of which are stragglers that were out for a quite a while and had been sitting a my parents’ for a couple months.

I sent to Rich Schu while he was the Giants Assistant Hitting Coach. By the time his card came back 183 days later the Giants had completely revamped their coaching staff with three hitting coaches including one called the “Director of Hitting.” I don’t know what’s going on over there now.

Schu is also one of those guys I remember from my youth. He moved to the American League in 1988 but even though I had only been a fan for one of his years in the National League I think of him as a Phillie. Basically, whatever team a guy is with in his 1987 Topps card is likely to be the default team in my mind because that was my first set and the only one I truly studied every single card in.

Mike Kingery took even longer to get back. At 211 days this is now my longest return. I enjoyed writing to Kingery because I remember him coming to my local park as one of the instructors in the Giants Community Clinics.

I was prepared enough to bring a Mike Sadek card but since I had no idea who the players in attendance would be, I never got Kingery’s autograph. Where Sadek covered fielding, Kingery taught hitting. I really wish I could remember who the pitcher was that year (probably 1990).

Moving on to 2020 returns, I don’t expect to send as much out this year but things have already started off nicely. I’m still working through my stack of customs and am enjoying writing those letters.

My first return of the new year was Ron Cey who responded in 8 days. I created a Cey custom for Greg/Night Owl* and liked it so much that I decided to send it off to Cey as well. I included a couple Cey cards to get signed and am happy to have them back.

*His response to the customs I sent him is very nice.

It’s flattering that he kept all three customs. It would look nice signed in silver but all that black in the photo doesn’t lend itself well to any other ink. I do really like his 1978 Topps card* but by the time I was collecting I knew of him as a Cub (or an A) so it was fitting for me to send one of each. It’s clear that Cey thinks of himself as a Dodger first though since he includes his uniform number only when he signs Dodger cards.

*Note, this is actually an O Pee Chee card.

I didn’t send him a custom but as with my Bill Lee request last year, Al Hrabosky is one of those guys who I grew up reading about and am very happy to add to my collection. No Mad Hungarian inscription but still very very cool.

I’ve been getting a lot of these non-Giants autographs on 1978 cards. Part of this is that as I build that set I’ve come into duplicates, but I’ve also come to like the design and its photo-centric nature as one that is enhanced by a signature. Most of the head shots aren’t too tight and the design is so minimal that it doesn’t distract from the signature.

Former A’s pitching coach Dave Duncan came back in 8 days. I was not a fan of the Tony LaRussa A’s when I was a kid. Respected them but I just never liked them as a team. As I got older I realized that most that was about LaRussa, his school of over-management, and the weird chip on his shoulder which would get him upset about all kinds of stupid little things.

Amidst all the Bash Brothers stuff and everything else I was in awe of the A’s starting pitching and the way Dave Stewart and Bob Welch became some of the best pitchers in the game during those years. Dave Duncan played a huge part of that and I’m very happy having his autograph to commemorate those A’s teams of my youth.

This 1969 card is another simple design like 1978 which I’m liking a lot for signatures. Unfortunately 1969 suffers from the player boycott and the resulting images are all old. Duncan’s is from 1967 (or earlier) and so the KC logo on the cap has been blacked out. I’ve been louping various blacked out caps (my childhood 1969 Mota is another) and have found that they’re achieved in different ways. Some are stripped in while others are airbrshed onto the artwork that’s photographed. Duncan’s is in the second category.

Jim Rice was a fun 8-day return. He’s another Hall of Famer to add to that section of my binder. After my first Giants game in 1986 my parents pulled the TV out* for the World Series. As a result, most of the players on both teams are still memorable to me but since we were rooting for the Red Sox I do find myself especially happy to get signatures from guys on that team.

*Long story. TL;DR version is that my family kept our TV in the closet and only pulled it out for special occasions.

I especially love how this card turned out. I looked at my available Rice cards and selected this one because I saw the potential for the photo looking great with a signature. It’s an interesting image—a bit of baseball ma capturing a moment of non-static downtime*—and Rice signed it in the perfect location.

*Previously mentioned on here with regard to a Darren Lewis card and a Hisao Niura card.

Another 1978 card. This time Cy Young Award Winner Ron Guidry whose return took 19 days.  As before, I like the way this design works with signatures but in this case the 1978 card is especially appropriate because Guidry’s 1978 season was awesome. He not only deservedly won the Cy Young award but also came in second to Jim Rice in the MVP voting.

This is a fun one. Last summer my mom and I were talking about the Hawaii Islanders and how she followed baseball when she was a kid.* I pulled up the rosters and we started to go through names. I recognized a decent number of them—e.g. Bo Belinsky, Jack Hiatt, Diego Segui, and Dave Marshall—but for her the name that triggered her memory was Bob Duliba who she referred to as the Dennis Eckersley of the team.

*She wrote a letter to Harry Kalas about this back in 1989 which resulted in us getting tickets to a Giants–Phillies game during our trip to Philadelphia.

Looking at his stats for the 1963 season he spent in Hawaii confirms that he was indeed the Islanders’ relief ace, appearing in 53 games and having one of the best WHIPs on the team. I can see why he would make an impression since that’s a lot of appearances for a pitcher to make and a good reliever is one of those things that fans remember.

When I looked up his cards I saw that they were pretty cheap. I wanted one which had his Hawaii stats on the back but no luck, so instead I grabbed one from 1963—the year he was in Hawaii. I also noticed that he’s a reliable TTM guy so I wrote him a note and mentioned how my mom had told me about listening to him pitch. I did not expect him to write me back.

Notes like this are what Make TTMs so fun. In this case it was nice to see that he enjoyed being reminded of his time in Hawaii but also sent me on a bit of a search to find out about the Hawaii Major League. It comes up as different types of local semi-pro ball over the years but by the 1950s it appears to be a military league.

I ended up searching dvidshub.net for “Duliba.” It spat out a bunch of Windward Marine PDFs including one from April 1957 which details Cpl Bob Duliba’s first league start. Yeah I know his note says 1955 but the back of his card says he was in military service from 1956–1958. That 1957 season appears to have sent the Hawaii Marine team to the finals of the Marine baseball tournament.

Former Giant and current Padres broadcast Mark Grant came back in 14 days. Mark Grant is one of those guys who was part of the first team I really paid attention to. Even though he got traded halfway through the season he’s still someone whose name triggers memories of my first year of truly paying attention to baseball.

The last return to make the publishing deadline for this post is this 19-day Don Demeter return. Demeter is not the kind of guy I’d usually send to since he’s not a player I have any familiarity with. But in this case my hand was forced since I wanted to confirm the hive mind’s conclusion about the Al Kaline mystery player.

Mystery solved! Or well… Assumed solution confirmed! Demeter used the index card to answer my question about whether he was indeed the mystery non-Kaline player. Do I still feel sheepish about the Kaline mistake. A little. But the mistake has also resulted in more-interesting requests and returns and this kind of response makes my autograph album a lot of fun.

A decent start to the year for sure. I haven’t been sending out too many so far so it’s been nice to have a surprise in my mailbox every couple of days.

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!

Manager In Action

Last week I found a plain white envelope from Mark Hoyle in my mailbox. Mark’s been quietly sending out small, exceptionally cool maildays to people as he comes across all kinds of wonderful things in his search for super-interesting Red Sox collectables—making his envelopes always a surprise and treat to open.

Inside this one was this wonderful 1960 MacGregor card/photo. It’s just over 3.5″×5″ and is printed on card stock with a nice glossy finish. No back information or numbering makes it sit right there where it can either be a card or a card-adjacent item like Jay Publishing. I’m going to go ahead and call it a card though.

The card depicts manager Bill Rigney in his last Spring Training with the team.* It’s a nice crisp photo and the script name (it is not a facsimile autograph) is a wonderful throwback look that reminds me of many of the 1930s and 1940s mass-market cards or photos.

*After becoming the first San Francisco manager he would become the first Los Angeles Angels manager in 1961.

The best part though is that glove. Managers, if they’re given any action at all, are typically shown shorting or pointing. Coaches might hit fungoes or throw batting practice but managers don’t get involved. Here though Rigney looks like he’s about to play some long toss with a player.

So not only is this not a card I’ve ever seen before the photo is a side of baseball I’ve never seen on a card either. Very cool. Thanks Mark!

New Year, New TTMs

Happy New Year! I haven’t sent out anything new but returns are still trickling in.

The first one came from Frank Duffy in 10 days. This is another repeat send and is the fourth Stanford custom I’ve gotten back. I’ve only made nine of these so far so I’m liking the return rate for this mini set.

The only (small) problem I have with this design is that it’s clear that there’s no obvious place to sign. I don’t like big SIGN HERE designs but with a single photo the variance in signing location doesn’t jump out at me. With two pictures to choose from, the players have to pick which one to sign on. Or, in the case of Duffy, sign on the fence between them.

This is why I love sending customs. For every mistake like the Kaline there’s a couple fun notes like this that make me happy that I’m not just mailing requests but offering something to the players too. I especially love that this is on St. Joseph’s Indian School notepaper since it feels appropriate for the content of the note.

This note does remind me that I briefly considered making these 1978ish customs be Indians or Cardinal cards instead of the Major League team but I decided I wanted the variety of colors that pro teams would bring.

Don Carrithers came back in 24 days. He showed a bit of promise in his rookie season and I’m happy to have gotten his rookie card signed. Carrithers couldn’t quite put it together for the Giants but he did have a couple good years in Montreal.

I never really bought into the rookie card mystique when I was a kid except when it came to getting cards signed. And there I liked it. With young players like at Stanford Alumni games it was fun to see guys excited to see their first big league cards. With older players? It was just fun to get as old a card as possible for them and the rookie is the logical extreme of that.

Now this is a fun one. Dave Dravecky came back in 27 days. I was just happy to be able to write to him and thank him both for being part of the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen and an inspiration in general. I don’t expect to ever be at a sporting event with fans as keyed in to every moment the way his cancer comeback game was. The ticket stub from that game is the one item of memorabilia from my youth which I most regret losing.

The Mother’s Cookies card is from 1989 and the Score card captures his challenges and triumphs over that 1989 season. Both of those are fully appropriate for my album and my memory.

Getting the Dravecky autographs also has me thinking about starting a Willie Mac Award project. There are currently 39 winners and I have autographs from 13 of them.

Hollywood Exhibits

So it appears that my “look what I’ve bought” posts are going to be most of my non-baseball, preferably non-sport, pre-war and vintage acquisitions. I’ve previously mentioned a set of 1930s Hollywood tobacco cards, this time I found a nice batch of of close to thirty 1940s Exhibit cards and couldn’t resist pulling the trigger.

Exhibit/arcade cards have become one of my favorite things. Nice big collectible photos and they’re usually in decent shape with the main wear and tear coming from being displayed. I try to limit my baseball acquisitions to just Giants but one of the wonderful things about Exhibits is that they cover all kinds of subjects and directly connect to the world of Cartes de Visite and Cabinet Cards with how the cards aren’t part of any formal set and are really just meant to circulate and be collected among fans.

Exhibits aren’t ordered or sold by the subject, but they also feel like a distinct product from early baseball cards. This is partly because they’re sold as photos from vending machines rather than being packaged with something else. The product is 100% about photography and how it circulates.

I’m not going to scan and post all the cards but this is a flavor of what I got and why I pulled the trigger. We’re getting into Golden Age stars and some of the cards in the batch as as big a name as you could hope to have—to the point where I don’t have to identify any of these four actors.

Also in the batch are stars like Bing Crosby, Mickey Rooney, and Jimmy Stewart as well as a number of other recognizable names like Dana Andrews, Alan Ladd, and Roddy McDowell. The only complaint I have about the batch is that aside from Judy Garland, the only other woman who’s even a semi-recognizable name was Mary Martin.

Still, lots of fun to have and look through and it makes my non-sport binder that much better.

I also got to go on a Wikipedia dive for all the names I didn’t recognize. While that could be a post in and of its own, I’ve decided to go a different route since a bunch of the cards turned out to be baseball related. Yup. I’ve got myself a toehold into a baseball card post as well.

We’ll start with these two Hall of Famers. My kids know Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland but I think they may have gotten introduced to Abbott and Costello first. When my eldest was in first grade he came home from school one day and asked me if I knew what a question word was.

“Dada what’s a question word?”

“What.”

“Dada what’s a question word!”

“Why.”

“We learned about them in school! Dad What’s a Question Word!”

“When.”

By this point he was about to start punching something and my wife couldn’t hold her laughter back. So he got introduced to the routine and he and his younger brother tried their best to memorize it and repeat it in the back seat of the car for the following two years.

Another baseball-related card is this one of Laraine Day. The boys enjoy sports movies, particularly sports biopics, right now and 42 is one of their favorites. The first time we watched it I had no idea about Leo Durocher and Laraine Day. But we’ve watched it a couple times since and the most-recent viewing came after I got this batch of Exhibits.

During that viewing I realized I had received a Day card in there. While she’s not a big name, I was particularly pleased to confirm that I had her card. It’s nice when my interests overlap in unexpected ways.

Back on the TTM horse

It’s been busy whatwith the move and everything. I haven’t had a chance to write any letters since Spring but I finally got back on the horse and sent a few out before Thanksgiving. This is the first batch which includes some of the latest round of customs I designed and printed. It’s especially fun—in some cases even more fun than expected—to get those back.

Roy Face came back in 8 days. It’s always nice to see the generosity of some of these players. Face is not a Giant but I pretty much had to make a custom with this photo. This template is my adjustment to the 1956 Topps design so it can also work with vertical images. I like it a lot and really enjoy just making a card here or there as I come across a cool photo.

Face though is an interesting player in his own right since he’s sort of the first reliever who we can point to as starting us on the path toward the way modern baseball uses bullpens. It’s kind of wild for me to read the back of his 1968 card and see it gush about his saves and consecutive games played as being new and notable accomplishments. And yes they are but in 1968 no one knew what would happen with the game 50 years later.

Another custom so I have no one to blame but myself. How embarrassing. Oh well. Kaline still has a wonderful signature and something like this makes it pretty clear that he’s signing things. Also I can’t kick myself too hard since I double checked Getty’s records before making my card.

Heck this kicked of a decent discussion on Twitter (as well as a lot of people laughing at/with me) and a bunch of Tigers fans confirmed that they’d always thought this was Kaline too. Suggestions for who it might be instead? Don Demeter appears to be the Twitter hive-mind consensus. Right-handed. Similar build. Correct playing years.

Anyway it’s always nice to add a Hall of Famer and the fact that this came back in 10 days was very nice. Even with the wrong image it’s a fun piece to have. I only ever saw cards and photos of the older Kaline when I was a kid so I very much like having one of him in his youth. Maybe I’ll re-make this with a correct photo and try again.

Another 10-day return, this time from John Cumberland. He had a fantastic 1971 season with the Giants so I’m very happy to have his 1972 card signed. As a Giants fan I’ve most enjoyed learning about one-season wonders like Cumberland. I remember how important those were to my enjoyment as a fan and it’s players like this who symbolize a particular place and time in the team’s history.

And yet another 10-day return. John D’Acquisto won the Sporting News National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year award in 1974. I did not ask for the inscription but I like that it’s there. D’Acquisto was a fireballer but could never quite put it all together to become dominant. He was formidable enough though that I became aware of him while I was a Giants fan over a dozen years later.

I sort of wonder what would’ve happened if someone with his skill set had come up now and only had to throw for an inning at a time. That he stayed around in the Majors for a dozen years suggests he had the stuff.

Outfielder Frank Johnson came back in 11 days. I always wonder what stories  guys like Johnson could tell. He was stuck trying to break into a pretty crowded outfield but still got to play with Willie Mays. He’s a got a great signature which looks fantastic on that 1969 card too.

Kong! This is a fun one. Dave Kingman also came back in 11 days. I don’t particularly picture him as a Giant despite the team-specific rookie records and achievements he racked up. But I did grow up hearing about his prowess as a power hitter and his penchant for hitting balls into suspended elements of domed stadiums. It’s one thing to be known as a slugger. It’s quite another to be the guy who got a ball stuck in the Metrodome roof.

Dave Rader came back in 13 days. Rader started off his career with the Giants in impressive fashion as both the runner up to the Rookie of the Year and the winner of the Sporting News Rookie of the Year. This 1973 card reflects that rookie season and features one of those photos that could only come from this set.

Steve Dunning also came back in 13 days. Most of his cards have astonishingly awful photographs. Thankfully his 1972 is a nice classic pitchers’ pose at Yankee stadium. It’s the only good photo of Dunning I found s0 I had to scan this card for my custom.

I modified the 1978 manager template to reflect Amateur/Professional status and have been digging through Stanford Daily and Stanford Quad archives to pull photos of guys when they played at Stanford. I’ve been enjoying sending these out and this is the first one that returned.

Frank Linzy came back in 20 days. This was a fun request to send out at the same time as Roy Face since both are part of the first generation of dedicated relief aces. As with John D’Acquisto I can’t help wondering how these sort of players both feel about today’s game and how their careers would’ve been different if they’d played during an age of bullpen reliance.

Lots of players can kind of be compared across time but the bullpen guys are different since bullpen usage has changed so much. I’m not one of those guys who professes to say that one era was better than another. Yes I miss longer starts but I also don’t miss seeing managers leave pitchers in too long. hat does excite me is that bullpen usage is one of those things where it’s clear that managers and teams haven’t settled on a by-the-book strategy and are still trying different approaches.

Bruce Robinson is the first repeat send for me. He had an awesome return the first time and I’ve owed him a response letter ever since. Between my moving and trying to put together customs it took me a long time to write back. But I finally did and sent him a bunch of customs.

He was apparently away for a bit and took 20 days to get back to me. Another nice letter and it’s especially gratifying to be thanked for the customs. It’s cool when guys keep some but getting a thank you letter back is even better.

As much as sending out these requests and doing the research to write nice letters is fun, putting together customs and pulling the stats and everything is even more enjoyable. I love adding them to the binder (yes even that Kaline).

Jim Lonborg is another repeat request. I sent him versions of both my 1956ish design and 1978ish design. He kept one of each and sent the rest back in 6 days. I really like how both of these came out and it’s fantastic to start off with so many of these customs getting signed out the gate.

Time for a break until next year. I know I’ve got at least one return waiting for me at my parents’ house still and there are a decent number just out there in general. But it’s too close to holiday season to send anything.

I’ve got more customs to try though but until then I’m just going to put all the signed one at the bottom of this post since I’m so happy about how they turned out.