Picking Pockets

Julie over at A Cracked Bat is no longer super active on twitter but she’s still blogging sporadically. I enjoy her blog, especially her themed collections, and contributed a few customs to the cause. This also mean that I felt eligible to partake in her Pick Pockets page where she will list various cards available to fellow traders.

After some USPS hang-ups, earlier this week I got a small envelope containing a handful of cards I picked late last year.

Three cards from before I was old enough to be collecting cards. I’ll never turn down the chance at a nice Kellogg’s card and since my gut instinct is to think of Dave Parker as a Red, it’s always nice to build up the number of Pirates cards I have of him.

The two Ralston Purina cards hit me in my feels. I had a handful of these, and the near-identical Cereal Series cards, when I was a kid and they’re partly responsible for my love of oddball food issues. The white card stock was such a departure from the regular Topps cards of that era and the design itself was unlike anything else.

I’m not building either set but I have no problems adding to the ones I have. Maybe I’ll embark on a Cereal/Purina frankenset quest and try and split things 50/50 between the two.

The other two cards were a pair of oddballs from my youth. I used to buy Bazooka and definitely collected the cards in the early 1990s but the 1988 and 1989 sets escaped my notice. The gum wrapper logo/design is a lot of fun and I just love adding stuff like this to the oddball binder.

The 1992 Score Procter & Gamble is one I never saw as a kid. It’s a wild design—in way reminiscent of the inserts from the 1980s. Looking up the set details now, it looks like you had to send in three proof of purchases and I don’t think my family purchased any Procter & Gamble products. I love that I can still come across card sets from my youth which I never encountered before.

Very cool stuff and I’m glad Julie’s pockets weren’t picked through by the time I got to them.

Texas PWEs

It’s been a while since I got a trade package. This isn’t surprising. It’s been a long while since I sent anything out. Which also isn’t surprising. I haven’t really purchased any new cards in over a year. Cards haven’t been available to purchase anywhere for over a year unless you’re willing to reward all those assholes who buy up all the retail or online stock and try to resell it at ridiculous markups.

So it was quite a pleasant surprise to find a couple envelopes in my mail last Friday. Amusingly, they both came from Houston.

The first came from Commish Bob and is a response to a comment I made on a recent post of his about 1962 Post cards. I’m passively acquiring Giants from the 1960s Post cards* but because my passive acquisition means jumping only on the cheapest of cards when I encounter them, I only have one Hall of Famer in the entire batch.

*Well, and Chuck Essegian and I’ve grabbed a Wally Post.

Unbeknownst to me, Bob had ended up with a duplicate McCovey and when I admired his acquisition he offered to send me his well-loved duplicate. Very very cool. This is now the oldest McCovey in my collection.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on here before but I’ve come to love these Post cards. They manage to fit everything you want on a card on one side of the cardboard. Stats, bio, photo, card numbering are all there. You don’t really need anything more. Factor in the use elements and how these were lovingly chopped out of a cereal box by some kid sixty years ago and there’s not more I could wish for.

The second envelope came from Marc Brubaker.  It had the usual mix of this and that but I’ll start off with my first Heritage High numbers. I saw neither sight nor sound of these. I don’t think they were released to Target and it doesn’t matter anyway since my Target no longer carries cards.

In some ways it’s probably just as well. These continue the weird fake trapping and bad trapping effects from Heritage and now make the photoshopped backgrounds look a lot more obvious. There’s also some weird yellow/magenta fringing on the photos—only the players not the backgrounds—which is kind of distracting.

The worst thing though is that it’s clear that whoever put the checklist together did not look at the checklist for Heritage. Tyler Beede for example already has a card in the set. It’s things like this which frustrate collectors since it suggests that Topps can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum of quality control in the product.

Marc somehow also came across some Chrome last year. As usual these scan like crap but jazz up the binder a little. I still don’t get this set though my youngest does enjoy them* As a print nerd and mechanical engineer though I do have to admit that I appreciate these more as objects than as cards.

*He was briefly excited to find that Chrome had released just in time for National Baseball Card Day last year until he found out that they cost $10 for a pack of 4. Very typical of Topps to make sure that their kid-friendly promotion coincides with product releases that kids can’t afford.

One thing that amazes me about Marc’s mailings though is the amount of stickers he comes by. I never got into the Panini sticker albums when I was a kid. I remember seeing them all over, usually with movie tie-ins,* but never felt the appeal.

*For some reason a Temple of Doom album is the first that comes to mind.

More often than not though Marc’s mailing seem to have stickers. From all ages. And since I’ve never collected them they’re always new. Which is pretty cool. I have no desire to put them in an album but they remind me of a branch of collecting which is never on my radar.

These are from 1996 and so also represent a year in which I didn’t pay much attention to baseball at all. Looking back on things I’m a bit sad to have missed the Deion Sanders era.

And finally a handful of Stanford cards. Marc managed to go five for five here too. Flair is one of those sets which I couldn’t dream of buying as a kid. While it’s sort of peak-90s now they’re always fun to encounter. The Just Minors Hutchinson is great because most of my Hutchinson cards use the exact same photo. One Piscotty is a border variant and the Platinum is a nice shiny change of pace from the usual cards in my Stanford binder.

Thanks Marc! One of these days I’ll buy cards again and end up with some Astros I can send you.

Retired Numbers

Just over a year ago before everything got shut down I visited Queens to see Ralph Carhart’s Home Base exhibition. While the show was good, as was getting to met Ralph and Mark Hoyle, one of the things that I didn’t discuss anywhere was how Ralph showed us some images of a massive collection that he had been cataloging and preparing for sale.

He’s since blogged about the collection on SABR and watching his journey down the rabbit hole of awesomeness has been a lot of fun. Earlier this month he reported on Twitter that the auction houses had picked through everything and he had a ton of index cards available for sale. So I took a look and there was a lot to covet.

Being disciplined, I remembered a goal that I had mentioned when Jason sent me a Bill Terry card for Christmas and started off looking for Giants retired numbers as a supplement to my goal of getting a playing-days card of every Giants retired number. Lo and behold, Ralph had three that I was missing and so I placed an order.

A few days later the cards arrived and I was very happy.* It’s not just autographs but the fact that I feel like I learned about them before almost anyone else and how they serve as kind of the perfect way for me to mark a year of pandemic living.

*As were my kids since one of the first things they noticed at their first Giants games was the line of retired numbers posted in the stadium.

It also means that I have enough material to put a post together of my Giants retired numbers. This isn’t a comprehensive list of what I have. For each player I’m showing the oldest playing-days card I have and his autograph.

NY—Christy Mathewson, John McGraw

No cards here and autographs are completely outside the realm of consideration (I’m not sure I’ve even seen a picture of a McGraw signature). Heck their cards are also pretty much a pipe dream. Both of their T205s and T206s are some of the nicer ones in the sets and both of them remain pretty big fish in the pool of pre-war stars.

3—Bill Terry

Both of these are total shocks. Still. The National Chicle card is a beauty and great example of a playing-days card. The index card is from the Gould collection and is a great clean version of his signature.

4—Mel Ott

Not as hard to get cards of as McGraw and Matthewson but still very much in demand. Ott is another guy whose signature I can’t recall ever seeing as well.

11—Carl Hubbell

Very happy to have his signature on an index card. Like Ott his cards are still in high demand.

20—Monte Irvin

Irvin’s cards are surprisingly not too spendy. Only his rookie cards seem to be tough. I haven’t ventured into any of his 1952s yet but I can actually see that happening.I actually have a signed card of his on my COMC pile which will show up some day once I get around to requesting it.

22—Will Clark

Still boggles my mind how expensive that 1986 card was when I was a kid in the Bay Area in the 1980s. I think I’ve encountered enough of them in the past couple years in trade packages that both of my kids have copies now. And the autograph is an in-person one which I’ve blogged about already.

24—Willie Mays

Story about the card is on the blog. The autograph is one that my mom got in spring training. The only time she took advantage of her media pass was to get this. And yeah it was worth it.

25—Barry Bonds

Is interesting that Barry is the only retired number who didn’t debut with the Giants. So I went with his oldest Giants card instead of his oldest card for this post. I honestly forgot I had this until I started witing. My complete sets aren’t something I’ve looked though as much as my team binders.

The photo meanwhile is one my mom took in 1993 and when I got it signed in 1994. I wish we had had silver sharpies back then but I really like that this is truly one of a kind.

27—Juan Marichal

Marichal is going to start a trend where my oldest card is the oldest card which is neither a rookie nor a high number card. I don’t have any of the Hall of Fame rookie cards and Marichal is a high number in 1962 and 1963. Which makes 1964 my oldest card. His autograph is one of the first TTM requests I wrote.

30—Orlando Cepeda

I’ve a decent run of Cepeda cards. I’m just missing his rookie. And I’ve blogged about his autograph before.

36—Gaylord Perry

I know, this looks like a rookie card but it’s not. His 1962 is the one that costs a lot. This floating multi-head card isn’t the prettiest card out there but many of Perry’s cards are pretty dire. Topps was not particularly kind to him until the 1970s. The story about the ball is one of my favorites on the blog.

44—Willie McCovey

And finally the last index card from the Gould collection. McCovey is like Marichal with an expensive rookie card followed by high numbers until 1964.

Looking forward, Bruce Bochy is totally going to get his number retired some day (or at least he should). I hope it’s sooner rather than later but my guess is that the Giants are waiting for the Hall of Fame to make the first move. Besides, they technically haven’t had Will Clark’s ceremony yet so once they do that this summer we’ll see what happens.

1947 Carreras Turf Cigarettes Film Stars

Not exactly a pre-war pickup but it feels pre-war due to the form factor. I recently snagged a complete set of the 1947 Carreras Turf Cigarettes Film Stars. I’ve been intrigued by this set since it covers the classic Hollywood films I grew up watching and loving.

These aren’t as pretty or colorful as my pre-war Hollywood cards and instead feel like miniature exhibits. Single-color navy blue halftones but the photography is frequently good enough that many of the images still pop. The cards are actually cut from cigarette boxes which is why the edges are all janky. This also means that the backs are blank.

I normally don’t like blank backs but in this case Im fine wth it since there’s nothing I can really say about the subjects anyway. These are all stars that we still recognize and there are enough heavy hitters throughout the checklist that it was hard to pick the samples for this post.

The Humphrey Bogart card with the cigarette and fedora is a standout in the set though. Every other image is a more-traditional headshot but Bogie is being Bogie and it rules.

A few more big names. Many of these—eg Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Margaret O’Brien—feel like actors who maybe shouldn’t be in a 1947 set but this means that they were clearly still stars at this time.

Finding the Reagan card meanwhile kind of made me laugh. As someone who grew up with him as President it’s still weird for me to remember that he was an actor first.

And last a few more big stars of the time. I’ve grouped this four together though because the cards show how the images aren’t just halftoned photos. Each of these has some drawn-in contrast details. Sometimes it’ll be in the hair, other times the eye outlines.

This kind of pre-press was pretty common for newspaper photos* where the resulting prints were super coarse screens on newsprint. If I had to guess, I’d say that since these are on uncoated paper which was used as cigarette packaging that they used sort of the same process. Probably all the photos are retouched in some way but it’s only visible (if you know what to look for) on some of them.

*I saw a lot of them at Pier 24 years ago.

Anyway the Lauren Bacall adds another to the Vogue checklist as well. I’m not intentionally building this but it’s been a fun thing to keep in mind as I accumulate Hollywood cards.*

*Currently missing Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Grace Kelly, and Gene Kelly.

Holy MOReilly

Mike/SPOART (@MOReilly_58) is a SABR member and operates a fun twitter feed where he tweets photos of all kinds of cool vintage sports cards from his collection. Lots of fun stuff to see and lots of fun stuff I can only dream of having. A couple weeks ago he tweeted about 1941 Play Ball, a particularly interesting set since it’s kind of the last major issue before the United States entered World War 2.

When I periodized the SABR Baseball Cards blog, I chose 1939 as the beginning of “modern” cards. Some of this is me pushing back a little on the idea that “pre-war” should be tied to the United States’s involvement, but the timeframe is 1939–1955 which is a period of first steps into cards becoming what we all recognize as cards today. Multiple brands. Multiple sizes and form factors. But all much closer in concept and feel to cards today than to the tobacco cards from a few decades earlier. The fact that Play Ball would go one to become Bowman played a big part here as well.

I commented on that tweet that of all the “flagship” sets from 1939 onwards, 1941 Play Ball was the only one which I had no cards from. Mike sort of immediately messaged me and said he’d like to rectify that.

A couple days ago I got his mailing. Inside was about exactly the kind of 1941 Play Ball card that I was expecting. Something off-grade but still extremely presentable. This looks like it was stuck in an album and sandwiched between some acidic paper. Thankfully the majority of his picture is untouched and I can see the color details on his uniform. And despite the glue spots there’s no paper loss and all the back information is visible.

I wasn’t expecting a Giant since beggars can’t be choosers but the fact that Mike sent me a Giant was extra cool. It’s a nice big image and I can see the uniform details right down to the zipper. It’s also great to see a color image of the blue and red uniform that they wore before World War 2. I saw these uniforms in the first Turn Back the Clock game the Giants did in the early 1990s and it was both very cool and very weird to see them in non-Giants colors.

Speaking of what I wasn’t expecting. I was not expecting this to come in a bubble mailer. I was expecting a single card in a plain white envelope. Maybe. I’ve had plenty of promised mailings never show up.* A bubble mailer though meant more than one card and for a while I was really confused and trying to remember what I ordered from Ebay.

*Note. If you’ve sent me something and I’ve not acknowledged it on the blog or Twitter. That means I haven’t received it.

When I saw the Play Ball card I put it all together. But my jaw kind of dropped when I saw what else was in there. I’ll start off with this 1956 Giants Team Card. This was one of the last two 1956 Topps cards I needed for my Giants team set (no surprise what the last card is) since the team cards tend to be some of the more expensive ones in the set. My guess as to why is that kids didn’t save them back in the day so they’re just harder to find now.

This is the first year Topps did team cards as part of the larger set and it’s one of the better team card designs they’ve ever done. Team picture on the front with photo identification.* A wonderful team history on the back with all-time records and I particularly love the field graphic and dimensions. That the Polo Grounds is such a distinct field makes this particular card even cooler.

*That the names go from right to left is really weird though.

Staying on the Polo Grounds topic, this postcard was also included. It’s from the linen era which dates it to between 1930–1944. The absence of any light standards suggests the photo at least predates 1940 when the first night game occurred. I don’t actively collect postcards but I definitely like grabbing ones that catch my eye. This one would definitely do that.

Besides just being a cool image of the stadium, I love that it shows the John T Brush Stairway and the surrounding neighborhood at the top of Coogan’s Bluff. It’s great to see things that I physically saw on previous trips to the site and it makes the postcard that much more special.

Wrapping up the mailer were a pair of Red Man cards. Both of these are pretty beat up but they have it where it counts. The Maglie is from 1952, the first year they released these. Hank Thompson is from 1955, the last year. Since my only Red Mans were from 1953 and 1954, it’s fantastic to have samples form the complete run now.

While the design of the set didn’t really change year-to-year, there were small changes and the 1952s show a bit of the first-set awkwardness where there’s no numbering or information about the year of issue. I always like the artwork which features stadium backgrounds and Maglie’s portrait is great with the contrast between the blue sky and the placement against the stadium background making him seem larger than life.

If there’s anything to knock about Red Mans,* it’s in how many of the cards of Black players look like they’ve been painted by someone who’s never seen a Black man in real life.* Thankfully the Hank Thompson is colored pretty nicely.

*Well besides the name of the product which I’m honestly surprised hasn’t been pressured to change.

*Campanella and Mays both make me cringe.

Very very cool Mike. This was totally unexpected and filled in a lot of holes I didn’t even know I had. I can’t thank you enough.

2020 in review

Yes it’s been a garbage year which feels like it stole a season of baseball from my kids and me. But it’s also been a surprisingly good one for me within the collecting hobby. I’ll start off with a round-up of some activity that’s been outside of my work at the SABR Baseball Cards Blog since I’ve been interviewed for a couple of articles this year.

The first interview was before the pandemic hit but got buried by COVID news for a few months. It did however finally post on Slate in November and is a fun piece about digital baseball cards and collectibles. Between the hobby going gangbusters and everyone increasingly living their lives online it’s been interesting to watch the digital side of things develop and see how many of the older members of the community react to the new-fangled stuff.

Along those lines I participated in a SABR discussion about the future of baseball cards where I occupied the skeptical but open-minded side of the spectrum. It’s very easy to get excited at all the possibilities in the digital side of things and there’s a ton of potential in augmented reality and other ways of combining cards with computers. At the same time, there’s the question of how technology ages and degrades to consider. One of the things that makes cards great is that ink on paper, while a pain to store, is not subject to the whims of any technological maintenance.

The second interview I took part in was a short one on Beckett about my Al Kaline debacle. I’ve gotten more joy out of that screwup and confirmation than I ever expected. I had to write a longer version of the whole ordeal over on SABR in order to tell the whole story from my point of view.

Getting to work within SABR. I assisted with the committee’s First Annual Jefferson Burdick Award, helped with the biographies, and produced the baseball card which commemorated the winner. I was honored to introduce the award at the Zoom presentation because we couldn’t do it at a convention.

I also helped produce and compile SABR’s 50 at 50 list of fifty cards for fifty years which tells the story of baseball and baseball cards over the first fifty years of SABR with one baseball card per year. That was a lot of fun to work on and I’m definitely proud of the result.

On the SABR blog itself my two favorite posts are one about Project 2020 and when cards intersect with current events and one which does a deep dive into the way card designs interact with photography. Both of these are my usual “take my niche interests and run with them to an extreme” sort of posts but I like that they both look a cards from 2020.

And finally I was lucky enough to actually meet some collectors before everything got shut down. It would’ve been nice to meet more but I’ve very glad I got to meet Mark Hoyle and Ralph Carhart before all hell broke loose.

Okay to collecting highlights. Not a lot of card acquisitions this year due to COMC shipping being broken, retail being a trashfire, and access to card shops being non-existent. As a result this year has been mainly prewar cards acquired through ebay or twitter.

The pre war category has everything but I’ve really enjoyed following my gut here. Where I have set rules to keep me on task for baseball cards, the pre war world is so all over the map that as long as I keep a high bar of what interests me and why, I find that I end up enjoying all of these because of how unique they are.

Some, like Garbatys and the United Tobacco are flat-out beautiful and appeal to me as a print geek in addition to my pop-culture interests. Others like the famous airmen and airwomen are pure pop culture. And I’ve grabbed some soccer cards, stereo photography, and all kinds of other things that strike my interest. I even added the oldest card in my collection this year.

I did also grab some prewar baseball. It’s noteworthy that three of these are San Francisco Seals card and I’ve decided that doing a Pacific Coast League type collection of one Seals card per set is a project I’m going to attempt. It’ll be a backburner attempt but the degree I enjoy each and every Zeenut card is going to make it a lot of fun.

The 1916 Johnny Couch is also my oldest official baseball card and the 1921 American Caramel Zeb Terry is my oldest Major League card. Moving both of those benchmarks further into the past is another accomplishment which I’ll look forward to making again.

The one more-recent card purchase highlight was this Lewis Baltz card from Mike Mandel’s Baseball Photographers trading cards. I don’t have more to add to the post I already wrote but this definitely deserves to be in the wrap-up since it’s not every card that I’d call a white whale.

And with that we’ll move on to trades. A decent amount of both incoming and outgoing mail this year. Before I get to card highlights I have to note that trading this year finished off a bunch of sets I was working on. I finished my 1986 Topps, 1990 Fleer, 1990 Upper Deck, 1991 Donruss, 1991 Studio, and 2019 Stadium Club builds this year, leaving me a bit at odds with what to build (if anything) next. Two of my remaining builds almost done too (I only need two 1987 Topps cards and one 1994 Topps cards) so it’s really just 1989 Donruss and 2014 Topps that are on the list now.

As for individual trade highlights, I have to highlight three Willie Mays cards from three different guys. All of these were unexpected and extremely welcome additions to the collection. Willie Mays was the one vintage card I wanted for Christmas when I was a kid and still I get the same thrill every time I add one now.

A few more highlights from trades. Lots of more-modern cards as well but those all kind of blur together (this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them). These though are the kinds of weird and wonderful things that stand out. Diamond Matchbooks, National Chicle, Remar Bread, Jay Publishing, and that awesome MacGregor card are particularly fantastic.

Most of my activity this year though was via TTM request. Being homebound for almost ten months meant that going though my duplicates, making customs, and writing letters was a nice way to escape and relax.

I got a few Hall of Famers this year. Yes a lot of them are on 1986 Topps. I must’ve been building that set or something. It’s always especially fun to get one of these guys in the mail and it’s always something that my kids get excited seeing as well.

Much of my TTM activity though has been with customs and related projects. This year for example I scanned all the Giants Magazine covers from my youth and printed them out at 25% so they fit into 4-pocket pages. A large part of this is because I just enjoy seeing the covers but I also had an eye toward sending out some of the more-fun photoshoots for autographs. Getting the Don Robinson and Will’s World covers signed made the whole exercise especially worth it.

I did a lot of my usual customs too. A decent number of the 1956ish design. Many more of the 1978 design I’m using for Stanford players. I love getting these back and they look great all together. It’s hard to choose highlights here as well since they’re all so different.

I sent a bunch of Giants customs out during spring training and got many of them back despite the Covid-interrupted season. Many of the returns are from guys who don’t have regular Giants cards too so it’s especially nice to add them to the Giants album.

I’ve also been sending out cards with photos I like. These make for easy letters to write too. I figure that even someone who’s become somewhat jaded about being on cardboard must like to see that their card made an impression on someone and be reminded that they had a memorable photo.

And finally a few other favorite players/cards I got in the past year. It’s been super productive on the TTM front and a good reminder that while I’m hoping that next year is completely different in terms of how I enjoy the hobby, a lot of positive things have happened this past year.

Rather than focusing on all the plans that blew up I’m choosing to remember that 2020 brought a lot of good things. Outside the hobby I’ve had a ton of time to just hang out with the kids and spend time as a family without having a calendar full of activities. I hope there was a lot of silver in everyone else’s clouds too.

Christmas cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*/me waves at M. P & Company.

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

Custom PWE from John and a New Mini-PC

John Racanelli (@phitter72) is a good Twitter follow and a fellow blogger over at SABR. He’s been making both a silly series of literals customs and a cool series inspired by 1949 Leaf. In the beginning of the month he sent out a request for suggestions for his Leaf set.

I suggested Hank Thompson with the Browns. Why? Because Hank Thompson is the only player who integrated two Major League baseball teams. While I have his 1950 Bowman rookie card with the Giants, there’s no card featuring him with the Browns.

John went ahead and made cards of most (if not all) the suggestions and then reached out to see if I wanted a copy of the Hank. Last week I got an envelope from John and inside found two Hank Thompson Leafish cards.

The Browns card is great. A nice photo and the whole package feels right. The Giants one suffers a little from the mixed white-point issue that frequently bedevils modern creations that are intended to look old.* But they’re both more than welcome in the binder.

*If the border is supposed to be old paper then nothing else on the card should be a brighter white than the border.

The Browns card in fact may eventually make it out of my custom card section into a mini-PC section. I mentioned this last week but a couple of us on Twitter are collecting cards of the first black players for each team. It’s a short list and most of the players aren’t too spendy.

Dodgers		April 15, 1947	Jackie Robinson
Indians		July 5, 1947	Larry Doby
Browns		July 17, 1947	Hank Thompson
Giants		July 8, 1949	Hank Thompson, Monte Irvin
Braves		April 18, 1950	Sam Jethroe
White Sox	May 1, 1951	Minnie Miñoso
Athletics	Sept 13, 1953	Bob Trice
Cubs		Sept 17, 1953	Ernie Banks 
Pirates		April 13, 1954	Curt Roberts (also Carlos Bernier)
Cardinals	April 13, 1954	Tom Alston
Reds		April 17, 1954	Nino Escalera, Chuck Harmon
Senators	Sept 6, 1954	Carlos Paula
Yankees		April 14, 1955	Elston Howard
Phillies	April 22, 1957	John Kennedy
Tigers		June 6, 1958	Ozzie Virgil
Red Sox		July 21, 1959	Pumpsie Green

We’re each putting together our own rules for what kinds of cards we want. For my part I’m looking for cards that are as close as possible to when they integrated the team without requiring myself to break the bank. And the cards should feature the player with the team they integrated (ruling out the Ozzie Virgil Giants cards I already own).

The Hank Thompson Browns custom fills a hole because it’s one of the player/team combinations which isn’t available on cards. At least he has cards though. Nino Escalera and John Kennedy don’t even appear on cardboard.

Right now I have cards of Hank Thompson (1950 Bowman), Monte Irvin (1953 Topps), Minnie Miñoso (1954 Bowman), and Elston Howard (1967 Topps). The Elston Howard is a bit too old for my preferences in this project but until my COMC pile gets here it’s fine. My COMC pile though has another nine cards for this project.

1950 Bowman	Sam Jethroe	Braves
1954 Bowman	Carlos Bernier	Pirates
1954 Topps	Bob Trice	Athletics
1954 Topps	Chuck Harmon	Reds
1954 Topps	Curt Roberts	Pirates
1955 Topps	Carlos Paula	Senators
1959 Topps	Ossie Virgil	Tigers
1959 Topps	Elston Howard	Yankees
1961 Topps	Pumpsie Green	Red Sox

Most of these are pretty close to the players’ debuts. Howard is still a bit off but 1959 is still way closer than 1967. Aside from the players who don’t have cards this leaves me with a big four left. Three of those four are Hall of Famers. I don’t expect to ever get a Jackie Robinson card. Larry Doby has an affordable 1959 card but I’d like one from his original stint with the Indians. Those aren’t too bad but are worth waiting for one at the right price. Ernie Banks is similar to Doby. And Tom Alston’s 1955 Bowman is surprisingly expensive but unfortunately it’s his only card.

When my pile gets here I’ll scan everything and put them (aside from the Giants) into eight-pocket pages. So expect a follow up post on here about how the project is coming sometime next year once COMC gets its act together.

Vintage Star PWEs

One of the things that’s starting to happen over on Card Twitter is that guys will celebrate a player’s birthday* by showing off a page or two worth of his cards of not his complete Topps run. This is always cool to see but also frequently serves to remind me how my focus on Giants has left me with a collection that has basically none of the memorable players from the 60s and 70s.

*or as has been happening a depressing amount of the time recently, his passing.

Last week I made a comment about this regarding Dick Allen and Matthew Castelhano (@Mattypabst) immediately suggested that this needed to be rectified. Matthew is another collector who spends a lot of his time with pre-war cards of all sorts and we’ve compared notes and been bad influences on each other in terms of pointing out cool sets that are worth lusting after. He’s also a member of the group of us which are passively collecting cards of every player who broke a team’s colorline.

A couple days ago the envelope showed up and inside was this 1976 Topps Dick Allen card. Allen is in the last years of his career here and has returned to the Phillies after three years of being an All Star in Chicago. I’d still like to get a card of him from the 1960s but it’s great to have one card of  a player who’s on the shortlist of players who are the larges absences from the Hall of Fame.

Matthew packed the Allen with three other cards including a couple more which also represent firsts in my binder. I have Yastrzemskis from 1978 and 1983 but none from his true peak years. This 1968 Topps Game card doesn’t get more peak as it comes after his MVP season. Winning the Triple Crown and MVP in 1967 put Yaz on the same level as Mantle and Aaron in this game, only trailing Clemente, Killebrew, Frank Robinson, and Mays.

Boog Powell is another star who I have no cards of. This 1970 comes from his MVP season and features a very 1970 photo taken a Yankee stadium with the random players in the background. It’s always nice to see the frieze though. I was also unaware that Boog’s full name is actually John Wesley Powell. That’s quite a dude to be named after.

Matthew apologized for the condition of the Yaz and Boog cards but they’re as good, if not better than the kind of cards I buy.

The last card in the envelope was a 2019 Heritage Candy Lid of Buster Posey. I love getting cards like this in the mail since while I would never buy them. I do very much enjoy putting them in the binder.

The same day Matthew’s envelope came I also received one from Tim Jenkins. The big item inside was a postcard of Steve Whitaker. I think Tim’s printing these himself and a lot of us have been getting them. I got a Whitake postcard because he played 16 games for the Giants in 1970 (he also  got a 1970 Topps card)

Also in the envelope were a pair of cards including my first vintage Bob Gibson—another player I had mentioned online about not having any vintage of. This isn’t a 1960s card from when he was dominating everyone but it’s a very nice looking card with the blue border contrasting nicely with the red jacket while both the jersey design and jacket design are visible. There’s an added bonus here in that an under-construction Candlestick is visible in the background.

The 1974 checklist meanwhile is in really good shape. I have this already but I’m pretty sure mine is marked and beat up since I refuse to spend more money for an unmarked checklist.

Very cool guys and thanks for helping me get a more representative binder.

Awesomeness from Shane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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