Mailday from Bru

Found a nice PWE from Marc in my mailbox last week. School is over and summer has officially begun so it’s nice to start it off with some cards in the mail.

This isn’t the usual fare but as we’ve all stopped ripping new cards and sort of filled in the obvious collection items, I think we’re all casting about for other stuff to send each other. In this case, Marc has come into a good-sized lot of 1979 Topps cards and remembered that I had’t put together my Candlestick page for that set.

Being an Astros collector means that Marc has a decent number of cards feature The Stick in the background. These seven 1979s definitely complete my page and the 1980 Andujar doubles the 1980 Candlestick cards I own. Og these I like how the Lemongello shows off the black hole in center and how Cabell captures the left field bleachers and scoreboard.

All seven didn’t make my 1979 page but four of them definitely did. Once I get more than nine cards I try and spread things out to get different views and I definitely like how that page looks now.

The early-1980s needs work but I’ve not yet gone looking for cards here. It’s nice to have a complete page though even if it spans 1980–1985.

Marc also included two 1979 cards form the Jean-Michel Basquiat checklist. I enjoy the connection to the “real” art world and it’s a fun mini-PC to put together. Rather than digging through the comments of my SABR post I’ll list the checklist here.

  • Joe: Steve Henderson
  • Jerk: Bob Randall
  • Hot Dog: Steve Kemp
  • Wally: John Matlack
  • Bus Pass: Ed Glynn

These are the first two I own from that theme (I had a Steve Henderson but sent it out TTM a couple years ago and it never returned)

And yes even though we’re not ripping product Marc apparently is still. A handful of Donruss cards is very much appreciated, especially the Camilo Doval card since for whatever reason Topps isn’t featuring him. I’m not keen on this design but a least it’s very Donruss™ without being derivative.

Oh and the Diamond Kings card looks like a Diamond Kings card. I’m assuming it’s this year but I can never tell.

For a while I was considering only buying Donruss cards this year since boycotting MLB-licensed stuff is about the only way I can make a statement as a fan. But then I don’t buy anything anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

A couple Match Attax Barça cards. No idea where these are sold or if anyone plays the game but they’re a fun add to the non-baseball sports album. Ansu Fati in particular is on the cusp of becoming something great and I hop he realizes his potential. That #10 shirt is really heavy and, while I think they gave it to him too soon, the fact he wears it now says a ton about how he’s perceived in the team.

And lastly a Safe Hit Texas Vegetables crate label. Marc got a big batch of these and has been selling/distributing them. Not the kind of thing I actively collect but with Marc being in Texas I totally understand why he jumped on this.* It’s a cool image with a local angle and even the concept of “Texas Vegetables” evokes a weird combination of the Texas Leaguer with a Can of Corn.

*I’d be much more tempted if I came across a Best Strike Apple label since Watsonville is borderline Bay Area. But even then I try really hard to to get sucked into too many different collecting interests. 

I also had the weirdest reaction to this piece as a physical object in that my gut felt that it was fake but there’s jut enough going on that I can’t trust that gut reaction plus I don’t know a thing about how labels like these were typically printed. The thing is that my gut wants the text to be nice and crisp and it’s not. No crisp edges anywhere. The blacks and reds are screen mixes. All of these things are frequently tells that something has been photographed and reprinted.

But if the entire label including the text was painted as a single piece, this is exactly how it would look. Especially if printed slightly out out register the way this one is. Plus the small vertical “INC” in the bottom right corner is printed as linework which suggests it was added in after the original artwork was photographed for press. And there’s no sign of being rescreened anywhere on here.

Also, the paper, while slicker than I expected, is only slick on one side. Definitely doesn’t feel like paper you’d get today and is probably way cheaper than what you’d get from Vintagraph.*

*Worth noting that this version of the label has been restored and I suspect has had all the type re-set as linework so it prints crisply. 

Very cool stuff Marc. I was half expecting a Shawn Chacon custom for Trenton but it’s great to fill out more Candlestick pages.

Cold War Cards

I tend to think of general-interest cards as the major thing that distinguishes the pre-World War 2 hobby from the much-more-familiar sports cards and pop-culture cards landscape which got rolling in the 1950s. Many of my pre-war sets serve as a way to teach people about the world and I love the way they serve as a way of documenting our understanding of things at the moment.

My thinking though is also wrong since general interest sets didn’t die out immediately after the war. I’ve come across a bunch of sets from the 1950s in particular which are wonderful to discover me. A lot of them function in similar veins to comic books—both in terms of being general action stories and, later, specifically super heroes—while others are doing the same kind of thing as the pre-war cards and documenting technology or explaining history.

The ones that fascinate me though are the ones that seem to function as state department propaganda. There are multiple sets in the 1950s which are dedicated at some level to the fight against communism. This first card is from  one such set.

Bowman’s 1951 Fight the Red Menace set is basically all about the evils of communism. The artwork is frequently amazing albeit over the top and the back text pulls no punches in terms of who the good guys and bad guys are. I can’t really imagine these being packaged with chewing gum and definitely don’t think they were popular with kids.

In America you can always find the party. In Russia, party always finds you.

Even though I grew up with the USSR as our main global antagonist the idea of just having stuff like this set around is completely foreign to me. Yes, I know that there are a lot of Americans still who freak out about the idea of communism but that fear wasn’t the background radiation of my youth nor is it the way I’m teaching my kids. We’ve had plenty of time to figure out the problems with capitalism since then as well. Anyway, I really liked the idea of having a sample of this set so I selected one that reminded of the old Yakov Smirnoff joke which spawned that early 2000s “In Soviet Russia” meme.

Another set I got a sample from is the very Dr. Strangelove named Power for Peace set that Bowman put out in 1954. This set is all about the current standard of US Military technology and how it needs to be so powerful in order to preserve the peace. This isn’t as much anti-Communism as it’s  anti-Russia and more-generically pro-military as the only thing keeping us from being bombed this very instant.

Since this set is so much like Dr. Strangelove I had to get the B-52 card as a sample. For a 1954 set, getting an image of the B-52 is kind of amazing since that was the first year that any were finished building, only three were made, and they were just test planes. And yes I kind of love that nowhere on the back of this card is the plane described as a bomber.

Not the prettiest card but another one which captures the time. I’m not going to be suckered into the 1950s/1960s non-sport cards the same way as I have been with pre-war but it’s great to have a few samples to remind me of how different this time was.

Menkos!

I’ve been intrigued by Japanese baseball cards for a long time. Some, like the Kabaya Leafs, are mirror-universe amazing takes on designs I’m familiar with. But what I really like are the ones that are doing things completely differently than American cards. I jumped on a batch of mid-1970s Calbees because I love the photography and I’ve long sort of coveted some of the older menko cards.

Menkos were intended to be played with but they also depict all kinds of subjects. Sports, military, movie and TV characters are all fair game. The artwork is frequently something I’d call comic book style with bold colors and big text and the end result looks like nothing else I’ve seen.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I’ve not dipped any toes in that water due to not having an obvious entry point. I have a hard time buying cards without attaching them to a project and, unlike my pre-war randomness, menkos tend to be sold individually instead of as sets. As a result I’m better able to resist their call.

However it turns out that there are menkos of the San Francisco Seals. In 1949 Lefty O’Doul took the San Francisco Seals on a Goodwill tour of Japan. O’Doul is in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame for his multiple trips to Japan which helped grow the game and in many ways led to the development of a professional league. The 1949 trip was a different sort of trip as it was intended to promote healing after World War 2.

The trip was clearly successful both in terms of drawing crowds but also as a bit of cultural diplomacy with a lot of ephemera still surviving today. The multiple different menko designs definitely caught my eye. Sometimes they’re super expensive. Other times they’re super reasonable. So it pays to wait. A couple weeks ago I finally found some that were going at a price I was ok with.

This menko features Cliff Melton, one of the few pitchers who made the trip.* It’s part of what’s categorized as the 1949 JCM-51 Seals Tour set. Not my favorite of the designs I’ve seen (I really like the Blue Back set) but it’s a great example of why I find menkos so appealing. Bright colors. Big bold text.** Cartoon images.

*He’s also a former Giant who shows up on Play Ball and Double Play cards in the early 1940s.

**メルトン is pronounced “meruton” which is the katakanization of “Melton.” Also, in the interests of translating text, 投手 is how you write “pitcher” in Japanese.

Many of the cards depict the seals in red and white striped uniforms that don’t at all match their home jerseys that year. Given that other cards show the pinstripes in blue and the Seals in red my guess is that the artists were just coloring things brightly. I wish the cap logo were a bit more clear but that’s really my only quibble.

The other Seals card I got is actually not a menko. It’s categorized as a bromide though by the 1940s these were no longer bromide photographic prints but just halftones which kept the bromide toning. This one is cut from the November 1949 issue of Yakyu Shonen magazine and not only features Cliff Melton as well but uses the photo that was used to create the menko artwork.

His menko isn’t a particularly good likeness but it’s clearly from the same image plus the text* confirms that it’s the same player.

*メルトン 投手 (シールス) or “Melton Pitcher (Seals)” underneath the image.

Looking at the Melton menko again mades me start thinking about why I like them so much more than American strip cards. It’s clearly not the accuracy of the drawings so all I can conclude is that the vibrancy of the color and text is the difference.

I took a quick peek through the other stuff that this seller had available and was unable to not impulse-add this card. I’ll leave it a little bit of a surprise and just link to a Google search for his name: 三船敏郎.

Yeah.

The price was right and how could I say no. Plus the artwork, while not exactly looking like him, has a certain charm to it with that rakishly misplaced hair that does capture a certain essence. I don’t know exactly when this is from but the seller says 1950s which feels right. It’s made by the Kagome Toy Company* and has a lot more going on on the back than most menkos I’ve seen as they aren’t known for having backs full of text.

*The 6-pointed star is their mark.

While I can struggle through figuring out what the front text says through context/guessing I have no idea about the backs. There are online tools to deciphering stokes but doing that figure by figure is more than I want to deal with—especially when even the single word on the back of the Melton menko looks like it says スペルコミ which doesn’t translate to anything but sounds like superukomi or super komi. I can’t image trying to do the full text backs on the other cards.

As it is I’m happy to just have a few menkos as well as be able to update my oldest Japanese cards to be 1949 now. Plus it’s nice to add a bit more color to my Seals page.

Candlestick

As soon as the Colorwheels pages taper off in the 1970s, my Candlestick pages pick up the slack. I picked up a decent amount of the early 1970s ones from COMC last year and the binder is really starting to take shape.

The first year I’ve been able to find multiple obvious Candlestick photos is 1972. As much as I enjoy the under construction photos, it’s nice to have some of the other key Candlestick details such as the chain link fences or on-field bullpens which show up in the two In Action cards.

1973’s action photos show a lot more of the field. Not as many which show the whole stadium but there are some like the Eddie Matthews which do.

It’s interesting in 1974 that I have two American League teams represented. I should probably switch up for some more photo and color variety but I probably won’t do anything intentionally.

1975 meanwhile needs no variety. One very nice thing is that the photos are taken all over the field his year so the background shows different parts of the stands.

1976 isn’t as varied as 1975 but the larger photos show a lot more of the stadium. I should probably look for more 1977s to replace some of the Braves on here but it’s a good mix of stadium details. I especially like the Lou Brock which, despite the out of focus background, is clearly at Candlestick.

Into the pages I didn’t update from COMC. With my recently-completed 1978 set there’s no 1978 page. Would be nice to put a Hostess page together for each set but for now I’m just looking for a couple from each year. And yeah I should try completing my 1979 page since the big photos are really nice.

I’ve added a few to my 1980s and 1990s pages but they all look like the one above with their multiple sets and years. I have more scans in my previous post so there’s not much more to add here. The thing about these years is that I don’t feel like seeking cards out and as a result just add them as I come across them. It’s definitely a fun way to look at junk commons.

Colorwheel Surprise

A couple days ago I found a surprise PWE from Shlabotnik Report in my mailbox. He’d seen my colorwheels update and decided that he would send me a few of the cards I was missing.

The yellow 1967 and purple 1977 slide in and complete two pages. The 1967 page looks great and I just need to figure out what card to slide into the last slot on the 1977 page. I’m leaning Big League Brothers but there are a decent number of choices. The brown 1969 made me realize that I actually have a bunch of browns only they’re in my expansion/moves binder. Yeah I’m collecting Pilots cards in general so this one slid into those pages.

The most interesting card here though is the 1967 Gene Brabender. I’ll ned to do a proper post about cards like this but I’m always intrigued when I come across an image where Topps has just removed all the magenta and yellow from the background in order to make it look like sky but you can still see all the background details in the cyan screen. I don’t have a lot of these but the 1968 Manny Sanguillen is another such example in my collection.

Thanks for the cards! It’s always great to complete a page and in many ways those two pages also completed the project as well.

Colorwheels

As with the Colorline project, my COMC mailday last year involved fleshing out my Colorwheels project. I did a quick look through and grabbed the cheapest cards I could find for this. Not done yet but the binder is looking a lot better now and I definitely need to update the status and needs.

I have all six 1954 colors. Not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of the page or how I want to arrange these. For now they’re just organized in rainbow order when the page is viewed in portrait orientation.

Four 1955 colors. I grabbed the gradients going both directions. I did not pay attention to the color of the bars on the bottom but it’s nice that all but the blues are different.

Neither 1956 nor 1957 are a colorwheel set. I’ll have to think about what kind of project I’ll want to do to put a page together of each of those.

1958 though is perfect for the colorwheel thing. There may be more than nine colors but distinguishing those from printing variance is kind of impossible. I went with nine obvious ones since the light and dark green and blues are easily distinguished by the white or black text.

The 1959 page was covered already on this blog but it’s worth posting a second time. As with 1958 I’m letting the text color be the distinction between the different greens and blues.

Fast forwarding to 1965. 1960, 1961, 1963, and 1964 are all plenty colorful but because of all the different combinations I haven’t researched things fully to figure out how I want to make pages of them. 1962 meanwhile is not a colorwheel set.

For 1965, the only color I’m missing is grey but I’m perfectly happy having a black card in the center. One nice thing with 1965 is that it uses the purple 100% magenta, 100% cyan color and as a result is the first page that looks like an actual color wheel.

I’m oddly short of 1966 Giants duplicates (and have no Senators cards) so I have no dark green card to slot in here for now. The other nine colors fill the page nicely. I’m not sure which card I’ll replace with the dark green but it’ll probably be Rigney since the light purple doesn’t quite fit with the color progression.

Somehow I’ve not yet acquired a Phillies or Orioles card to fill that last yellow slot. The rest of the page looks fantastic though.

I’ve had this page done since the beginning. Still looks great and really shows off how the color wheel works.

I’m “missing” light pink, light blue, and brown. And while I have light purple it isn’t on this page either. The other nine colors are though and make up the same wheel as 1968.

In the 1970s there’s a possibility of color wheel stuff but it’s harder. Only six colors used in 1971 (I will eventually do this though). 1972 is a complicated one which I need to research properly. 1973 is almost better to do a wheel based on the positions than the teams. 1974 is the first year of using team colors instead of random ones. 1975 just nuts. And 1976 is like 1964 in which Topps uses team-based color combinations.

1977 though has color wheel possibility except I think there are only eight colors. for whatever reason I don’t have any Brewers cards and I think those are the only purple team. I also need to figure out what to do with the center pocket if I fill the rest with team colors.

1978 is another one that’s tough to do a wheel for because it involves color combinations. I think I’d consider doing one for the borders. I also have less desire to do a page here since I just completed the whole set.

1979 though uses the same colors as 1977 and these make up a wheel like 1977 will eventually become.

I need to research 1980 since it might work as a wheel. 1981 though is the last of the sets I think I plan to do this with. It barely makes it with the orange rookies color. The center square is a color repeat but I figured the World Series card made for a fun hub.

Many of the 1980s sets are kind of impossible due to color combinations reasons. 1984 is I think the last one I’d even consider (1986 would work but like with 1978 I have it completed) These are definitely a fun way to get a sense and feel for each set without having to build anything though. They’re also a lot more visually interesting than looking through a lot of my Giants album where each set is typically all one color.

Now it’s time for me to start working on a post which dives deep into the actual colors being printed here.  So many of these sets use the same simple ink formulas year after year.  Lots of 100% process inks for the seven simple printing colors—cyan, magenta, yellow, black, cyan/magenta (dark purple), cyan/yellow (dark green), and magenta/yellow (red)—but they’re used in so many different ways that it’s often hard to recognize that Topps is reusing the same colors year after year. But that’s another post for another day and a ton more scanning for me to do.

Metacards and the Tobacco Set of Tobacco

About a year ago I wrote about a silly idea which I called Metacards. In short the idea is cards which describe themselves. There’s not much I have to add to that original post except to note that I’ve sort of gone off and started a metacard mini collection.

It’s still very much a mini PC. I’ve got a Bowman Bowman, Post Post, Phillie Philley, and mini Minnie. There’s a Rookie rookie in my 2017 Update set but I haven’t gotten an extra. Nor have I grabbed the Padres Podres or any other cards mentioned in that post.

I did however recently pick up a set of 1926 Player’s Cigarettes “From Plantation to Smoker” cards which, as the tobacco card set of tobacco cards fits perfectly with this theme.

It’s a small set of 25 cards which details the entire process from growing tobacco all the way to making cigarettes. In many ways it’s also a great fit with the Liebig printing cards in that it’s not just a joke of a meta card, it’s an actual meta card that’s commenting on itself—in this case not the card production but the product which it’s packaged with.

The artwork is pretty interesting with detailed images of the tobacco farm and fields. This is a 1926 set but you very much get a sense that tobacco production still relies on a lot of Black labor for the benefit of white planters. The farm house is clearly an estate while all the farmworkers except the supervisor are non-white.

The backs of the cards make it clear that this set is about the product and how carefully cultivated it is. Which makes sense for something being actually packaged with cigarettes. How delicate the plants are. How they need to be protected. How they’re picked by hand repeatedly so that every leaf has been selected for maximum ripeness.

Not exactly an advertising campaign yet clearly operating in the same world that spawned “It’s Toasted.” This is Player’s making sure its customers know that they’re getting a quality product as well as framing certain production methods as the “best” way.

The set goes on to depict the rest of the supply chain as tobacco is delivered to market, sold, processed, shipped overseas, and turned into cigarettes. I like how huge the warehouses and factories look with vanishing points that make them seem almost endless. There’s also a a sense of increased activity in many of these when compared to the farming images.

A more interesting mix of backs here. The description of the seas voyage in particular continues the emphasis on quality in how it describes how safe they have to keep the leaves on the journey.

It is however worth comparing the Hand Stemming Room with Cigarette Machine Room. The Hand Stemming back talks about “experienced white foremen” who oversee the colored labor gets a bit of side-eye from me when it describes the happy singing workforce. Meanwhile the cigarette machines are run by “highly skilled” girls. Despite how the majority of the labor depicted in this set is performed by Black hands, the finishing final touches are by English girls and yeah that feels as intentional as all the emphasis on the care and selection of the leaves.

All in all a very interesting set which also made me stop and think about how I never thought about where all the tobacco came from. As I think back about my education, tobacco farming never came up after the Civil War. It clearly continued in North Carolina and Virginia since it’s still grown in both states today but for whatever reason I wasn’t expecting to see Virginia tobacco be such an important selling point in the UK.

Big time mission creep

What I didn’t cover in my 2021 wrap-up is all the mission creep that has happened to my Stanford project. There’s been A LOT of it. While the bulk of the project is baseball, I’ve found that I really enjoy using the alumni thing to pursue vintage cards from all sports. I’m not trying for the same comprehensive one-per-year-per-player thing I am with baseball. But it’s been a lot of fun to get samples for the sets from all the sports.

It’s especially fun to go into pre-war and get the few Stanford guys who show up there. I already have a Pete Desjardins 1934 Gallaher and this 1935 Godfrey Phillips Lawson Little is a great addition as well.  I’m only scanning the back of this one card since it’s the only pre-war I’ve added here.

Football

The bulk of my additions were football. Mostly vintage stuff but I did get a few autographs. It’s weird to see Stanford get called a “football school” in old movies, like Double Indemnity but there’s clearly something there since there are Stanford players in football sets going back to the 1930s (the 1935 National Chicle Ernie Caddel is one of those cards I’d love to add but LOL at the price, maybe I should try for a Diamond Matchbook).

Nothing surprising in the autographs. Gerhart and Gaffney are actually baseball players who never played pro baseball. I really like the Plunkett though with the photo that could be either New England or Stanford.

I didn’t scan all the cards, just enough to show the variety that every player and set offers to the binder. While scanning, I did find that I have a soft spot for the pre-merger cards, especially the ones from the 1950s when football feels like a completely different sport to me.

It doesn’t hurt that the cards from that era are kind of awesome. I love the old Bowman designs in particular but 1960s Philadelphia and Topps designs aren’t bad either. Heck many of the Topps designs through 1987 are wonderfully distinct too.

After 1988 the “vintage/junk wax” line sort of kicks in as more companies get involved. I’m using this project a a way of acquainting myself with the older designs and when we get multiple companies using the same designs in all sports I’m not nearly as interested.

Basketball

Stanford’s tradition in basketball is not nearly as strong. There are a few guys from the 50s and 60s* who have cards but most of those are kind of spendy mainly because early basketball releases seem to be pretty uncommon.

*Howie Dallmar, Jim Pollard, and George Yardley

I did get a bunch of autographs since they were super cheap. Was especially nice to get many of the guys who I watched when I was a student and who remind me of that improbable era when we went to a Final Four. Stanford is not a basketball school but for a decade there it kind of was.

As with football, I’m mainly using this as a way of getting samples of the vintage designs. This means I didn’t scan the cards of the guys who I watched as a student. It also means that Stanford’s lack of influence on the ABA/NBA in the 1970s and 1980s is on full display by the fact that I only have 8 cards here. Thank god for Rich Kelley giving me a reason to get cards from 1977–1981. And yes that is a 1952 Wheaties card of Jim Pollard. I’d love a 1948 Bowman but LOL.

I took a different tack with the women since women’s basketball cards have been an inconsistent thing as the WNBA has taken a long time to really take off in any shape or form. Really interesting how cards only show up in certain brief gaps of history and then disappear again. Is nice that many of them happen to cover the years that players I watched when I was a student ended up in the pros.

Other

Kind of the holding area for all the other Stanford cards. I’ve written about some already but everything non-football, non-basketball is in here right now.

Two autographs. Both good ones. Mendoza is arguably a baseball card since it came out of Topps Archives.

Everything else is kind of a wonderful pile of randomness. I didn’t even scan all of them here either but they all make the binder that much more interesting. I’m going to have to really investigate the Olympicards set though since that Sanders photo is killer.

And yeah. No real defined searchlists although I do have everyone in the binder who’s not a baseball player listed on the page. I’ll continue to poke and prod at this as the mood strikes me but it’s mainly a chance to just have some fun browsing for cards.

Colorline

Now that I have my COMC package I can start updating various projects I’ve been working on. I’ll start off with the colorline breaker project that I mentioned in 2020. The general principle is trying to get the earliest card I can get of each player on the team he broke the color line for.

Current status after hitting the low-hanging fruit is 11 out of 16 teams and 13 out of 19 players (plus Angel Scull). The missing guys include three Hall of Famers and two guys who never got solo card.

Anyway, a team-by-team, by-date run down of what I’ve got and what I’m missing. For the most part the cards I have are pretty close to their debuts.

Dodgers

April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson

Yeah right I wish.

Indians

July 5, 1947. Larry Doby

Not easy if I want a card of him with his first stint in Cleveland.

Browns

July 17, 1947. Hank Thompson

No proper Browns cards of him exist so all I have is this custom.

Giants

July 8, 1949. Hank Thompson and Monte Irvin

Braves

April 18, 1950. Sam Jethroe

White Sox

May 1, 1951. Our newest Hall of Famer Minnie Miñoso

Athletics

Sept 13, 1953. Bob Trice

Cubs

Sept 17, 1953. Ernie Banks

Not at Jackie Robinson’s level but playing-days cards of Banks aren’t exactly cheap either.

Pirates

April 22, 1953. Carlos Bernier
April 13, 1954. Curt Roberts (official)

For whatever reason MLB does’t recognize Carlos Bernier. I get that the Afrolatino thing can be confusing but seems odd to not have figured it out by this point.

Cardinals

April 13, 1954. Tom Alston

Alston’s only card is is a high numbered short-print from 1955 Bowman which does not come cheap.

Reds

April 17, 1954. Nino Escalera and Chuck Harmon

No playing-years cards of Escalera appear to exist.

Senators

Sept 6, 1954. Carlos Paula

Angel Scull broke the Washington colorline on cardboard a year earlier but never appeared in an actual game

Yankees

April 14, 1955. Elston Howard

Would be nice to get an earlier card of Howard. His 1957 isn’t too spendy.

Phillies

April 22, 1957. John Kennedy

While there are no cards of Kennedy I think he does show up on the 1958 Phillies team card.

Tigers

June 6, 1958. Ozzie Virgil

I have a bunch of earlier Virgil cards when he was with the Giants but for the purposes of this project I needed one of him with the Tigers.

Red Sox

July 21, 1959. Pumpsie Green

The 1961 card bring in the possibility of doing expansion teams. I have no current plans for that though I certainly hope (but have not verified) that they all started out integrated.

If I’d had my act together I would’ve posted this a week ago since it would’ve made a good Martin Luther King Day post…both in how it’s acknowledging an important accomplishment from Major League Baseball* and in how it represents the bare minimum of integration. Is it a great thing that all the Major League teams had a black ballplayer? Absolutely. Is the fact that the color line existed and that it took the Red Sox a dozen years to follow the Dodgers’ lead something that Major League Baseball should be absolutely embarrassed by? Also absolutely.

*As of Negro League Baseball being officially considered major-league level, this blog will now distinguish between “Major League Baseball” and “major-league baseball.”

I very much enjoy this project as a way to recognize that the color line issue is one that had to be broken franchise by franchise and fanbase by fanbase. I also readily admit that it’s clearly the first step of a process that Major League Baseball has not yet lived up to with the way black players are disappearing from the league and the way that black managers and front office management can be counted on one hand.

Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King’s legacies are all too often used as a shield to protect the very organizations which resisted them—trotted out as mementos representing something the organization has “accomplished” when they’re really the smallest of first steps. Each of these cards is a franchise-level version of that same shield.

It’s also been a good way for me to learn about guys like Sam Jethroe* who were born both a decade too soon and a decade too late—as a result losing too much of their career in the donut hole between the glory years of the Negro Leagues and proper integration in Major League Baseball. There are a lot of other guys in this category** and collecting those is a different project. But this has the structure to give me a taste of that time and really drive home how much more complicated MLB’s integration was and what we lost as a result of both it and the colorline.

*Who was almost part of the Dodgers cohort.

**eg Dave Hoskins, Luke Easter, Artie Wilson…

2021 in review

A little late but still plenty of time to get my 2021 in review post out. Last year was a weird year. Nothing in stores. COMC not shipping (I finally got my shipment with over 2 years worth of cards right before Christmas). I even started to run out of things to post over on SABR. Usually I have close to fifteen posts. This year I needed a late flurry to get up to twelve.

In any case I’ll start off with a recap of the posts I especially liked over in SABR. First off, I wrote one of my favorite posts ever this year where I looked at the history of baseball cards as it fits into the larger history of photography and vernacular imagery. I’m too much a photo geek to not be annoyed by the way baseball card collectors ignore the larger context of the hobby and this was my attempt to provide some contex.

I also had some fun with more wiggle gifs as I scanned another set of Viewmaster discs. These aren’t as nice as my first such post but it’s always fun to do the wiggle gif thing. And I got to go down a bit of a rabbit hole into baseball at the 1912 Olympics thanks to a T218 card of a Track and Field Olympian.

Moving to specific projects of mine. I made a huge step in my Giants Retired numbers project with a couple purchases of autographs of Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, and Willie McCovey—all players who I never really expected to have autographs of. I’ve gone ahead and put together a page to keep track of the current status of this project. I do not expect to update it very frequently. The cards/autographs I’m missing are all super tough and even updating the depicted cards to older ones is unlikely at this point.

Another project I decided to start tracking is my San Francisco Seals type collection. I went ahead and included Oaks cards from sets that don’t feature any Seals as a way of including more variety.

With that in mind I had a couple cards in my COMC pile which I’ve added. The 1930 Johnny Miljus Zeenut is the 5th Zeenut in the collection. It would be nice to get cards from other sets but Obaks aren’t cheap nor are the 1949 PCL Bowmans. Since there are no Seals in the 1933 Goudey set I grabbed the Floyd (Pete) Scott for Oakland Oaks reasons instead.

I did complete one set last year. Lanny gave me a heads up that he had a couple lower-grade copies of the last two cards I needed so I jumped on those. Yes. Lower grade for Lanny means the centering is off on an otherwise perfect-looking card. And yes I left the two big cards for last.

I know common wisdom is to hit the bigger cards first but since I like building sets to get to know the sets better, I don’t mind waiting until a deal comes up for the big cards. After all, they’re always available. The Murray is a fantastic photo and legitimate contender for both the best card in the set and the 1970s.

This leaves me one card short on two other builds—1994 Topps (Joey Cora. Totally gonna happen this year) and 2017 Stadium Club (Aaron Judge. No likely while his prices are still elevated). And for my other builds I’m ~85 cards short on 1989 Donruss and only 65% complete on 2014 Topps.

I made decent headway in my vintage Giants team sets. Being in a holding pattern of sorts where I need just Willie Mays, HoF rookies, and short prints (typically high numbers) I’m biding my time and picking things off when they hit an acceptably low price point.

I think my favorite here is the 1953 Bowman Monte Irvin but the 1961 McCovey is pretty nice too. The 1966 Mays meanwhile represents the kind of cheap low-grade card I’m waiting for now. I don’t mind the writing at all.

Which brings me to the past year in autograph hunting. Not much done in person since I only made it to like three Minor League games. I did however grab Jeff Manto and Derrick May at a Trenton Thunder Draft League game and got Casey Candeale at a Buffalo Bisons of Trenton AAA game. These were especially fun since all three are in the 1991 sets that my kids have. My eldest has been working on signed in-person 1991 Topps for a while while my youngest just started with 1991 Score.

This was a good year for TTMs. My longest return was Max Venable in 785 days. I don’t “give up” on returns but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a surprise. It’s always special to get a straggler back.

Meanwhile my shortest return was from Mark Leiter in only 3 days. Not sure I’m ever going to get one this quickly again. Pretty sure it’s impossible to get a faster one too.

I sent out a lot of customs this year and got most of them back. It’s been a very good year for the 1956ish design. Lots of fan favorite players. Lots of great photos. A few fun inscriptions. Impossible to pick a favorite and I had a hard enough time winnowing the samples here down to twenty.

Spring training was not nearly as good to me. Seems like Covid protocols kept a lot of guys from their mail. I did get a few Giants customs back at least. Tyler Rogers is probably the best of these—I remain confused how Topps hasn’t issued a solo card of him yet. Will be interesting to see how this year goes with the lockout but I’m not optimistic that I’ll be able to send anything right now.

A few Giants returns covering cards from across the decades. I’m kind of split between liking the George Foster or Renel Brooks-Moon best. Foster’s clearly the best player here though he barely counts as a Giant. Brooks-Moon meanwhile is a fan favorite whose whole return was probably my best of the year. Also I need to mention how great the Rick Parker photo is.

I just enjoy being able to flesh out the Giants binder in general though. Seeing it grow has been a great experience and writing the letters as a fan is also just a lot of fun.

A few other favorite returns this year. I’m not actively pursuing A’s but it turns out I got a lot of the guys from my youth. I didn’t like that team—mostly Tony LaRussa’s fault—but all those guys hit me in the feels now. Also a lot of guys here who fall into the “great players for a certain generation” category. A couple fantastic photos like Wynegar and Bordick, and an unexpected inscription from Davey Johnson which was perfect for me since the 1986 World Series was the first one I watched.

A lot of last year though was spent working duplicates from the cards from my youth. I’m not paging these by set in the binder—everything is alphabetically—but it’s fun to see a page-worth of each set that I’ve been working. I’m especially enjoying the photography on the 1986s.

1988 is a design that was underwhelming when I was a kid but which I really appreciate now. Its simple nature also works really well signed and lets the signature make the card.

1989 meanwhile is just a classic look. It’s missing the interestingness of he photos in 1986 but screams Baseball Card™ in a great way.

Not a ton of pre-war cards to mention. I have a few more that I need to scan and even more I still need to post about but I got some of my oldest cards in general,  a couple sets about polar exploration, and some more Garbatys. As the hobby has exploded, the pre-war deals I used to enjoy have started to dry up. Hopefully I’ll still find a few but we’ll see.

And that about wraps it up. A productive year despite everything. The kids have managed to stay engaged—thanks in part to the Giants having a season to remember. I haven’t been able to share the hobby as much with them as in previous years but we’re working on it.  I’m hoping that we finally turn a corner in 2022. Stay safe out there.

Addendum

As soon as this posted I realized that I had neglected to include a section about all the trades and maildays I received last year. I’m not going to recap every one since here are way too many but I do need to show the highlights.

A big thanks goes out to Donna, Mike, Scott, Jeff, Gio, Julie, Greg, John, Shane, Attic, Bob, Marc, Mark, Mark, Jason, Kerry, Shlabotnik, and everyone else who sent me stuff last year. I really love the variety and in a year when access to product was way down, being able to brighten people’s lives with trades and random gifts was fantastic.

We all tend to get caught up in tying our hobby enjoyment to what we can buy. I don’t think this is healthy either mentally or financially. It’s so much better to scratch those itches as a community and get cards that we aren’t enjoying to the right people who will enjoy them much much more.