Ugh

Seems weird to just let scheduled posts keep running in the midst of everything going on but I also don’t know what else to do so everything will continue as it has been. At the same time I can’t not acknowledge how things have gone from having to fill idle time to feeling guilty about not being out there supporting the protests.

Not that there are really any events to go to anyway. I’m in a place of extreme privilege to not be near any of the protests and police riots. New Jersey has been better than most places in terms of police behavior—yes Trenton had some stuff happen anyway—but in general things have been good here.

So I’m left with figuring out what organizations to donate to and explaining what’s going on to the kids. They’re already pretty stressed about the Covid situation. While I want them to be plenty skeptical about government it’s tough to explain just how broken everything is. My eldest just learned about the three branches of government and balancing the lessons between “what the design is,” “what’s wrong with that design,” and “how we’ve deviated from the design” is A LOT for an elementary school kid to wrap his head around.

Heck it’s a lot for me to wrap my head around. What’s going on right now feels existentially worse than anything else I’ve lived through. I’ve had the sense that things were broken before. I’ve never had the sense that they were completely irreparable. But right now we’ve got a government that’s declared war on its citizens, a pandemic that’s already killed 100,000 people and is poised to spike like crazy this month, millions of people out of work, and in the background an impending climate disaster.

There are days when I see all the hope in the world in my kids and am inspired by their potential. And there are days when my heart aches at the world they’re going to inherit and the problems they’re going to be stuck with. I’m trying to have more of the good days than the bad ones but it’s difficult. Especially now.

Stay safe out there. Do what you have to do to stay sane. It may be trivial blog about baseball cards and flower photos but it’s kind of my only release.

Season Stolen

So today was going to be a big day. The first day of spring break and we were going to go to our first ballgame of the season. This would be adding another park to my life list plus both boys can count the number of Major League games they’ve been to on only one hand. I’d even procured a couple Greg Luzinski cards just in case.*

*Last year he was always signing at his restaurant out in left field.

No need to go into what happened but instead of spending last month doing the research and acquiring cards for the upcoming Trenton and Somerset seasons, I’ve been homeschooling the boys and have only gone out one time in the last three weeks to stock up on food. I can’t complain. We’ve been healthy. We have a house and a yard. We can afford to buy a month’s worth of food at one go. We’ve got a ton of movies on DVD/Blu in addition to Disney+ and Amazon. At the same time though I can’t help but feel sad for the time and experiences we’re going to miss and never be able to get back.

Last year was magical. One of those perfect moments of parenthood when I got to enjoy my hobbies and interests with my kids. I loved watching them get hooked into baseball and autograph collecting. I love even more that it was our thing that we shared and that they’d come back from a game excited about the game and eager to share their experiences and show who they got to their mother.

After our last game last year it’s no understatement to say that I was excited for this coming year. We all were. Now that that’s no longer happening, I’ve had to swallow my disappointment and help my kids focus on the good things going on now.

Yes good things despite how scary life in New Jersey feels.

As much as we (all of us) can’t tear ourselves away from the ever-increasing numbers and the fear that we’ll lose someone we know and love, there’s something comforting and amazing in the fact that we’re living through one of the rare moments in history when the vast majority of the world is in complete agreement about what humanity’s priority should be.

Finding a vaccine and developing treatments is the single scientific focus right now. Like 90% of the people out there are doing what they can to protect themselves and everyone else. Most of us are outraged and appalled by the abhorrent assholes who are trying to profit off of massive-scale death and suffering.

These are strange and scary times but also exciting ones because of the potential to see what we can achieve in the coming months.

Am I overly optimistic here? A little. I know that once the death numbers start dropping it’s going to be impossible for us to keep our discipline long enough to really kill the number of new cases. Hopefully by then we’ll have new treatments and ramped up capacity (both testing and hospital beds) to properly react to the inevitable second spike of infection. And hopefully that spike occurs much closer to the vaccine’s release so we don’t have to endure a third.

A month ago feels like years ago. I can only imagine how a month from today might feel like years into the future. Until then we’ll be hunkering down as a family. Reading books. Watching movies. Playing catch. Knocking a soccer ball around. Facetiming relatives. And yes looking at baseball cards.

March TTMs

What a month. All things considered this was pretty successful. Spring training returns continued to come in and a few other requests I sent out also came back. With the whole Covid-19 debacle I stopped sending requests early in the month and things sort of dried up in the last two weeks. I have no idea what to expect for returns moving forward but I am looking forward to being able to start things up again some day.

Also it’s worth noting that the boys wrote a few letters and began getting returns this month as well. They’ve been pretty quiet since last summer but this is a fun activity to share with them plus it gets them writing.

They have a few more out there but who knows what to expect now. Anyway to my returns for the month.

I tried sending to Dave Righetti early last year. Was hopeful I’d get a return when I saw everyone else get returns around June. No dice. I figured that I’d try again this spring and send to Scottsdale instead  of Pac Bell. 27 days later a nice 1993 Topps Gold card came back signed.

Rags was one of those guys I liked watching before he became a Giant. Some pitchers you can just watch how they move the ball around the zone and really appreciate the art of pitching. Once he came to San Francisco I was happy to have an excuse to cheer for him. That he went on to become the pitching coach during the Even Years run of championships makes him even cooler.

Same Selman is yet another Giant who made his Major League Debut last year. These came back in 24 days. He didn’t keep one but I hope he liked them.

Two years into making customs and I’ve come to realize that I love sending out “congrats on your MLB debut, I made some customs for you” letters. This season I’m going to have to try and make debut or notable firsts (hits, home runs, wins, etc.) cards for all the guys making their official debuts.

Tommy Edman is a Stanford guy who was not on my radar for making it to the majors last year. But he did, had a great first season, and was literally the last guy to make it into the 2019 Update set.* I didn’t mention it when Big Shep sent me the Edman cards last year but Shep sent me an extra Edman for TTM reasons.

*Seriously. Edman debuted on June 8 and Yordan Alvarez debuted on June 9. Edman is included in 2019 Update. Alvarez had to wait until 2020 to get his first Major League card. Not sure whether the MLBPA union insisted on that cutoff or if Topps proposed it. Either way it left Update feeling like a badly-thought-out set which isn’t able to include either the top Rookies or the trades that occurred before the deadline.

Edman sent this back to me in only 19 days. Very cool and I’ve already added it to the page of Stanford Autographs. Up to 92 different athletes on there now.

Felipe Alou is probably my favorite return of the spring. I wish I’d had some vintage doubles of him (ideally 1960 0r 1962) but I also really liked him as the Giants manager and the way he used his platform there to speak about his experiences in the game and how society has changed in the decades since he started playing.

His baseball stories were great but the one that sticks with me the most is appropriate for his status as the first Dominican player. His first time traveling into the South and being informed that certain people had decided that he was black.

Needless to say I’m very happy with this card. He was one of the first letters I sent out and 31 days later I was very happy to add him to the binder.

I figured I shouldn’t just be sending to Spring Training so I sent a couple other requests out in February. Goose Gossage is one such request. His 1986 Topps card came back in 17 days. I just love the attitude in this photo. I would’ve sent him a 1989 Mothers Cookies card but I traded my duplicate a long time ago.

Chuck Essegian is another re-send for me. Once I started making Stanford customs I figured I should go back over the guys I got the first time around. The hard part is often finding photos. With Essegian I was stuck between showing him on the A’s since he never had an A’s card or putting him on the Dodgers since his pinch-hitting heroics make him a Dodger legend of sorts. I went with the Dodgers and after a couple of tries this came back in 8 days.

Spring training returns continued to trickle in after the first burst. Jandal Gustave signed in 34 days—still not a long wait. He was a bit of a surprise last season who came with no expectations and turned out to be quietly effective out of the bullpen.

After 10 days, Doug Gwosdz became the first signer to take advantage of the Mother’s Cookies “autograph” line on the backs of the cards. I’ve always wondered about that line as it felt both optimistic and a bit weird to have on the backs of the cards. It doesn’t feel like something that Mother’s Cookies would have invented but it’s not something that’s exactly common either.

I’ve gone ahead and scanned the front of the card as well. I would’ve preferred the signature be there but I can’t complain. This is actually a zero-year card since Gwosdz never appeared in the majors with the Giants. I don’t collect this theme but they’re certainly fun things to note and don’t really pop up that often (I didn’t see any Giants on the list I linked to). I appreciate that he signed the index card with his Giants number instead of the #10 he wore with the Padres.

Catcher Steve Nicosia came back in 9 days. He was a World Series winning catcher with the Pirates in 1979 and later spent two seasons with the Giants as a backup/platoon guy.

Roberto Hernandez’s 10-day return continues the theme of short-term Giants. He was only on the team for half of the 1997 season but since that pennant race is what brought me back to being a fan I remember him very fondly. His two-inning save of the game before the Brian Johnson game will be my lasting memory. He wasn’t our main closer but at that time it was quite a weapon to have a guy who could hit 100mph on the gun.

Yet another short-term Giant, Gene Richards signed in 11 days. Richards was primarily a Padre whose 56 stolen bases was the Rookie record from 1977 to 1980. This 1985 card is his career capper as he retired after his 1984 season—his only one with the Giants.

After the Richards return my mail pretty much dried up as the country went into the Covid-19 lockdown. My two-week dry spell was broken by a nice 44-day return from Alex Dickerson. The autos got kind of beat up and scratched in the return envelope but that was totally fine because Dick included a nice note as well.

This encapsulates everything I enjoy about sending out these requests. I mentioned in my letter how much fun it was to see the way he energized the team last season and giving the customs to players is a way to demonstrate my appreciation as a fan. In these days where everyone’s just waiting out the impending disaster and trying to stay safe there’s also something wonderful in just the simple “take care” sort of response everyone is giving each other.

I know the month isn’t over quite yet (will it ever end?) but this feels like an appropriate last return for the post. This blog doesn’t have many readers but I agree 100% with Alex. I hope all is well and that you’re all staying safe. Take care out there.

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.