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.

A few PWEs

Time to catch up on a couple more plain white envelopes which arrived over the last few weeks.

The first envelope was from Scott Berger who likes to add Stanford football players to my collection. Richard Sherman is an especially good one and comes from the weird (to me) era when Stanford was a football school.

I like that Panini does football sets which feature current players in their college uniforms. I wish Topps did the same sort of thing for baseball players but I suspect that there are too many high school and international players that doing a similar set is way more complicated.

The second envelope came from Jeff Katz. Jeff was trying to move some extra Tim Raines autographs and I inquired about what he would be interested in. That all he wanted was a bunch of my customs made this an easy trade for both of us.

I’d ideally like a Raines autograph on an Expos card since the first All Star game I ever watched was in 1987, but I’m also not too picky. Besides, this is my first signed 1992 Pinnacle card. I really liked these as a kid but didn’t trust getting them signed with all that gloss. It’s still a design I like now, clean and crisp while still being very of its time.

Very cool guys. Thanks!

March Returns

A slow month. I didn’t send as much to spring training as I have in previous years and it looks like it was a good idea. A few teams weren’t accepting mail and my own success rate dropped way off the table. Instead I’ve been going through my junk wax duplicates and sending out cards of guys from the sets of my youth. Lots of players who have been forgotten in general but which I recognize because I spent hours looking at these cards.

The first return of the month was a 19-day return from Scott Fletcher. As I work through my junk wax duplicates I’m grabbing cards from sets that I like to get signed. Fletcher was a journeyman glove guy who was good enough to stuck around for a long time despite never really being a locked-in everyday player.

The next return of the month was Mike Stenhouse in 116 days. Same motivation as Fletcher although I kind of like this photo. Something very 1986 Topps about it in its candid informal nature of catching a moment of baseball ma.

It took a while but my first spring training return came back after 22 days of waiting. Not too long but by this point last year I’d already received all but two of my spring training returns. Which meant that I was starting to think I wouldn’t get any (two Return to Senders reached me before this return and the forums had stories about how a number of teams weren’t accepting mail this season).

As a result I was very pleased and very relieved to get these from Tyler Rogers. It’s always nice to add signed customs to the binder and last year’s “hide the Getty watermark” design looks pretty good with some ink. And the 2020 Heritage is probably as close to a signed 1971 I’ll get.

A nice 10-day return from Doug Sisk brought one of the better 1988 Topps photos into the collection. I like 1988’s photo-centric nature but the photos themselves are frequently on the boring side. Not bad. Just uninspired. Batters batting. Pitchers pitching. Players posing. The few fielding cards such as Sisk taking off to cover first stand out for being different and more dynamic.

Ed VandeBerg is one of those guys I remembered because his double last name seemed like it was written differently in every set. 1988’s VandeBERG in particular was always weird to my eyes. But it was nice to fill out a few more of my childhood cards with a quick 11-day return.

A 110-day return from Balor Moore added another 1978 duplicate to the binder. A nicely-lit portrait on this card looks really well with ink. Moore was the Expos’ first pick in the expansion draft.

My second spring training return was 28 days from 2020’s Opening Day catcher Tyler Heineman. Nice to get his Topps card signed in addition to another custom. A bit of a shame that the personalization covers his face though. I enjoy the personalized cards but the face signing is always a bit disappointing.

With Bart and Posey on the team this year, there’s not a lot of room for more catchers. As a result, Heineman is in St. Louis now and seems to have had a decent spring even though he didn’t make the team.

An 8 day return from Jack Lazorko returned things to my childhood card kick. Lazorko is sort of most famous for a highlight clip that used to play on This Week in Baseball. It’s still a fun video to watch and definitely seems like it’s from a different age of the game when it was okay to thing of pitchers as athletes.

Henry Cotto was another 8 day return. I couldn’t decide which Mariners card to send so I sent both. I like the candid photo but the sliding one is the kind of image that doesn’t show up on cards very often. Despite having been a coach in the Giants’ minor league system, Cotto is not going into my Giants binder.

Keith Miller came back in 19 days. There’s something about his 1992 card which just works. It’s kind of a weird photo but suggests a sense of anticipation. The horizontal aspect also works well and gave him a nice space to sign his name.

A 9 day return from Scott Bailes brought some more childhood cards into the collection. For whatever reason I look at these cards and think Bailes is a rookie but he’d been around the league for a while by this point and was even traded for Johnnie Lemaster back in 1985.

Mike Bielecki is one of those guys who I remember watching with a bunch of NL teams. Unfortunately I don’t have any Cubs cards of him—those all went to Beau years ago—but he bounced around to three teams which came through Candlestick while I was a fan. This return came back in 41 days.

Rafael Novoa never got a Major League win but this 1991 card does show his only career save on the back. He was only on the Giants in 1990 and this card came back in 18 days.

A quick 8-day return from Floyd Bannister brought in a 1985 card to the binder. While I’m still contemplating building 1985, I have been adding a few to the autograph binder and have been enjoying how those look signed as a group. It’s also nice to add some stuff outside of my wheelhouse to the childhood card requests that I’ve been making recently.

The last return of the month was a 49-day return from Charles Hudson. I continue to enjoy how the 1986 design looks signed. Hudson lives in Texas and I had sent this request out like a week before the cold snap which destroyed their power grid. I felt a bit guilty about that since I figured he had more important things to handle than answering fan mail. It’s very nice of him to have saved and answered his mail in that time.

And that’s about it. No idea what to expect for April. I’ve a bunch of Spring Training requests out there still. And I’ve sent a decent amount of childhood cards out. Those are fun to get back but not nearly as inspiring as the returns I’ve been used to getting.

What I’ve really go to do is fire up the custom card making machine again and start sending those out. Those remain the most enjoyable part of TTM requests and I’m overdue for a new batch.

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.

Player’s Cigarettes Polar Exploration

One of the best things about pre-war cards is how they reflect earlier ages of human knowledge and interest. Sets like the Peeps into Many Lands and  Wonders of the Past serve as a way of discovering cultures abroad in a time when the world was still big but getting smaller and more interconnected.  Others such as Romance of the Heavens capture the extent of our knowledge about the space in the 1920s.

My favorite trading cards though are the ones that reflect their age of knowledge/interest while simultaneously commemorating current events. Whether it’s a set built around how fast people can go or one summarizing the cutting edge celebrity state of airflight the idea that cards reflect what just happened is something that we still expect from the hobby.

In 1911 and 1916, Player’s Cigarettes released two sets of cards about polar exploration* which are kind of the best example I’ve seen so far for capturing he appeal of pre-war cards. The Age of Polar Exploration at the turn of the century is possibly the last age of heroes going off into the unknown** until we started sending people into space and as a result, is something that I’m not alone in still finding somewhat fascinating.

*Don’t worry I’ll get into the significance of these dates as I get to the cards.

**I’m willing to consider Mt. Everest here but part of that is really just due to the George Mallory disappearance.

The first series is split between North Pole and South Pole but treats each pole very differently. In many ways each pole feels like a distinct set. We’ll start off with the North Pole which consists of 16 out of the 25 cards in the set including a handful of cards which just describe the area.

These cards give a sense of the set. Polar regions, by being mostly ice and snow, are a challenge to illustrate—it’s not easy to keep the ice white while also giving it depth. The pictures as a result aren’t the lush saturated colors that I’m used to with other chromolithography but I find myself appreciating the control in the art and how well it uses the ink it’s allowed to use.

The backs feature some nice design details around the border and provide the usual paragraph of interesting facts. It’s interesting to me how the Aurora Borealis card references European cultures as well since they’re not just visible to the Canadian Arctic.

Aside from the colonizer term, the Inuit cards are surprisingly not too cringe. In fact, given the subject matter of the South Pole cards in the 1916 second series, the content of the Inuit cards is tragically prescient.

Most of the North Pole cards though consist of individual cards which detail the results of various polar explorers. There is a lot of tragedy in this group with Andrée’s balloon and lost Franklin expedition being two of the most prominent.

As the back of the Andrée card shows, at the time of printing no one had any idea what had happened to the three explorers aside from the fact that they had never been seen again. It was only in 1930 when their bodies, logs, and all of Nils Strindberg’s photographs were discovered that the world learned what had happened. While the balloon only flew for three days, the three men survived for three months on the ice—kind of an amazing feat all things considered.

The Franklin expedition is a similar sort of mystery. While the card suggests that the story of his fate was completed in 1850, we only found the graves of many of the explorers in the 1980s and in fact discovered the ships only in the past decade. The coolest part of the ships discovery is how Inuit oral records helped in the search and that while the expedition was considered “lost” but the West there were clearly records of it kept in Inuit culture.

The other North Pole cards consist of  Fridtjof Nansen, William Parry & Henry Hoppner, Parry & John Ross, James Ross, Robert Peary, Henry Hudson, John Cabot, and Eric the Red. That Frederick Cook is absent from this checklist suggests that even by 1911 his claim to have reached the North Pole first was sufficiently discredited.

I’ve included some of the more-striking cards for this section. Unfortunately Peary’s card is not particularly interesting. Eric the Red and John Cabot are kind of wonderful artwork and the Hudson card is probably the most tragic looking of the entire set.

I also had to include the Robert Scott card even though it’s part of the South Pole checklist. Since the second series is all about his tragic Terra Nova Expedition I felt it import to highlight his card here.

Not much to add about the backs of the North Pole explorers except to note how far back in time they go and how polar exploration and the Northwest Passage are linked. Where the South Pole is a distinct achievement in its own, the North Pole was clearly related to other goals.

The back of the Scott card confirms how this set is either a late 1910 or 1911 release since it’s written in present tense. Given what how we know that those tractors were mostly a disaster, using them to represent the entire exhibition was indeed an omen.

Aside from the one Scott card the other eight South Pole cards in the set were dedicated to Ernest Shackleton, in particular the Nimrod Exhibition. These at first appear to be similar to the generic North Pole cards but instead depict specific locations and events from the exhibition.

I enjoy the backs of these and how they both tell the story of the expedition and suggest that the images are related to the scientific mission of the expedition. Googling around suggests that these may be adaptations of George Marston’s paintings—the Aurora Australis one in particular looks very close to both his painting and the cover of his book.

There are also three non-landscape Shackleton cards. One striking portrait and a group picture at the South Magnetic Pole which is taken directly from the photograph. The diary card though is possibly my favorite of the set since it’s distinct among all the pre-war cards I’ve seen.

The back of Shackleton’s portrait contains a nice summary of his exhibition which contrasts wonderfully with the specificity of his diary entry. I also enjoy the idea that his expedition formally added Antarctica to the British Empire because they planted the flag there first.

Anyway that’s the first series. Post-Peary with Shackleton an emerging hero. Scott’s exhibition is underway and with him as the last card of the set it’s clear that Player’s was planning a triumphant second series.

That triumphant second series of course never materialized. It however feels wholly appropriate for the period to release a set which basically commemorates the heroic sacrifices that Scott and his men made. While Scott became a national hero in 1913, this set was released in the middle of World War I and yeah, I can’t imagine a more-appropriate framing for this futile sacrifice on behalf of King and Country.

The back text is clear about the framing of this set with its glowing epitaphs to four of the men who perished. This isn’t just about what they did, it’s about making them into brave, noble heroes who other military men should try and emulate.

The images of the exhibition are more tragic to me since, as with the tractor card in the first series, they show all the stuff which didn’t work. Ponies which couldn’t handle the snow. Dogs which the men got too attached to. Man-hauling sledges. It’s kind of amazing that everything that the cards show was sort of a disaster.

The artwork in the second set is a bit higher contrast than in the first set with an emphasis on the men instead of the landscape they’re in. There’s also a kind of wonderful thing going on with the borders getting a light color which allows the white portions of the image to really pop. There’s also a great sketchy quality to the portraits.

The text on these cards though doesn’t suggest anything went amiss aside from the humor in the dogs eating penguins. Even the crevasse card which shows a man falling in handwaves away the danger of the situation. This seems especially wrong to read now since we’re pretty sure Edgar Evans died as a result of a head injury sustained during such a fall.

Eighteen of the twenty five cards in this set are devoted to the Scott expedition. Compared to the Shackleton cards in the first series though the Scott cards feel like imagined scenes. As much as cards like the the soccer game are fun, they don’t look like the images that document the trip. This is a bit of a shame since Herbert Pontings’s photographs can be spectacular and would’ve made for great cards. Edward Wilson’s watercolors* are also quite nice** and would’ve similarly been nice to see on cards.

*While the idea of photographing in sub-zero polar weather seems insane to me, the idea of making watercolor paintings seems even crazier.

**It’s a shame that there doesn’t seem to be any good records, online or in print, of the exhibition of their work.

Similarly, it would’ve been nice to see some reference to the fossils that were found with Scott’s body and what evidence of Glossopteris living in Antarctica meant in terms of Antarctica’s former climate. (While we recognize those fossils now as evidence of Continental Drift, that theory had not yet been accepted when these cards were printed.)

The seven non-Scott cards consist of three cards depicting penguins and seals and four cards dedicated to the successful Amundsen expedition. Looking at the Amundsen cards reminds me of the North Pole cards in series one which describe the Inuit, their dog sleds, and use of animal hides for keeping warm. It may be that the cardmakers wanted to contrast the native technology with the tractors and other British technology but seeing how things turned out it’s clear that the Inuit methods that Amundsen’s group followed were superior.

We’ll wrap things up with two more portraits. The first is Teddy Evans who’s credited on some sites with being in charge of the artwork and writing on these cards. His portrait is the only one in the set which doesn’t have the sketch quality.

And of course I have to include a portrait of Roald Amundsen whose successful navigation of the Northwest Passage is worthy of inclusion in the first set. It seems a little wrong to dedicate more than four times as many cards to Scott than to Amundsen but there is something evocative even now about the Scott tragedy.

All in all a very fun pair of sets despite the amount of death and loss that they describe. These take me back to a different age of humanity more than any other pre war sets that I have and I love the way that looking at them and reading the backs allows me to travel back in time.

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.

February Returns

A slow month caused by me taking a few weeks off from sending requests before gearing up for spring training. The backlog of stragglers however came through in a big way with a couple nice cards.

The first return of February was well worth the 84-day wait. When I was a kid 50 home runs in a season was a big deal. It had only happened once since 1965 and as a result George Foster was just one of those players I knew. I had to explain who he was to my kids though since they’ve grown up in an era where we average a 50 home run season a year.* Yes each of those guys is a star the year it happens but the accomplishment is nowhere near what it used to be.

*Starting with Cecil Fielder in 1990, 50 home runs have happened 30 times over the following 30 years.

As a Giants fan, Foster is of course one of the biggest “what if” stories in team history.* I don’t actually have a lot of his cards (it would’ve been nice to get a Reds card signed) but this 2003 Topps Shoebox card which recreates his 1971 Rookie Card as a solo card was a nice duplicate to have handy and offered a way to get his autograph on a Giants card. And yes, while it’s not a 1971 card it could serve as a stand-in for tha year in my one-per-year not-actually-a-project thing.

*Though not as big as the “what if the Giants had offered Hank Aaron $50 more in his salary” scenario which suggests the possibility of Hank and Willie Mays playing in he outfield together for 15 years.

Don Kessinger was another return that took over a couple months. Only 70 days this time as he signed another of my 1978 duplicates. While he’s mainly a Cub, his 1978 is nice to have since that was the year he became the last player-manager in the American League. He only managed into 1979 but it’s still a fun thing to commemorate.

Another straggler. Another 1978 duplicate. Another fun return, this time from Steve Rogers. Like Doug DeCinces, Rogers is one of the player represenatives who I learned about when reading Split Season and yeah, 207 days after I sent this request I still have work stoppages and labor disputes on my brain.

Randy Hunt played in 25 games over two seasons with only 13 hits in 67 at bats (2 home runs though). However, he received a truly wonderful card as his only MLB card. It’s hard to imagine a better version of this moment with him halfway through his first step out of the crouch, face visible after having just removed his mask, cap just hanging out in mid-air, and eyes up tracking the ball. Of course I had to send this card out.

I thought it was gone too. Hunt typically turns things around in a couple weeks and I sent this in mid-summer. It finally came back 199 days later in a water-damaged envelope and I was a bit concerned. Then I opened it up and found two cards where I’d only sent one. If I had to guess, it would be that something happened to my request on the way to Hunt and he held on to it until he could replace the card I’d sent with a cleaner version.

Sid Bream in 9 days added another 1991 Studio to the collection. HE’s one of those names which takes me back to my childhood as I remember watching him at Candlestick as both a Pirate and a Brave and of course I also remember watching him on TV in that fantastic 1992 National League Championship Series.

I wish I had a Giants card of Wilson Alvarez since he was part of that 1997 team that brought me back to the sport. I didn’t though so I had to make due with this pair of 1992s. I like the Upper Deck but I kind of love the idea of getting those No Hit Club cards signed (I got Tommy Greene previously). He was a pretty good pitcher in the 1990s though his stint with the Giants wasn’t as good as we hoped it would be. These came back in 10 days.

A 12-day return from Zane Smith is very much like the Sid Bream return in a guy who I just remember seeing around the National League. I don’t particularly like the 1990 card but it’s nice to get one for each team.

While I’m not an A’s fan, I can’t deny that those late-80s, early-90s teams were a big part of my baseball upbringing. Terry Steinbach seems to have been kind of forgotten by the larger baseball fandom but he was a solid catcher and even won the All Star Game MVP. It was very nice to get this back in 73 days.

I don’t follow a lot athletes on Twitter but I do follow Don August. He’s not a prolific tweeter but he has a tendency to drop wild stories about playing ball overseas. He’s also a great TTM guy and turned this around in 15 days.

And that’s that for February. No idea what to expect for March. I’ve sent a bunch of Spring Training requests out but those are increasingly a crapshoot. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ll get a few customs back though.

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.

Hinchliffe

One of the fun things about being both the co-chair of the SABR Baseball Cards Committee and someone who makes his own customs cards is that my expertise in both design and production is something I get to share with other custom card makers. Since I don’t have a ton of trading inventory, I treat my expertise as part of what I add to the community since I can’t always add cards.

Last month, a new member to the community asked me for printing recommendations for custom cards. While I do my own with Magcloud, I used 4over4.com for SABR’s Mike Aronstein Burdick Award card since I wanted to print on C1s and use a thicker card stock. Plus I wasn’t only printing eight copies.

Donna (@TheLensOfDonnaM) is a new SABR member who, as a photographer, I hope to see adding another voice about photography to the blog. She was interested in printing cards on nice thick uncoated stock so I pointed her toward 4over4. When she got her cards back she asked me if she could send me a set and I was happy to accept.

Donna’s cards are of Hinchliffe Stadium which I was completely unaware of despite it being located only an hour or so away from me. I was aware of the Elysian Fields location in Hoboken and had begun to think about the locations of other stadiums such as the Trenton Giants park where Willie Mays played his first games as a member of the Giants organization. But hadn’t begun to think about things like former Negro League stadiums.

That Hinchliffe is still standing is very cool and Donna’s little set has inspired me to try and take a field trip there some time once such things are feasible to do again.

I especially like Donna’s back design which emulates the text-only backs of 1930s Goudey cards. It’s not an exact match, instead she chose fonts which are proportioned better for the modern card aspect ratio and, as a result, the text balance feels right. This is a subtle thing that a lot of first-time card creators would completely miss.

Very very cool and I can’t wait to try and see Hinchliffe in person.

Childhood brain explode

I mentioned this in my January returns wrap up but it deserves to be its own post. Where my childhood collecting goal was to get one card from every set, I’m fast approaching a place where I’ll accomplish my childhood goal with autographed cards. This hasn’t been an explicit project or anything it’s just been mostly organic growth as a result of my autograph hobby.

Taking a look at Topps right now. As a kid I had cards from 1960–1994 (minus 1965). Right now? 1957–1997 minus 1971, 1975, 1982, and 1996—three years with facsimile signatures and one that’s past my childhood window.

I don’t like the facsimile signature thing but the double signature doesn’t look awful in the 1959, 1967, and 1977s here. I do like that my 1980 card is a non-facsimile card and I’ll likely find a way to get the three years I don’t have. I also expect to gradually add more-recent cards to this. I have a decent number of 1997 but there’s multi-year gap before I get to them.

It’s fun to see a sample of everything all together so I figured I’d do this with the other flagship brands from my youth.

Donruss is one where I have a sample from 1981–1993. No 1994s. Go figure. I don’t usually pick Donruss designs for autograph requests although 1986–1989 tends to feature decent photos. The printing though is frequently super dark and not the best for showing off a signature.

Fleer is a better autograph card. Even 1982 with its disastrous photography frames things pretty nicely. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to get 1991 signed and for some reason haven’t gotten any 1993s either. Everything else from 1981–1994 is here though.

I’ve also gone ahead and done the rest of the Fleer run since there are no multi-year gaps here. Post-strike I’m just missing 1995, 1998, and 2001 which brings me to missing five years total from the 1981–2003 run.

Score is the first manufacturer where I have a complete run of examples even extending past my childhood collecting. It’s helped by only starting in 1988 but I have signed cards from there through 1995. I frequently like how Score signs although I shy away from the 1992 design.

Upper Deck, especially the 1990–1993 run, is a other favorite of mine. Like Score I have samples into 1995. Unlike Score, that Upper Deck rivals Topps as the card of record up until 2010 means I have a decent shot of carrying the run forward. Upper Deck’s designs have also meant that, like Fleer, I’ve accumulated a decent number of autographed samples for the post-strike years too. For the run from 1989–2007, I’m missing just 1996, 2000, and 2005.

As I said at the beginning, this isn’t something I’m doing on purpose. But it’s definitely something that’s a lot of fun to keep track of. My childhood brain wasn’t even able to conceive of accomplishing something like this and in this hobby it’s always good to remind myself to keep that sense of wonder in mind.