Art Card PC

William Klein died on the tenth. As a photographer he managed to combine street photography with fashion and really nail down how a photographic glimpse can suggest movement and mood. He also has a bunch of photographs of 1950s kids in New York, of which “Gun 1” may be the most famous.

I wrote a little about “Gun 1” and how it represents how we grow up, absorb, and reenact crime stories a few years ago but it was another Klein photo that came to my mind first when he died.

William Klein, “Baseball Cards”, 1955

Much like “Gun 1,” “Baseball Cards” is a photo of kids hamming it up for the camera and indulging in American mythology. Only this time it’s not a mythology of violence. Instead it’s baseball, baseball cards, and the way you want to show off that you have a card of your hero.

While a lot of art sites date this photo as 1954–1955, any baseball card collector will immediately identify the cards as 1955 Bowman. A quick check through the couple dozen light-bordered cards shows that the featured card is Yankee Gil McDougald. This is perfect for a photo taken in New York City.

I tweeted out a RIP from the SABR Baseball Cards account and included an image of “Baseball Cards” because the number of times cards show up in art is pretty small. Then I promptly realized that for some reason I’d never considered getting a McDougald card despite being an art/photography junkie. Mark Armour promptly offered to send me a copy before I had a chance to even go to COMC.

The card arrived a week ago. Turns out that this was Mark’s only 1955 Bowman duplicate so there’s a certain amount of kismet involved here. It’s fantastic and you can see that it is indeed the card which is featured in the Klein photograph. McDougald is also not a player whose career I’m particularly familiar with but looking up his stats I can see that he’d absolutely be the kind of player a Yankees fan would be happy to have. A very good 10-year career, 6-time All Star, and a key part of 5 World Series championships and 8 Pennants.

I still need to identify the other card in the Klein photo* but this is joining a bunch of 1979 Topps cards in my Art Card mini-PC. This isn’t cards as art but cards that show up in art.

*The current leading candidate is Randy Jackson. That Jackson and McDougald are both pretty low numbers on the checklist also suggests that the kids might have their piles sorted by number. 

The 1979 Topps cards of course are the cards that show up in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Anti-product Baseball Cards. I mentioned a checklist in my post where Marc set me a few of these but I may as well put everything here.

William Klein’s “Baseball Cards”

☑︎ 1955 Bowman #9 Gil McDougald
☐ 1955 Bowman #87 Randy Jackson

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Anti-product Baseball Cards

☐ 1979 Topps #58 Bob Randall (JERK)
☐ 1979 Topps #82 Mets Team Card (checklist)
☑︎ 1979 Topps #196 Steve Kemp (HOT DOG)
☐ 1979 Topps #315 John Matlack (Wally)
☑︎ 1979 Topps #343 Ed Glynn (BUS PASS)
☑︎ 1979 Topps #445 Steve Henderson (JOE)

I currently can’t think of any other cards for this PC—maybe the pair of Pete Rose 1985 Topps cards even though Andy Warhol’s print doesn’t match either of them—but I’m hoping more will come to me. Until then this is a fun thing to have going on in the background.

¡Por Fin!

A quick roundup of a few mailings that I haven’t posted about yet but which I did not receive while I was on vacation. The first one came from Mike Sommer before I left. Mike blogs over at Wax Pack Hero and is one of the few guys who are big into the selling side of the hobby who I can stand.

There are a lot of guys on Twitter who sell cards and claim to be collectors but who are really just flippers looking to make a quick buck without offering anything of value themselves. Mike though specializes in the long tail and is willing to put the work in to turn large lots of cards into organized 18¢ singles on his Sportlots.

While I’d love to dig through big unsorted boxes of cards like he does, I’d much rather pay him 18¢ a card just for the cards I want rather than spending 100 times as much and having to deal with sorting and storing everything.

Anyway a couple months ago he was sorting through some 1984 Fleer and tweeted that he’d come across the legendary Glenn Hubbard card. I responded that I still hadn’t purchased one  for my collection and he just offered to send this one to me. Which means that at least one gaping hole in my 1980s and 1990s iconic card photos* is now filled.

*Still need Jay Johnstone, Billy Ripken, Bo Jackson, Gary Pettis, and Mike Perez.

This is such a weird card in how it’s both a common and not. No one wants to spend a ton of money on a Glenn Hubbard card just because it has a silly photo. At the same time, everyone wants one of these and holds on to them. They‘re frequently not available on any of the card purchasing sites which is an astounding thing to say about any card from the junk wax era.

Thanks Mike! I’m super happy to finally have this one in the photography binder.

On the topic of photography, a couple weeks ago Shlabotnik Report saw me mention my appreciation for the goofiness on 1976 SSPC and promptly filled up a PWE to send me a few. Only three SSPCs but they definitely fit the bill—especially the Jim Colborn card.

He managed to fit a dozen cards into the PWE though and managed to hit with most of them. Lots of Willie Mays inserts which I didn’t have. A shiny Kris Bryant insert.* A fun Joe Panik card from San José Giants. And of course a SPAM card** for the Python collection.

*Interesting to see Panini trying to keep Donruss Elite a thing still. As if the hobby would go bananas about a /10,000 “limited edition” card nowadays.

**Oh lord is it dangerous to know that SPAM cards exist. One of these days someone out there is going to send a whole mailer of SPAM cards. Also I should definitely consider converting a 1980s/90s food oddball to be a SPAM oddball for a se of Hawaiian-born players. 

Awesome stuff, thanks Joe Shlabotnik!

Vacation PWEs

While I was on vacation, in addition to the sixteen TTM returns I was also pleasantly surprised to find a handful of PWE trade packages waiting for me as well. Always nice when it’s not just bills and junk mail waiting.

The first package is from Greg/Night Owl and includes a page’s worth of fun. I missed out on his giveaway* and apparently these are the only remaining 1985 Fleers he had to get rid of. I’ll gladly take them though and remind myself to put a need list together.**

*Relying on an RSS reader means I miss out on any timed contests.

**Though I also don’t have enough cards to feel like a needlist is necessary yet. Who puts a set needlist up with over 600 cards?

The two 2009 O Pee Chee black borders are great. The more I look at the last 25 years of baseball cards the more sets like this one stand out for being distinct in both feeling like a traditional set while also not directly copying an old design. It would’ve been nice to see what Upper Deck did with this brand had Topps not grabbed an exclusive license in 2010.

Not much to say about the rest of the cards though I do appreciate the 2022 2021 Big League Crawford since I’m not hitting that set hard at all. Also I’m super curious how Greg, as a Dodgers fan who doesn’t go for all the fancy shmancy new stuff, ended up with a 2019 Montgomery Club Giants team card.

A PWE from Jeff Katz almost works as a TTM return. Years ago I was playing around with photoshop and throwing together some Ginter-like cards. Jeff was one of the first I ran through the Ginterizer since his moment wearing the Mayor Quimby sash for the Simpsons day was brilliant. Yeah I couldn’t get all of “Mayor” to fit without making Jeff look like Kingpin.

When Marc printed these all up he sent them to everyone. I got my copies but when Jeff got his I asked for a signed one. He signed small so it would fit on the paper. I’m curious how a silver sharpie would’ve worked instead but not everyone has those lying around.

Another PWE had two packs of John Racanelli’s Literal Cards. This has been an ongoing thing on Twitter where John posts often awful but also often hilarious tweaks on existing cards. I never expected him to actually produce these but I’m glad he did.

There’s something about making them real cards that takes the joke to the next level. My kids also enjoyed them—especially Les Rohr and Willie Mays—which surprised me a little because they always groan when I make these kinds of jokes.

And finally a mini-zapping from Kenny who came into a nice lot of Card Gens and generously decided to spread the wealth. These are always welcome in part because it gives me an excuse to link to Kenny’s You Tube video again but because the actual use of these cards is so far outside how we’ve thought of using cards in the US.

The few Card Gens I have have all come from Kenny and to-date, have been from the 2010 set. This is the first 2012 I have and the fact that it’s a Giant is even cooler. I still hold out hope that I’ll run into the 2012 Sam Fuld on of these days since it’s the only card he got that year.

Very cool guys and thanks for livening up my post-vacation mail pile.

August returns

This is really the second half of July plus August since I was away on vacation for a month and a half. I filled up the hopper before I left and was pleasantly rewarded for it.

Elapsed time on these includes my time on vacation (hence nothing shorter than 60 days) but much to my surprise I got a decent number of stragglers back as well.

We’ll start with the stragglers and a 502-day return from Brad Komminsk. Way back when, Komminsk was one of those “can’t miss” prospects. Unfortunately he could never translate his minor league success to the majors.

He did however play 8 games for the Giants in April 1990 as he was picked up off of waivers at the beginning of the season. So despite having zero Giants cards he slips into my Giants binder.

Pat Rapp is another straggler with a 488-day return. HE’s also another short-term Giants who I saw in San José before he debuted with the team in 1992. He was picked up by the Marlins in the Expansion Draft the following year but did make it back to San Francisco in 1997as part of that magical season.

Not officially a straggler but Brian Holman returned a pair of cards in 207 days. Holman had a short but very respectable four-year career that got cut short by injury. His career highlight was retiring 26 straight batters before losing his perfect game.

While the end of the 1993 season kind of stung as a Giants fan, we did find a little amusement in the Phillies beating the Braves in the NLCS and a lot of amusement in Danny Jackson’s Hulkamania celebration. When I found a photo of it I knew I had to turn it into a custom and send it out. 196 days later it came back. Jackson kept the extras and I hope he enjoyed them.

A 146-day return from Bud Black sort of twisted the knife a bit on my disappointment in how the Giants no longer sell game-day programs. Their covers used to be fantastic and while this one may not have the goofy humor of Will’s World or Caveman the photo composite is fantastic and, as with the Jackson return, is well worth the wait.

Mike Loynd is a bit like Brad Komminsk in terms of big hype which didn’t pan out. Loynd was the 1986 Golden Spikes winner and made it to the majors that same year, only two months after being drafted. 1987 ended up being his last MLB season though since after the Rangers traded him he never got back. He sent this back in 145 days.

A good portion of my returns this month are 1987 Topps since that’s wha I was filling the hopper with. The oldest of these that I got back last month was a 117-day return from Chris Codiroli whose signature looks pretty nice o this card. Codiroli was a pitcher for most of the 1980s with six of those seasons being as a regular part of the A’s rotation. He was even the Opening Day starter in 1985.

Manny Sanguillén doesn’t need much of a bio even though he gets lost in the deep catching pool of the 1970s. Anyone who can beat out Johny Bench for an All Star slot is special and his part in the first all-black MLB lineup is also worth mentioning. I’m glad I had a 1976 card handy since it looks great signed and the 87-day turnaround was absolutely worth it.

A 65-day return from Teddy Higuera added a player and card which immediately brings me back to my first years of collecting. He had great 1986 and 1987 seasons and to me he’ll always be an All Star first despite his career getting derailed by injury.

Ray Soff got into a bunch of games in 1986 and only a dozen in 1987. But he managed to get onto a pair of cards in the 1987 Topps set since the Cardinals Leaders card features a nice candid shot of him on the mound. This return clocks in at 65 days which means it was one of the last requests I sent out before my vacation.

Cliff Speck is a single-season guy but he does have a notable career highlight. Well “highlght.” He gave up the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 33rd inning in the longest professional baseball game in history. H returned this in 63 days.

A 63-day return from Bob Tewksbury brought the kind of player I miss in the modern game. Tewksbury was a right-handed junkballer who put together a very good 13-year career. He’s third all-time in walk rate among modern pitchers and threw a 79 pitch complete game one-hit shutout with no walks and only three strikeouts. I like Game Score as a stat for fun but it definitely shows its faults when someone throws up a Maddux.

Another 63-day return this time from Bob Kearney. He made his MLB debut with the Giants in 1979 but didn’t become a full-time player or really show up on proper cardboard until 1983. These still slide into my Giants album though.

Rich Yett had an intersting career. He started off in the bullpen, became a starter for over a year, then ended up back in the pen. This was in 62 days and I kind of like how the 1990 Topps card turned out.

Bill Gullickson had a nice 14-year career and led the AL in wins in 1991. It also looks like he proved to be a bit of an inspiration in Japan because he was able to play despite being diabetic. I also like the story about him inspiring Sam Fuld. This came back in 61 days.

A 60-day return form Bryan Oelkers means this was probably the last card I sent out before leaving. Oelkers is one of four MLB players to have been born in Spain and, when he debuted, was the first from Spain since 1913.

A good month and lots of fun to return to after a vacation. Next month will likely be super dry since I haven’t sent anything out in over 60 days. But who knows there are always more stragglers out there and I never give up on a return.

Some Random Pickups

A short post of a few pickups that came in before I left for vacation. These are all cards I never expected to get since they’ve been generally out of my league pricewise but one day my phone lit up with multiple Twitter DMs linking to the same ebay auctions for these at actually-reasonable prices.

Y’all are bad influences. But let’s go through these in order from oldest to newest.

Starting off we’ve got a 1958 HiRes Rootbeer card of Darryl Spencer. I have mixed feelings on this design. I don’t really like it on a personal level. At the same time it’s so weird and goofy that it’s the perfect oddball card. I also love this particular image since the khothole gang design works way better with action photos than portraits and the outfield advertisements add a ton of visual interest.

This design is also especially noteworthy as being one of Bowman’s three 1956 prototypes. One reason I don’t like it is that it’s way too visually similar to 1955 Bowman’s wood-paneled TVs. But I can totally see it being the starting design for 1962 Topps’s peeling posters on wood design (and by extension 1987’s wood panel homage to 1962).

I always wanted one of these, never thought I’d get one, so having one in the binder now makes me super happy.

Next is a 1966 Topps Rub Off of Jim Hart.* Unlike the Hires cards these never really appealed to me. Besides the reversed image they’re also pretty flimsy and blurry. At the right price though I can obviously be convinced to get a sample.

*Which confuses me a little because so many of the letters in his name are symmetric and I can’t not read this as Trah Mil. 

It is indeed fun to get to know all the different things Topps tried in the 1960s and I’ve only scratched the surface with the Rub Off and this 1968 sticker of Mike McCormick. I’ve no stamps, decals, stand ups, or god knows what else but these are definitely fun to add to the binder even though I never search for them.

I think the McCormick sticker was peeled off and stuck to something at some point since it feels like the kiss-cut outline of a real sticker instead of a janky handcut. Plus the back could totally be no-longer-sticky adhesive. This set is more fun than the Rub Offs with it’s brighter colors and heavy black outlines and while I don’t feel it for these small stickers I absolutely feel he appeal for the full-size ones. Those however are definitely out of my price range.

Thanks goes to everyone who let me know about these. You troublemakers know who you are and my collection is definitely better and more interesting as a result.

Big Giants!

While it wasn’t as long since I went to a San José game, it’s been way too long since I’ve been to any Major League game. The last time I had tickets was 2020 and that didn’t turn out well. We’d had hopes of getting to a Giants game this summer though* and, thanks to the recent swoon, I was able to find tickets for super cheap. This would be the first game I went to with both boys since I’d previously only taken one at a time in 2018 and 2019 for their own personal first game experiences.

*Also want to get to an A’s game but for the life of me I cannot figure out why upper deck tickets for the A’s are so expensive. $30 for field level. $30 for upper deck. Makes no sense to me at all. 

I didn’t take many photos. Not a first and I didn’t want to make as big deal of it. Plus we’re all wearing masks on the train* and in crowds so the photos aren’t as nice. We got to the stadium early enough to walk around a little bit, see the World Series trophies, and hit the Coca Cola slides (not as exciting as they remembered) but didn’t do the full slow circuit either. While I don’t want the stadium experience to become routine, not every visit needs to be treated the same as a first visit.

*Amusingly this was both boys’ first train ride since 2019. Usually we train to Newark Airport but this year got caught up in a wildcat strike. They’d forgotten what it was like to ride a train. 

Thanks to Trenton being awesome and providing free programs and scorecards at every game, the boys have become accustomed always acquiring a scorecard and keeping score. Much to my surprise when I hit the Giants souvenir stand, I discovered that the Giants no longer make either scorecards or programs.

I understand that they may not be big sellers anymore but not having anything available just feels wrong. Buying a scorecard and keeping score is one of those old-school baseball traditions and it’s really rough, especially in this day and age of no ticket stubs, to have no scorecards available either as a handy binderable souvenir.

As unimpressed as I was by this, at least the Guest Services desk was offering free copies of the scorecard printouts that they provide for the press. These are actually pretty nice except for the fact that they’re legal sized pieces of paper that you can’t write on unless you have a desk. Thankfully I had a notebook and folder in my bag that were hard enough to write on.

We made it to our seats in time for lineups and the national anthem. Same spot I grew up with up high and behind the plate. Things felt more like the Giants games I used to attend up there with a much looser crowd that thinned out even more as you moved away from the plate

My eldest has turned into a pretty observant fan and is noticing things that have changed since his last visit and how the teams are arrayed on the field. My youngest was sick to his stomach because he was worried the Giants would lose again and that he was bringing them bad luck. He was however into the game even, as with his first game, though he couldn’t keep up with the scorecard because he was sort of overwhelmed.

Turns out that he shouldn’t have been too concerned. Alex Cobb settled down after a rough first inning and somehow got through 6 innings in under 100 pitches while only allowing one run. The team got some clutch hitting, drove in runners in scoring position, and both took the lead early and never let Arizona get back into things.

Was nice to see Madison Bumgarner pitch* even though it does hurt a little to see him get jumped on. But it’s cool to be able to give him a proper ovation as thanks. He’ll always be welcome in San Francisco.

*My youngest wore a Bumgarner shirsey even though he knew he was starting for Arizona.

Lots of excitement with Longoria’s home run being the first Giants home run either of them has seen live. And with Joey Bart first laying down a perfect bunt then smacking the absolute tar out of the ball with a double that went off the top of the arcade and a single off the left field wall. Either ball is slightly higher and Bart has two home runs including a splash hit from a right-hander.

My youngest wasn’t comfortable until the last out was recorded though. Then it was big smiles as we walked out and I realized how serious he had been taking things. Hopefully now that he knows he isn’t bad luck he’ll be able to relax more. Either that or we just have to go to more games next summer.

Because we have to rush to catch the train—Caltrain only gives us 15 minutes after the game ends to get to the station—we finished up our scorecards on the ride home. Not a bad way to do things and wrap up the night. Has been a while since I kept score on a nicely laid out scorecard too. My only complaints are that four lines for pitchers makes zero sense in the modern game and it would be nice to have substitute lines for all the players too.

Other than that this got me thinking seriously about designing my own scorecards and getting them printed. Will be good to not have to rely on them being available at the stadium as well as have a layout that doesn’t suck.

Little Giants!

Much of my love for Minor League Baseball is because I grew up going to San José Giants games. Their affiliation started in 1988—right at the beginning of my baseball fandom*—and the idea of seeing players who I could later see at Candlestick was definitely compelling right out of the gate. But the games were just fun. A more raucous environment. Being able to sit nice and close. Crazy contests like Smash for Cash.** They all made me appreciate minor league ball and we were quickly going to multiple games a year and I even had my birthday party at a game.

*I knew about the Bees and even got the one and only foul ball I’ve ever gotten when I was walking past a Bees game a the exact right moment but never went to a game.

**Late in the game when the Peter Gunn theme started and the Rotten Robbie truck rolled out onto the field was always a highlight.

I missed going to a game when I was visiting California in 2019 and had zero idea that it would be another three years before I had a chance to go back. Thankfully I finally got back to a game last week. Turkey Mike’s BBQ is still there. As are the Churro guy* and the Beer Batter.** Since our tickets were free we got BBQ and churros. Unfortunately though Smash for Cash is gone…so it goes.

*I still need to get his card.

**A gimmick that Trenton tried this year but hasn’t figured out how to do it as well as San José. Sadly it looks like Martinelli’s has dropped its sponsorship so he’s no longer the apple juice batter after the 7th inning.

The big news is that the Giants are in Low-A now. And it kind of shows with baseball that’s closer to what I saw in the Draft League at Trenton than in AA Somerset. The Giants spotted Stockton with a 7–0 lead after 1.5 innings (making us question whether we’d wasted our money on the tickets) and proceeded to tie everything up at 8 apiece via a grand slam and Earl Weaver through three complete.

Utterly wild but absolutely in keeping with this level of ball where no lead is big enough and no pitcher can be relied on. Or fielder. The second Giants pitcher (Joe Kemlage) took over in the 3rd and pitched a great game—2 earned runs in 5 innings—with his biggest problems coming as a result of some sloppy shortstop play that gifted Stockton a run.

Unfortunately the Giants could never get the lead despite making it exciting in the 9th and lost 10–9. Kemlage got hung with an undeserved Loss but we went home happy after a game that started off so badly ended up being surprisingly crisp and exciting.

Oh, and the Beer Batter hit the absolute tar out of the ball all night as he not only never came close to a strikeout but got thrown out trying to stretch his second double into the cycle in the 9th inning.

The boys and I also got some autographing in. Travis Ishikawa is the Giants hitting coach and we caught him before the game. San José Muni is one of the lousiest places I’ve ever seen to get autographs* so I counted that as a win. Both boys know Ishikawa and his eponymous game so they were very happy too.

*It wasn’t easy when I was a kid but it’s gotten worse. There’s basically zero access to the players on the field and no place to hang around after the game.

We got some excitement as well. Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy were in the house that night (probably in town for that weekend’s 2012 reunion). We saw both by the cages and it was nice to say hi. We had nothing proper to get signed (plus we’ve gotten them TTM) so we didn’t bother them much. It was funny to see the boys get a bit star struck by Boch since they did not expect him to be so big.

Really interesting for me to compare the player behavior to what I see on Somerset. Guys in San José are clearly still excited to have cards and are perfectly willing to not only sign a ton but chat about what pens they prefer. A shame they lose that joy by the time they reach AA.

All in all a great night. San José Muni is celebrating its 80th birthday this season which sent me to the googles to see how many professional baseball stadiums in the US are older than it. From what I can tell there are 7 older stadiums (5 MiLB and 2 MLB) currently in regular use which is about what I expected.

Stadiums don’t really last that long and Muni is definitely showing its age. It’s almost embarrassingly bare bones compared to Trenton or Somerset but it’s got a lot of character and has definitely gone around to being funky old instead of just a dump (replacing the fiberglass bleachers with aluminum ones helped a ton) and as the Bay Area has gotten increasingly new and shiny and characterless it’s nice to spend time in those places that essentially haven’t changed.

July Returns

I sent a ton of stuff out at the end of June because summer activities were starting to fill up and as a result July and August were likely going to be zero-request months. Always nice to fill the hopper and see what happens and returns did continue to come in.

A lot of the requests were 1987 Topps duplicates and sure enough the first return of the month was one of them. Marvell Wynne is one of those guys who I definitely remember seeing a Candlestick with multiple visiting teams back in the late 1980s. As a Giants fan, thankfully his back-to-back-to-back game was in San Diego. He signed this pair in 8 days.

A 7 day return from Steve Farr brought both another 1987 Topps and another 1991 Studio. Something about those 1987s with powder blue uniforms really hits the nostalgia button for me. And it’s always nice to add another 1991 Studio. I’m not trying to build a signed set but this takes me to over the 10% mark (aka 27).

An 11-day return from Pat Pacillo was not on a 1987 card but a 1988 duplicate. Pacillo was part of the 1984 Olympic team and has a USA card in the 1985 set. Unfortunately I didn’t have one of those handy but he played for a couple years with Reds and ended up in all the 1988 releases as a result.

I got a bunch of Dennis Leonard cards back in 8 days. Sometimes you just have a bunch of duplicates. I made a joke on Twitter about how he barely aged from 1976 to 1987 then someone pointed out that the photo on his 1987 card has to be from 1982 because the Royals switched to the script Royals in 1983. This is now the second card I know of in 1987 Topps which uses a year-old photo as the Giants team card features Jim Barr in a photo from 1983.*

*Has to be 1983 because of the uniforms. TCDB claims it’s Jim Gott but Gott wore number 51 and the pitcher in the photo is wearing a number in the 30s. Also Barr has signed the 1987 card TTM.

An 11-day return from Bill Krueger brought another 1987 Topps card back. Krueger had a 13-year career in which he played for 8 different teams. His longest stint was with the A’s at 5 years and then he pitched no more than 2 years with anyone else. His seasons with the Brewers though did result in a net-positive WAR and his second-highest number of innings pitched.

Continuing on the 1987 theme is a return from John Stefero in 8 days. Stefero was a backup catcher who played in parts of three seasons but managed to get into 52 games in 1986. The most noteworthy moment in his career seems to be his game-winning hit in a game that the Orioles scored six runs in the 8th inning to turn an early 7–0 deficit into a 9–7 lead only to blow it in the 9th inning  and need a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th for a 10–9 win.

Mike Boddicker is the kind of pitcher we just don’t see anymore. A right handed junkballer whose stuff Rod Carew famously called “Little League slop,” he had a very-respectable 14-year career including a big part in the 1983 Orioles World Series championship as well as winning 20 games and leading the league in ERA in 1984. He signed this pair in 10 days.

Mike Smithson was another 10-day return with a trio of cards. While he was part of the 1987 Twins team he didn’t feature in the postseason and only played there once Boston started running into those late-80s A’s teams.

While I pulled a 1987 duplicate of Jose Cruz from my pile I decided that I preferred to send this pair of 1981 cards. Cruz is one of those all-time underrated guys who resonates with anyone who saw him play but has kind of been forgotten by everyone else. A shame since he had a great career with a run of consistently good and occasionally excellent seasons from 1975 to 1986. Very happy to add him to the binder in a quick 12 days.

An 11-day return from Mike Vail brought one of those players who I didn’t realize played for the Giants. His only Giants card is in the 1983 Mothers Cookies set so there’s a reason I missed him. Vail put together a 10-year career by playing for 7 different teams. He had a 23-game hitting streak as a rookie but never rally found that form again.

And finally a 15-day return from Steve Fireovid to wrap up a 1987-heavy month. He was in the majors for 6 years but aside from a 1992 Bowman card just featured in the 1987 sets. He’s probably most notable for keeping a journal of his minor league experiences in 1990 which he then turned into a book. I’ve not read it but it seems like a lot of people were expecting something like Ball Four and got something a lot less silly. Probably an interesting read now though given the amount of action going on with regard to finally fixing the situation for minor league players.

And that’s about it for the month. Very 1987 heavy but that’s a good thing. I’ve been avoiding this set for a while because it gets used way too often but it does make me happy to see them signed. It was my first real set from my first real season as a fan and even though Topps has been trying to ruin the design through constant reuse the actual cards themselves still bring me right back to being in elementary school.

A Few Minor League Games

Been going to more minor league games over the past month. A good way to stay relaxed especially while I’m still more comfortable only doing outside activities.

Untitled

I got up to Somerset on the first day of summer and was treated to kind of an amazing weather show—typical New Jersey where the weather can’t choose and instead ends up with a little of everything. This culminated in a spectacular 8:30 sunset and rainbow combination.

The game against Hartford was pretty good too. Both teams were fighting for the firs half championship and the result was as tight as expected. Luis Medina started for the Patriots and it’s clear why he’s a top prospect since he’s no just capable of throwing 100mph gas but has some nasty offspeed stuff that he can rely on too. Unfortunately he could only make it through the Hartford lineup twice and the bullpen wasn’t as sharp.

Somerset did have its chances but couldn’t get that clutch hit and fell to a 3–2 loss. And as good as Medina was my main memory of the game was that it turned into an Ump show with an inconsistent strike zone (which contributed to Medina hitting 90 pitches in the 5th inning) as well as inserting themselves into ever single call they could.

Though I also need to mention that one of the Hartford players is actually from Somerset and his grandmother threw out the first pitch to him so that was pretty cool.

Yes I did get autographs. The Somerset environment isn’t great for getting signatures but I did bring a couple cards of their coach since those are pretty easy to get. While I’m happy to have added Chris Denorfia to the collection (especially on my first signed 2008 Upper Deck) I totally missed that Blaine Beatty was the pitching coach and as a guy who pitched in the early 1990s I have plenty of his cards lying around.

Untitled

I caught another great sunset at the Trenton-Mahoning Valley game the following week. Unlike my previous game this one was mostly good. A Mahoning Valley error in the first lead to three runs which were all Trenton really needed. A great read by Thunder coach Jeff Manto allowed a runner to score from first base on a hit and run and give the Thunder an insurance run after Mahoning Valley had clawed a couple runs back in the top of the 6th.

It turned out that the Draft League mandates 7-inning games on Tuesdays (excluding home openers) before the Amateur Draft so this game ended in a quick two hours with a 4–2 6.5 inning Thunder victory. Trenton, being a wonderfully fan-centered place treats the 7-inning ticket stubs as a coupon for a free ticket to another game so that was an unexpected bonus.

Two Mahoning Valley coaches played in the majors. Homer Bush has a bunch of cards so I just went with a pair of nice photos and managed to get my first signed 1998 Fleer as well. Ron Mahay though, despite a 14-year career and over 500 games played, has just a solitary individual card and only two MLB cards in all. And they’re both ridiculously hard to track down since apparently no one collected or sells Topps Total.

I’m glad I found one but this kind of thing is possibly  my least favorite aspect of the modern card collecting industry. It’s been a lot of fun getting autographs at the draft league games because it reminds me how much baseball cards matter. The players in particular love to see their coaches’ cards and, correctly, treat them as tangible evidence of having made it to the big leagues.

Everyone who plays in the majors should have a card yet the number of guys who can play for years and never get a card is really frustrating. It took Mahay seven years to get a “rookie” card and that’s just wrong.

Untitled

I used my free ticket last week on a game against Williamsport. Another great night though the threatened rain (which never materialized) scared a bunch of fans off. Great clouds though.

Before talking about he game though I need to mention this photo. Taking a panoramic shot from my sea is clearly urning into a thing but this is the first time I’ve tried one with the game going on. Panoramas are interesting with action because I have to swing the lens slowly and that doesn’t always work with fast action. In this case it works amazingly well since I managed to capture both the pitcher’s follow-through when he released the ball and the hitter’s follow through after making contact. Definitely something worth trying again. I doubt I’ll get another shot this nice though.

This was a game where Manto’s aggressive baserunning ended up costing the team. No blunders just that Williamsport executed well on defense and getting multiple guys thrown out at 3rd base and home plate is usually going to hurt you. Is very nice to see that the defense has improved a ton after that disastrous game earlier this season though. Unfortunately the Thunder relief pitchers have problems finding the plate and turned a close 2–2 game into a 6–2 loss.

Jesse Litsch is the Williamsport manager and may be the only former pitcher who I’ve come across as the manager in the minors. He signed a pair before the game including my first 2010 Upper Deck.

I also got another pair from Shawn Chacon. A 2006 for myself and a custom for Marc Brubaker’s Astrograph project. Marc’s customs are always nice and since Chacon has no Astros cards he was especially excited to see this one and very much appreciated keeping the extra Marc had sent. I’m glad I not only helped him out in his project but that I got to relay a good story as well. This should be on it’s way back to Houston now if it hasn’t gotten there already.

Halfway through the season it’s been a good season for coach signatures (I think I’ve gotten 11 different coaches). Though it’s also making me notice some things about the coaching pipeline. I hadn’t paid much attention to it until I wrote about my sons’ 1991 projects but now in many ways it’s become something I can’t not see. It gets even worse when I put all the coaches I’ve gotten autographs from together.

This is a pretty white group. I’ve included two college coaches in here as well but as far as I’m concerned it’s all part of the same pipeline and demonstrates why Major League Baseball’s coaching and managing has such a diversity problem. To MiLB’s credit the coaching staffs do seem to be pretty diverse but the guys with MLB experience don’t reflect that and given the way MLB hires managers that’s a problem.

It’s also been interesting to me to see how many Draft League coaches have MLB experience but how few of the AA coaches do.  This was very different in 2019 when most AA teams that came to town had at last one former MLB  player on staff. This year it was just Hartford.

June Returns

A decent month making May’s requests look very good as stuff arrived at the beginning of the month and just kept on coming.

June started off with a pair from lifetime Met Ron Hodges. Always fun to find a guy who played at least a decade for only one team. His 1985 is a career capper card and features a nifty catcher image that I really like. He returned these in 14 days.

A pair from Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki in 35 days added a interestingly-framed 1992 Topps to the collection. Milacki had a relatively short career but pitched a couple highlight-worthy games. The main one is a 3-hit complete game shutout in which he faced the minimum 27 batters. It’s an amazing and impressive game to look at since Milacki also walked two guys and only struck out three in 101 pitches. But he got 16 ground balls, four of which turned into double plays and one player got caught stealing. Milacki also pitched the first 6 innings of a combined no hitter in 1991 (exiting the game after being struck by a batted ball).

An 11-day return from Elliott Maddox brought another interesting story across my awareness. Maddox was a decent player but kept suffering leg injuries. The injury he got in 1975 (which derailed a very promising season) led him to sue the City of New York for the shoddy field conditions. While he won his initial suit he eventually lost on appeal as the court ruled that it was his responsibility to refuse to play if the filed conditions were unsafe. This strikes me as incredibly unfair.

Dale Berra sent back a 1981 Topps card in 8 days. He’s unfortunately, probably the most memorable for his baserunning fiasco with Bobby Meacham.* In 1983 he also became the first player since 1939 to play for a team that his father was managing when he joined the Yankees.

*Yes I’ve mentioned this before.

I feel a little bad mentioning the baserunning though since Berra also included a bonus 1980 Topps card and thank you note. Has been a while since I got a bonus card and it’s always nice when that happens.

Back to working sets from my youth. Tom Trebelhorn was the manager of that Brewers team which started 1987 with thirteen straight wins (let’s not talk about what happened after that). That being my first season as a real baseball fan it still stands out prominently in my memory. Was fun to add this, my fourth signed manager card of the set, in 34 days.

Kevin McReynolds is one of those guys I remember watching when he came through Candlestick. Those late-80s Mets teams were always noteworthy opponents with a scary lineup that was always in contention for the division and winning 90+ games. This was a quick turnaround in just 11 days.

Jeff Russell was another 11 day return.  I didn’t get to see him pitch but as the 1989 Rolaids Relief Award winner he was one of those extra notable players whose names I remember. He’s got a lot of nice cards but I like the photo on this Upper Deck.

I probably should’ve gone with a Cardinals card for Tom Herr since that’s how I remember him but I like 1991 Studio too much. That Cardinals team was just pesky. Get on base and run run run to the point that Herr managed to drive in over 100 runs one year despite fewer than ten homers. He’s  close by in Pennsylvania and got this back to me in 13 days.

Sometimes I wonder what it means to send cards to guys who are famous for being busts. Kirk Dressendorfer was one of the A’s vaunted Four Aces along with Todd Van Poppel. Unfortunately it seems like he had been overworked in college* and didn’t have anything by the time he reached the majors. Still, as someone who lived through the hype, his name brings me right back to that promise and I’m happy to get this card back in 42 days.

*I cut my teeth keeping score at college games and the amount of pitches college guys threw back then was insane. It didn’t make sense to me then and I totally understand why pitch counts have become so important now.

An 8-day return from Johnny Ray brought another of those names which just takes me back. Ray had a very good 11 year career with the Pirates and the Angels as a switchhitting second baseman who was a tough out—especially a tough strikeout—and for most of his career an above average fielder.

This is a pretty run-of-the-mill photo for 1986 Topps but is an example of how good most of the catcher cards are. Jody Davis started off as a big stick, no glove catcher but by 1986 had turned himself into both an All Star and a Gold Glove winner. He returned this in 17 days.

This was not a May request. I sent to Dave Lemanczyk in March and it came back in 98 days. I very much appreciate the extra photo of him on the Blue Jays since he was one of the originals and led the team in Wins that first 1977 season. And yes it’s a photo print of a JD McCarthy postcard which looks pretty good considering that the original was halftoned.

Both of these Gregg Olson cards are ones I distinctly remember from my youth. He was one of those hot rookies who turned out to be a great closer in those early days when everyone was trying to find their own Dennis Eckersley. Good fastball and a vicious curveball which was more like what you’d expect from a lefty. All his requests go through the Auburn baseball program so it was completely fitting that I sent the Auburn card. Both of these came back in 60 days.

The last return of the month was The Bull, Greg Luzinski in 24 days. I only ran into White Sox cards of him when I was a kid but I obviously had to send a Phillies card. One of these days we’ll get to a Phillies game and, hopefully, he’ll be there at his barbecue and the boys can get cards signed of him.

And that’s June. Summer is going to be a bit of a lull as vacations and things will get in the way of both sending and receiving mail. Hopefully some returns still trickle in though lord knows I have enough out there still.