Category Archives: baseball

Bob Walk the Plank

Last spring I entered a few budget breaks with Colby and Nachos Grande. They were both base-heavy breaks of the pick a team, get a team variety. I obviously picked the Giants. And I got the Pirates as my random 2nd team. Twice.

So then I had a stack of Pirates cards sitting on my desk. Thankfully I know a guy. And thankfully he was more than happy to take the stack. So I packaged everything up and sent them off to Bob Walk the Plank. Matt was a prolific blogger who was one of the first Card Twitter people I started interacting with when I got back into the hobby. He gave up blogging this summer but lives on at @walktheplank82 on Twitter.

Sometime while I was away in California a small bubble mailer arrived from him. I feel a little bad about not acknowledging it when it arrived but vacation is vacation and we all understand how that goes. Plus it’s always fun to find a gift waiting when you go through your giant stack of vacation menu. Matt’s mailer was worth the wait.

I’ll start off with a Rich Aurilia gold numbered-to-25 parallel from 2002. I still don’t understand the nature of the hobby in the late 90s and early 00s. This set is completely new to me (good lord how many sets were there?) but it’s nice enough. Not my kind of thing but I’m very happy to have a sample.

The numbering is an interesting phenomenon. There’s no logical reason why stamping 04/25 on a card should make it feel more special but it totally does. I rationally know it’s all bullshit. It’s not like these were printed in a small batch so special care could be taken. Instead it’s artificial scarcity all the way down. At the same time, realizing that there are only 25 of these out there* triggers something deep down in the collector/hoarder mentality.

*To be specific, that Upper Deck only released 25 of these to the public.

I’m risking going all old man here but numbered cards like this were a relatively new invention when I stopped collecting cards. And those were numbered to 10,000. 10,000! So to see something numbered to 25 kind of blows my mind as a collector.

The 2014 Buster Posey relic card is one of those generic relics like the Joe Panik one I got last year. Not from a specific game/event/season but it’s “real”—for whatever that means. This one at least has a nice blurb on the back about Buster Posey and yeah, it’s Buster Posey and all Giants fans like Buster.* And it comes from a World Series year and that’s always cool too.

*Though I have seen a bunch of ingrates complaining about him this year as he’s battled his hip problem. And I fear that he’ll no longer be our catcher and it’s going to be weird next year when he’s playing first and Belt’s in the outfield.

I remember back in 1994 when relics like this were the coolest things around. I wanted one so badly. I don’t even remember why. Just, there was something about the idea of game-used equipment. I don’t even remember if they were called relics then but the term does a perfect job at capturing the way kids—and many adults now—treat athletes.

And I suppose it also explains part of why I came to love autograph hunting. Yes I like the degree that memory plays in the hunt, but there’s also something to the idea that the player held and signed the item.

Still, in a general sense, relics aren’t really my thing. This is mainly because they aren’t binderable but I think I’m increasingly unimpressed by the aura given off by a 1-inch clipping from an object that a player may have handled at some point. I also find myself increasingly skeptical about whether or not the material is even the real deal—which is kind of the kiss of death for these kind of things.

This Mel Ott 2016 Diamond Kings framed relic though is very much my thing. Not because of the relic but because the card itself is kind of amazing. Yes Ott is Ott and getting a card of any Giants retired number is always going to be appreciated. And yes that’s a bit of bat which I actually hope was not a real Mel Ott bat because that would be an awful thing to destroy.

The card though. Holy crap. Silver ink on uncoated reddish-brown paper. A die-cut hole in the center showing coated cambric-finish* paper with additional printing. That printed piece also die-cut to reveal the bit of wood. The fact that the piece of wood must only be as thick as a couple baseball cards so it can fit in the card.

*Similar to but not quite as textured as this year’s Diamond Kings paper.

Where the Rich Aurilia card feels artificially scarce, I’m kind of amazed that this is numbered as high as 99. Yes I know that Panini has a lot of automated processes to make relic cards, but I also worked in printing long enough to recognize how many steps making something like this takes and how easy it would be to screw it up.

And the last card in the mailer was a Gary Brown Topps Finest autograph. Poor guy got a cup of coffee in 2014 (7 games, 7 ABs, 3 hits, 1 RBI, and even had an AB in the NLDS that year) but ended up being released in early 2015, picked up by another team, released again, picked up again, and then finally released for good in early 2016. He went from being one of the Giants top prospects to out of baseball in basically two years.

This is the kind of autograph only a Giants fan could love. And yes I love it. It’s great that it’s on-card. It’s great that it’s one of those garbage pulls that would’ve pushed anyone else to Twitter to bemoan how much they got ripped off on their box of 2015 Finest. It makes me wonder how many other “junk” Giants autographs are out there now.

I also like that this is from Finest—a product I don’t collect. Aside from the price I’m not a fan of the shiny over-designed bells and whistles look. But it works with the signature.

Yeah that’s four cards which represent things I don’t collect. At a different level, that I don’t collect them is what makes them wonderful, perfect mailday cards. I’d never seek these out—well, I might seek out cheap busted prospect autographs*—but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them. They fit in perfectly in my collection and they’re extremely fun to have.

*Also cheap bench player autographs.

Thanks Matt! I’m so glad the randomizer gods blessed me with a bunch of Pirates to trade instead of leaving me with the Marlins or Rays.

Refrigerate after opening

A couple weeks ago Marc sent me a cryptic note on Twitter that I should be expecting a package in a few days and that I shouldn’t leave it in my mailbox. I’d said something that inspired him earlier this summer but had no idea what to expect. Marc’s packages are frequently surprising but one which could spoil? I was so clueless that I couldn’t even begin to guess.

When I opened the package a week ago, it all made sense. Marc and I, in addition to being into cards, are also photographers. Much in the same way that Robby and I talk shop with cards and printing, Marc and I discuss cards and photography—and sometimes just photography itself.

That I’ve been shooting film and posting my on-the-go contact sheet scans* this summer means I’m the recipient of some of Marc’s over-stocked freezer. Everything here is expired—often long so. But that’s not stopped me in the past.

*Why yes I do have a post about the workflow.

It’s been a long time since I had bunch of random expired film to try. Keeble has been shuttered for a few years and even before then the bargains had dried up. This looks like a lot of fun. Four emulsions I’ve never tried plus one that I’ve not shot in eight years*

*And looking through my notes suggests I may actually have shot Portra 160VC, not Portra 400VC.

Two of these rolls look perfect for toy cameras. The ORWO looks to be all kinds of nutso since it’s the only one that’s not from Marc’s freezer. I’m currently thinking that I’ll run it through the flipped lens camera but obviously things might change. The TMax100 meanwhile is calling for me to start shooting my Pony again—though putting the 105mm lens on my Nikomat is also a possibility.

The slide film is also all kinds of exciting. Even my good cameras are kind of junk in that I don’t exactly trust the shutter speeds anymore. They’re fine for color negative film. They’re totally fine for Tri-X. But I’ve wanted to try slides for a long time. Especially 120 slides.

I’ve already loaded the Provia in my Yashicamat and am working my way through that roll. Hopefully I’ll get it done before I go back to New Jersey since I have no idea where to get it developed in New Jersey.

The Ektachrome? I don’t know yet. It’s tungsten balanced so it’s already going to be kind of wack since I have literally no tungsten lights around me anymore. Part of me wants to shoot it straight and embrace the blues. Part of me wants to take it out at night with a tripod. Part of me wants to cross-process it so I don’t have to worry about finding a place that processes E6.

Anyway this is good. I’ve been in a bit of a photography rut for the past five years. A lot of this is just not getting Princeton. When I’m in California in the summers I see photos everywhere. I’ve yet to reach that way of seeing things in New Jersey. Some of this is because things are just too pretty and picturesque. I’ve taken all those photos to get them out of my system but haven’t felt many of them. But I’ve also just gotten out of the habit of going out and taking photos.

I used to go shooting as part of my lunch break. Get out of the office. Clear my head. Go outside. Now I’m often trying to get as much done before the kids get back and I need a bit of kick in the pants to go out. Trying new gear or film has always been one such kick for me. Those years when I was always trying out some new junk camera or expired film were a lot of fun.

While the gimmick of the new gear was often not the winning shot, getting outside and looking for photos was the recipe that worked. I’m excited to have an excuse to get back to that.

Oh, and of course there were cards in there as well. Lots of these are for the kiddos as they represent junk wax that I have already but which they will happily add to their “old cards” binder. Yes, that’s what they call all their cards from the 1980s and 1990s. Yes it makes me feel really really old.

I’ll probably hang onto that Trevor Wilson card though. And I need to fogure out what to do with the Tom Herr card since it’s technically a Cardinals card even though it features a Giant and was shot at Candlestick. Also that photo is the kind of thing which made my jaw drop when I opened my first pack of Score back in 1988.

Marc managed to fill a hole in one of my searchlists with that Roger Craig Glossy All Star. Where in 1990 I bought a ton of packs of Topps even though I’d been getting a factory set for Christmas each year since 1987, in 1991 I saved my money and bought no packs of Topps. Unfortunately that meant I missed out on all four Giants in the Glossy All Stars set. It’s nice to have all four of them now.

The rest of these 1991 cards are also likely to end up in the “old cards” binder. Though I’m pretty sure that I never had those 1991 Fleers since I did not buy many packs of those back in the day.

The last of the junk wax cards includes a fantastic Topps Stadium Club Ultra Pro Barry Bonds oddball. I was unaware of this set. I’m not sure if I should be glad or mad about finding out about it.

And a handful pf 2015 Topps cards. Some of which I need. Some of which I don’t. It’s nice to slowly work backwards and backfill team sets from the 2010s since this team is very much one that’s close to my heart.

Marc also sent a wonderful sample of 2018 cards. The handful of Series 2 Giants is especially appreciated. The pair of Stadium Clubs are beautiful. And I’m really digging the handful of Big League. For a modern release it just feels like cards from when I was kid. Not physically, but the photography and backs are closer to what things used to be like. Things aren’t as aggressively cropped. Action images don’t emphasize exertion. Borders give everything a chance to breathe. Substantial stats on the back are great (although I wish they were complete instead of cutting off at 15 years).

these are also the first Gypsy Queen and Allen & Ginter cards I’ve seen this year. I’m still not a convert to either of these sets. Gypsy Queen still gives me the HDR hives although this year’s set is doing some interesting things printwise in terms of its GCR handling. Ginter meanwhile continues to be Ginter. I like the non-sport cards (most of the time) and am very happy to have representative samples of the baseball cards. It’s just not my thing.

On to the weirder stuff. First some early Mother’s Cookies cards. The 1985s in particular are brand new to me. It really weirds me out to see so much action photography. I’m used to the more-sedate posed photos which the 1986s feature here (I love that Greg Minton pose) and which they never moved away from until the mid 90s.

By the mid-90s the Mother’s Cookies poses were tighter head and shoulders images like these. I don’t enjoy them as much or the change to having borders. The 1986 Topps and 1990 Fleer cards are for my set builds and are much appreciated. It’s always fun to get a Sportflics card. I only have four from 1987 too so this one is doubly awesome. That Swell set sure is yellow. I already know that my kids are going to be ecstatic receiving Willie Mays and Christy Mathewson cards.

Holy moly how great is that 1975 SSPC Roger Craig. He looks the same in 1962, 1975, and 1989. The handful of Stanford guys is also great. I know I don’t have three of them and the other two are part of sets which are in binders in a box on a shelf in my parents’ converted garage. In other words, having duplicates that I can actually put in my Stanford albums is super useful.

Thanks Marc! I’ll post again when I get my film back and scanned. And it looks like I’m going to have to write about my kids’ reactions to getting huge stacks of Giants cards.

GPK for Mishmash

Where part one of my Garbage Pail Kids trade with Cards From the Attic was about vintage stuffs, part two is about the big box of junk wax Giants mishmash. It was big enough that it took me a few days to sort through and yes, there’s plenty of stuff in there for everyone in the family to share.

Two dozen pre-junk-wax cards including a bunch of 1984 Donruss* as well as a 1981 Donruss Jack Clark.** Despite being able to afford proper vintage cards I hope I never lose that smile I get when I come across anything before 1986 in a lot of repack mishmash. Those were cool when I was little and I’m happy that my kids can still find cards like them as affordable commons for their collections.

*A set I could never acquire samples from when I was a kid.

**A player who I never liked as a kid but have come to appreciate as the standard bearer on some bad Giants teams.

The dozen 1987 Topps cards meanwhile remind me of the first set I collected as a kid. My sons are going to be excited by both the Will Clark cards and the Atlee Hammaker cards since they’re already familiar with my stories. I meanwhile like the Kevin Mitchell Traded card since while I have the 1987 set I never got the Traded set and so never had this card when I was little.

More junk wax, this time 1987 to 1989. Three Aldretes for the Stanford album. A couple nice Will Clark oddballs from sets I’ve not seen before. A lot of appalling airbrushing on the 1988 Topps cards. And it’s always nice to find a Donell Nixon.

A big batch of 1990 cards. I need to remember to loupe 1990 Topps to see how they did the oversized halftone screen patterns. That 1990 Fleer Brett Butler is the only Giant I was missing from my team set for that year. And I really like the 1990 Upper Deck Don Robinson where he’s sliding into 3rd wearing the jacket that pitchers—and the rest of us—always had to wear at Candlestick.

A couple 1990 Bowmans and a bunch of 1991 cards. 1991 Topps is such a good-looking set. It was the first with horizontal cards in my consciousness and many of the photos are a massive improvement over the usual Topps fare in previous years. 1991 Fleer is one of those designs which could’ve been released and look just fine only a year or two later with white text and foil stamping on black instead of yellow. 1991 Upper Deck meanwhile is just one of those sets I’m really fond of.

The last few 1991s—including a wonderful Studio 91 card. One of these days I’ll make a run at that set. I loved it when it came out and I love it still since it remains distinct with its black and white portrait photos.

A bunch of 1992s. Where 1991 Stadium Club hasn’t aged well for me, I really like 1992’s design and photography. Topps upped its game big time in its second year of premium sets. 1992 Score is not a design I particularly like but I do enjoy all the turn back the clock uniforms on it. Though to be fair there are a lot of these uniforms in all the 1992 releases.

Where 1992 Donruss, Fleer, and Score have a bit of gradient madness, 1993 Donruss ushers us fully into the computer-aided design world of bevelled edges. I don’t like this design. I do like the increasingly large photo sizes though.

Some more 1993s. Triple play is another set I’d like to chase some day. 1993 Score is plain but I find myself liking this design more and more. 1993 Upper Deck is an all-time classic which I’m aping for my GiantsNow project. I really like that photo of Will Clark on 1993 Leaf. I couldn’t help but laugh at the super-foiled Steve Hosey prospect card.

Getting into 1994 and I don’t recognize many of the cards anymore. Stadium Club I do remember and that 1990s Dymo-labeler name design grows on me each time I see it. The draft picks? Not familiar at all. Although I do remember Jacob Cruz. Topps Finest? I don’t think I ever saw these as a kid. As with Flair they were out of my price range.

Speaking of Flair, there was a lot of it in this box. That stuff was super spendy 25 years ago but obviously hasn’t held up that way. I need to loupe these since I’ve seen some things suggesting that they were printed with 6 color process. I’ve louped some 1993 Flairs and can’t see anything different. But I’ll keep looking over as many as I can.

Speaking of louping cards, I also need to loupe the Score Gold Rush cards to see what they‘re doing in the non-foiled parts of the cards. Aside from the reflectivity differences, there’s clearly a white point on the players and I can even see the trap where the player silhouette and foil meet.*

*I need to do this on a lot of Topps Chrome and other silver/foil cards as well.

Finishing out the 1994s with a bunch more Score Gold Rush. I have no idea why Score went with such a crazy 1990s design for their Rookies and Traded set when the base 1994 set is so elegant in comparison. 1994 Score select is one of those crazy designs that has no business working as well as it does. 1994 Upper Deck is kind of a disaster but I really like Collectors Choice—especially the silver signature variants.

Nice to get some 1995 Topps since that set seems to be hard to find. I’m not so keen on the mid-late 90s Stadium Club designs but then I like my Stadium Club to be as simple as possible so the photos can sing. 1995 Donruss is a nice-looking set with an unreadable foil-on-foil nameplate. I’m digging the 1995 Leaf design with the rainbow foil effect. There’s a lot of mid-late 90s Leaf in this box and all of it is brand new to me.

LOL at the 1995 Fleer Strawberry. MORE Flair, this time with a gold foil background effect that is also asking to be louped. And a few 1995 Score and Score Gold Rush.

One last 1995 Score. This time a Platinum version. It’s awfully sparkly. I’ve never heard of Score Summit. I’ve not seen a lot of these mid-90s Pinnacle either. I really like that 1995 Pinnacle Rod Beck though.

1995 Upper Deck is a great-looking set with another fantastic Rod Beck card. The 1995 Upper Deck Minors cards are also pretty nice. I had to look up what the different foil colors on the Upper Deck SP cards meant. As someone who’s only learned about parallel madeness recently, I figured the blue ones were special. Nope. Turns out this is from the days when silver and gold parallels were still the special ones. Though that blue parallel Collectors Choice card suggests things are about to switch.

And some 1995 Pacific which showcases Pacific’s awkward year as it figures out what it wants to be. That super foil/refractor/prism/whatever you call it of William Van Landingham is something else though. It’s kind of wonderful in a hideous kind of way.

Between the Score Gold Rush and this special Pacific card I can see a lot of what counts as special cards today. No wonder people are tired of those concepts now. They’re clearly gimmicks which are interesting only as long as they’re new and novel.

On to 1996 and I can see that figuring out what the hell Bowman is doing is going to be required for every year of Bowman. I gather that this is probably the first year of Bowman Chrome—or what would become Chrome—as there’s a foil parallel set. I kind of like 1996 Donruss although that big foil box does seem to get in the way of a lot of the photos to the point where it often looks like it’s censoring someone pulling a Claude Raymond.

Those two 1996 Fleers are glossy instead of uncoated which means that they’re Tiffany cards. Fleer Ultra is a nice looking set. And I’ll one of these days I’ll figure out the method behind the madness with the bordered and full-bleed Collectors Choice cards.

Into 1997 now. I’m not feeling this Topps design but I like it more than the Stadium Club one. Bowman is Bowman. I really like that Russ Ortiz card. Not sure what’s going on with the gradient madness on the Leaf cards. So thank god for Fleer and its set of uncoated cards. They look kind of dull in comparison to the super glossy cards all around but I love the uncoated look and feel.

Continuing with 1997. I’ve mixed feelings on Fleer Ultra. There’s something very Baseball™ about that font and it looks exactly like what my son is trying to make his signature look like right now—which also means that it looks like something an 8-year-old would design.

There’s also a ton of gold foil now. Pinnacle is now like a third foil and Pacific is similarly as foil-centered a design as you can get. It is nice to get some duplicate McCartys for both the Giants and Stanford albums.

And finally some 1998 and 1999 cards. Something about the 1998 Ultra font doesn’t sit right with me at all. I don’t know if it reminds me of glamour shot photostudio stamping or something else but it feels off. In some ways I find that it feels like wannabe Pacific but by this time Pacific has gone off the deep end with all kinds of craziness.

Yeah.

Speaking of Pacific, those Invincibles are as horrid as the earlier Van Landingham refractor thing but don’t have any of the awkward charm. Very much not my thing. I’m sure my kids will love them.

All in all a very fun box to go through. I’ve got a huge stack of cards for my kids to divvy up. And I’ve got a decent stack for myself as well. We’re going to have a lot of fun this fall as I slowly distribute them over the months.

Oh, the bumper cards here didn’t get the photo treatment but it’s worth noting that they were mostly 1986 Topps and 1990 Upper Deck—AKA two sets I’m trying to build. Going through those filled a bunch of holes in my searchlist so that was a very pleasant surprise to go along with expected portion of the trade package.

MLB Debut

I took my 8-year-old to his first Major League Baseball game last month. He’s caught the baseball bug something fierce and has been jonesing to go to a Major League game for a while. He’s also a Giants fan like me* and I wanted his first game to be at AT&T Park in order to properly set the hook once and for all.

*When we moved to New Jersey I told myself that all I could do was try and keep him from being a Yankees fan. The 2014 World Series was a huge help and he’s to-date treated whatever I like is a good endorsement.

He’s been looking forward to this game all season—to the point where despite rooting for the Giants to win he’s expressed concern that if they do too well ticket prices would become unreasonable. We were going to go to a game no matter what but I did find a good deal on a pair of tickets in my favorite location up high above the plate.*

*Where I used to love sitting at The Stick.

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That we took the train up to San Francisco made the trip a bit more fun. Even though we live in New Jersey where train usage is commonplace, there’s something about a train trip which makes it feel like your outing has started as soon as you board the train rather than when you arrive.*

*I’m pretty sure if I commuted this would be different.

For a “my first game” trip taking the train is especially nice because we could talk and I could point things out in ways I can’t when I’m driving. In this case, going through Brisbane involved me pointing out where Candlestick used to be and where my mom and I used to park when we went to games 25 years ago.*

*Yes we parked close to the Bayshore Caltrain station and walked in. We had parked there for the Earthquake game and were home when people were still trying to leave the Candlestick parking lot. Ever since then we stopped parking in the lots.

His eyes got nice and wide when I pointed out AT&T Park from the train as we pulled into the station. Once we got off, the short walk toward the park and the Willie Mays statue was full of excitement. He stayed close to me the entire time so I couldn’t get any good photos but I get the sense that it was as wonderful as he’d built it up in his expectations.

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I figured he’d like walking up the ramp and taking as much in as possible so we skipped the escalator. We’d arrived a couple hours early and I was just going to let him walk around the park and see everything. And we did, starting with the World Series Trophies and Rings display.

I thought briefly about heading down toward the field since it looked like someone might be signing but that’s always a crapshoot and I didn’t think he was in any mood to wait around and be patient. Just being that close to the field was enough. Plus he wanted to go down the Coke bottle slide and see McCovey Cove.

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The last time I was out in this part of the stadium was in that first exhibition game against the Yankees in 2000. A friend and I watched the first half of the game; once it degenerated into Spring Training farce we decided that making our way around the stadium would be a better use of time. It was crowded then so I didn’t have a chance to properly look at everything. Much nicer to be able to take my time and see everything and notice the things my 8-year-old was pointing out and getting excited over.

He did indeed go down the slide (no line). He also got to walk the entire arcade and check out McCovey Cove. I realized that the bleachers offered a bit of that Candlestick wind experience and was pleased that it still existed.

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We made our way back to our seats so we could get settled, eat dinner, and be ready in time for lineups. They were high up but exactly what I wanted. You can sit close to the field at any ballgame. Only in the big leagues can you sit up high and get this perspective on the game. I’ve always liked this perspective and the way it allows me to see how players are positioned and where the ball is going while also keeping a perspective on how the pitches look.

At a park like AT&T it also afforded a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay and Oakland Hills. Not only can you see the game, you can see how wonderfully located the park is.

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He spent a lot of time looking around and noticing details like how the flags on the left-field side had the Giants pennant-winning years on them (yes he recognizes all those years) and how the flags above the scoreboard featured the World Series wins (yes he can read them). He rattled off who the retired player numbers stood for (I had to help him with Irvin and Perry) and just spent the entire time taking it all in. I’m glad we went up when we did since otherwise he wouldn’t have paid attention to the game.

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Since it was First Responder Appreciation night we had a festive national anthem complete with a bazillion motorcops, a fire tugboat spraying water, and a flyover by police helicopters.

Then it was time for the game. Dereck Rodríguez and Wade Miley both work fast and things were going along nice and quick until we got into the bullpens. I was keeping score and pointing things out like how the teams were shifting batter-to-batter. My son was just watching and paying attention to everything. He was enjoying the tenseness of the game while also getting increasingly nervous about the Giants inability to push runs across.

When the wheels fell off and the bullpen imploded, we had a bit of a crisis of faith. He doesn’t do well when things go bad and I had to explain that a good baseball team is one that wins 6 out of every 10 games so even if the Giants are good he should be used to them losing 40% of the time.

And I had to explain how we can’t just leave as soon as we think the game’s “over.” Yes I agreed that things were unlikely to turn around. But baseball is one os those “you never know” games and how upset would he be if we did leave and they came from behind.

That the Giants didn’t give up and made a game of it despite it “being over” helped a lot too. Was he upset that we lost? Of course. But he saw how just a break here or there could’ve changed things even in the 9th inning when all seemed lost.

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For me, I’ve not been to a game since maybe 2003 so it was great to actually watch one again. I’m thankful that AT&T is built in a way which minimizes the wind and fog issues that defined Candlestick. I’m also thankful that we still had fog billowing over the edge of the stands and streaming through the lights. It wasn’t nearly as cold as those freezing nights in The Stick but it was enough to remind me of those nights when we deserved our Croix.

We walked quickly back to the train station since the “until full” qualification on Caltrain is a bit scary when half the stadium streams out in the 8th inning but there was plenty of space on the train and plenty of time to spare before we left. He read through the program a bit before falling asleep in my lap around San Bruno.

He was excited to talk about everything the following morning and spent the week following the game talking about when he would go next. His current plan is to get tickets for when the Giants visit the Mets since he figures that that’s a game the Giants would be more likely to win.

GPK for Vintage

This summer has been spent going through storage and getting rid of anything not worth keeping. It’s been a lot of work. And it’s been a lot of fun. For every pile of things that I dump, there’s a pile which is a joy to rediscover and see. Much of what I’m finding is baseball and sports ephemera—chiefly programs and scorecards. I’ll slowly migrate those into my current collection and eventually post about them.

This post though is about finding a cache of cards that I truly thought I’d tossed decades ago.

Yup. Back before I was into baseball cards I liked Garbage Pail Kids. I vividly remember Series 1 and 2 but this cache starts with Series 3. It’s possible that I tossed the peeled Series 1 and 2 card backs or it’s possible that I only started collecting myself with Series 3.

I don’t think I bought packs of these though. My parents weren’t big fans* and I didn’t have that kind of money anyway. I do remember getting a box from my uncle for Christmas. Based on the contents of that Topps box, it looks like I got multiple boxes over two Christmases.

*As a parent now I’m inclined to agree with them.

Where in 1986 I was only into Garbage Pail Kids and managed to accumulate complete sets of Series 3–6 (all peeled now) as well as a ~500 duplicates, by 1987 I was into baseball cards.* I peeled a complete set of Series 9 but there are two more complete sets and ~500 duplicates of just Series 9 alone. I had clearly moved on and had more fun with my complete set of 1987 Topps to the point that my memory had placed all my Garbage Pail Kids collecting as completely stopping in 1986.

*Finding these allowed me to better figure out my timeline of when I got organized collecting cards. Garbage Pail Kids obviously took up my shoebox phase as well as my rubber band and deface everything phase and definitely prevented me from having any major regrets with how I kept my baseball cards.

I went through, sorted the lot of 1000+, and pulled out a couple dozen cards that I either remembered fondly (Half Nelson for some reason is especially resonant) or which I enjoyed now (Mouth Phil and Tooth Les are the only baseball-themed ones in the batch). And began to wonder what the hell to do with the rest. That very day it turned out that Cards From the Attic was looking to acquire a bunch of vintage Garbage Pail Kids.

So we hashed out a trade. I sent off ~1000 Garbage pail kids and he sent me a bunch of vintage baseball cards and a big lot of Giants mish mash. This is the biggest trade I’ve done. It feels nice to clear stuff out and send it away. And it’s wonderful to get exciting things I want in return.

Oh, and I used my peeled-off cards as bumper cards for the package since I figured they’d be a fun joke to pass along. Boy was I right.

It was fun to watch a lot of the “OMG that brings back memories” responses. A lot of the collectors are my age as well and very clearly remember doing this. It’ll be fun to see how these peeled-off cards live on as they get forwarded to new people as bumper cards. And it’s always fun when the joke side of a package ends up generating more discussion than the real content.

Anyway, to what I received!

Four 1956 Topps. One of the best set designs Topps has ever made. I like it even though it has fake signatures. It’s always fun to get cards of New York Giants too. While 1950s cards are something that still gives me that “always wanted some of these when I was a kid” excitement,* collecting memorabilia from the New York Giants is an additional joy. I particularly like the low-angle action image on the Wayne Terwilliger card.

*Partly because I never got past 1960 in my 1-per-year project way back when.

Eight 1957 Topps. I’ve come to increasingly like this set. It’s still a little weird in the way it uses color but I enjoy the commitment to photography and the way it’s a super-minimal look that’s closer to the 1970s Calbees and a lot of modern Stadium Club than most anything else Topps has released in the past 60 years. It’s also fun to get to 18/25 complete on this team set and begin imagining what it would be like to complete this even while I recognize that three of the remaining cards do not run cheap.

Eleven 1958 Topps were especially fun to get this year as the Giants have been celebrating their arrival in San Francisco 60 years ago. This set is always weird to me since most of the Giants are depicted in the prototype caps that they never actually wore in San Francisco. As fun as it is to see cards of the first San Francisco Giants, there’s a weird mirrorverse feeling in seeing these caps. Only Paul Giel’s cap here is the one I’m familiar with.

I’ve also always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the painted-out background in these cards. I like them when they involve baseball poses since the silhouettes give me a sense of baseballness and posing tropes—a connection I made when viewing Mike Mandel’s Baseball Photographer Trading Cards—but with the head shots I’m less enthusiastic.

There’s also the way that the Giants team set in 1959 is two-thirds red cards. With colorful sets like this one, one of the most-appealling things is seeing all the different colors on a page. That doesn’t happen with the Giants and, as much as the red backs remind of the classic Cracker Jack sets, I find myself wishing there was some more variety.*

*This complaint of mine also holds with 1954 Topps and how all the Giants cards in that set are yellow or white instead of any of the more vibrant colors.

1959 Topps is a better mix of colors though the Giants are pretty much limited to just cyan, yellow, and green. That the cyan and greens seem to come in two different shades livens things up. Also there’s something about the circle portrait and all-lower-case name font which livens these up and gives me a sense of “wake up, The 60s are coming.” As with 1956 I like the signatures on this design.

And a bunch of dummy cards for packing filler. No golf this time. The 1990-91 Pro Set soccer cards are a lot of fun—no Roy Wegerle but the Gary Lineker derp face is awesome. The 1980 and 1981 Topps beaters are pretty enjoyable too. I only ever had a pack each of those as a kid and, while I’ve gotten Giants team sets since then it’s nice to see samples from the rest of the league.

Cards From the Attic also sent me a big box of 80s/90s Giants mishmash. I’ve taken a quick look though and that’ll require a second post on here to describe it. I can say though that it looks to be enough cards and duplicates that my kids and I will all get plenty of enjoyment out of it. I’ve been creating stacks of Giants cards for each of them.* I intend to put those into multiple gift packs over the next year and it’s always great to find more to add to their piles.

*Much of Robby T’s mailday is here too.

All told, I’m super happy with converting over 1000 Garbage Pail kids into Giants cards. I’ve had a ton of fun sorting through this trade already and I know there’s literally hours of fun to come from it. Thanks Cards From the Attic!

On Organizing

Or more specifically, how my collection has grown and refocused as told though organization. Marc posted his version last week and, rather than dropping an extensive comment on his blog I figured this was something that was better to write here.

I never went through a shoebox phase. Basically, as soon as I got into collecting cards I received a Hygrade Baseball Card Collectors kit.* I previously thought that this was a 1986 Christmas present but upon further reflection it must’ve been for my birthday the following year. In 1986, despite having gone to my first game, I was still collecting Garbage Pail Kids and hadn’t yet made the leap into baseball cards. That would come with spring, the start of the new season, and the release of that 1987 Topps set which so many people my age still love.

*This album but it came with a set of Baseball’s Greatest cards, a few fun reprints with information about the originals on the back, a bunch of 9-pocket pages and an informational booklet.

Looking back on it now, that Hygrade kit was probably a pre-emptive strike from my mom who wanted to keep me organized and prevent cards from being strewn all over the house. I did the exact same thing with my kids. As soon as they got stacks of cards I set them up with binders and taught them to keep everything organized.* Yes they have a problem putting the binders away. But that’s because they’re always looking through them and I shudder to think about how much worse would things would be if they kept cards loose in boxes.

*I didn’t prescribe a method pf paging, I just told them to page everything lest it get lost or stepped on.

Bindering, while a good way of consolidating and viewing a collection, also forced me to pick an order and discouraged re-sorting. So the order I picked with my first binder ended up being my default order for the next 8 years. Everything ended up being sorted first by brand, then by year, then by set, then by card number. Yup, I was a by-the-number kid even though I wasn’t even building sets* and was super diligent about resorting everything into the correct order after each new card acquisition.

*Just a pack or two from every release I could find. As I’ve stated before, this wasn’t bad in 1987 (or going back to 1980) but became untenable by 1994.

As I started to get more into collecting I began to have distinct binders for each year of flagships—leaving my original binder (eventually two binders) to consist of my one per year project, assorted pre-1987 cards which rarely amounted to more than a pack’s worth,* oddballs, and inserts. Sets were bindered separately as well. Eventually I realized that in order to avoid re-sorting everything whenever I got new cards I should keep a given year’s collected flagship in an empty factory set box until that year was over and then page everything all at once. I stuck with this method until I abandoned the hobby in 1994.**

*Though I did end up with a significant number of 1986 Topps—which is why it’s a set I’m trying to build now.

**My 1994 cards are still in their box sorted by brand/set/number. I never even bothered to page them after the strike.

The only big wrinkle to this method was my autograph collecting. I pulled those cards out of their respective binders and stored them in a separate autograph binder. I didn’t organize them there though so they ended up in a roughly autobiographical order which indicates when I acquired the signature. This was a blessing in disguise since as I scanned those last year I was able to create notes on when and where I got them all.

Also, non-standard card sizes all ended up in a binder of 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, mini-9, 12, and 20 pocket pages. In many ways this miscellaneous binder ended up being the most fun one to look through since it literally consists of random stuff organized by size.

When I went to college and moved out of my parents’, all those binders ended up in bankers boxes. So for the past decades they’ve been stored flat or rings-up. Things look good and I’ve enjoyed going back through them and pulling things for my new collection whenever I visit my folks. One of these days I’ll bring them all over to my house and re-sort as much as possible but there are a lot of logistic hurdles to figure out first.

With my new collection I’m still an inveterate binderer. I like flipping through and looking at my cards. Boxes are fine for cold storage but they don’t invite me to use them. Since I have more money now I no longer feel the need to use every pocket and can instead think about page breaks and empty slots within the binder. This makes sorting new acquisitions into the collection easier and encourages me to think about entire binder each time I get new cards.

As a result I’ve completely rethought about my organization and refocused my collection so it reflects my current interests. Instead of trying to get everything—an activity that was never possible but at least plausible when I was little—I’m focusing on projects. I realized that all those binders organized by year or set weren’t the kind of thing I ended up looking at unless I was pulling cards for an autograph trip. My project binders though are interesting. I like revisiting them and they’re the kind of thing that would tell someone else about me besides “he still collects baseball cards.”

Right now I’ve got two Stanford binders organized alphabetically by last name, then by year (biased toward Topps as the card of record but not exclusively reliant on it) One is A–L, the other M–Z* and I’m always adding new cards to both as having currently-active players means there’s always new cards to get. I’m hoping Alex Blandino, Jeremy Bleich, and Austin Slater get a bit of 2018 set love before this year is out since right now it’s mainly just Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty.

*Jack McDowell and Mike Mussina need to counterbalance players like Bob Boone and Jeffrey Hammonds in the almost-super-collector department but it’s nice to have Mark Marquess on the top page of one binder too.

I’ve also working on four Giants binders now. This started off as one but keeps overflowing into new binders. right now things are broken down roughly by decade: vintage (pre-1980s), 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. I should eventually break those into eras* instead of decades but right now these create four roughly-equal binders. YEs this means I’m super short on 2000–present cards but I’m also still learning about what the heck was going on in the hobby those years. Also it’s clear that the biggest change since 2000 is that only a few sets each year are relevant to my interests and that while the others are fun to have exemplars from, they’re not the kind of thing worth seeking.

*Something like New York, Willie Mays in San Francisco, Willie McCovey and his return, Crazy Crab years, Humm Baby, Dusty and Barry, etc.

The biggest thing about the new organization is the mental discipline to not get sidetracked by things just to have them. I have focused want lists for a reason. I have well-defined projects for a reason. It’s nice to have random things that are related to those projects but they’re not worth seeking out and I probably won’t be looking through them after I get them. And the key here is creating binders that I’ll want to look through again.

The vintage and 1980s binders? Lots of fun.

The first half of the 1990s? Also fun.

The second half of the 1990s? Fun because of Mothers Cookies and Pacific but a whole lot of WTF is this going on in there too.

The 2000s binder? A work in progress which will move from WTF to fun as I focus on World Series teams.

The rest of the projects I’m working on fit in smaller binders. One binder has a bunch of mini-projects: action photos, moves/expansion, spanish-language, 1964 old timers, photographers, etc. The other is all oddballs. I enjoy both of these binders a bunch since they’re so varied with what they contain.

Everything else I have is actually boxed up. Some of them are sets I’m building (will binder those eventually and re-sort to be a better representation of the season). The rest are random cards from the past 20 years that I’ve come across. Many of those are going out on maildays. I haven’t organized yet beyond by-year since I’m also using them as a primer for what I missed but I’ll eventually sort those by team for trade purposes.

Tacoma Programs from Mark Hoyle

A couple weeks ago I received a surprise mailer from Mark Hoyle. He’d mentioned the mailer to me and it looked cool but I promptly forgot about it until it arrived. He’d found a batch of 1961 and 1962 Tacoma Giants programs (as a Red Sox guy he liked that Johnny Pesky shows up in them as the manager of the Seattle Rainiers) and figured that I would be an appreciative recipient of a copy of each.

He figured correctly. As a Giants guy, getting a glimpse of their minor league system at the beginning of the 1960s is extremely fascinating. And I also have a soft spot for Tacoma and Cheney Stadium. Aside form being the final resting place of Seals Stadium’s seating, one of my favorite autograph experiences occurred there.

To the programs. The 1961 program is striking with its duotoned photo of Cheney Stadium and the night sky stripped to be black-only. I also always love when linework is designed to be two colors like this with the black drawing and orange accents on the uniforms .

Checking out the roster shows a lot of players who show up—briefly—on team sets in the 1960s (Ron Herbel, Georges Maranda, Julio Navarro, and Dom Zanni) as well as a few bigger names like Manny Mota, Dusty Rhodes, and Gaylord Perry.

Perry is the obvious star and I like how this photo is the same one Topps used on his 1962 Rookie Card. Also, seeing him as a member of the 1961 team makes me respect him even more for showing up to the 1963 team reunion. That’s a lot of time to be bouncing up and down between San Francisco and Tacoma.

Rhodes meanwhile is the veteran playing out his last years in the game. It’s clear that he would’ve been a great DH had he entered the game in the 1970s instead of the 1950s but instead he was a star pinch hitter who ended up finishing his career in the minors after he turned 30.

And for all of Manny Mota’s lengthy career I always forget that he came up and debuted with the Giants. I’m also not used to seeing photos of him so young.

The rest of the program is a wonderful example of two-color printing and period advertisements. The Pan American advertisement is especially nice from a printing point of view* and I like how the photo content is intentionally duotoned differently.

*Content has retro appeal but also makes me cringe as someone whose family comes from Hawaii.

I also like seeing little things like how much the ticket books cost, the organization of the Giants’ Minor League system, and Cheney Stadium’s ground rules.

The programs are 16-page self-covers with the innermost sheet being slightly-thicker, uncoated stock so as to incorporate the score card. One of the things that amazes me most when I see old programs and scorecards is the degree to which the printing changes day-to-day. As a child of the Xerography age, offset printing always carried with it a degree of permanence. Seeing how the game-day rosters are printed on the scorecard* will always sort of blow my mind.

*On other vintage scorecards people have posted on twitter, the starting lineups are sometimes printed.

That these programs also include a lucky number on the reverse of the scorecard shows that there’s two different runs of post-printing production going on. That plus the final stitching of everything together for each game is a lot of work for each game—or at least the first game of each series.

The scorecard shows that the Giants played the Padres (a White Sox affiliate at the time) in a game featuring only a handful of the players who didn’t make it to the majors. The Padres won 6–5 with the Giants blowing a 5–3 lead in the 8th inning.

I really like the back cover advertisement with its sketchy two-color illustration. I also completely misread the KTNT TV 11 line as KNTV 11 and found myself completely confused as to why a Bay Area TV station was broadcasting in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area.

On to 1962. The cover is not as exciting but it’s still a fun two-color illustration and I like the Attendance Leader trophy as a shout-out to the fans. The script “Giants” is also different than the San Francisco logo but looks close enough to be of the same family.

Gaylord Perry is still on the roster. And has the same photo as 1961. Same with Dusty Rhodes. New Giants I recognize from 1960s team sets include Dick LeMay and Jose Cardenal (who went on to bigger things on other teams).

More 1960s advertisements and design. The big restaurant ad is a fun snapshot of the era and they use the correct Giants font/logo on the team schedule box, roster box, and KTNT advertisement. I especially like the shirt design in that KTNT advert too. As in 1961 there’s a lucky number for, I’m assuming, between-innings giveaways or contests.

Scorecard this time is only complete through three innings. A different hand than the 1961 scorer and I can’t comment on the game besides noting that the Spokane Indians are a Dodgers affiliate.

I do particularly enjoy the Tacoma Stars in the Hall of Fame panel as well as the way the plaques have been turned printed in two colors so as to emphasize the player portraits.

All in all a great mailing which I thoroughly enjoyed going though. I’m sure I’ll find some more interesting things the next time I flip through these. Thanks Mark!