Category Archives: Giants

Diamond Kings from Dub

One of the most important lessons of the modern card-collecting landscape is to learn that you cannot collect everything and, by extension, which specific sets are your thing and which ones are not. Panini’s current crop of unlicensed logoless sets? Very much not my thing. Diamond Kings’ with their photos that have been altered to look like paintings and crazy colored backgrounds? Also not my thing. And that’s not even getting into the way that these checklists are like 100 cards.

Still, I’ve been seeing lots of people opening packs and boxes and posting their hits and despite not feeling any compulsion to buy this product, I’ve noticed some extremely interesting things going on with the way it’s been produced. The paper looks to have a texture and the finish is not the usual gloss UV coating. While I don’t need a pack, I recognized that I’d probably end up acquiring a common or two so as to investigate how they were made.

Enter Joey/@DubMentality who, in addition to being one of the most generous guys on card twitter with regard to sending cards to people, has a personal blog dedicated to the junk wax glory days and also pops up on other sites writing about newer sets. I especially like his series on Beckett where he interviews card shop proprietors. Anyway I’d responded to his review of Diamond Kings with a few comments/questions about the production and he popped a plain white envelope full of Giants in the mail for me so I could answer them myself.

Said PWE arrived yesterday so in addition to now feeling like part of the club to have received a mailday from Joey, I’m happy to add some Giants cards I never intended to buy to the binders and geek out on some printing and production.

First impressions? Interesting. I’m still not a fan of the general design with the photoshopped painting effect that couldn’t even fix McCutchen’s jersey to have orange highlights and not be obviously the Pirates, but these work a lot better in person than they do in photos. The whole effect—paper finish, Photoshop filter, color palette—shows a lot more consideration than the autopilot design process that many of Topps’s sets seem to display. That said, it’s pretty clear that the smoke/unpainted portion of the cards is exactly the same card-to-card so there’s still a lot of templating going on in ways that undermine the intended effect.

Printproductionwise though these are super interesting. The cardboard itself is indeed textured. Looking at all the photos everyone else was posting I thought it was like a linen uncoated stock.* In person I can see it’s actually coated stock which feels closer to the cambric texture on casino-quality playing cards.** The coating allows for much more vibrant colors*** and Panini has wisely decided to varnish the cards rather than UV coat them so as to not bury the texture beneath a layer of plastic.

*The framed “hit” cards appear to use an uncoated laid stock for the frame and the pair of textures works surprisingly well for me. Also getting images of paper textures online is surprisingly hard to find. However Wikipedia’s Laid article isn’t bad. The Linenizing one on the otherhand…

**Typically the Bee brand. Cambric is a more fabric-looking texture as opposed to the more-familar air-cushion texture on Bicycle cards.

***I was half-expecting something less contrasty like 1996 or 1997 Fleer.

The result is cards that don’t have that distinctive UV coated smell that bursts out of most packs and which, because of the paper texture, actually sort of look like paintings. I was surprised to see that I didn’t mind the logolessness with these. Something about the painting effect means that small details don’t have to be there.

Where the base cards don’t grab me, the Orlando Cepeda Gallery of Stars card is wonderful and captures some of the old-school Diamond Kings appeal. Yes it’s not actually a painting but something about this—whether it’s the pose or the cropping—feels more like what this style is supposed to look like.

While not something I’d want a huge set of, as an insert or insert set it’s massively successful. It’s not supposed to look like a regular baseball card, it’s supposed to look like a Diamond King. And it does. The cambric texture isn’t necessary but it’s a fantastic level of detail which seals the deal.

On feEling and handling

When I was scanning these cards for the post, because of the texture and the way it made me think of playing cards, instead of immediately returning these to the penny sleeves that Joey sent them in I gathered up the four cards into a stack and quickly thumbed them from one hand to the other in the way I’d look at my hand in Hearts or Bridge. They feel great. No sticking like a lot of the UV coated sets. No constant awareness of the surface of the card the way a lot of junk wax (but even Heritage) feels. These just glide from hand-to-hand in a way that makes me want to continue to handle them.

It’s massively appealing in a tactile way that I’ve never encountered before with baseball cards. There’s a certain joy in ripping open a pack and shuffling through your brand new stack; the way the cards feel against each other is such a key component of that sensation. A fresh pack of Diamond Kings must feel amazing.

So now I kind of want a set of cards which is designed to be held and sorted and resorted rather than hermetically sealed aside from the brief moment between opening the packs and paging the pile.

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Oddballs from Tony

Over Easter weekend Tony (@OffHiatusBBC) put out a call for searchlists. I flagged mine and late last week a package arrived. Given Tony’s focus on oddballs there were a lot of great things inside—including a bunch of cards I’ve never even heard of.

Nice to get another 1987 Opening Day card. That’s such a weird set but with every passing year where sets lose more and more of a sense of identity it’s wonderful to see a set with such a concise description—in this case literally the entire MLB opening day starting lineup.

Topps Big is always welcome. I love the late-80s take on the 1956 design and these cards still look great. It’s also nice to finish my Giants team set of 1991 Stadium Club. Stadium Club was one of those sets which I loved at the time even though I couldn’t afford it. Full-bleed cards and a more photographic look were super cool to me at the time. They’re kind of quaint now but serve as a nice reminder of where we’ve come from.

I’d never heard of Holsum Bread let alone the discs. These are cool and totally up my alley as an unlicensed regional food issue in a funky shape. The only problem is that they‘re slightly too big to fit in a 9-pocket sheet. I’d also not heard of the Jimmie Dean cards but at least I’ve heard of the brand. Anyway the five Holsum and Jimmie Dean cards are the highlight of this package.

The last card in this photo is a 2013 Tim Lincecum variant. Not sure how Tony knew I didn’t have this but I didn’t and I’m very happy to have it now.

Tony also included the 11 Will Clark cards in the Playball USA set. I have no idea what these are. They’re not food issues and the backs feel like unlicensed Broders At first I thought these were part of a game but I no longer that’s the case. Anyway the 11-card player set thing reminds me of those Star sets which were all over in the late 80s and early 90s.

And the two silver cards are 1992 Upper Deck MVP holograms of Will Clark and Dave Righetti. While some holograms scan nicely these do not. They look good in person though and I’m a sucker for any of those all-hologram cards that Upper Deck released in the early 90s.

Most of the package though was 1990 Upper Deck. I really like this set as a huge improvement over 1989 both photo-wise and design-wise. I will be pursuing it at some point but it’s always good to have an extra team set for the binder too.

Yes there are two Padres cards in here. This happens fairly frequently actually. The Padres and Giants logos and colors were close enough in the 80s/90s that things could be confusing at a first glance. I’ve had the same thing happen with random Pirates cards sneaking into maildays as well.

Thanks Tony! As I detailed in my previous post about your 2018 mailday I will be setting aside Brewers for you when I get them. Which is rarely. But I’ll find a way to get a return package to you eventually.

GiantsNOW

A couple weeks ago Matt Prigge had the excellent idea to roll his own ToppsNOW/Upper Deck Documentary set for this season. Such a wonderful idea. The promise of those sets is in their potential for creating a summary of the season—the kind of thing fans of each team will want to look back on once the season completes.* The reality of these sets? Unfortunately not so much. Topps hypes the same teams and players it hypes in its regular releases and ignores large portions of the country. And Upper Deck reused photos ad nauseum so cards became indistinguishable from each other.

*Note, as a Giants fan, I’m fully aware of how you might not want to look back on a season.

Realizing how we don’t need to be reliant on Topps to create our cards for us is fantastic. Things like the Rookies App are great for people who can’t make their own customs. And for those of us who have a bit of design/production prowess, all we have to do is take that plunge into creating a bunch of 2.5″×3.5″ documents.

Battlin’ Bucs has already jumped on board this idea and I figured it was worth taking a stab as well. A full-on Documentary-style 162-card set is a bit ambitious but I can totally do highlights. Since I didn’t feel like creating my own design from scratch I decided to rip off 1993 Upper Deck.

I’ve always loved this design because of how much it showed could be accomplished with just text. The masking of the words at the top is achieved by just deleting a character. The drop shadows are just the same text shifted a point down and to the right. It’s a sharp look which emphasizes the photo.

Of course I tweaked it a bit. Since this is a Giants-only set I put the team name on the top of the card instead. And I swapped out the gradient to be the Giants’ colors. And the script font is Mistral instead of what Upper Deck used since I don’t keep to many script fonts handy. Does Mistral date this horribly? Kind of. But I’ve also come to like it for what it is as well.

I liked the first card so much that I decided to do a few more highlights. Once the template is set up it’s easy to just keep making them. The hardest part is finding the photos from various news sites on the web.

One of the wonderful things about baseball cards is that because they’re so small, sourcing photos from the web is actually possible. 900×600 pixels is plenty big enough here. It’s just a shame that so many websites have switched to video-only content and no longer have photos now.

The only problem with letting the web be my photo editor is that I risk having a highlights set of all home run photos. This is so far an accurate reflection of the season so far but I really hope things get more diverse moving forward.

With the fronts coming along it was time to think about the backs. These are much harder since typesetting statistics is a pain and besides, the point of these cards was to emphasize highlights from the season.

A short paragraph writeup of the game is enough. Having the line score is fun. And since Wikipedia’s logos are all SVG you can tweak them in Illustrator for whatever you need them to be. I’m not as taken with these as with the card fronts but they serve my purpose.

I’m not sure how many highlights there are going to be this season. As a fan more highlights would be preferable but that will also drag this project from being something fun to being a complete slog. At this rate though a 99-card set would be my goal. Now that I have the template set up, this shouldn’t be too hard to bang out.

The other portion of this project is the idea of a living roster set. Not every player will make it onto a highlight card but it’s nice to have a record of everyone who appeared in the uniform over the season.

I didn’t have the ganas to create a new design for this. Besides, the interesting thing about sourcing photos from the web is how so many of them are horizontal shots. This template works really well with horizontal images and I’m enjoying seeing the possibilities that come from just dropping photos in.

I’ve also been trying to get photos of players as close to their first game of the season as possible. I may update later if an especially great photo comes out but part of what I’m liking about the idea of a living roster set is that it grows as more players put on the uniform.

Not all photos are horizontal however so I had to tweak things again for the vertical design. I didn’t like how cramped “San Francisco” was at the top so I switched it out for something shorter. Yes it’s in Spanish. Yes we call the team this locally. Yes it’s my design anyway.

The nature of the vertical design is more awkward for the action photography but lends itself to other interesting compositions. Like I’ll probably change Austin Jackson’s photo at some point but I like it for now.

At this point though, since the Giants have already used their entire 25-man active roster I’ve been able to get in-game photos of all but two of the guys. This means that the project now only entails upgrading images and noticing when someone like Bumgarner comes off the disabled list or when there’s a minor league transaction such as today’s activation of Tyler Beede and deactivation of Roberto Gómez. So I can take things easy for a bit until September gets here and hopefully by then a lot of those guys will already have made appearances.

The backs of the roster cards are even more of a challenge though. For my purposes they need to both summarize the season and also mark when he first appeared with the team this year. I thought a little bit about going with full stats but decided to just go with one line for the season.* I’ll probably add an additional line of text for anyone who gets traded to show when they joined or left the team.

*Current stats on these backs are placeholder text so I can see how much fits and everything. I’m not touching stats until the season ends.

Cards will be numbered in the order players appeared with the team as well. This is partially for my sanity as I can just add a card to the end of my document whenever someone makes their debut but also intends to give me a summary of how the season progresses. This will also allow the first page of this set to be the Opening Day lineup* which is a little detail I’m especially happy with.

*I’m putting Bochy as card number 10. And no these existing back images do not have the final numbers at all.

How do I intend to print these? No idea. My best guess is to put a bunch on a large sheet of digital printing, glue fronts and backs together, and trim everything myself. Not sure how many sheets this will take. The other logical solution is to get cheapo 4″×6″ prints and glue those together before trimming. This will be more work but at less than 20¢ a print it means I could do this whole project for $30.

Of course all this assumes I’ll even finish this project this year (watch this space in November). But it’s been fun so far and I’m hoping the peer pressure of other guys in Card Twitter doing their projects and showing their progress keeps me on task.

Atlee surprise

One of the things I’ve especially enjoyed about Twitter is the way the multiracial community exists on there. While many of us, correctly, are leery of being lumped into a single box, there’s a lot of value in comparing experiences and seeing how so many of them feel familiar. I haven’t blogged a ton about this kind of thing except when it overlaps with my other interests like photography and baseball (and baseball cards) since it’s tough to do well.

Aside from being a level of personal exposure which is hard in and of itself to write, let alone share, one of the things I’ve taken to heart the most about being multiracial is that the stories I’m often most inspired by are stories where my reaction risks erasing someone else’s experience. All too often the safer thing is to be quiet and not pin my narrative to someone else’s.

The result of this is that I also never expect the things I do write about my multiracial experience to be commented on outside of people I know. The experiences are worth sharing but I suspect that we all feel similar levels of trepidation about recentering them to be about ourselves as well. That the multiracial community doesn’t overlap much with baseball card twitter meant that while I liked what I wrote about Atlee Hammaker, I certainly didn’t expect to find that it touched anyone else in card twitter.

And then Carl (@CeeMX97) started following me. He’s a Phillies fan about an hour south of me down I295 who’s similarly multiracial to me. Aside from talking baseball or cards we’ve also commiserated about things from the dire situation for Japanese and Korean food in New Jersey to how our Asian flush has gotten worse as we’ve aged. Needless to say, my Atlee post touched a nerve with him to the point where earlier this week I found a small envelope with a bunch of Atlee Hammaker cards inside.

Nothing fancy here but since most of my existing Atlee collection is tied up with my Giants collection it’s nice to have duplicates to flesh out the few non-Giants cards of his I’ve got (basically just his rookie card and his 1991 Studio card).

I’m no supercollector but I appreciate having a dedicated Atlee section in my binder. It’s a nice reminder of the ways that my new collection interacts with my childhood one and the difference in perspective that I have now.

Carl also included two signed cards in the package. He does a bit of through-the-mail (TTM) requesting and often includes duplicate cards in his requests for the players to keep. Often the players do keep the extras but other times, like in these cases, it seems that they signed and returned everything.

I’ve been toying with the idea of taking up TTM requests myself. It’s something I can see enjoying by sending to guys I grew up with. It’s also something I can see doing with my kids as a way of encouraging them to write letters and engage with this hobby more. Chris Speier is one of the guys at the top of my “to try” list for reasons I’ve already touched on on this blog so it’s very cool to have one before I even start considering TTMs seriously.

Don Robinson meanwhile is another favorite of mine. I’ve a few of his signatures already but this is the first one featuring him holding a bat. Pitchers with bats is a fun category of cards as it is. When it’s a pitcher like Caveman who we liked in part because of how he approached batting? Even better.

Thanks Carl for appreciating my blog and for the surprise Atlees and TTM duplicates. It looks like I have to start a Phillies pile now.

Mailday from Gavin

Came back from Easter weekend to find a small mailday from Gavin (@breakdowncards) at Baseball Card Breakdown. Gavin’s got a bunch of interesting collections going on and it so happened that some of my duplicates meshed well with his needs.

Main item in the mailer was this cool 1960 Giants team card. 1960 is the oldest team set which I’m “close” to finishing. After this team card I’m down to high numbers, Willie Mays, and the Willie McCovey rookie on the list of what I need. Since I don’t expect to get any of those soon it’s nice to send the rest of the set into long-term stalking mode.

Gavin also sent a couple dozen 2017 Update needs. Always nice to get closer to finishing this (I didn’t feel like spending the money to build this from packs) and I’m close to 60% complete now.

There are also two 2002 Upper Deck Minor League cards in here. It’s always nice to get anything related to the San José Giants. And it’s funny. I’ll always think of the Giants Short-Season A affiliate as being Everett but I know it’s really Salem Keizer. It’s just a shame those cards aren’t more interesting than being a logo since a San Jose Municipal Stadium card would be a lot of fun.

And it wouldn’t be a proper Gavin mailday if there weren’t a fun custom card included. In my case I got to add my first John Elway card to my Stanford binder. While crossing a name off is fun, the Stanford project is also one which rewards getting that first card too.

There have been a few Elway baseball cards over the years but I’ve not gotten around to getting any of them (though I do have some on my searchlist). The focus has been on guys who played baseball and as much as I’ve turned the corner to look for more odd cards and flesh out the searchlist beyond Topps, I’ve not gotten into any of the football players like Elway, Toby Gerhart, Toi Cook, and Tyler Gaffney who really spend much time, if any, in professional baseball.

Very cool. Thanks Gavin! The other custom work-in-progress you included with the CONFIDENTIAL stamp looks promising too.

Surprise mailday from Bru

It’s always fun to check the mail and find a surprise bubble mailer. Last weekend one such mailer arrived from Marc (@marcbrubaker) and it was stuffed with all kinds of Giants goodness.

First off. Junk wax! Especially Fleer. Especially 1991 Fleer which I’m sure Marc was glad to clear out of his house. Whatever ones of these I already have will go into piles for my kids. They’ve got their own binders for cards now and each of them has a section for just Giants cards as well.

It warms my heart to see that they’ve chosen to do this. I certainly didn’t push it on them although it’s clear they‘re following my lead. At the same time, it’s also kind of heartbreaking that it’s much easier for them to assemble pages of the junk wax guys I followed than it is for them to acquire pages of current players.

Of special note in this batch. Atlee! A great Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell card that I’m a bit sad to see labeled as “The Dynamic Duo” instead of “The Pacific Sock Exchange,”* And a fun Rod Beck card.

*Note to myself, see if I can find the Pacific Sock Exchange poster that we used to have.

It seems weird to cut off “more recent needs” at 1994 but that’a an accurate reflection of how my collecting just stopped on August 12 that year. I found a couple boxes of unpaged 1994 cards last summer* and yeah I gave up on everything after the strike.

*I used to accumulate everything in boxes and then binder and page everything at the end of the year once I knew I’d stop buying packs.

It’s also nice to see so many members of the World Series teams in this batch. I wasn’t collecting cards those years so I’m only now catching up on cards of all those guys.

Topps Big should technically be part of the previous photo discussion but either way it deserves special mention. 1988 and 1989 in particular are two of my favorite sets and I love how they update the classic 1956 design to a peak 1980s/90s look.

The Cecil Fielder Iooss collection card meanwhile fills in a hole in that subset. As a photography guy I’m especially interested in cards which as as much about the photographer as the player depicted. The Iooss subset in particular is a great collection of photos by one of the giants in the profession and I’m happy to add another to my collection.

Marc also included a bunch of Stanford guys.* The Stadium Club Al Osuna card is part of a set I’ve never even seen before so that’s very cool. And I had completely forgotten all about Pete Stanicek so I didn’t have any cards of him in my Stanford binder.

*Marc’s an Astros collector so I suspect that most of these are duplicates from his main collection.

I had marked him as complete when I first put this project together because I have his 1988 and 1989 Topps cards in my childhood sets which still reside at my parents’ house. In other instances like this I’ve tried to get a non-Topps card to hold his place in the Stanford binder so I’m very glad Marc was able to fix my small mistake.

The last four cards in the envelope were initially a mystery to me. Marc suggested that I could figure out what the theme is by studying them and I believe the answer is Mexican-born players who first played in the Liga Mexicana before signing with a Major League team. Due to my interest in Spanish-language cards* I can see how this would be an extension of that interest—especially as it relates to cards issued for the Liga Mexicana or any of the other baseball leagues in Latin Ameerica.

*I’ve been writing a series of posts on SABR about Spanish-language cards released in the United States. The first post is an introduction and should have pingbacks in the comments to my subsequent posts on the site. Or you can just search for “barajitas.”

Thankfully for my wallet, my interests so far lie only with cards issued in the United States unless there’s something distinctly interesting about the foreign cards. The Venezuelan Topps cards with their translated versions of the flagship Topps designs are one such case—as are, to a certain extent, the dual-language O-Pee-Chee releases. The 1970s Calbee cards fit my photography interests. 1971 O-Pee-Chee meanwhile is especially noteworthy for the design change on the backs.

Regarding player-origen cards. I haven’t gone down that rabbit hole yet either. I have to admit that I have considered doing cards for players from Hawai‘i. And I’ve also been tempted to do an Asian-American project. But both of those are just ideas that have occurred to me and are not even close to being proper projects at this time.

But yes. Lots of fun stuff to look through and a wonderful way to recover from a week of snow days. Thanks Marc!

The Magic of Card Twitter

A few months ago I purchased one of those $5 Fairfield repacks at Target. It’s always a fun exercise to see what kind of old cards show up in there* and it’s also a great way for me to see what I missed in the decades I was away from the hobby. I don’t care about the high end cards but just seeing all the different base cards has been great.

*I’m frequently jealous of how my kids can find the exact same early-1980s cards in repacks that I found 25 years ago.

Anyway those repacks, like everything else nowadays, include a chance at a “hit” and lo and behold, I got lucky and found a JD Drew Dodger relic.

This is actually a “good” Fairfield hit in that it’s a semi-famous player. At the same time that it’s a player that no one ever liked makes it the perfect example of what to expect as a hit.

As someone who’s not really feeling it with relics in general, never liked Drew as a player, and collects Giants cards, I put the card in a pile and forgot about it until Night Owl received a scammed Fairfield repack box for Christmas. Then I knew what I had to do.

The magic of Card Twitter is that that JD Drew relic which didn’t excite me at all not only found a perfect home but turned into a card I really like as well.

Yeah. Only a Giants fan of a certain age would enjoy a Steve Scarsone 1996 Leaf Signatures card. I am one of those and I know I’ll enjoy this much much more than Night Owl did.

Scarsone was the backup and eventual replacement for Robby Thompson. We all loved Robby* but it’s not like he was going to play forever nor was he a massive threat with the bat. It’s not like Scarsone was much of an upgrade either, I remember him mostly as a pinch hitter and double switch substitute.

*One of only four players to play over ten years exclusively with the Giants.

The reason why I particularly like this card though is that I got Scarsone’s autograph at the Giants 1994 Spring Training before he had really any baseball cards of note and definitely no Giants cards. So this plain white card has been sitting in my autograph binder for two dozen years and now it will have a real, signed card as a partner in the pocket next to it.

This isn’t a card I’d go out of my way to buy but I love having it as it reminds me of my days as an autograph hound back in those simpler, pre-strike years.

Night Owl of course didn’t stop there and included a second card hiding behind the Scarsone in the penny sleeve.

This was unexpected and very generous. McCovey’s one of those guys whose cards almost always look good and this is no exception. A great-looking card in a great-looking set which all-too-often gets chipped and beat-up edges. I’m very happy to slide this one into my binder too.

Thanks Night Owl! These kind of small-scale trades are what I’ve found myself loving most about reintegrating into the hobby. The larger, coordinated ones are fun too but there’s something about exchanging a couple cards via unexpected plain white envelopes which reminds me of all the promise that trading cards on the playground had to offer.