December returns

I wasn’t expecting anything fancy in December since as I’ve mainly been treading water and sending out 1978 and 1979 duplicates. After a couple years of sending out Giants and Stanford guys I’ve run out of duplicates of those and am now looking through other duplicate piles instead. Still, I got a few great returns all the same.

A 20-day return from Jimmy Howarth started the month off after a week of nothing. Howarth played parts of four seasons with the Giants and was primarily a pinch hitter. This request also gave me an excuse to upgrade this diamond-cut card.

Mike Garman in 13 days brought the first 1978 duplicate return. He pitched throughout the 1970s with a few good seasons for St. Louis and Los Angeles. He had four postseason appearances with the Dodgers in 1977 and didn’t give up any runs.

The same day I got Garman I also received a 13-day return from Royle Stillman. Also on a 1978 duplicate which happens to be his only solo Topps card. Stillman only played in parts of three seasons, unfortunately none of them with Kansas City.

An 8-day return from Dion James brought some signed cards on duplicates from my set builds (and one from my endless supply of 1988 Topps duplicates). I’ve come to the conclusion that I should only build sets where I like using the duplicates for signatures and I like how both the 1989 Donruss and 1990 Upper Deck look.

James is also a name I remember distinctly from my youth. Going to Candlestick meant that I saw a lot of NL West teams. Which means that a lot of those players resonate with me as well.

James put a lot of work into this return. In addition to printing out a letter for me, he used his own envelope and peeled off my address label and stamp to send everything back.

One of my few 1979 duplicates turned into a 9-day return from Jim Umbarger. He spent four years in the majors, most with Texas though he spent part of the 1977 season with Oakland.

I’m still sending out 1986 Topps duplicates though. A 9-day return from Rick Manning added another peak-1986 portrait to the collection. Manning has been broadcasting games since 1990 which makes him one of the longest-serving broadcasters in the game.

Adding Giants pitching coach Norm Sherry added another card to my 1989 project. I don’t have any of his playing-days cards but this Mothers Cookies card is perfectly fine. Part of me wants to try and get it signed by the other three living members but I think I’m going to keep this in the binder as it is. Sherry signed in a relatively-quick 11 days.

I got a longer, 40-day, return from former Stanford pitcher Mike Gosling. He had a nice six-year career in the majors and sent me a fun note thanking me for the extras. I always send three customs and while I feel guilty when guys send back all three signed, getting thank you notes for sending the extras is why I keep doing it.

Former pitcher Tom House in 8 days is another 1979 duplicate. House’s legacy is likely to be his role as a pitching/throwing mechanics specialist as he was one of the first coaches to really break down how to throw well. He’s also notable for catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run when he was in the Braves bullpen.

Rick Cerone is another 1978 duplicate. He only signs one per request so I didn’t add a card from when I was a kid. Older is always better plus it’s fun to get a first-year Blue Jay. This came back in 20 days.

A 65-day return from Joel Youngblood was a fun one. While he’s famous for getting a hit for two different teams in one day, for me he’s one of those guys who reminds me of my first game. In that game, he pinch hit in the 9th inning and ended up going 2 for 3 with 2 doubles and 2 walks as he played 3 innings each at 2nd base and shortstop.

Versatile Royals pitcher Doug Bird brought another 1979 duplicate to my collection. Bird was a somewhat notable player for the Royals in the 1970s and I kind of love that 1970s shaggy look he’s got going on. He signed in 17 days.

I haven’t sent out a lot of more-recent vcards but I saw some returns from Angel Pagan and decided to go for it. 15 days later I got my card back. It’s always fun to thank an Even Years guy for helping take the Giants to a place I never expected them to be.

The week of Christmas brought a contender for return of the year. 45 days after I sent out the signed Cory Snyder cover, Will Clark returned it for my first multiple-signed TTM item. I hope he and Snyder enjoyed this request as much as I did since getting this signed was one of the things I’d sort of fantasized about when I started digitizing all the Giants Magazine covers from my youth.

That week I also received a 21-day return from Don Kirkwood. He was mainly an Angel but I sent a 1978 duplicate featuring him in an airbrushed White Sox uniform. Those uniforms are so wild that I don’t mind the airbrushing too much.

I probably should’ve waited until I got the Norm Sherry return before sending to Bill Fahey since it would’ve been nice to get both of them on the Mother’s Cookies card but I have a hard time sending out already-signed items.*

*It was tough as it was to send the Cory Snyder cover to Will Clark

I already have a couple Fahey autographs but none of them featuring him as a Giant. Since he’s on the 1989 Leaders card I sent that to him and the Mother’s card to Sherry. These came back in a relatively quick 23 days.

I wrapped up my year with a nice 18-day return from Jim Perry. As a Giants fan, I always knew him as Gaylord’s brother and never really appreciated how he was not only a good pitcher but even won the Cy Young Award a couple years before his brother did. This is also a fantastic TTM card with the DIY traded and mistrim giving the card a ton of character before adding the signature and incription.

January should be pretty light. I didn’t mail out much at all in the last half of December due to the holidays, not wanting to overburden the post office, and not wanting to dump requests on anyone in those weeks. But who knows, I’ve got a decent amount of stuff out there still.

Christmas cards

Catching up on a few more PWEs which accompanied holiday wishes. It’s getting to the point where I’m considering making hobby-oriented holiday cards to send out to people I’ve traded with over the past year.

The first card came from Mark Armour and contained a 1977 Willie Mays exhibit. This is a nice reprint of the 1947–1966 era exhibit photo and even feels like it has better tonality than a lot of the vintage exhibits do. The border is kind of goofy though and the less said about the apostrophe catastrophe in the bio text the better. Still this is the kind of thing I enjoy adding to the album and it’ll slide in right next to a bunch of Jeff’s bycatch.

Mark also included a custom card of himself. This is also something I’ve thought about doing but have never gotten around to. A lot of traders have their own custom cards that they toss in like business cards and I enjoy keeping those around.

A few days later I found an envelope from Tim in my mailbox. Nothing big, just an insert from 2020 Opening Day which doubled the number of 2020 Opening Day cards in my collection. This is one of those products that I buy for my kids and stay out of for myself.

This isn’t a critique of the product. If anything it’s a critique of how flagship has effectively pushed my kids away. Neither of my kids wanted a complete set of flagship this year for Christmas. They’ve both realized it’s not the set for them. Too expensive and not really any fun.

A pack of flagship costs like $5 now and that’s a lot of money to pay for a bunch or guys they’ve never heard of. Opening Day at least is mostly players they know. And yes Major League Baseball does a lousy job marketing guys, but Topps also creates checklists that are dominated by rookie cards instead of guys who are actually playing.

So they’ve gravitated toward Opening Day and Big League and I let them enjoy those products. As a result, I don’t get much Opening Day so if it comes in via trade I’m happy to slide it into the binder.

A PWE from Lanny brought me a single 2002 Kenny Lofton card. This might not look like much (though it’s one of Lofton’s few Giants cards) but it’s actually part of Topps’s trainwreck of a Traded set where someone at Topps decided that intentionally shortprinting the first 100 cards was a smart idea.

It was not. I have heard of way too many people who swore off all Traded/Update sets for years just because the 2002 set was so bad. The shortprinted cards meanwhile are impossible to find yet no one actually wants to spend serious money for them.

A perfect storm of awfulness which I would avoid completely except that I wanted the complete 2002 team set for World Series reasons. This Lofton completes the set and I no longer have to think about 2002 Topps Traded ever again.

I also got an envelope from Jason with a couple Giants first basemen. A couple retired numbers even. No it’s not just two 1991 Will Clark cards, these were the packaging surrounding the card Jason intended to send me.

The two Will Clarks were sandwiching this beauty which is not only a great example of the National Chicle Diamond Stars artwork with its solid blocks of color and industrial backgrounds* but represents the first Giants retired number from before the modern era of baseball cards to enter my collection.

*It still doesn’t compare to the South African United Tobacco cards though. Also I remain confused by the scoreboard listing visitors underneath Giants.

One of my long-term collecting goals has been to try and get a card of each Giants retired number from their playing years. I have all the obvious ones who played during the years when Topps was the card of record. Irvin, Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, Marichal, Perry, Clark, and Bonds* all have multiple Topps cards as Giants to the point where I have multiple cards of all even players like Irvin who I never expected to own any cards of.

*Interesting to me to realize that all besides Bonds of those debuted in MLB with the Giants. And yes I’m going to be distinguishing between MLB and “major leagues” from now forward.

McGraw, Mathewson, Terry, Ott, and Hubbell though were always going to be tougher. Fewer cards in general, and the affordable ones are often super ugly in terms of design* or just through being well loved. The Diamond Stars cards of Terry, Ott, and Hubbell are some of the more-desirable options out there and I’m astounded at Jason’s generosity at sending me my first one form this set.

*/me waves at M. P & Company.

Thanks a lot guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed this holiday season and I hope next year brings better tidings all around.

PWE roundup

A roundup of PWEs which didn’t warrant individual posts by themselves.

Right after Thanksgiving I received a PWE from Kenny with a single Brandon Belt Chrome card. It was nice to add my first 2020 Chrome card. While I’m a team collector I’m not at all interested in getting complete team sets of most releases. Instead, for most of those sets I’m a team-themed type collector. One card from each set is fine and adds variety to the binder.

Especially this year when a pack of four Chrome cards was selling for $10. This is in no way a $2.50 card—heck it’s not a $1 card—so I’m much happier getting my sample via PWE.

In mid-December I received another couple PWEs. The first was from Matt Prigge and consisted of a page’s worth of Jeffrey Hammonds cards. In early December Matt gave a shout out on his Twitter feed that he’d send an envelope’s worth of Brewers cards to the first handful of guys who named a random Brewer.

Instead of the results being people naming Robin Yount of Paul Molitor, it turned into non-Brewers fans mentioning truly-random Brewers who they actually collect. For me that answer is Hammonds. I watched him at Stanford when I was a kid and he was a dynamic player with a ton of promise. A centerfielder who was great defensively and could get on base and disrupt pitchers with his speed.* He was one of those prospects I was hoping to have gotten in on the ground floor with.

*Back when baseball cared about such things.

His pro career was not what I’d hoped it would be. Flashes of greatness for a couple months and then he’d pick up a knock and struggle for a year or so as he tried to regain his form. He was still good enough to play in MLB for thirteen years though. I don’t try and collect all his cards but, like Mussina, he’s one of the guys who I was most invested in from day one and I always enjoy picking up his cards.

My second PWE is completely different. This was a random act of kindness from Jeff Smith who had ordered a custom Lefty O’Doul card from All Eras Sports and decided to thank me for a Lefty custom I’d sent him by ordering an extra copy for me. Or actually two copies since one of them is an acetate “card.” I scanned both, and treated the acetate as a slide. It’s on the right and shows a lot more detail.

These are very well done. Printed professionally and the acetate, while something I’ve always side-eyed, is a fantastic solution to what to do if you don’t feel like making card backs. Also lots of nice details that I appreciate with the Joe DiMaggio photo and the detail from the Seals jersey I’ve coveted for over a decade.

Thanks guys! Very cool stuff.

November returns

Was not expecting a huge month and things kind of died down toward the end whatwith holiday stuff. Plus there was no way it could compare to last month anyway. But as always some fun returns. Where last month was interesting characters, this month has a decent amount of photos I just like.

Sometimes I have to send a card because I love the photo to much. This Ron Pruitt is one such example. One of my favorite photos in the entire set and I had to write to tell him as much. As cool as getting your own baseball card must be for a player, it must be fantastic to get one which features a quality photo. I was very happy to get this back in just 8 days.

It’s been sort of interesting to me to see people complain about how starting pitchers can only go maybe 6 innings now since I remember the 2002 Giants and how Dusty Baker used his bullpen that year. The routine the entire season was to get the starter through 6 innings and then use three one-inning guys to finish the game.

Tim Worrell was the 8th inning guy that season and I remember being the most comfortable when he was pitching. it’s also always nice to add a few members of that 2002 season. His return took 70 days.

One of my favorite Giants Magazine covers was this Will’s World photoshoot. I’d love to get it signed by both Will Clark and Cory Snyder so I sent a couple to Snyder first. He signed two and send them back in 37 days. I’ve only scanned one since they other was immediately packaged up to send to Clark.

I also tossed in Snyder’s Olympics card because I enjoy getting the Olympics cards signed and I’m very happy to add another of these to the collection.

In addition to being a Hall of Famer, it was nice to get an 11-day return from Whitey Herzog. I’m no Cardinals fan. In fact I kind of hate them and still carry some scars from that 1987 National League Championship Series. At the same time, I’ve always liked and appreciated Whiteyball—especially with the way current baseball strategy has gone. Getting on base, aggressive baserunning, good defense… All a much more entertaining way of playing the game than the current three true outcomes approach.

I went to my first baseball game in 1986 and as a result was actually interested in the post season that year. The 1986 World Series was thus the first real baseball I remember watching. Jesse Orosco had a great series that year and as a result is one of the first players I remember being impressed by (also on that list Oil Can Boyd). He’s a super-fast signer and sent this back in only 7 days.

This is actually an October return but it only arrived at my house in November. I sent to Jim Willoughby way back when I started TTMing and was using my parents’ address since I was in non-permanent housing. They were surprised to receive a return envelope since the last ones they got were in May. At 494 days this is my longest return now.

Willoughby’s actually from Gustine and is one of those guys who went to college (Cal in this case) while he was a professional player. While his bio states that he was a Yankee fan it must’ve been nice to be a member of his local big league club while he was in college.

A 10-day return from Summer Sanders is the first autograph I’ve gotten that has impressed my wife. This is a fun one to add to the Stanford album and I definitely remember watching her race in the 1992 Barcelona games. This is also the first Allen & Ginter card I’ve gotten signed. Still not my thing as a set but they do work very well for autographs.

I also sent a few more customs out this month and began to get a few back. Joe Borchard didn’t keep any and returned everything in 10 days. He’s another player I remember watching when I was in college (both in baseball and football). I actually remember him more as a football player because whenever he was in the game I knew we’d be running a naked bootleg or something. But he was a decent power-hitting outfielder who hit the longest home run for the White Sox.

One of the reasons I stopped doing the autograph thing when I was in high school was because it felt weird to be prospecting with people I would potentially be in school with. Now though it doesn’t feel weird to be sending these out to peers or guys who are younger than me.

Another return of Stanford customs. Another player who didn’t keep any. Jeremy Guthrie turned these around in 9 days. I’d gotten a pair of cards signed by him in my first big return day but I’m slowly putting together a signed set of these 1978ish customs and everyone I can add is a lot of fun. The current collection is looking really good.

While I unfortunately do not have Glenn Hubbard’s legendary 1984 Fleer card I did have a bunch from across his career. I selected my oldest card as well as two from when I remember seeing him (both as a visitor at Candlestick and with the A’s). He sent these back in 18 days.

On the topic of legendary cards I did get to send Jose Lind his 1992 Studio card. No idea what’s going on but I had to send it despite the black jacket. I also picked a couple other cards I liked. Both Lind and Hubbard are defensive players I remember watching as a kid. Lind lives in Puerto Rico now but this return only took a week.

I started going through my 1970s duplicates and started pulling guys who I remembered from when I was collecting in the late-80s. A 13 day return from Scott McGregor was the first return from that endeavor. He’s one of those cool single-franchise players who stands out in the modern game. He also was a good pitcher for a long time and performed admirably in multiple World Series.

Toby Harrah is another player who I had cards of in both the 1970s and 1980s. The 1976 is actually a card from Cliff but the 1987 is one I remember from my youth. This makes it look like Harrah stayed with the Rangers for over a decade (he actually started with the Senators) but he spent the better part of the 1980s with other teams before finishing his carer back in Texas. He sent these back in 18 days.

Jim Clancy though did spend over a decade with the Blue Jays before bouncing around a couple of teams in the last few seasons of his career. There’s something about his 1978 card that I just really like. It might just be the fill flash (now I have to think if I’ve seen any cards using fill flash before 1978) but there’s also the pose and the way he’s smiling instead of being serious. I also like how his 1988 card mirrors the 1978 pose but is an action image. These came back in 15 days.

Another 15-day return brought a pair of cards from Bob Bailor. These aren’t a decade apart but they feel a decade apart to me. I could buy packs back to 1980 when I was a kid. Which meant that 1979 felt like it was from another age. The rare times they fell from repacks made them treasure to me. 1986 meanwhile was still circulating en masse when I was a kid and I accumulated a couple hundred of them without even trying.

Last return of the month is from former College Player of the Year David McCarty in 27 days. He was fun to watch at Stanford and I had high hopes for his professional career. It never took off like I hoped but he put together an interesting decade in the majors as a bit of a utility guy who played first base, outfield, and pitcher. I could probably have picked better cards here for showing off a signature but these are the duplicates I had.

All in all a decent number of returns. Things looks to be pretty quiet for the rest of the year but we’ll see what happens next month.

Nachos Grande’s Ginter Bracket

A couple weeks ago I received a notification that Chris (Nachos Grande) was sending me a package. I was very confused. He’s been running a lot of cheap fun breaks but I’ve not signed up for any in a long time.* And I couldn’t think of why else he would be sending me cards.

*This is a reflection of my collection becoming large enough that it no longer makes sense for me to buy into a break for the off chance I get one card I don’t have.

When the package arrived it all made sense. Way back in July he ran an Allen & Ginter mini set bracket on his blog. I took part because the insert minis are really the only thing I actually like about Ginter. I was a bit disappointed that the winner was a baseball set but it was a fun way to learn about all the different mini sets Topps has created. I very much like the social studies and science based sets and how they remind me of how interesting card collecting used to be.

Chris had multiple contests set up to reward people who were voting and participating and I ended up on a list of prize winners. Since I wasn’t participating for the prizes (and given everything else that’s gone on in the world since July) I promptly forgot about expecting a mailing. It took him a while but my prizes arrived a week and a half ago.

The list of offerings was all kinds of stuff. Sets, relic cards, autographs, etc. When I submitted my list of what I preferred I think I prioritized the autographs. Despite being somewhat lower on the pick list  it looks like other people wanted other items since I ended up with two of he autographed cards.

The Trevor May framed mini is pretty cool. I’ve never handled a Ginter framed mini card before. It’s an interesting object with the card floating loose in the middle of a cardboard frame and two plastic sheets on each side to create a nice little display. Much to my surprise the resulting object isn’t that thick and in fact fits just fine in a 9-pocket page.

I’ve been a bit curious about these since I wasn’t sure how they were manufactured nor how they handled. They’re definitely neat little cards and I very much like them over relics. I’m less impressed at the plastic feeling since it seems at odds with Ginter’s overall brand but there’s no other way to do this kind of thing.

Griffin Jax meanwhile is still in the Minors. He bounced between AA and AAA in 2019 and scored a non-roster invite to Spring Training last season. No call-up to the Majors but he remains on the bubble.

He’s more interesting though for what he’s going through to play baseball. As an Air Force Academy graduate, he’s been jerked around a bit by the military in terms of being allowed to pursue a baseball career instead of being active duty. It’s very interesting to note that he can’t be paid by the Twins and is still fulfilling his reservist duties while playing baseball.

Chris also tossed in a dozen or so Giants cards to “make up” for being so late with the package. Definitely not something he had to do especially since this was a free package anyway but I’m certainly not complaining.

A lot of these I have already so they’ll go on the duplicate pile that I’m using to create piles for my kids. My youngest for example will love the Metal Mark Gardner and the more 2013 Heritage World Series cards I can give them the happier they’ll be.

There are however a handful of new ones that I’m very happy to add to the album. The 1998 Upper Deck Darryl Hamilton doubles the number of Giants cards I have form that set. As does the Pacific Bill Mueller. The Jesse Foppert is new to me as well and reminds me of a name I’ve not even thought of in decades. He was such a prospect back in the day. The Upper Deck Goudey Noah Lowry is an interesting retro design. I don’t know if I hate it or love it but I like that it didn’t try to make the photo a fake painting. And the Pinnacle Buster Posey is a fun addition from Panini’s first year back in the hobby.

Very cool stuff Chris and thanks for both the  cards and running the bracket/contest.

To Be Eleven Again

A recent post from Night Owl coupled with my Bill Bathe return in October has me thinking about the equivalent Giants team from my youth which I truly followed all the way through the postseason. Where Greg chose the 1977 Dodgers, for me it’s the 1989 Giants who represent my peak youth fandom.

No surprise that we are both eleven years old for these teams. There’s something magical about that age when you’re old enough to truly geek out out about sports while still being young enough that all the other distractions haven’t materialized yet. When you’re eleven you have an allowance—or at least birthday/holiday money—with nothing to spend it on except for what you want. It’s a great year to follow sports and collect cards.

This was also a magical year for me because of our Philadelphia trip. I didn’t just get to know the players as players, I learned how to recognize them in their civvies and got to meet most of them in person. This also gave me a massive head-start on putting to together a complete roster of signed cards.

For example, the starting lineup* are all guys I met in Philadelphia. The Roger Craig and Terry Kennedy cards are later acquisitions since they’re on my team ball but every other card is an in-person signature that I got when I was eleven. Of these nine, Kennedy is the only one who doesn’t count as a fan favorite.

*Organized as I described in my mission creep post.

Yes even though we booed Brett Butler once he went to the Dodgers, I think we all still prefer to remember him for the good years he had in San Francisco.

The pitching staff wasn’t as simple to assemble. Garrelts, Robinson, and Lefferts are from Philly while Reuschel, Hammaker, and Brantley are other in-person experiences.* There are also three notable pitchers missing. Kelly Downs and Mike LaCoss are the only two players on the postseason roster whose autographs I don’t have and Randy McCament is the only other pitcher who appeared in over twenty games

*I have an in-person Trevor Wilson too but I couldn’t not use that 1990 Upper Deck for this post.

Of these, Gossage is the only one who I forget was a Giant. The rest are all memorable even if they only played with the team a short while like Bedrosian.

Filling in the rest of the post-season roster. Gossage and Wilson weren’t on it despite appearing in a decent number of games that season so these last seven (a mix of in-person and TTM returns) take my total to 22 out of 24 players from the post-season roster (just missing Downs and LaCoss as stated earlier).

Of these seven are guys like Earnie Riles who was the third baseman for the first half of the season until Matt Williams became a star. Despite Williams’s emergence, Riles actually played more games at third. Sheridan and Nixon meanwhile both played a lot of games in the outfield, Manwaring was the backup catcher, and Oberkfell, Litton, and Bathe were among the standard pinch hitters.

The last eight cards here join Gossage and Wilson on the list of players who appeared with the Giants in 1989 but who didn’t go to the playoffs. A fun mix of players. Fan favorite veterans like Speier, Krukow, and Brenly whose careers I didn’t get to see but who I saw enough of to learn why the fans loved them. Prospects like Benjamin, Mulholland, and Cook who I remember for their potential. A veteran rental like Joe Price. And of course the incomparable Dave Dravecky who only played in two games but provided both the highlight and the lowlight of the season.

So this means I have 32 out of 45 players* who appeared for the Giants that season. Notable players I’m missing are Tracy Jones and Ed Jurak, both of whom appeared in at least 30 games. The other eight players played anywhere from two (Stu Tate and Russ Swan) to 17 (Mike Laga) games and include a couple names like Jim Steels and Jim Weaver who I not only don’t remember, I don’t even recognize them at all.

*The complete list of missing players: Mike LaCoss, Kelly Downs, Randy McCament, Tracy Jones, Ed Jurak, Mike Laga, Bob Knepper, Ernie Camacho, Jim Steels, Jim Weaver, Charlie Hayes, Stu Tate, and Russ Swan.

One of the reasons I’ve not been a completist about this is that a few of the down-roster guys don’t resonate for me and the point of a project like this is the memories that it does bring back. Settling on just the postseason roster plus whoever feels right is fine.

The feels right concept is why I’m happy to have all but one of the coaching staff from that year as well. Not sure why I knew who al the Giants coaches were but I did. Things were simpler then, just 5 coaches—hitting, pitching, bench, 1st base, 3rd base—and nothing like the current team* where I can’t keep anything straight.

*In addition to the bench, 1st base, and 3rd base coaches, there are two hitting coaches, a director of hitting, a pitching coach, an assistant pitching coach, a director of pitching, two bullpen coaches, and two other assistant coaches.

The only coach I’m missing is Norm Sherry. Also it’s a shame that Wendell Kim never had a proper baseball card. He’s on a couple Mother’s Cookies coach cards but aside from a few minor league issues he never got his own.

Will these ever get framed like Night Owl is doing? Not a chance. But one reason I like scanning everything is that I can mix and match sorting  and put things into posts like this or just have a dedicated category for the 1989 autographs. I can throw something together digitally, see all the guys again, and remember that 1989 season when I was the age my eldest son is now. I hope he’s able to have a team next year which is as memorable to him as mine was to me.

Chromos desde Artie

It took me a while but I finally sent a thank you note with a custom Keith Hernandez card to Artie (who’s now blogging over at SABR). He promptly asked me if I was interested in some of his extra 1994 Topps Spanish cards.

Apparently he grabbed a huge lot of commons and ended up with tons of duplicates. No stars but enough for a team set of Giants minus Clark/Bonds/Williams and the All Stars. And yes I was interested. I actually had a handful of them already (including Matt Williams) but I’m a sucker for anything Spanish-language and it’s great to be close to a full team set.

Just showing the backs since the fronts are indistinguishable from base 1994. I also don’t have much to add over my SABR post so I’ll just reiterate that one reason why I love bilingual cards is how they remind me of how I learned Spanish via watching soccer on TV and listening to baseball on the radio. Sports vocab can be very different than school vocab.

Also, the Giants had a lot of guys whose last names started with B this year. Seven on this page makes eight including Bonds.

I appreciate the full-color backs and action photos on this design. I do not appreciate the way the card numbering moves card-to-card. Nor do I like it when said number is not located in the corner. That said, as a photographer, I’m glad that Topps has thought about what direction the player is looking and letting him look into the card.

Last page includes the Matt Williams card I already had as well as my Orlando Cependa Leyendas card. Looking at the Steve Scarsone card I noticed that Topps included a Rookie Card badge under the logo. I want to say that this is the first year Topps denoted regular base cards as being Rookie™ cards. I much prefer this method to using the RC badge on the card fronts.

¡Muchas gracias Artie!

Awesomeness from Shane

Shane Katz has been working on a “Tools of Ignorance” album for a while now which has turned into a great type-collection* of catcher cards from all kinds of baseball card sets. It’s been fun to watch it grow and the choice of catcher cards makes a ton of sense since those are often some of the more interesting photos in a set.

*A type collection is one where the goal is to get one card from every set. My childhood goal of one card per Topps set was a type collection.

A couple weeks ago I figured it would be fun to send a bunch of my customs over for his album. Give it even more variety and I like sending my work to my friends. Turns out that Shane had the exact same idea and had put a bubble mailer in the mail the day mine arrived.

His bubble mailer was cooler than mine. By a lot. Three 1949 Remar Bread cards sort of stole the show. Yes I’m technically only doing a type collection of Seals cards but there are a bunch of cool Oakland-only releases like the Remar Baking and Signal Oil cards plus there’s even an Oaks card in 1933 Goudey. And besides my family is actually from Oakland.

So yeah 1949 cards are cool. The Pacific Coast League before 1958 and the Giants moving West is cooler. Oakland Oaks cards are even cooler. And having a baking card of Cookie is the coolest. Not quite metacard material but close enough to be fun.

Cookie Lavagetto is of course the big name in this batch. He grew up in Oakland, went to Oakland Tech and played for the Oaks in 1933 before playing 10 major league seasons with a gap four years for military service in the middle. He was an All Star for the four seasons prior to his stint in the military so he clearly lost a lot of his prime to WW2. He then returned to the Oaks for his last three professional seasons before managing the Senators/Twins over five seasons.

Earl Toolson meanwhile was finishing up a decade in the minors. Not much to say about his career or card except to note that it’s interesting that the number or earned runs must not have been recorded by his previous team.*

*Baseball Reference says 81 which gives him an ERA of 5.21.

Ray Hamrick played parts of two seasons with the Phillies in 1943 and 1944 but appears to have lost his chance at a spot in the Majors by serving in the military until 1946. He bounced all over the minors until 1953 and never clawed his way back up. I do have to note his absolutely fantastic nickname of “The Guv’nor” though.

Other noteworthy cards in the package included three cool oddballs: an always-appreciated Kellogg’s 3D card, a 1981 Topps sticker of Ed Whitson, and a 1992 Muscular Dystrophy Association card of Orlando Cepeda. I’m always amazed at how well Kellogg’s cards scan and the Whitson, while small, is a nice photo which shows off 1980s Candlestick. The Cepeda though is a new-to-me oddball which, while it shows him in an airbrushed Cardinals uniform is a full-career card and so claims all six teams he played for on the back.

Shane also included this TCMA Charlie Wagner card. Wagner is the last guy I’m missing from my old-timers project. I’e held off on getting this card since the reflex blue photo isn’t the most appealing nor are the typewritten backs. A the same time, it’s very nice to slide a Wagner card into that page and have one card for everyone who signed the sheet.

Another wild oddball was this 5-panel 1987 General Mills “booklet” which features the usual airbrushed MSA photos that showed up on so many of the unlicensed MSA cards of the era. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this. It’s a cool piece and a good mix of the big names in the National League in 1987. Definitely all names I recognize and remember. At the same time it won’t binder unfolded. I’m currently thinking about bindering it so only three or four panels show.

Moving through the package. Four 1979 KNBR Giants cards that I actually might’ve sent Shane years ago when he was building his 1980s oddballs binder and I got the years confused (these look basically identical to the 1980 set). Duplicates are fine here. I’ve sent some TTM and these are sufficiently odd that they’re good trade bait for other Giants fans too.

Finally into more regular-issue cards. First off, five from when I collected. I think I have the Litton as part of the MLB Debut set but I’m not sure. It’s definitely not in my Giants binder. I really wish that Topps was still making MLB Debut sets. With so many guys on the 40-man taxi squad only getting a couple games and never really appearing on a true Major League card, it’s really annoying to me that Topps has chosen not to give them cards because they want to print thousands of RC-badged cards of whoever the hot rookie ends up being.

The Bazooka 4-in-1 is another fun oddball. I think these came in Bazooka boxes but I don’t remember. I have a bunch but not this one so that was a nice discovery.

And a half-dozen modern cards to round out the package. I actually needed the Leaf Salomon Torres. The Orange/Gold Big League parallels are also cards I didn’t have since I only grab the base team sets of that product. I don’t usually like colored parallels but when they end up being team colors I tolerate them a lot more.

And that Red Schoendienst Then and Now is pretty cool even though it also confuses the heck out out of me. Yes I know that these typically depict two statistics leaders together (in this case NL Hits Leaders) but the designs always make it feel like they consist of two players who have nothing to do with each other. It is however cool to have a Giants Schoendienst insert since he wasn’t a Giant long and is associated so strongly with the Cardinals.

Very very cool, Shane. Thanks for kicking me down the Oakland Oaks type collection road as well.

October TTMs

Finally got the pipeline refilled in September so I had decent hopes for October. Things started off a bit slower than I hoped but picked up as the month went along, culminating in a week-long streak of returns.

Sometimes you just have to send a fun photo. I missed this photo of Jeff Kunkel when I was building my Studio 91 set but saw someone else get it back. Thankfully I had a duplicate and 12 days later I had my own signed copy. Very cool.

While he did not answer my question about how many takes it took to get the perfect bubble he did provide his on tract card. Interestingly, his personal card depicts him with the Cubs even though he only played one season with the team.

A 10-day return from Pete Ladd added another 1986 Topps card to the collection. This is a typical 1986 portrait which I wanted to get signed as an example of the set. It’s kind of funny, I have 20 signed 1986s now with my most-represented teams being the Giants, Rangers, Brewers, and Orioles all with three cards each.

I avoid getting cards with facsimile signatures signed but since this is Rob Dressler’s only Giants card I decided to send it anyway. It looks better than I expected though this is partly because the action photo works better where he signed it rather than where Topps stripped his signature in. Still not my favorite look though I do enjoy adding my first signed 1977 to the collection in only 10 days.

A big 10-day return from Don Robinson added a great 1981 which features one of best-looking cap/border combinations where the cap has been designed to match the Pirates pillbox and the border is actually a team color. And another Mother’s Cookies card is always nice to add.

What made the Robinson return so great was these two signed copies of the Caveman photo that the Giants used on the cover of their gameday program. I’ve been in the process of scanning the covers of all the programs that I have for my youth and printed out the first batch recently. Where the programs are all magazines, I’ve been printing them as 3.5″×4.5″ “postcard” sized. This is a perfect size for TTM since they still fit in return envelopes but are still large enough to be more than just a card.

The Caveman photo is one of the ones I was most looking forward to getting signed too. Many of the cover images of my youth were fun photo shoots but this was one of the best. I’m super happy to be able to slide it into the autograph binder.

As I’ve been working on my Stanford customs, the only photo of Don Rose that I found was over at Gio’s When Topps Had Balls site. Thankfully Gio is a good guy and good follow and I asked him where he got the photo he just set me a jpg. Very cool and allowed me to make my custom and send it out. Rose didn’t keep any of the customs and sent them all back in 9 days.

I haven’t been actively collecting Giants manager autographs but when I got Felipe Alou’s earlier this year I realized that he meant I had an autograph from everyone who managed the Giants from 1981 to 2019 except Danny Ozark. A 10-day return from Dave Bristol takes me back to 1979 and takes me to 7 out of 10 for managers during my lifetime. Besides Ozark I’m missing Joe Altobelli and Gabe Kapler—so only four seasons-worth of managers.

This is also my first signed 1980 card which takes me closer to a different kind of collection. Where as a kid I wanted one Topps card from each year, I now almost have one signed Topps card from each year from 1957 to 1994.* Other than 1958 the years I’m missing are 1971, 1975, and 1982—all years where the set features facsimile signatures.

*Stopping at 1994 to give a fair comparison to my childhood project but the autograph streak peters out in the mid-1990s anyway.

Another fun photo and 1991 Studio return. This time though it’s two different cards with a great photo on the 1991 Leaf and a more-regular 1991 Studio. Greg Gagne is one of those guys I remember from my youth because the only baseball I ever got to watch on TV as a kid were the playoffs and Gagne played a pretty big role in those first few World Series I watched. This came back in only 8 days.

The surprise of the month was this 248-day return from Mike Yastrzemski. I sent to him in Spring Training and figured it was a stretch even then. Apparently he waited until after the season ended to catch up on fanmail. That his 2020 season was even better than his 2019 one makes this the return that has excited my kids the most as well.

I especially love that he chose to sign the custom card with Carl. When I send multiple customs to a player I include a note asking him to just sign his favorite. That he selected the card with his grandfather says a lot about what the highlight of his season was.

A 19-day return from Paul Runge added another fun 1986 Topps photo to the collection. This isn’t quite 1991 Walt Weiss level but these action shots at 2nd base which are shot from right behind 1st base are always a good look.

I’ve come to realize that building sets where the duplicates will look nice for autograph requests is the correct way for me to pick what sets to build. 1978 Topps, 1986 Topps, and 1991 Studio are all like this. 1991 Donruss not so much.

One of my favorite photos and one of the stories I remember reading about when I was a kid. Morganna was already a baseball legend by the time I became a fan and it was much much harder for anyone to get onto the field. I’ve been waiting and hoping that Topps would make an All Time Fan Favorites card of her but I don’t think it’ll ever happen. So I made my own and sent it off to her just for fun. She kept one and sent two back in 20 days.

When I was a young fan in the late 1980s Mark Gubicza was an absolute beast of a pitcher. As I’ve been working through my Studio duplicates his card jumped out at me since I still remember him as being that good. Funny how just a couple great years at the right time will make an impression on any fans who learned about the game those years. I was very happy to get these back in just 13 days.

Frank Tanana is another TTM legend so I knew what I had to do with my Studio duplicate. I also really like the 1991 Upper Deck photo. I didn’t get to watch Tanana pitch in his heyday but by the time I was a kid he was another of those guys who you knew about because he’d been a star in the past. When I was building my 1978 set he even had card number 600. Topps doesn’t assign those 100 numbers to just anyone.

Tru to his reputation he turned these around in 11 days and included his customary tract card. He seems to have been sending different versions of this tract for decades. I’ve seen multiple designs all featuring the same photo.

I touched on my trip to the 1990 College World Series in my Mike Mussina post but I didn’t mention how even though Stanford was eliminated my mom and I stayed around and watched the whole tournament including the championship game which is still Georgia’s only title.

Dave Fleming was the only future major leaguer on that Georgia team and he pitched a three-inning save in that championship game. I thought it would be fun to write him and mention how I watched him pitch 30 years ago. He sent back a very-quick 6 day return.

I actually kept score in that championship game* and ran around the celebrating Georgia players after the game to get the starting pitcher’s (hot prospect Stan Payne) and Coach Steve Webber’s autographs on my scorecard.** I remember having to peep for the outline of uniform numbers through their celebratory tshirts and kind of wanting to find Dave Fleming as well since the story of the game was the pitching performances.

*Yes I kept a pitch count back in 1990.

**Looking at the Oklahoma lineup shows Jeremy Burnitz and Danny Perez as two other future Major Leagers who played that day. 

I mentioned as much to Fleming in my letter and he sent back this nice note about how he ended up missing a lot of the fun due to being cornered by a reporter. It’s nice to add him to the collection now and I’m glad it gave me an excuse to pull my childhood scorebook out of storage.

I have a couple cards of Eric Heiden over in the COMC pile I’ve been building for about a year but with their shipping delays there was no sense in  requesting a shipment. Instead I whipped up a quick custom and was able to get that delivered much much faster. Heck, the custom creation, delivery and 24-day turnaround on signing was faster than the three months COMC would’ve made me wait.

Heiden of course is one of the best Olympians of all time. He also happens to be a Stanford graduate so he makes a nice addition to the project.

Eric Gunderson is one of those guys who I watched in San José and then get to see debut at Candlestick. He was only a Giant for a couple years but he put together a decent 10-year career. His return took 58 days and it’s always nice to get another Stadium Club signed since I don’t get them too often.

John Harrell represents one of the fun things about sending requests. I had a duplicate and figured it was worth looking up the players. I’d heard of Bernie Williams since he had a “Rookie Stars” card three years in a row but John Harrell was a guy I’d never heard of. Turns out he only played in two games in 1969 but had a good couple of days as he started, went 3 for 6 with 2 walks and an RBI. It’s always fun to find cup of coffee guys with great slash lines. HE was a quick turnaround too in only 10 days.

Another 10-day return brought second baseman Joe Strain. I figured it was worth trying a duplicate KNBR Police card since the light blue facsimile signature wasn’t too obvious and these kind of team issues are things I’m increasingly liking to send.

I had sent to Bill Swift pretty recently but I had to try again with my Giants Magazine covers. This isn’t as fun as the Don Robinson photo but it’s nice to get larger-sized items signed and I hope the players enjoy seeing something new which came from someone who attended games at Candlestick.

While I didn’t have U.L. Washington’s awesome 1981 Topps card with the best toothpick photo, I did have his 1984 card where the portrait shows off the toothpick. Washington was a decent player but his character and personality is the kind of thing that endures three decades later. I’m pretty sure a lot of kids in the 1980s tried playing ball with a toothpick in their mouth until their parents put a stop to it.

It’s fun to get autographs from characters like this and I was pleased to get these back in 19 days and add a bit of variety to my Giants-heavy 1984 and 1985 autographs.

I had put off sending to Sparky Lyle because I planned to get his autograph at Somerset one of these days. But the more I thought about things the more appropriate it felt to send him a request expressing regret for the way this year turned out and looking forward to next year. His response came back in a super-fast 6 days.

Looking at all the rumors, it’s possible that Somerset won’t even be independent baseball next year. Lots of talk about it becoming a Yankees affiliate and Trenton being demoted to Class A or getting a different franchise. I don’t like this new Minor League Baseball thing and I hope it leaves all my local teams relatively unscathed.

Tommy Greene also came back in a speedy 6 days. He’s one of those guys who I remember because his rookie hype and no hitter occurred during my formative years. He was only a Brave for a year but that’s actually the team I associate with him. I found myself wondering here how many times he’s signed his No Hit Club card. Even if it’s a standard request I suspect it never gets boring to be reminded that you threw a Major League no hitter.

I’ve received a couple Mothers Cookies cards from Brett Butler already but I figured it was worth sending another request to get this Giants Magazine cover signed. This is also not as fun as the Caveman photo but it’s a fun photo in its own right which exemplifies the fun style that the gameday programs of my youth had.

I couldn’t help but include a couple more cards including a 1991 Studio for my increasing collection of signed cards from that set. Butler is a great TTM guy and these came back in 28 days.

John Ramos was a bit of a stretch since his return history was both thin and discouraging. But I figured I’d give it a shot anyway since I’d made a custom for him with a photo I found in the Stanford Daily archives. Much to my surprise and pleasure he sent them back in only 14 days. Ramos only played in 10 games but he did bat over .300. He also is the 100th autograph subject I’ve added to my Stanford binder so that’s a fun milestone to acknowledge.

Another 14-day return is from Max Alvis and his ever-present chaw. His 1970 is one of the best examples of it and it’s a card and photo I’ve liked because of how it evokes a different age of baseball. Very nice to get some ink on it and add it to the album.

More cards with photos I like. Lenny Randle signed one of my favorite 1978 Topps cards in 8 days. Lenny is clearly an interesting guy who included the nickname he picked up when he was playing in Italy.

Randle also include a ton of extras including a fantastic Arizona State card and a photo of him blowing the ball foul when he was a Mariner. Calling yourself the “Most Interesting Man in Baseball” would normally get an eyeroll but Randle actually has a decent claim for that since weird stuff would just sort of find him on top of the fact that he’s led just an interesting life. It also looks like he’s almost out of stock of his biography.

Another 8-day return and another favorite card and photo of mine. The Giants SSPC cards are kind of boring but there are other really fun ones in the set. Doug Rader’s for example is classic and looks great signed. I also included a card from my youth but forgot to think about how a blue sharpie would look against the blue background. Whoops.

Last return of the month is Bill Bathe in 17 days. I sent him the Mother’s Cookies card and he sent me back a bonus 1990 Donruss. Bathe only played a couple of years but he was on the 1989 Giants postseason roster and even hit a home run in the World Series. As such he’s a name I recognize immediately and which brings me right back to that 1989 season.

Getting Bathe’s autograph takes me to having autographs from 22 of the 24 guys on the Giants 1989 postseason roster. I’m only missing Mike LaCoss and Kelly Downs. With regard to the full list of 45 guys who played that season I’m at 32 but the players on that list who didn’t make the postseason roster are pretty fringe.

So yeah a very good month in all. No real heavy hitters but a lot of fun photos and customs which helped temper the sense of impending doom that’s been settling into my chest.

Moving West

So yesterday I received a nice little envelope from Mark del Franco with this 1958 Topps Giants team card inside. Mark had picked it up by mistake because he’s building 1957 Topps and got deked by the “1957 Giants” label.* Since I’m a Giants collector, Mark thought of me as someone who would appreciate the card and he was absolutely right. Not only is this something the fits in the Giants binder, as someone who is putting a binder together of expansion and move-related cards, it’s a perfect fit for there too.

*The 1957 Topps card is over $10 compared to the maybe a couple that 1958 runs so I hope Mark just thought he’d gotten a super deal.

Where most of the 1958 set airbrushes out the NY logos with an all-orange Seals logo instead of the interlocking SF logo the Giants eventually chose, the team card very clearly depicts the New York team. As a result, this card has a foot in both New York and San Francisco.

It also demonstrates why one of the enduring debates in collecting world is about which season sets represent. A lot of people treat sets as depicting the previous season. Others treat them as part of the season they were issued. Both points of view are valid. This team card would argue for the 1958 set representing the 1957 season. The other San Francisco cards in the set argue the opposite.