August Returns

Continuing with customs and my junk wax dupes. The more customs I get back the more I’m inspired to make more of them.

First return of the month was Kent Hrbek in 34 days. Those Minnesota Twins World Series winners were pretty prominent in my early baseball fandom and Hrbek in particular is one of the players I remember most. I couldn’t help but make a card of the play where he pulled Ron Gant off the base. It’s definitely a moment that stands out to me today and I kind of love how it’s become a thing between Braves and Twins fans on Twitter.

While I was expecting a decent number of customs back, I was not expecting this 282 day return from Chad Hutchinson. I chose to make a football version of the 1978 Topps template I’m using for Stanford Alumni. This was partly because he had a longer NFL career and patly because I wanted to challenge myself to expand on the template. I did however include both his MLB and NFL stats on the back.

Another custom, this time from Padres slugger Nate Colbert in 44 days. when I was growing up, his five home runs in a double header was one of those feats that either really made an impression on me or which got mentioned an awful lot in the books I was reading. Either way, despite him being somewhat forgotten now he’s one of those guys who resonates for me.

While Tito Fuentes was one of my first TTM requests, I figured it would be fun to send him a custom. He’s one of my favorite characters and as I mentioned in my previous return from him, was the Spanish-language announcer who I listened to when I was learning Spanish as a kid.

Fuentes is a good TTM signer and sent these back in 10 days. He also sent me a great note which encapsulates why I enjoy sending customs out so much. It allows me to give a little something to the players and it’s clear that many of them appreciate the gesture. Hrbek, Hutchinson, and Colbert all kept at least one custom as well.

I’m not sure if there’s another player like Dave Parker who has so many cool portraits. I put two together on this custom and was very happy to get it back in 45 days. I hope he enjoyed the custom as well since he kept the two extras.

Ted Kubiak took part in SABR’s Burdick Award ceremony for Doug McWilliams. I sent him a quick note thanking him for his participation and he sent my card back in 22 days. Given that this card is shot at Candlestick it’s a decent bet that McWilliams took the photo.

Kubiak sent me a separate envelope with four more signed cards. I would’ve liked to have sent him an A’s card but I only had his 1968 and it was asking for a face sign. I won’t complain about getting extras as a bonus though. I much prefer having him in the binder as an A and the 3x World Series  inscription is a nice touch.

Another fun return. Yes I’ve sent to Al Hrabosky before but I wanted to try and get the “Mad Hungarian” inscription this time. I didn’t ask but I sent a much-more-obvious photo in the custom. He didn’t keep any but sent them all back in 9 days.

My first 1988 return of the month was Tim Stoddard in 15 days. He had a nice 13-year career which ended around 1988 but I wasn’t able to find any earlier cards of his in my collection (I have some in sets but I’m not pulling those out for TTM). 1988 always looks good signed though.

A quick 9 day return from Bill Landrum brought the first 1991 Studio back in a long time. These always look nice signed although they tend to scan a bit dark. Landrum played for 8 years in the National League during my peak Giants fandom. His longest stint was with the Pirates and it turns out that that’s where all my duplicates are too.

I had to make a Juan Marichal custom since none of his cards really capture his leg kick to my satisfaction. I was very happy to get this in 18 days. I’m curious how much longer he’s going to be signing too since his signature has gotten a lot shakier than it was two years ago. It’s not bad yet but thw writing is on the wall.

A 13-day return from Maury Wills brought another signature from a guy who’s probably not going to be signing much longer. As with Marichal you can kind of see where things are going. Still, Wills is one of those great players who I always forget is not in the Hall of Fame. When I was growing up during in the 1980s, the historical path which led to Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson began with Wills establishing the stolen base as a legitimate offensive weapon. It’s possibly the part of baseball I miss the most now.

I’m starting to get into my 1989 duplicates and after 16 days, Mark Parent is the first of them to return to me. I like his catchers’ pose on the 89 and it’s nice to have a different team on his Stadium Club card. For a light-hitting catcher he put together a pretty nice 13-year career.

A 32 day return from Blas Minor brought my first 93 Fleer Ultra to the collection. These cards look nice signed, I just don’t have a bunch of them. Minor has an interesting inscription too. It’s a nice-sounding bible verse* though zooming out and seeing that the context is specifically about the behavior of slaves takes some of the shine off of it.

*“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

One of my favorite returns of the month. I sent a 2010 Topps Giants Franchise History card to Renel Brooks-Moon because I realized that it would be fun to add her to the binder. She’s been the voice of he Giants for over 20 years now and is as much a part of the experience of attending a game at Pac Bell Oracle as the product on the field. I’m glad that my kids both had their first MLB experiences in San Francisco and that she’s the voice they heard and imprinted on for what a Major League game should sound like.

19 days later, I received a small manilla envelope with a San Francisco Giants return address. At first I was a bit confused and was trying to remember what I’d ordered directly from them. The I realized it was probably Renel’s return. Inside was my card but also a lot more. The 2020 Opening Day card was a fantastic addition since I think it’s the only official card she’s ever gotten. But there was also signed photo and a nice note.

The photo is ~5″×7″ and looks to be the same photo session that Topps used. It got beat up a little in the mail but it’s still great. I love the Go Giants inscription as I’m not used to getting returns from fellow fans. And it’s always nice to be thanked for the letter.

A 75 day return form Len Matuszek brought another 1988 to the collection. His 1984 is a nice add since, not only do I not have many of those (signed or otherwise), it represents his best Major League season as well sinc ethat was the year he took over after Pete Rose left the Phillies.

An 11 day return from Steve Rosenberg on another 1989 duplicate. While I’ve started sending these out, I haven’t gotten as far into them as I expected to. It’s another nice and simple design that takes a signature well and I’m looking forward to increasing my variety even with guys like Rosenberg who only played a couple years at the peak of my card collecting youth.

The last return of he month was an 11 day return from Andre Dawson on a custom. Finishing me off where I started with my seventh 1956ish (or as someone on Twitter pointed out, also 1960ish) custom of the month. These all look great and Dawson’s signature on this one is especially nice.

Next month looks to be light since I’ve not sent out much in August. Maybe once the kids go back to school I’ll get some more out. Fingers crossed that there’s no COVID complications as school gets roaring back into session.

Mailday from Shane

My Giants searchlist is increasingly divided into three distinct sections. Old cards which are mostly aspirational and not a realistic goal.* Vintage cards which are plausible goals but a bit spendy due to Willie Mays, high numbers, or HoF Rookie reasons.** And the rest which are completely acquirable but just not a major focus.***

*1953 and earlier.

**1954 to 1972.

***1973 to present.

That last group are cards which I only search for when I’m making a sportslots purchase and can gang a couple cards on before the next shipping tier hits. But they also make for easy pickins when someone wants to clear out junk or modern mishmash and send me stuff that I actually need. A couple weeks ago, I got a package from Shane Katz which did exactly this.

Shane took out a big chunk of my 2004 Giants list. This is a design which I don’t hate but don’t feel particularly inspired by either. The little position indicator is a nice touch but the team name font is super boring. This is one of those designs where the obsession with foil stamping got in the way and simply doing the team name in a team color would’ve been a massive improvement.

Shane also filled a couple other holes in  my Giants searchlist with a fun Matt Williams All Star, a 2003 card of the Big Cat, and a card celebrating Barry Bonds passing Babe Ruth. Very cool stuff and I’m happy to slide closer to completing my Giants team sets.

Shane being Shane of course included a bunch of other goodies including this beautiful 1962 Orlando Cepeda Post card. I’ve been passively grabbing cheap Post cards for a while since they’re a lot of fun. While I have this one already I know that it’s going to make one of the boys very happy. I’ve been stockpiling HoF duplicates for them to pick from and so they’ll have to decide which one gets this and which one gets his 1959 Topps card.

And the last bit of randomness are a dozen various mostly-1990s Giants cards. The still-wrapped Will Clark Mothers Cookies card is a lot of fun. As is the Jimmy Dean. I especially love the 1994 Extra Bases oversized cards.

Very cool stuff Shane. Thanks so much!

Mailday from Kurt

Quick post about a PWE from Kurt Humbertson. He found himself with an extra Lost Ballparks Candlestick Park card and figured I might be interested. I was.

This is a Rookies App product and is actually the first time I’ve seen one in the flesh. It’s nice paper but the printing quality is a bit disappointing. It looks like they turn everything into an image and then print that out.

Anyway, print issues aside, this is a fun card which shows Candlestick as it was when I first started going to games. That chain link fence. The simple non-Jumbotron scoreboard. That empty space between the fence and the bleachers where fans would fight over home run balls.

I’ve been putting together a page of non-Giants cards from each set which shows Candlestick in the background as a way of showing what the set looks like as well as what The Stick looked like at the time. It’s always going to make me happy to see these photos.

Thanks Kurt!

Chocolate Bars

A quick post about a pair of cards that I’ve picked up this year. While I’m doing pretty well in terms of getting Giants team sets (minus Willie Mays and some high numbers), I’ve not gotten into all the different insert sets from the same time period. Some, like the deckle edges, I’ve liked a lot. Others don’t move me, especially at the prices they’re currently listed at. Though I am always keeping an eye out for any that are particularly cheap.

One such set is the 1965 Embossed set. I grabbed this Orlando Cepeda for only a buck at a card show a couple months ago. It’s not as beat up in person as it looks on the scan but it’s been plenty loved none the less.

I’ve not grabbed any of these because I’ve been unmoved by the design. Besides the embossed profiles being pretty nondescript, there’s something about this that just makes me want a chocolate bar. However, at a buck it’s a nice addition to the binder.

One fun thing to point out from the scan though is that the trap around the player name is super visible. Most of this card is a metallic gold with red ink overprinting  everything for the design. The player name though is the only part which is unprinted and that bright red halo is the only section of the card where the red ink is not printed on top of the gold. In-person, it doesn’t stand out this much but the way metallic ink scans so dark makes the trap a whole lot more visible.

Last week though I grabbed another 1965 Topps Embossed card and my feelings about it are very different. This is from Topps’s Presidents and Famous Americans set which I can only assume came after the baseball set since it shows a lot of improvements.

First off, it’s a bit larger in size, more of a tall-boy card than the slightly-undersized baseball card. The embossed portrait is much better detailed with recognizable facial features. And the way Topps scaled back on the gold, using it just for the embossing and borders, makes it all pop so much more. Topps took more care with the type as well and the bio really balances out the composition

There’s also more color in this set. Hoover’s card is white because he was still alive when the set released. Presidents who were assassinated got black cards. Other presidents are red or blue depending on political party (I think) while the rest of the famous Americans got green. The result is a set that manages to be colorful while keeping the novelty of the embossing.

PWE from Night Owl

Late last week I received a small mailing from Greg at Night Owl Cards who took the opportunity to rid himself of some pesky Giants.

The first two cards were from 2021 Stadium Club. The Chrome version of the Joey Bart is nice but also completely unnecessary. Stadium Club is all about the base cards and photography and I don’t see the point of all the parallels. Still, as someone who’s not seeing much of any Stadium Club this year it’s nice to add some to the binder.

The Will Clark reprint is similarly “why bother” but will work as a SABR post because of how interesting it is to me as a print nerd. It’s a reprint but it’s also a recreation of the original in that it’s being completely rescreened and there’s a lot more detail visible in the shadows.

The other two cards in the envelope where older. One, a chrome 2020 Bowman Buster Posey is only the second 2020 Bowman, and the first Chrome, in my collection. As always, it’s nice to add an example to the binder. I kind of like this Bowman design though the crazy Chrome border background is a bit much.

The second card is a 2011 Brandon Belt Minor League card. No idea how Greg acquired this one but these are things I neither seek nor come across randomly. Which means that it’s a very nice thing to add to the binder since there’s no way I had it already.

Thanks Greg!

Walk the Plank Mailday

A couple weeks ago, Matt over at Bob Walk the Plank pinged me to ask if the boys and I had any Series 2 or Bowman needs. Considering that we’d not ripped any product yet this year,* the answer was a definite yes. The nice thing with collecting with kids is that they enjoy the commons as long as they’re Giants. Which makes it very easy for people to unload extra base on us.

*We’ve since ripped some Series 2 as of National Baseball Card Day last weekend.

A few days later I received a bubble mailer of cards and sure enough there were plenty of Giants cards to go around. I distributed a bunch before I remembered to take photos so there was more than is pictured in this blog post.

Two decent stacks of Bowman and Series 2 were a lot of fun. Not much to say about the Series 2 except to note that the Tony Watson really confused the boys. He’s in the checklist because Topps doesn’t update its checklists when players are free agents. Even though Series 2 releases in mid-June, it wasn’t able to catch that Watson had signed with the Phillies in February let alone that he’d subsequently signed with the Angels in March AND made their Opening Day Roster.

To be clear, this isn’t why the boys were confused (Jeff Samardzija is also in the checklist despite having been released by the Giants last September). What got them was that Watson was traded back to the Giants at the Trade Deadline and they thought, for a moment, that somehow Topps had already produced a Giants card for him rather than Topps being three transactions behind.  I’m really curious if he’ll get a card in Update with the Angels now.

There were a decent number of Joey Bart Bowmans as well as a shiny Hunter Bishop which caught me by surprise since this was supposed to be excess base. Nice to spread the Bowmans around as well but it’s really the Series 2 that the boys enjoyed most.

They may change their mind on Bowman in the next couple of years. In addition to the Giants prospects I also asked for some excess Yankees prospects since Somerset is our local Minor League team and it’ll be nice to try for some autographs there once Covid restrictions are lifted a bit.

Matt was very generous here too with a couple guys who are biggish names already. These are going in the Yankees Prospect box which I’ll check against the Somerset roster next time we go to a game.

Very cool stuff. Thanks Matt!

July Returns

A decent number of customs coming back this month plus a bunch of guys from my childhood as I work through my 1988 duplicates.

The first return of the month was a 15-day return from Tom Poquette who unfortunately never got a chance to endorse Motel 6. Jokes aside (and they’re impossible to avoid) he was a decent player for the Royals and demonstrates one of the interesting things about the TTM hobby in that requests and returns have a tendency to interact in unexpected ways. In this case, Willie Wilson’s emergence is what spelled the end of Poquette’s Royals days.

Frank DiPino is one of those names from my youth. As a Giants fan it’s the National League guys who I rally got to be familiar with. DiPino fits that bill between being a somewhat distinct name and a NL guy who, by being a reliever, I’m pretty sure I saw in person even if I don’t remember any highlights. I don’t usually use 1990 Donruss for requests but it works well with a red-colored team like the Cardinals. This came back in 11 days.

Another 11-day return brought the first 1994 Donruss to the collection. I just don’t have many of those since it came at the end of my time in the hobby but after pulling a 1988 duplicate I figured I’d look through the rest. Bill Wegman was a Brewers lifer who pitched for 11 years and put together a nice respectable body of work.

Ken Schrom was an All Star in 1986. His stat line shows a 91 ERA+ that year so it must’ve been slim pickens over in Cleveland. I like that I was able to hit two of my childhood sets and get two different teams here. The photos are also pretty good—both cards are good representatives of their years. They came back in 53 days.

Bob Gallagher was one of the first people I set to a couple years ago but I had yet to send him a custom for the Stanford Album. He kept two and sent one back in 10 days. I’m up to two dozen different subjects in that set and every new one I get back is a lot of fun.

This was a fun one. I’d previously sent to Bobby Shantz and Frank Thomas but hadn’t sent to Bob Veale despite him being the best part of my Old Timers story. I finally put a custom together and sent them out with a letter thanking him for being so cool to a ten year old kid who had no idea who he was. 10 days later I got a couple customs back and a couple notes as well.

Two notes is interesting. Veale continues to be a good guy and it sounds like he appreciated my memories of him. I like the 1971 World Series Champions tag and I couldn’t help but smile at him trading me one of his cards for one of mine. It’s always fun to find a player who collects.

The card that he sent me in exchange for one of my customs (I usually send three and only ask for one to be signed) is a 1960s era Pirates team issue which I understand were used to giveaway for getting autographs on. It’s got a big Giant Eagle logo on the back for the full local tie-in* and is definitely one of the cooler player-provided photos I’ve gotten even though I don’t recognize Veale without the glasses.

*Giant Eagle is a Pittsburgh grocery chain.

Amos Otis is another of those players who I remember learning about when I was a kid. He had a good career in the 1970s and is definitely one of those definitive 1970s players who make a good fit for my customs project. I was happy to get these back in just 8 days.

Not sure if this was a thank you note for the extra customs but maybe it is. In any case, it’s always nice to get a note back from a player.

A couple more customs, this time Luis Tiant in 14 days who didn’t keep any extras. The 1956ish design is obviously the main one I’m working on but the black border is based on my Giants customs for this year and is proving to be a versatile one for images that don’t fit my main custom design.

Tiant is of course on of those guys who every fan from the 1970s loves and, despie no being in the Hall of Fame, is clearly someone who everyone would embrace being enshrined. I got his autograph on a ball decades ago but it’s nice to add a few cards to the collection too.

Mike Matheny is the current Royals manager but he also had a brief stop in San Francisco 15 years ago. Not long enough to make an impression on most people but I do remember him playing in those weird years when Barry’s career was ending and it wasn’t clear what the Giants’ next identity would become. He did however end up becoming the first Giants catcher to win the Gold Glove Award while he was in San Francisco.

I sent him in the beginning of the season when the Royals were doing well with a .600 record after April. Unfortunately, 67 days later when I got this, the Royals had kind of fallen off the pace with an abysmal June in which they only won 7 games.

A 14 day return from John “Blue Moon” Odom brought another custom back to me. Odom has one of the all-time great nicknames and is also a bit of a Bay Area legend due to his time with the A’s in the 1970s.

Paul Assenmacher was kind of the definitive LOOGY as he pitched in 884 games over 14 seasons but only amassed 855.2 innings pitched. I remember seeing him pitch at Candlestick before he fully became the one-out guy and it was nice to get these back in 42 days.

Sometimes you just find a good photo. I’m a sucker for these multiexposure action images and really like how they end up looking on customs (Tiant above and Elroy Face a while ago). So I sent this out to Guidry and was very happy to get it back 20 days later.

Joe Sambito is a guy I remember from my youth but never realized how good he was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As much as I studied card backs, I was not too smart about relief pitching and wouldn’t have recognized how dominant his 1979 season in particular was. The 22 Saves doesn’t look like much but the 1.78 ERA in 63 games and 91 innings is a lot more impressive. I was happy I had an Astros card to send in addition to his 1988 card and was pleased to get them back in 8 days.

A 10 day return from Don Gordon brought another 1988 duplicate to my collection. Gordon included this very nicely made custom card which confused me for a moment because I thought it was a real Big League card and couldn’t remember sending such a card out.

Gerald Young was one of those guys who was full of promise when I was  a kid. He never panned out but he’s definitely one of those names that I remember. I don’t like the outsize influence that prospecting has in the hobby but there is something about the rookies who were big when I was a kid and whose entire careers I was looking forward to watching. These two came back in 30 days and I was very happy to get them.

I sent another request to Frank Thomas because I wanted to thank him for his Christmas Card 9 days. I put a custom card together from his time with the Pirates and another SABR member asked if he could order a couple hundred for Frank. So I took care of that and sent him a couple hundred to keep in addition to my request.

As usual I got a nice letter back (in only 9 days!) written in his miniscule handwriting. This time I need to send him a letter back though since he asked me some questions about the custom cards.

One of the things I especially liked about the 1988 set are the Team USA cards in the Traded set. Some of this is because of the number of Stanford guys in the set but I also just like the way Topps did the text. For whatever reason I had an extra Billy Masse card so I sent it out since I enjoy getting them signed. He never played in the Majors but an official Topps card is an official Topps card. 51 days later it came back and I got to add my 6th card (and 5th different member) of the 1988 Gold Medal winners.

Moving to customs. This time a 12 day return from Wade Boggs who signed all three cards despite my asking for him to only sign one. I love the chicken photo and one thing that I love best about making customs is how I can pick photos that you don’t usually see on cards.

Steve Garvey, like Boggs, also sent back all three cards in 12 days. This is a great photo which Getty has tagged incorrectly as Garvey scoring in a game in Dodger Stadium instead of the play at Yankee Stadium where the umpire blew the call and called him out. Still, the photo is fantastic and everyone of the right age who sees this card on Twitter (even Yankee fans) responds with “Garvey was safe.”

Back to my 1988 duplicates. Bob Kipper, as a middle-relief guy for the Pirates, is another of those guys who I probably saw pitch at Candlestick at some point. I’m really enjoying the look of the 1988 cards signed and was very happy to add another one in 14 days.

Vida Blue is a Bay Area legend for his time with both the Giants and the A’s as well as his continued involvement as a Giants community representative. I got his autograph on a ball during Spring Training decades ago but wanted to make a custom of him as well. These came back 17 days after I sent them. Should I have made an A’s custom? Probably. But I’m a Giants fan first and foremost.

Denny McLain is a guy who I made customs of because I didn’t have a card. His 1968 season was the stuff of legend when I was a kid and has only gotten more amazing since whatwith how the game has become so bullpen dominated. I sent these out the same day as Vida Blue and got them back the sam day as well for a bit of fun kismet in that they’re two members of the exclusive club of players who won both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the same season.

McLain didn’t keep any customs but instead gave me different inscriptions on each of them as well as signing the backs.

A fun one to go into the weird section of my binder. I love the Sidd Finch story/joke. It was fun to read about when I was a kid and it remains a the gold standard of April Fools jokes in sports even today. Joe Berton is the guy in the famous Sidd Finch photo which in many ways became the most iconic part of the story. I figured it would be fun to make a Finch card and send it to Berton. 28 days later I got two nicely-inscribed cards as well as a note thanking me for the copy he kept.

Kevin Frandsen is currently one of the Phillies broadcasters but I remember him as on of those fun examples where a local kids ends up being drafted and playing for his local team. He grew up in the Bay Area, went to high school in Santa Clara, college in San José, got drafted by the Giants, played minor league ball in San José and Fresno, and finally ended up in an Francisco. Very very cool. I sent this to the Phillies ballpark and he sent it back in 67 days. It’s a fun photo and his signature works really well with it.

A 27-day return from Cy Young Award Winner Randy Jones brought back my first Padres customs. Jones is one of those guys who I remember learning about as a kid but just hadn’t managed to get a card of. Customs to the rescue. Jones signed two and kept one but he signed each one differently which is kind of interesting.

The last return of the month is a new longest return for me. I sent to Max Venable back in May 2019. 785 days later his return showed up at my parents’ house. It looks like he moved some time between my request and his return since the return came from a completely different state. Venable started with the Giants and hung around the majors for a dozen years.

And that’s it for July. A very good month indeed and I’ve still go a few customs pending to look forward to in August.

Box of “Junk”

A couple months ago I received a box of cards from @Captnarrr who had grown tired of using it as a doorstop in his woodshop. No pages this time so I didn’t have the same sense of looking through someone else’s collection that I had from his previous box. Instead I just found stacks of mostly 1981 to 1985 Topps.

I’m not going to go through all the cards because they’re mostly commons and I don’t feel like scanning or photographing them all. But it’s a fun stack which hits a bunch of sets that fall into a bit of a black hole in my card knowledge.

Cards from before 1979 I never encountered in the wild as a kid so everything I’ve learned about them involved learning about them through hobby sources. However since I also spent a decent amount of time trying to choose which one of them I wanted for my collection, I got a chance to look through the commons binders and at least see a good amount of the sets.

1980–1985 though are cards which I opened exactly one pack of.* As a result, despite being cards that I’m superficially aware of, my knowledge has been limited to the ~15 cards I pulled over three decades ago.

*Except 1983 Fleer and 1984 Donruss which cost more than I could justify on a pack and so I just purchased Giants team sets. 

Which means that it’s been a lot of fun to just look through, sort these, and get a much better sense of some sets that, given my age in the hobby, I would expect to know better.

A few Hall of Famers (and one should-be Hall of Famer) to show some of the breadth of cards here. As a Giants collector, the league leader cards are things I don’t come across much in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And it’s nice for me to find cards of players like Carlton, Fingers, Perry, and Stargell who aren’t exactly 1980s stars but are fun to find in these much-more affordable 1980s sets.

And the Giants cards from the box.Most of these I have already. Some are upgrades to what I do have though. But most of them have been mixed in with my existing duplicates for distribution to the boys who still very much enjoy adding to their Giants baseball card collections.

It wasn’t just early-80s stuff in the box though. The oldest cards were a handful of 1961 Yankees cards including the always-interesting Ryne Duren who I’ll have to make sure to tell the boys about. It’s funny, I complain about the Yankees surcharge but I also have to admit that I’m more likely to recognize a random Yankee than a lot of other players.

A few other older cards included a card of Ruben Amaro Sr. whose son is part of my Stanford collection and a 1973 team card of the Mets which doesn’t appear to include Willie Mays in the team picture.

And finally, probably the weirdest part of the box was 15 Tigers cards from 1976. This is a significant portion of the base Tigers cards from that year but given how Captnarrr lives in he Pacific Northwest, I’m a bit confused about how/why he ended up with these being his stack of 1976s.

Anyway very cool. Lots of fun to look through. I’ve already sent a few out TTM* and I’ll probably continue to look through the stacks and get to know these sets better.

*Willie Wilson for example.

June Returns

A good month. I’m continuing to work my 1986 duplicates and am moving into my 1988 duplicates as well while mixing things up with some random Giants. That I got a few 100+ day returns is also a lot of fun.

The first success of the month was a 34-day return from outfielder Billy Sample. Sample played primarily with the Rangers so this Yankees card represents the end of his career. He had a decent 9 years in the Majors with a couple particularly nice seasons such as 1983. I was sad to not have a Rangers card to send but it’s always nice to add another 1986.

Sample included a very nice note on this photocopy of his 1987 Sports Illustrated article (Sample’s post-playing career has seen him publish, broadcast, and get involved with filmmaking). It’s the last page of a particularly nice issue which focuses on a single day of baseball. Looking through the online copy hits me right in the feels since this is the baseball I grew up with.

While at one level, the way I’ve been hitting my 1986 duplicates is opportunistic, it’s been especially refreshing to remember what baseball used to be like when I fell in love with it. Cards serve as that entry point but everything about the process serves to remind me why I still care about the sport despite all the crap that Manfred and the owners are pulling to make me hate it now.

A 7-day return from Mark Thurmond added a very short-term Giant to the collection. Thurmond bounced around a bit but is primarily a Padre. He’s strictly a one-per signer otherwise I would’ve included a Padres card as well. This is his only Giants card and also represents my first signed 1991 Fleer card. Not a set I reach for but sometimes I have no choice.

Thurmond is noteworthy for the somewhat ignominious achievement of losing both games in a double header. This was on June 16, 1985 against the Giants in San Francisco. Thurmond started the first game and gave up 5 runs in 3 innings before being pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the 4th. In the nightcap, the Padres tied the game in the 9th. Thurmond was brought out to pitch in the 12th inning only to surrender the winning run an inning later. A rough day for sure but the Padres bullpen must’ve been totally shot in the second game.

Willie Wilson was an established veteran by the time I became a fan (even playing for the A’s a bit) which means that he was one of those guys whose card backs caught my attention when I was first starting off in the hobby. Nothing like a back full of agate type and with the occasional bold-italics that signified someone led the league.

Wilson had a lot of bold italics in the triples column and his 1980 line also shows him leading the league in plate appearances, at bats, runs, and hits. His single-season record remains the second-highest number of at bats in a season and it was fun to get this card back in 10 days.

This is a fun one. Johnnie LeMaster wasn’t even a replacement-level shortstop but his stunt with the Boo jersey is the stuff of legend. It’s not his fault that he was the best shortstop the Giants had for like five years. I loved the story when I was a kid; reading about it now and finding out that he only wore it for an inning makes it even better. It’s a priceless bit of Giants memorabilia and it’s fantastic that he’s kept and treasures it.

When I came across a photo of him in the jersey I knew I had to make a custom. He kept an extra and sent the rest back in only 6 days.

I also included this post card in my request. This photo is also kind of stupidly amazing since he’s not the player I’d think of most for wielding a hot bat (although his 1983 season was probably the best of his career). The signed result means this return is one of the best ones I’ve gotten ever.

So this was kind of amazing. I sent a request to Mark Leiter on a Monday and it arrived back in my mailbox the following Thursday. The only way this could be any faster than 3 days is if he somehow mailed the cards out the same day he received them AND everything at the post office went perfectly.

Anyway, Leiter wasn’t a Giant long but he did win the Willie Mac Award and it’s always cool to add an autograph of one of those winners. He also added the 1996 Score card featuring him with both a camera AND his son for the quintessential mid-90s baseball card photograph. His son is actually playing in AA right now and if they were signing at Minor League games I’d seriously consider bringing this card to a Somerset-Erie game.

Fred Lewis is a guy I remember from the Barry Bonds years and I love the story about how he flew himself out to Barry Bonds’s number retirement and ended up as part of the ceremony. Definitely the kind of thing the Giants do well. It turns out that Lewis also has a very-nice looking signature which looks great on this card. He sent this back in 37 days.

A 20-day return from Kurt Kepshire brought my first 1986 of the month. I’m mostly finished with my duplicates so it’ll be interesting to see how many more come back. This is the 59th in the collection which is pretty good considering I’m not pursuing a signed set.

Kepshire had a decent rookie season in 1984, wasn’t as good in 1985, but then only appeared in two games in 1986. It’s always amazing to me how a guy can disappear out of the league that quickly.

Of course the day after I received the Kepshire return, I received my 60th 1986 return. This time it was Andre Thornton in 63 days. Thornton was sort of the only Cleveland star when I was a kid. There were some up and coming guys (Carter, Snyder, Butler, etc.) but Thornton was the only heavy hitter.

Jim Lindeman is another guy who I watched in the 1987 post season. Even though I hate the Cardinals, I can’t deny that that team also brings me back. I was happy to find a card of him with the Phillies as well and enjoyed getting these back in 11 days.

Al Worthington is a bit of  a TTM legend. One of those guys who returns quickly and sends lots of extras. He’s also one of the few remaining New York Giants out there so I was very happy to get these back in only 10 days.

Worthingon is an interesting character. A lot of the stuff he sends back is tract stuff but he’s noteworthy for basically quitting two teams (one of which was the Giants) because they were stealing signs and signaling the batters. As much as this kind of cheating has been going on forever, not many players had the spine to make a stand about it like Worthington did.

Mike Bordick is one of those names I remember from my youth in the Bay Area. He’d go on to try and fill Cal Ripken Jr’s shoes in Baltimore but it’s his time with the A’s which resonates with me. This is also a fantastic photo the likes of which we couldn’t even conceive in the hobby when I started collecting only a handful of years earlier and I was very happy to get it back in 68 days.

A 27-day return brought a second Willie Mac Award winner to my collection this month. This time it’s Marvin Benard who was a bit frustrating at times but was definitely a big part of the team in the late 1990s. He brings my total of Willie Mac Award Winners up to 18 (out of 40) which is pretty good for something I’m only building casually.

At 353 days, Gary Thomasson is now my third-longest return.* He had a decent career as a Giant before a flurry of trades in 1978 sent him all across the league. I really like his 1974 card because of the view of Candlestick in the background.

*Only Jim Willoughby at 494 days and Juan Gonzalez at 418 days are longer.

Thomasson though is most noteworthy for his two years in Japan. Not because of his baseball prowess there but rather the way he inspired the concept of a “Thomasson.” It’s a snarky term architecturally in that it implies that something is not only useless but expensively useless. But for photographers it’s actually something inspiring.

Thomassons are wonderful and evocative as they suggest both the past usage of a building and the way a building live as an entity of its own. As a photographer, they’re the kind of detail I’m always looking for and the kind of detail I love to see when others find them. I especially like the concept when it applies to old roads and rights of way which have been abandoned or repurposed.

Some cards just kind of resonate. Sammy Khalifa’s 1987 Topps card for example is one which a lot of guys my age remember. Kind of the perfect combination of an interesting name and photo to stand out as a memorable common in the set that introduced my collecting generation to the hobby. I still like the photo today in the way it’s somewhat distinct from other cards. I enjoyed writing the letter about this card and was just as happy to get it back in 96 days.

Khalifa himself is an interesting story. Besides  being the first MLB player of Egyptian descent, he also quit playing when his father was murdered by an extremist.

Four home runs in a game is a big deal. When I was a kid though it had only been accomplished twice since 1961, once by Mike Schmidt in 1976, the other by Bob Horner in 1986. As such, Horner was kind of a big deal to me in my nascent baseball fandom. Getting a 10-day return on a 1986 card no less is the perfect way to remember that.

A 9-day return from Mike Ivie added another 1981 card to the collection as well as a second KNBR Police card. There’s something especially fun about sending out team issued stuff—even stuff like this card which breaks most of my rules for what kinds of cards I like the get signed*

*awkward size plus facsimile sig in this case being two things that typically disqualify cards.

On the topic of facsimile autographs, this 10-day return from Dan Schatzeder is another example of why I break my rule against using these cards. Since this is his only Giants card—and it’s a stretch to call it a Giants card—I decided that I should send it. It’s a little crowded but it’s a fun addition to the Giants album. I actually didn’t realize he was a former Giant until I pulled his 1988 duplicate so I’m happy I even had this available.

I’m solidly into my 1988 duplicates now but this 106-day return from Mike  Birkbeck was one of the first to go out. Birkbeck is currently a baseball coach at Kent State and just completed a decent season over there.

Another 1988 duplicate. This time only a 12-day return from Keith Hughes. He had a short MLB career and bounced around with five different teams over four seasons. According to Wikipedia though he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Mayagüez the Puerto Rico Winter League championship.

An 8-day return from Davey Johnson brought a great 1986 Topps card to the collection. I wanted to send his Giants card but didn’t trust the mail. Instead I sent a 1986 and mentioned in my letter how that World Series was the first one I ever watched and represented when I really began to be a baseball fan. That he inscribed it with “86 WS Champs” suggests that he read my letter and that’s pretty cool.

Back to 1988 duplicates. Terry Leach was a 107 day return and I enjoy the difference between his 88 Topps and 89 Donruss photos. Leach bounced around a lot in his professional career but 1987 and 1988 were his statistical high points so it’s nice that these cards cover those seasons.

Orioles fan favorite Floyd Rayford came back in 16 days. The 1985 represents his best season (131 OPS+) and the 1988 is a career capper. One thing that’s been fun as I work my duplicates and pull cards of names I remember from my youth but who had pretty pedestrian careers has been noticing that even guys like Rayford whose overall stat lines are pretty basic (7 years, 1 WAR, 86 OPS+) tend to have one good, maybe even great, season.

Eric Bell’s 1988 card captures the only full season he played in MLB when he went 10–13 in 33 games for the Orioles. Not a good season but he was good enough enough to stick in a Major League rotation all year. His 1991 is kind of amazing in that he pitched 10 games in relief and racked up a 4–0 record and 0.50 ERA in 18 innings. I wonder why he didn’t pitch more that year. This request came back in 16 days.

The last couple returns this month are customs. The first one is the 2021 Burdick Award winner, Doug McWilliams. Since I wrote the SABR post I don’t have much more to say about Doug here except that as a photographer who formed his visual literacy in part through collecting cards, I am extremely appreciative of Doug’s work and how he’s been so open in discussion the conditions it was made in.

He sent me back a very nice note too. I’m looking forward to the official award presentation later this month as well. I should probably start working on my intro.

And the last return of the month is a super-fast 6-day return from Bill Mazeroski. I put an order of customs together since there were a bunch of guys I wanted to send to who I didn’t have cards of and it’s faster and cheaper to make customs than order what I want online now.

The Maz photo choice was obvious but I really like how the rest of he card came together and I love how it looks signed. A great sig and it’s placed perfectly. A great way to both end the month and step into the next one as I’ve sent out a bunch of new customs now.

A couple PWEs

Catching up on a few small mailings I’ve received in the past couple weeks. I do try and blog everything but most PWEs work better in post with other PWEs.

First off, a Juan Marichal numbered parallel from Tim. Apparently someone had sent him this and since he doesn’t collect Giants cards, he figured it would be better of in my collection. This purple parallel is from 2020 Archives and is numbered 48/175. Since this is the kind of thing I don’t chase, it means there’s definitely a place for it in my collection.

I’m not a fan of colored border parallels unless they end u[ being team-color related. However, 2002’s base border color is so bad as it is that going purple is more of a lateral move. The 2002 design itself is strong but with the colored borders you lose track of how good it is.

Absolutely no complaints about that Marichal photo though.

Gio over at When Topps Had Balls is one of the best customs card guys on Twitter. He’s helped me with some photosourcing for my Stanford customs on a few guys from the 1970s who I was having problems finding photos for* and while I haven’t been able to really reciprocate material wise, I did mention something that turned out to be a great customs idea.

*Don Rose, Bob Gallagher, Bob Reece.

Gio’s collecting miscuts and I suggested online that I’d love to see a miscut card that functioned as a traded card. There are a lot of 1970s designs where this approach would work well with* and I could see the lightbulb go off and gears start turning over Twitter. This Nolan Ryan is the first of his miscuts series and it’s awesome. Looks exactly like I’d want it to look and it’s going to be great to see people’s heads explode when they see this.

*Primarily 1975 but 1972 and 1974 also have the right sort of design to be able to split the team name from the rest of the card.

Also, this post was embargoed until Gio gave the go-ahead since I didn’t want to scoop his own release. So all the other trades on here happened weeks ago. It was great to get in on the ground floor and talk to him about these. And I love that he had to triple check with his printer to confirm hat this was intentional.

Very cool stuff and my brain won’t stop thinking about other possibilities. Since I like the 1975 design for this, it’s fixating on Catfish Hunter, Bobby Bonds, and Bobby Murcer.

Thanks guys!