March Returns

A slow month. I didn’t send as much to spring training as I have in previous years and it looks like it was a good idea. A few teams weren’t accepting mail and my own success rate dropped way off the table. Instead I’ve been going through my junk wax duplicates and sending out cards of guys from the sets of my youth. Lots of players who have been forgotten in general but which I recognize because I spent hours looking at these cards.

The first return of the month was a 19-day return from Scott Fletcher. As I work through my junk wax duplicates I’m grabbing cards from sets that I like to get signed. Fletcher was a journeyman glove guy who was good enough to stuck around for a long time despite never really being a locked-in everyday player.

The next return of the month was Mike Stenhouse in 116 days. Same motivation as Fletcher although I kind of like this photo. Something very 1986 Topps about it in its candid informal nature of catching a moment of baseball ma.

It took a while but my first spring training return came back after 22 days of waiting. Not too long but by this point last year I’d already received all but two of my spring training returns. Which meant that I was starting to think I wouldn’t get any (two Return to Senders reached me before this return and the forums had stories about how a number of teams weren’t accepting mail this season).

As a result I was very pleased and very relieved to get these from Tyler Rogers. It’s always nice to add signed customs to the binder and last year’s “hide the Getty watermark” design looks pretty good with some ink. And the 2020 Heritage is probably as close to a signed 1971 I’ll get.

A nice 10-day return from Doug Sisk brought one of the better 1988 Topps photos into the collection. I like 1988’s photo-centric nature but the photos themselves are frequently on the boring side. Not bad. Just uninspired. Batters batting. Pitchers pitching. Players posing. The few fielding cards such as Sisk taking off to cover first stand out for being different and more dynamic.

Ed VandeBerg is one of those guys I remembered because his double last name seemed like it was written differently in every set. 1988’s VandeBERG in particular was always weird to my eyes. But it was nice to fill out a few more of my childhood cards with a quick 11-day return.

A 110-day return from Balor Moore added another 1978 duplicate to the binder. A nicely-lit portrait on this card looks really well with ink. Moore was the Expos’ first pick in the expansion draft.

My second spring training return was 28 days from 2020’s Opening Day catcher Tyler Heineman. Nice to get his Topps card signed in addition to another custom. A bit of a shame that the personalization covers his face though. I enjoy the personalized cards but the face signing is always a bit disappointing.

With Bart and Posey on the team this year, there’s not a lot of room for more catchers. As a result, Heineman is in St. Louis now and seems to have had a decent spring even though he didn’t make the team.

An 8 day return from Jack Lazorko returned things to my childhood card kick. Lazorko is sort of most famous for a highlight clip that used to play on This Week in Baseball. It’s still a fun video to watch and definitely seems like it’s from a different age of the game when it was okay to thing of pitchers as athletes.

Henry Cotto was another 8 day return. I couldn’t decide which Mariners card to send so I sent both. I like the candid photo but the sliding one is the kind of image that doesn’t show up on cards very often. Despite having been a coach in the Giants’ minor league system, Cotto is not going into my Giants binder.

Keith Miller came back in 19 days. There’s something about his 1992 card which just works. It’s kind of a weird photo but suggests a sense of anticipation. The horizontal aspect also works well and gave him a nice space to sign his name.

A 9 day return from Scott Bailes brought some more childhood cards into the collection. For whatever reason I look at these cards and think Bailes is a rookie but he’d been around the league for a while by this point and was even traded for Johnnie Lemaster back in 1985.

Mike Bielecki is one of those guys who I remember watching with a bunch of NL teams. Unfortunately I don’t have any Cubs cards of him—those all went to Beau years ago—but he bounced around to three teams which came through Candlestick while I was a fan. This return came back in 41 days.

Rafael Novoa never got a Major League win but this 1991 card does show his only career save on the back. He was only on the Giants in 1990 and this card came back in 18 days.

A quick 8-day return from Floyd Bannister brought in a 1985 card to the binder. While I’m still contemplating building 1985, I have been adding a few to the autograph binder and have been enjoying how those look signed as a group. It’s also nice to add some stuff outside of my wheelhouse to the childhood card requests that I’ve been making recently.

The last return of the month was a 49-day return from Charles Hudson. I continue to enjoy how the 1986 design looks signed. Hudson lives in Texas and I had sent this request out like a week before the cold snap which destroyed their power grid. I felt a bit guilty about that since I figured he had more important things to handle than answering fan mail. It’s very nice of him to have saved and answered his mail in that time.

And that’s about it. No idea what to expect for April. I’ve a bunch of Spring Training requests out there still. And I’ve sent a decent amount of childhood cards out. Those are fun to get back but not nearly as inspiring as the returns I’ve been used to getting.

What I’ve really go to do is fire up the custom card making machine again and start sending those out. Those remain the most enjoyable part of TTM requests and I’m overdue for a new batch.

Texas PWEs

It’s been a while since I got a trade package. This isn’t surprising. It’s been a long while since I sent anything out. Which also isn’t surprising. I haven’t really purchased any new cards in over a year. Cards haven’t been available to purchase anywhere for over a year unless you’re willing to reward all those assholes who buy up all the retail or online stock and try to resell it at ridiculous markups.

So it was quite a pleasant surprise to find a couple envelopes in my mail last Friday. Amusingly, they both came from Houston.

The first came from Commish Bob and is a response to a comment I made on a recent post of his about 1962 Post cards. I’m passively acquiring Giants from the 1960s Post cards* but because my passive acquisition means jumping only on the cheapest of cards when I encounter them, I only have one Hall of Famer in the entire batch.

*Well, and Chuck Essegian and I’ve grabbed a Wally Post.

Unbeknownst to me, Bob had ended up with a duplicate McCovey and when I admired his acquisition he offered to send me his well-loved duplicate. Very very cool. This is now the oldest McCovey in my collection.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on here before but I’ve come to love these Post cards. They manage to fit everything you want on a card on one side of the cardboard. Stats, bio, photo, card numbering are all there. You don’t really need anything more. Factor in the use elements and how these were lovingly chopped out of a cereal box by some kid sixty years ago and there’s not more I could wish for.

The second envelope came from Marc Brubaker.  It had the usual mix of this and that but I’ll start off with my first Heritage High numbers. I saw neither sight nor sound of these. I don’t think they were released to Target and it doesn’t matter anyway since my Target no longer carries cards.

In some ways it’s probably just as well. These continue the weird fake trapping and bad trapping effects from Heritage and now make the photoshopped backgrounds look a lot more obvious. There’s also some weird yellow/magenta fringing on the photos—only the players not the backgrounds—which is kind of distracting.

The worst thing though is that it’s clear that whoever put the checklist together did not look at the checklist for Heritage. Tyler Beede for example already has a card in the set. It’s things like this which frustrate collectors since it suggests that Topps can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum of quality control in the product.

Marc somehow also came across some Chrome last year. As usual these scan like crap but jazz up the binder a little. I still don’t get this set though my youngest does enjoy them* As a print nerd and mechanical engineer though I do have to admit that I appreciate these more as objects than as cards.

*He was briefly excited to find that Chrome had released just in time for National Baseball Card Day last year until he found out that they cost $10 for a pack of 4. Very typical of Topps to make sure that their kid-friendly promotion coincides with product releases that kids can’t afford.

One thing that amazes me about Marc’s mailings though is the amount of stickers he comes by. I never got into the Panini sticker albums when I was a kid. I remember seeing them all over, usually with movie tie-ins,* but never felt the appeal.

*For some reason a Temple of Doom album is the first that comes to mind.

More often than not though Marc’s mailing seem to have stickers. From all ages. And since I’ve never collected them they’re always new. Which is pretty cool. I have no desire to put them in an album but they remind me of a branch of collecting which is never on my radar.

These are from 1996 and so also represent a year in which I didn’t pay much attention to baseball at all. Looking back on things I’m a bit sad to have missed the Deion Sanders era.

And finally a handful of Stanford cards. Marc managed to go five for five here too. Flair is one of those sets which I couldn’t dream of buying as a kid. While it’s sort of peak-90s now they’re always fun to encounter. The Just Minors Hutchinson is great because most of my Hutchinson cards use the exact same photo. One Piscotty is a border variant and the Platinum is a nice shiny change of pace from the usual cards in my Stanford binder.

Thanks Marc! One of these days I’ll buy cards again and end up with some Astros I can send you.

Retired Numbers

Just over a year ago before everything got shut down I visited Queens to see Ralph Carhart’s Home Base exhibition. While the show was good, as was getting to met Ralph and Mark Hoyle, one of the things that I didn’t discuss anywhere was how Ralph showed us some images of a massive collection that he had been cataloging and preparing for sale.

He’s since blogged about the collection on SABR and watching his journey down the rabbit hole of awesomeness has been a lot of fun. Earlier this month he reported on Twitter that the auction houses had picked through everything and he had a ton of index cards available for sale. So I took a look and there was a lot to covet.

Being disciplined, I remembered a goal that I had mentioned when Jason sent me a Bill Terry card for Christmas and started off looking for Giants retired numbers as a supplement to my goal of getting a playing-days card of every Giants retired number. Lo and behold, Ralph had three that I was missing and so I placed an order.

A few days later the cards arrived and I was very happy.* It’s not just autographs but the fact that I feel like I learned about them before almost anyone else and how they serve as kind of the perfect way for me to mark a year of pandemic living.

*As were my kids since one of the first things they noticed at their first Giants games was the line of retired numbers posted in the stadium.

It also means that I have enough material to put a post together of my Giants retired numbers. This isn’t a comprehensive list of what I have. For each player I’m showing the oldest playing-days card I have and his autograph.

NY—Christy Mathewson, John McGraw

No cards here and autographs are completely outside the realm of consideration (I’m not sure I’ve even seen a picture of a McGraw signature). Heck their cards are also pretty much a pipe dream. Both of their T205s and T206s are some of the nicer ones in the sets and both of them remain pretty big fish in the pool of pre-war stars.

3—Bill Terry

Both of these are total shocks. Still. The National Chicle card is a beauty and great example of a playing-days card. The index card is from the Gould collection and is a great clean version of his signature.

4—Mel Ott

Not as hard to get cards of as McGraw and Matthewson but still very much in demand. Ott is another guy whose signature I can’t recall ever seeing as well.

11—Carl Hubbell

Very happy to have his signature on an index card. Like Ott his cards are still in high demand.

20—Monte Irvin

Irvin’s cards are surprisingly not too spendy. Only his rookie cards seem to be tough. I haven’t ventured into any of his 1952s yet but I can actually see that happening.I actually have a signed card of his on my COMC pile which will show up some day once I get around to requesting it.

22—Will Clark

Still boggles my mind how expensive that 1986 card was when I was a kid in the Bay Area in the 1980s. I think I’ve encountered enough of them in the past couple years in trade packages that both of my kids have copies now. And the autograph is an in-person one which I’ve blogged about already.

24—Willie Mays

Story about the card is on the blog. The autograph is one that my mom got in spring training. The only time she took advantage of her media pass was to get this. And yeah it was worth it.

25—Barry Bonds

Is interesting that Barry is the only retired number who didn’t debut with the Giants. So I went with his oldest Giants card instead of his oldest card for this post. I honestly forgot I had this until I started witing. My complete sets aren’t something I’ve looked though as much as my team binders.

The photo meanwhile is one my mom took in 1993 and when I got it signed in 1994. I wish we had had silver sharpies back then but I really like that this is truly one of a kind.

27—Juan Marichal

Marichal is going to start a trend where my oldest card is the oldest card which is neither a rookie nor a high number card. I don’t have any of the Hall of Fame rookie cards and Marichal is a high number in 1962 and 1963. Which makes 1964 my oldest card. His autograph is one of the first TTM requests I wrote.

30—Orlando Cepeda

I’ve a decent run of Cepeda cards. I’m just missing his rookie. And I’ve blogged about his autograph before.

36—Gaylord Perry

I know, this looks like a rookie card but it’s not. His 1962 is the one that costs a lot. This floating multi-head card isn’t the prettiest card out there but many of Perry’s cards are pretty dire. Topps was not particularly kind to him until the 1970s. The story about the ball is one of my favorites on the blog.

44—Willie McCovey

And finally the last index card from the Gould collection. McCovey is like Marichal with an expensive rookie card followed by high numbers until 1964.

Looking forward, Bruce Bochy is totally going to get his number retired some day (or at least he should). I hope it’s sooner rather than later but my guess is that the Giants are waiting for the Hall of Fame to make the first move. Besides, they technically haven’t had Will Clark’s ceremony yet so once they do that this summer we’ll see what happens.

February Returns

A slow month caused by me taking a few weeks off from sending requests before gearing up for spring training. The backlog of stragglers however came through in a big way with a couple nice cards.

The first return of February was well worth the 84-day wait. When I was a kid 50 home runs in a season was a big deal. It had only happened once since 1965 and as a result George Foster was just one of those players I knew. I had to explain who he was to my kids though since they’ve grown up in an era where we average a 50 home run season a year.* Yes each of those guys is a star the year it happens but the accomplishment is nowhere near what it used to be.

*Starting with Cecil Fielder in 1990, 50 home runs have happened 30 times over the following 30 years.

As a Giants fan, Foster is of course one of the biggest “what if” stories in team history.* I don’t actually have a lot of his cards (it would’ve been nice to get a Reds card signed) but this 2003 Topps Shoebox card which recreates his 1971 Rookie Card as a solo card was a nice duplicate to have handy and offered a way to get his autograph on a Giants card. And yes, while it’s not a 1971 card it could serve as a stand-in for tha year in my one-per-year not-actually-a-project thing.

*Though not as big as the “what if the Giants had offered Hank Aaron $50 more in his salary” scenario which suggests the possibility of Hank and Willie Mays playing in he outfield together for 15 years.

Don Kessinger was another return that took over a couple months. Only 70 days this time as he signed another of my 1978 duplicates. While he’s mainly a Cub, his 1978 is nice to have since that was the year he became the last player-manager in the American League. He only managed into 1979 but it’s still a fun thing to commemorate.

Another straggler. Another 1978 duplicate. Another fun return, this time from Steve Rogers. Like Doug DeCinces, Rogers is one of the player represenatives who I learned about when reading Split Season and yeah, 207 days after I sent this request I still have work stoppages and labor disputes on my brain.

Randy Hunt played in 25 games over two seasons with only 13 hits in 67 at bats (2 home runs though). However, he received a truly wonderful card as his only MLB card. It’s hard to imagine a better version of this moment with him halfway through his first step out of the crouch, face visible after having just removed his mask, cap just hanging out in mid-air, and eyes up tracking the ball. Of course I had to send this card out.

I thought it was gone too. Hunt typically turns things around in a couple weeks and I sent this in mid-summer. It finally came back 199 days later in a water-damaged envelope and I was a bit concerned. Then I opened it up and found two cards where I’d only sent one. If I had to guess, it would be that something happened to my request on the way to Hunt and he held on to it until he could replace the card I’d sent with a cleaner version.

Sid Bream in 9 days added another 1991 Studio to the collection. HE’s one of those names which takes me back to my childhood as I remember watching him at Candlestick as both a Pirate and a Brave and of course I also remember watching him on TV in that fantastic 1992 National League Championship Series.

I wish I had a Giants card of Wilson Alvarez since he was part of that 1997 team that brought me back to the sport. I didn’t though so I had to make due with this pair of 1992s. I like the Upper Deck but I kind of love the idea of getting those No Hit Club cards signed (I got Tommy Greene previously). He was a pretty good pitcher in the 1990s though his stint with the Giants wasn’t as good as we hoped it would be. These came back in 10 days.

A 12-day return from Zane Smith is very much like the Sid Bream return in a guy who I just remember seeing around the National League. I don’t particularly like the 1990 card but it’s nice to get one for each team.

While I’m not an A’s fan, I can’t deny that those late-80s, early-90s teams were a big part of my baseball upbringing. Terry Steinbach seems to have been kind of forgotten by the larger baseball fandom but he was a solid catcher and even won the All Star Game MVP. It was very nice to get this back in 73 days.

I don’t follow a lot athletes on Twitter but I do follow Don August. He’s not a prolific tweeter but he has a tendency to drop wild stories about playing ball overseas. He’s also a great TTM guy and turned this around in 15 days.

And that’s that for February. No idea what to expect for March. I’ve sent a bunch of Spring Training requests out but those are increasingly a crapshoot. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ll get a few customs back though.

Holy MOReilly

Mike/SPOART (@MOReilly_58) is a SABR member and operates a fun twitter feed where he tweets photos of all kinds of cool vintage sports cards from his collection. Lots of fun stuff to see and lots of fun stuff I can only dream of having. A couple weeks ago he tweeted about 1941 Play Ball, a particularly interesting set since it’s kind of the last major issue before the United States entered World War 2.

When I periodized the SABR Baseball Cards blog, I chose 1939 as the beginning of “modern” cards. Some of this is me pushing back a little on the idea that “pre-war” should be tied to the United States’s involvement, but the timeframe is 1939–1955 which is a period of first steps into cards becoming what we all recognize as cards today. Multiple brands. Multiple sizes and form factors. But all much closer in concept and feel to cards today than to the tobacco cards from a few decades earlier. The fact that Play Ball would go one to become Bowman played a big part here as well.

I commented on that tweet that of all the “flagship” sets from 1939 onwards, 1941 Play Ball was the only one which I had no cards from. Mike sort of immediately messaged me and said he’d like to rectify that.

A couple days ago I got his mailing. Inside was about exactly the kind of 1941 Play Ball card that I was expecting. Something off-grade but still extremely presentable. This looks like it was stuck in an album and sandwiched between some acidic paper. Thankfully the majority of his picture is untouched and I can see the color details on his uniform. And despite the glue spots there’s no paper loss and all the back information is visible.

I wasn’t expecting a Giant since beggars can’t be choosers but the fact that Mike sent me a Giant was extra cool. It’s a nice big image and I can see the uniform details right down to the zipper. It’s also great to see a color image of the blue and red uniform that they wore before World War 2. I saw these uniforms in the first Turn Back the Clock game the Giants did in the early 1990s and it was both very cool and very weird to see them in non-Giants colors.

Speaking of what I wasn’t expecting. I was not expecting this to come in a bubble mailer. I was expecting a single card in a plain white envelope. Maybe. I’ve had plenty of promised mailings never show up.* A bubble mailer though meant more than one card and for a while I was really confused and trying to remember what I ordered from Ebay.

*Note. If you’ve sent me something and I’ve not acknowledged it on the blog or Twitter. That means I haven’t received it.

When I saw the Play Ball card I put it all together. But my jaw kind of dropped when I saw what else was in there. I’ll start off with this 1956 Giants Team Card. This was one of the last two 1956 Topps cards I needed for my Giants team set (no surprise what the last card is) since the team cards tend to be some of the more expensive ones in the set. My guess as to why is that kids didn’t save them back in the day so they’re just harder to find now.

This is the first year Topps did team cards as part of the larger set and it’s one of the better team card designs they’ve ever done. Team picture on the front with photo identification.* A wonderful team history on the back with all-time records and I particularly love the field graphic and dimensions. That the Polo Grounds is such a distinct field makes this particular card even cooler.

*That the names go from right to left is really weird though.

Staying on the Polo Grounds topic, this postcard was also included. It’s from the linen era which dates it to between 1930–1944. The absence of any light standards suggests the photo at least predates 1940 when the first night game occurred. I don’t actively collect postcards but I definitely like grabbing ones that catch my eye. This one would definitely do that.

Besides just being a cool image of the stadium, I love that it shows the John T Brush Stairway and the surrounding neighborhood at the top of Coogan’s Bluff. It’s great to see things that I physically saw on previous trips to the site and it makes the postcard that much more special.

Wrapping up the mailer were a pair of Red Man cards. Both of these are pretty beat up but they have it where it counts. The Maglie is from 1952, the first year they released these. Hank Thompson is from 1955, the last year. Since my only Red Mans were from 1953 and 1954, it’s fantastic to have samples form the complete run now.

While the design of the set didn’t really change year-to-year, there were small changes and the 1952s show a bit of the first-set awkwardness where there’s no numbering or information about the year of issue. I always like the artwork which features stadium backgrounds and Maglie’s portrait is great with the contrast between the blue sky and the placement against the stadium background making him seem larger than life.

If there’s anything to knock about Red Mans,* it’s in how many of the cards of Black players look like they’ve been painted by someone who’s never seen a Black man in real life.* Thankfully the Hank Thompson is colored pretty nicely.

*Well besides the name of the product which I’m honestly surprised hasn’t been pressured to change.

*Campanella and Mays both make me cringe.

Very very cool Mike. This was totally unexpected and filled in a lot of holes I didn’t even know I had. I can’t thank you enough.

January Returns

Starting off the new year. I didn’t send out much this month since the kids schooling was all over the map. Rising COVID numbers forced the district to have to scramble to change plans. I’ve barely had time stay on top of the blog as it is let alone write any requests.

My first return of the year was a 22-day one from Jerry Koosman. As a Mets legends, I wish I’d had a Mets card to send to him. But with 1986 representing my first year as a baseball fan and the first packs I really saw there’s something fitting about getting him on on his career-capper card instead.

It seems like a bunch of us in the TTM community all sent to Tom Murphy around the same time since we all got returns within a day of each other. Mine came back in 32 days. This is another of my 1979 duplicates. Murphy put together a career of over a decade with stints at a half dozen teams finishing up as one of the original Blue Jays.

A 83 day return from Stan Spencer added another signed Stanford custom to the collection. I’m up to 23 different guys now on this project (out of 62 total cards produced so far) and am really enjoying each one I receive. I’ve still got a handful out but will have to wait until Spring Training to try a few more requests.

Spencer is one I especially like adding since he was the ace of the 1990 staff (over Mussina) and while I have a few of his autographs from when he was at Stanford, his lack of success afterwards meant I never came across any cards of him when I was a kid. This is also a case where comparing his current signature to what it was when he was in school is interesting.

Former Giants catcher Milt May signed in 38 days. It’s been kind of amazing for me to realize how many catchers the Giants went through in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lots of names I recognize but most of them only stayed around for a year or two. May was actually there for parts of four seasons and was the starting catcher before Bob Brenly took over.

Jim Walewander isn’t exactly a household name but he’s rightly become a bit of  a legend in the TTM community. I’m also starting to go through my childhood duplicates and fleshing out the signed portions of those sets. Pretty much everyone in those sets are names I recognize anyway and Walewander is no exception.

This request was out for 28 days and spanned the holiday season. Walewander included a blank-backed custom card and drew a nice Christmas tree for me. This will be an especially  fun addition to the binder.

Speaking of fun additions to the binder. Not technically a return but worth putting in this post since it was caused by a request, I received a Christmas card from Frank Thomas. It’s actually a pretty cool bit of artwork which would make for some very nice custom cards.

Inside the card is even cooler though and caught me totally by surprise. This is not all the usual thing that happens with TTM requests and I’m not sure anyone else has gotten a card. I feel like I need to send him a thank you note for this except that my first letter to him was already a thank you note for him being cool to a little kid who had no idea who he was.

A 58-day return from Mark Huismann brought a 1987 Topps card with a very nice casual photo. This is both a card from my youth but also represents the kind of card that just isn’t made nowadays. No one takes nice portraits like this anymore and relievers like Huismann get shut out of the checklists in favor of all the rookies and big-name stars.

The theme for this month is likely to be cards from my youth. Larry Bowa is another such card. He was hired as the Padres manager in 1987 and, as a division rival to the Giants was probably the first new manager I remember. I sent him an extra 1988 card and it came back in only 6 days. If I had a playing-days card of him I would’ve sent it as well but I don’t.

A 13 day return from Bruce Miller added another mid01970s Giants to my collection. He was a utility infielder who spent most of his career going up and down between the majors and AAA Phoenix. The 1976 card does indicate his only Major League home run though.

Another fast return, this time 8 days from Jerry Reed, brought another pair of cards from my youth. I’ve been pulling cards showing different uniforms when I can and this is a nice pair. I especially like the Indians cap in the 1986 card. I never noticed that it was a non-Wahoo cap when I was a kid. Looking at it now shows me that the Wahoo caps were brand new in 1986—just sneaking in at the last minute to make my “they’ve always been like that” sense of things.

Another pair of cards from my youth. I probably should’ve dug for a 1987 Topps Yankees card but a pair of Gary Roenickes with different teams made a nice 10-day return. He was primarily an Oriole but I would’ve seen him as a Brave in my first couple years of baseball fandom.

Jim Wohlford was a Giant for three seasons during those rough early-80s years. He put together a decent 15-year career as a reserve outfielder though. Since the 1982 Fleer is kind of a dark blurry mess I sent the much-nicer 1986 card showing him next to the batting cage. His return rate hasn’t been super grea but I got these back in 76 days.

Getting back into my youth junk wax with a 39-day return from Lee Guetterman. I dig his 1987 Topps photo as something distinct for its era and I really need to try and get more 1991s signed.

Of the cards from my youth that I’m sending out, some, like Jerry Don Gleaton’s 1986 Topps card,really stand out to me. I have no idea why I remember this one so vividly but I do. It must’ve been one I got in my first pack. Anyway it’s nice to send this kind of card out and thank a guy for being part of my youth that way. Gleaton’s a pretty quick turnaround too in exactly two weeks.

A 71 day return from Ray Crone was especially cool. First, it’s always fun to add a guy who played for the New York Giants. There aren’t many of them left and even fewer of them are able to sign TTM. Second, adding my first signed 1958 Topps card gives me a run of signed Topps cards from 1957 to 1995. I’m missing three years with facsimile signatures (71, 75, and 82) but the idea that I’m close to my childhood goal only with signed cards is kind of amazing.

Tom Niedenfuer in 17 days brought me a Dodger from the first MLB game I attended. He’s also a name I just recognize from my childhood collection and that 1985 shows the signs of being one of the first cards I owned as well since it’s pretty beat up.

Ron Kittle is one of those guys who immediately takes me back to a specific age of baseball which just happens to coincide with my childhood. He was a big name for a few years and as such marks a generation of fans in a very specific kind of way. He’s a good signer and sent these back in 20 days.

Jim Acker isn’t a big name like Kittle but he’s anther from my childhood collection whose name is indelibly etched in my mind. As a Braves pitcher I probably saw him pitch at Candlestick at least once. his was a 19 day return.

Butch Wynegar is another one from my childhood cards. I had a 1979 card of him with the Twins as well so I sent him three, one from each team. He added the fourth, an awesome 1985 Topps card I’d never seen before, when he sent everything back 22 days later. Catcher action cards are almost always the best baseball cards and this is no exception.

Wynegar is also noteworthy for jumping from single-A to MLB for his debut. Impressive for anyone but extra impressive for a catcher.

Jim Duffalo was a member of the 1962 team but didn’t appear in the World Series. He’s one of those guys where almost every card of his is in the high numbers. As a result I’m missing some of his cards still and didn’t have any duplicates. His 1965 though was one I could pick up an extra for cheap plus it’s never a bad thing to get a 1965 signed. The fine-point marker looks great and it came back in only 17 days.

A 24-day return from Gary Lucas was a fun one since it includes his rookie and career capper cards while also covering all three teams he played for. It’s nice that his 1981 also represents his best career season when he lead the league in appearances and had a 2.00 ERA.

I’ll finish things off this month with three cards from a Trove Sports Den signing. They had a bunch of good prices for a mid-December signing so I figured I’d see how things went.  Since this involved them sorting my mailing into athlete piles, mailing those to the athletes, waiting for them to be returned, then re-sorting everything into my individual return envelope, I’m not at all surprised that it took 70 days.

Dave Stewart was the big name of the bunch. It’s hard for me to think back about those late-80s, early-90s A’s teams and not think primarily of Smoke. Yes, the Bash Brothers and Rickey got all the headlines. But what made those teams so good was its starting pitching and Stewart was a fearsome presence on the mound.

I also got a card of Kirk Rueter signed. In many ways Woody is the polar opposite of Dave Stewart in being not at all intimidating while relying on all kinds of off-speed stuff. Yet he became the most-successful San Francisco Giants lefthander before Madison Bumgarner.* He’s still a fan favorite as well as a personal favorite of mine.

*I often reference Rueter’s career as an explanation for why I expect the first woman to play in Major League Baseball will be a left-handed pitcher who throws frisbees and can locate her pitches.

And finally, I couldn’t not send this card of Coco Crisp. Probably the best card of 2014 (I haven’t confirmed this though) and an all-around great card in general. It’s a fitting way to finish my January post. I’m not expecting much in February since I  haven’t sent anything out for a while. Bu who knows what the mail will bring.

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.