Mailday from Bru

Found a nice PWE from Marc in my mailbox last week. School is over and summer has officially begun so it’s nice to start it off with some cards in the mail.

This isn’t the usual fare but as we’ve all stopped ripping new cards and sort of filled in the obvious collection items, I think we’re all casting about for other stuff to send each other. In this case, Marc has come into a good-sized lot of 1979 Topps cards and remembered that I had’t put together my Candlestick page for that set.

Being an Astros collector means that Marc has a decent number of cards feature The Stick in the background. These seven 1979s definitely complete my page and the 1980 Andujar doubles the 1980 Candlestick cards I own. Og these I like how the Lemongello shows off the black hole in center and how Cabell captures the left field bleachers and scoreboard.

All seven didn’t make my 1979 page but four of them definitely did. Once I get more than nine cards I try and spread things out to get different views and I definitely like how that page looks now.

The early-1980s needs work but I’ve not yet gone looking for cards here. It’s nice to have a complete page though even if it spans 1980–1985.

Marc also included two 1979 cards form the Jean-Michel Basquiat checklist. I enjoy the connection to the “real” art world and it’s a fun mini-PC to put together. Rather than digging through the comments of my SABR post I’ll list the checklist here.

  • Joe: Steve Henderson
  • Jerk: Bob Randall
  • Hot Dog: Steve Kemp
  • Wally: John Matlack
  • Bus Pass: Ed Glynn

These are the first two I own from that theme (I had a Steve Henderson but sent it out TTM a couple years ago and it never returned)

And yes even though we’re not ripping product Marc apparently is still. A handful of Donruss cards is very much appreciated, especially the Camilo Doval card since for whatever reason Topps isn’t featuring him. I’m not keen on this design but a least it’s very Donruss™ without being derivative.

Oh and the Diamond Kings card looks like a Diamond Kings card. I’m assuming it’s this year but I can never tell.

For a while I was considering only buying Donruss cards this year since boycotting MLB-licensed stuff is about the only way I can make a statement as a fan. But then I don’t buy anything anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

A couple Match Attax Barça cards. No idea where these are sold or if anyone plays the game but they’re a fun add to the non-baseball sports album. Ansu Fati in particular is on the cusp of becoming something great and I hop he realizes his potential. That #10 shirt is really heavy and, while I think they gave it to him too soon, the fact he wears it now says a ton about how he’s perceived in the team.

And lastly a Safe Hit Texas Vegetables crate label. Marc got a big batch of these and has been selling/distributing them. Not the kind of thing I actively collect but with Marc being in Texas I totally understand why he jumped on this.* It’s a cool image with a local angle and even the concept of “Texas Vegetables” evokes a weird combination of the Texas Leaguer with a Can of Corn.

*I’d be much more tempted if I came across a Best Strike Apple label since Watsonville is borderline Bay Area. But even then I try really hard to to get sucked into too many different collecting interests. 

I also had the weirdest reaction to this piece as a physical object in that my gut felt that it was fake but there’s jut enough going on that I can’t trust that gut reaction plus I don’t know a thing about how labels like these were typically printed. The thing is that my gut wants the text to be nice and crisp and it’s not. No crisp edges anywhere. The blacks and reds are screen mixes. All of these things are frequently tells that something has been photographed and reprinted.

But if the entire label including the text was painted as a single piece, this is exactly how it would look. Especially if printed slightly out out register the way this one is. Plus the small vertical “INC” in the bottom right corner is printed as linework which suggests it was added in after the original artwork was photographed for press. And there’s no sign of being rescreened anywhere on here.

Also, the paper, while slicker than I expected, is only slick on one side. Definitely doesn’t feel like paper you’d get today and is probably way cheaper than what you’d get from Vintagraph.*

*Worth noting that this version of the label has been restored and I suspect has had all the type re-set as linework so it prints crisply. 

Very cool stuff Marc. I was half expecting a Shawn Chacon custom for Trenton but it’s great to fill out more Candlestick pages.


While I’ve been unable to find cards anywhere locally, Ebay is doing this thing where good deals on weird shit keep popping up. Previously it was Zeenuts and Venezuelans. This time it’s Diamond Matchbooks.

Diamond Matchbooks came out in the mid-1930s and are pretty cool. They feature a player* on one side and text about him on the other and, when printed well, can look pretty nice.  I’ve featured a pair of them earlier but this time I’m getting them with intent.

*Not just players, I’ve seen non-sport versions featuring cities, etc. too.

Aside from being neat little items, the matchbooks are affordable ways to collect vintage* cards of a player. Ernie Caddel has only one “real” football card and, as a beautiful National Chicle with that dreaded Rookie status attached to it, it runs in the hundreds of dollars. This 1938 matchbook, while not as nice, runs a couple orders of magnitude less and serves as a great addition to the Stanford album. It’s also nice that the text mentions Stanford plus the silver printing is pretty cool.

*I frequently use “vintage” to mean “playing-days.”

Caddel is an especially nice addition to the album because he actually went to Stanford on a baseball scholarship as a pitcher and only started playing football once he was on campus. I can find articles about him in the Stanfrod Daily archives but unfortunately can’t find any statistics for his time as a player.

I also don’t have a lot of Stanford pre-war so it’s always great to add another. I think I’m up to six cards now.

I also found a great small lot of baseball matchbooks. I wouldn’t have gotten this just except that Carl Hubbell was one of the included cards.

The whole group is fun though and it’s very nice to have an assortment of colors. The Hubbell and English cards are from  the 1935–36 “set” which makes this my oldest Hubbell card.* I love the back write-up which discusses both his 1933 and 1935 seasons as well as the fact that this essentially dates the card to releasing when Hubbell was at the height of his powers and in the midst of wining the National League MVP award.

*By a year over the Dixie lid.

English meanwhile only references 1935 on the back so it’s possibly from an earlier-printed group of these. It’s hard to call these a set of cards since they weren’t really cards. There was clearly a matchbook collecting ecosystem going on at the time though but I have no idea if there was a “collect them all” mentality or if it was just a living set of ephemera being printed on an otherwise disposable object.

I do like the amount of uniform detailing visible in English’s photo with the piped placket and wishbone C around the bear cub. The Jordan book also has a decent amount of uniform information in the photo albeit of a Braves uniform and not the Bees.* Kind of fun to have a card dating from the the five years they were the Bees but a shame that the photo still depicts the Braves.

*The fact that this lists the team name on both sides means it’s a 1937 release using a pre-1936 photo.

And that’s the latest Diamond Matchbooks news. I have six of them now including three Giants and one Stanford. They’re currently in Cardsavers and 4-pocket sheets but I can totally see switching to 6-pocket sheets if I come across more.

April Returns

April picked up where March left off with a flurry of returns in the beginning of the month and a couple nice spurts as my full pipeline paid off.

The first return of the month as Gary Nolan in 15 days. I found more duplicates from my 1978 set build but I had to send Nolan a Reds card as well since he was one of the primary pitchers for the Big Red Machine. It’s kind of amazing that he even got a 1978 card though since he retired in 1977.

On the topic of 1978 duplicates I also got a 15-day return from Stan Bahnsen aka the Bahnsen Burner. he most interesting thing when I looked him up was learning about and recoiling from Chuck Tanner’s pitcher usage in the 1970s. As much as modern bullpenning drives me nuts apparently I respond even worse to old-school “blow out your aces’s arms by pitching them as often as possible.”

Barry Foote was, for a while, a better catching prospect than Gary Carter before settling into a role as a career backup catcher. HE did however put together an eight-RBI game in 1980 which is a pretty cool accomplishment. This card was beat up when I sent it and didn’t get USPS’d in its 10-day round trip.

I got a nice 14-day return from Ed Ott who was a bit of a Pirates fan favorite before the Tony Peña years. I don’t normally send 1982 cards but with the different team I figured it would be more fun getting it signed than letting it just sit in a box.

Bobby Mitchell was the Trenton Thunder manager when I first started going to games. I wasn’t collecting autographs then (which means I missed out on Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres) but it was nice to write him and thank him for being part of what became a fun thing to do with my kids. He sent this back in 12 days.

Okay this is a fun one. While I’m not an A’s fan and didn’t even like them much when I was a kid, I also find myself remembering those late-80s, early-90s teams kind of fondly now. They were good and the players on them were definitely some of the big names in the Bay Area. So while I didn’t collect them much as a kid I definitely enjoy getting autographs from guys like Dave Stewart, Jose Canseco, and Terry Steinbach now.

Dennis Eckersley is definitely one of the key guys from those teams and he was as close as you could get to a force of nature in a few of those seasons. I had ton of options to send him but I went with a nice action image and a nice portrait. Very very happy to get these back in 15 days.

Mickey Weston appeared in five Major League seasons but never reached double digit games in any of them. He got the most work in 1989 and 1990 and ended up on cards from my peak collecting years a a result. He sent this back in 46 days and included a tract card as well.

I got a nice 5-return day mid-April with a great range of cards including one of my longest ever returns. This isn’t quite Max Venable’s length but Andrew Lorraine got a Stanford custom back to me in 664 days. I was just a kid when he started pitching at Stanford but his parents used to sit by us at Sunken Diamond. I got his autograph on the season ticket when he was a junior since he was one of the most-promising prospects that season.

A 27-day return from Darin Ruf brought some more spring training returns. His roster card is the always-fun dugout celebration but I especially like the card of him pitching. I hope he enjoyed it too; since he kept one of each custom I think he did. When I made it last year I was still in “this is going to be this kind of season” thinking and I could not have been more wrong.

Jim Kern is kind of the original “Fear the Beard” and even now has a great look for baseball cards. I had an extra 1981 but his 1982 photo captured the bear glory so well I had to send it too. These came back in 21 days.

Kern’s nickname is the wonderful “Amazing Emu” and he’s selling a book about his experiences with the Rangers. Given his status as a character in the game the books probably  decent read. I’m also wondering if anyone’s sent him an emu card to get autographed.

I’m not actively collecting father/son autograph combos but I decided it would be fun to send a duplicate card to John Mayberry Sr. and include a custom I made of his son. I’d watched Junior play at Stanford and have customs printed and ready to go if he ever starts signing. Senior kept the custom and sent my card back in 10 days.

And the last card of that 5-return day was the custom I made for SABR’s 2022 Burdick Award Winner. James Beckett is probably the most controversial pick we’ve made so far. He sits right on that fine line between promoting a common culture and creating a hegemony. For my generation his name and price guides bring back a ton of fond nostalgic memories and I’ve met countless people online who share those experience. Which is great.

The flip side of this is that many of my generation also still feels like there are certain rules to collecting—many of which have to do with value and playing the market. As much as Beckett is responsible for so much of what I loved about the hobby as a kid, he’s also responsible for why I was able to walk away. As an adult, I’ve chosen to focus on the good stuff and how he captured the zeitgeist of the excitement behind cards for over a decade and was happy to thank him for that.

It only took him 10 days to send my card back plus he included an extra 2005 Fan Favorites as well.

I’m pretty sure every rookie/prospect from 1990–1992 resonates with me. I was in junior high and we were all tuned in to every player who could be “invested” in. It’s only fitting that my first return after the Beckett return was one of those guys. Not a “dated rookie” with a ton of hype, just a good solid ballplayer who had a ton of potential. Sadly he’s one of those guys who just couldn’t stay healthy. I was happy to get these back in 33 days though.

I found myself with a few 1984 duplicates and decided to try sending those out. I don’t have a lot of 1984s signed since I’m thin on everything which predates 1986. Frank LaCorte began his career as a starter but found a good home in the Astros bullpen. He signed this in 12 days.

A 12-day return from Jack O’Connor added another signed 1984 card to the collection. For guy who played in parts of six major league seasons he didn’t get a lo of cards so I’m glad I had on of his available.

Back to 1986s this time with a 12 day return from Dave Van Gorder. He’s another guy who despite a handful of years in Major League Baseball only has cards in a couple of years. This time though one of the cards is from the first set which I collected and so all those cards and players bing me right back to my first year in the hobby.

I decided to send a request to Clay Dalrymple to thank him for being part of the Old Timer’s letterhead I got when I was ten. I need to have at leas one signed Phillies card from that group and this one looks really nice signed. He sent this back in 10 days.

I’m not sure how the only Jim Slaton duplicate I had was from 1978 but I’m glad I had one of him as a Brewer since he’s the franchise leader in wins and innings pitched. He sent this back in 16 days.

The same day I got the Jim Slaton return I got another 16-day return on a 1978 card from Bill Atkinson. I’ve come to really appreciate the 1978 design with autographs and the handful of action cards like this one work especially  well signed.

Mike Caldwell is one of my favorite autograph stories. He was the coach of the Campbell Fighting Camels who cinderella’d their way into the NCAA tournament in 1990. I managed to track down his 1976 Topps card before their game at Sunken Diamond and it was a lot of fun to surprise him with it after the game.

He’s a good TTM guys so I figured it would be fun to thank him for being so cool 32 years ago. I figured it made sense to include a Brewers card seeing how he’s one of the more successful pitchers in their history. He didn’t respond to my note but did sign both cards in 32 days.

I wasn’t able to keep my pipeline full over the course of this month so things ind of trickled off ion the last couple weeks. A combination of he kids being on spring break, getting my 2022 Giants Customs up and running, and dental issues ended up taking my focus. I’ll hopefully get up and running again soon and with any luck other returns will continue to straggle in.

Opening Day from Bru

I guess it’s not officially baseball season until I get a mailday from Marc. Not only has he been pointing out Ebay auctions he’s also still coming up with cards despite going on two years of product being impossible to find.

While the bulk of the package was my usual collecting interests (Stanford and Giants) we’ll start off with this 1965 Topps Stan Williams. Cleveland purchased his contract on March 30 1965 and as a result, Topps clearly didn’t have a photo of him in an Indians uniform. Even though this is a fifth series card and came out later in the season (probably July) it was still too soon to get an updated photo.

While they didn’t touch the Yankees uniform, Williams’s cap is a much different story with the NY logo being blacked out. Sloppily blacked out. The further upstream you can do these fixes the better and this fix is about as far downstream as you can go with a black NY that looks like it was scribbled on to either the black film separation when burning the plate or the actual plate itself during printing.

The tell in this case is that the NY is 100% black. If it had been done before doing the color separations it would be some kind of four-color mix. Instead it’s solid black which is why it looks so weird on the card.

Moving to the Stanford section of the mailing with a nice selection of guys who are currently active as well as a few non-baseball options. A decent number of new cards to me here, especially the non-Topps options like the Mosaic Edman and minor league Helling. I also hadn’t added that Bob Mathias card despite having other Olympic cards.

With Heritage being increasingly boring it’s nice to see that Lowrie and Hoerner got interesting examples this year with Lowrie’s horizontal card being one of the better ones in the set.  Also it’s always fun to add a couple Elways to the collection.

The last Stanford card is a very cool signed Adam Keefe. Marc apparently got this TTM a couple decades ago and decided it didn’t fit his collection anymore. I’m very happy to add it to mine. Keefe wasn’t a star but he put together a decent NBA career and I enjoyed his years in Utah as the “Garbage Man” to Karl Malone’s “Mailman” who was responsible for cleaning up the boards and and putting trash shots back into the basket.

Moving to the Giants and starting off with a selection of junk era cards. I almost missed the most interesting thing here but three of the 1995 Flair cards are in fact missing the silver foil stamping. Those cards are so shiny it’s easy to overlook that the player and team names are missing.

What’s cool is that you can see a ghost image of where that foil was supposed to go. While this could be intentional so that the foil doesn’t pick up any of the textures on the card, given the difficulty of registering foil stamping I almost want to suggest that something went wrong, the stamping ran out of silver foil for a few sheets, and the resulting ghost image was an inadvertent almost deboss.

Last batch of cards are current-day Giants. As with before the non-Topps cards are always welcome. The Topps cards meanwhile will go into the for the kids pile. Well except for the foil Archives “Big mini” or “mini Big” Buster Posey. That’s staying in my collection in part because I’m a Topps Big fanboy but also because I’m fascinated by Topps’s choices for which parts of the cards would get opaque white ink and which parts would let the foil impact the image. Definitely not the choices I would’ve made but they say a lot about what parts of the card Topps considers to be important .

Very cool stuff. I’m long overdue on a reply mailing but I’m also long overdue on buying cards in general.

Around the World

So I just got my first Venezuelan cards. I’ve avoided them for years because they tend to be way too expensive, poorly-printed, and really beat up. Plus most of them don’t offer anything substantially new (let alone  better) to the standard US Topps cards.

Only the 1962s with their Spanish-language backs (also 1967 though those have the non-licensed feel to them as well) have called my name as an extension to my barajitas series of posts on SABR.

But a couple weeks ago a deal on eBay that was too good to pass up came by and so I picked up my first three Venezuelans. Was waiting for a while for them to come in but they arrived over Easter weekend.

I figured that while getting team sets of Venezuelans was neither cost nor time effective, starting a type collection made a certain amount of sense. So I have one each from 1962, 1964, and 1966. There are also sets from 1959, 1960, 1967, and 1968 but I’m in no rush.

Holding these in hand is sort of the opposite feeling I had when I encountered O Pee Chee cards in the 1980s. Where the 1980s OPCs were bright white card stock instead of the brown Topps stock the Venezuelans are duller and greyer than the bright white Topps stock.

“Sort of” because while this sounds underwhelming it’s actually not. The paper just doesn’t match what I’m expecting any printed material form the 1960s to look like. It feels either decades older or like it should be fragile newsprint and adds something evocative to the photos because it feels like they’re in danger of slipping away. As much as the Cepeda is the highlight of the three I think the Jim Ray Hart card is my favorite looking with the way the photograph still glows.

Back to the Cepeda. While it’s mighty beat up* the back is completely readable. One of the reasons I’ve avoided Venezuelans is that since my interest is the Spanish-language backs and so many Venezuelans have paper loss three. Cepeda has glue marks and is a bit off-register but I can totally read the Spanish.

*Recalling my suggestion years ago that card conditions should be like the Mohs hardness scale. If Zeenuts exemplify 1. Venezuelans would be 2s.

Despite all the extra empty space, the text is basically the same only (and surprisingly for Spanish) much less wordy. Stats are still using the English abbreviations but a careful reader will pick up the translations for rookie (novato), home run (jonrón), and RBIs (carreras impulsadas). Interestingly, outfield is left untranslated instead of becoming jardinero.

1964 and 1966 are essentially unchanged from the US releases. The only difference is the inks used. To my eyes it almost looks like they made the decision to print them using process inks—1964 going from spot orange to process black and 1966 from a spot pink to process magenta.

As with the Cepeda, no paper loss is very nice here and I can totally put up with the glue spots. Venezuelans are supposed to look used and well-loved and these certainly fit the bill.

All in all very cool. Plus this addition takes the number of countries I have cards from to nine (and the number of continents to six). In addition to Venezuela I have cards from the USA, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, France, and the UK.  I figured it would be fun to end this post with a call back to the oldest card I have from each of those countries.


My oldest US card (and card in general) is this 1887 Allen and Ginter card of Hawaii.


A set of 1899 Stollwerck cards would be my oldest German cards.


I’ve a ton of pre-war UK releases but my oldest are these 1901 Ogdens.


Not sure if Liebigs were released in France or just published in French but for a 1906 set I’m treating it as being a French set.

South Africa

A gorgeous set United Tobacco made in 1936.


Only showing the back since the front is identical to Topps. But it’s never a bad thing to show off 1971 O Pee Chee’s backs. I have a decent amount of OPC from 1977 to 1992 as it functions a bit as a Traded set for my Giants team sets but not much more.

I might pick up more 1978s as part of my 1978 build. And I’m now considering doing a type collection for other years for the Giants album since I’ve opened that door with the Venezuelans.


While I have a 1960s playing card of Sadaharu Oh, my oldest proper trading card are some 1975 Calbees. I do however have a 1949 menko headed my way so that’ll be fun.


Modern, well 1996, cards for the Australian League.

Sort of surprising to me that I have no cards from Spain since finding Barcelona soccer cards is something I totally would do. I’ve definitely had my eye on a few Xocolata Amatller cards before. I’m sure there are Panini stickers from Italy that would catch my eye as well. Plus some of the Dutch Gum cards. I’d also love to find cards from Mexico or elsewhere in Latinamerica but as always, I’d have to be caught by the cards not just the country of origin.

Addendum/edit April 26


So SanJoseFuji commented and reminded me about Panini Stickers. Unlike the other cards on here, these are intended for worldwide release and have back text in English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish. They are however manufactured in Italy so I’ll count them here. I don’t have many of these but I do have a couple Spain ones from 2010 when they won their first World Cup.

And this takes me to a nice round 10 countries worth of cards. Two North America (USA and Canada), one South America (Venezuela), four Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy), one Africa (South Africa), one Asia (Japan), and Australia.

Addendum/Edit May 16

A pair of updates for my oldest cards.

I realized last weekend that my oldest Canadian card is actually this 1962 Jim Davenport Post Canadian card. Post already does a great job at packing everything you want on a card on just one side. That they manage to do this in two languages is even more impressive.

And I’ll add an image of the 1949 Menko to update the Japan selection since I mentioned it was in transit in my original post.

March Returns

March picked up where February left off with a good flurry of returns as I’ve kept my sending rate up. When the lockout ended I got a bunch of spring training requests out and even got one back.

Ted Sizemore spent a dozen years in the majors. A couple pretty good years in the first half of his career, one of which resulted in him him winning he Rookie of the Year in 1969. He’s one of those guys who I’m aware of because many of his cards, including this one, features photos taken at Candlestick. This one came back in 23 days.

Gene Garber had a whopping 19-year career and had appeared in over 900 Major League games by the time he retired. While he spent the most years with Atlanta, by the time I was collecting he was with the Royals and had one of those card backs stuffed with stats that I loved to see when I was a kid. As with Sizemore these also came back in 23 days.

A quick 9-day return from Paul McClellan brought my first Giants cards of the month. He debuted in 1990 and appeared in over a dozen games in 1991. One of those names I definitely remember because of my peak fandom years. I appreciate that he signed these in silver even though neither of these cards needed it.

Len Gabrielson was a Giant for only a couple seasons. His 1966 season though involved him beating out the Orlando Cepeda as the starting left fielder.* Gabrielson bounced around the majors for most of the 1960s before finally sticking with the Dodgers for the last four years of his career. He signed with a nice personalization in 17 days.

*Cepeda’s bum knee was threatening to end his career and resulted in him being traded to St. Louis early in 1966.

It’s a little hard to read in the scan but Rick Leucken not only personalized my card he added two bible-related inscriptions. One, Romans 1:17, is pretty standard. The other says “Saved by Grace” but I totally read it as “Saved 34 Games” at first and was really confused since that’s neither something to brag about nor did he save anywhere near that number of games.

He only pitched for parts of 2 seasons but they just happen to cover my peak collecting years so I’ve got a bunch of dupes of him. This came back in 10 days.

An 11-day return from Mike Rochford who spent a couple of years with Boston before heading abroad to Japan. I’m meanwhile in the midst of hitting some of my 1990 Upper Deck duplicates since I accumulated a few during my set build.

I got back pair of Upper Decks in 9 days from Matt Young. Always nice to get a couple of teams. Young’s most notable achievement in baseball is that he’s a member of the “pitched a no-hitter and lost” fraternity. He lost a 2–1 game at Cleveland on April 12, 1992 in which he walked 7 guys and didn’t have to pitch the bottom of the 9th inning. He gave up one run to a walk, two stolen bases, and RBI ground out, and the other to two walks followed by two fielders’ choices.

Another 1989 Donruss dupe came back in the form of a 35-day return from Craig McMurtry., who has a pretty nice-looking signature. He was the runner-up to Darryl Strawberry for the 1983 National League Rookie of the Year Award and even picked up six first place votes.

Jack Brohamer’s claim to fame might be that he’s the only player to hit a home run while wearing shorts. He also shows up in a nice pair of cards in 1973 which have been of interest to the baseball card community in that they show two pars of the same play. I went with his pair of 1976 Topps cards which he returned to me in 34 days.

Xavier Hernandez was one of those prospects I remember from my youth. I remember him mainly as an Astro and had totally forgotten about him being a Blue Jay first. He sent these back in 12 days.

This looks like a huge return but it’s probably fake. Mike Schmidt has been a notorious ghost signer for years (and is apparently not particularly pleasant if he’s asked to sign for free in person either). Still, I figured it was worth a shot to see what happened. Wasn’t going to send any nice cards but a 1986 Topps duplicate (which reflects 1985 and might be the only year he shows up as a first baseman) is totally fine. 188 days later I got back what I’m assuming is a secretarial signature.

I’m not working 1991 Leaf but I have a bunch of them and occasionally raid the pile when I see returns from a guy. This Mark Lee is one such card and it came back in 38 days. Lee played in parts of four MLB seasons over eight years with 1991 being the year he played the most.

Pete O’Brien put together a respectable 12-year career, even earning five MVP voting points in 1986. I sent the Cleveland card since I’m going through my 1990 Upper Deck duplicates. I unfortunately did not have any Mariners cards to send him. This pair came back in 16 days.

I sent a bunch of customs to Spring Training as soon as the lockout ended. No idea what to expect but in only 11 days I got a return from Kervin Castro. He kept no duplicates but as one of those guys who just made his MLB debut and has no real cards out there, he’s exactly the kind of player I enjoy sending customs to. He’s one to watch and has the perfect name for a pitcher who relies on breaking balls.

Franklin Stubbs is one of those names which resonates from my youth. He was one of the Dodgers starters in my first MLB game and I definitely saw him multiple times at Candlestick.  He’s also a great TTM guy and sent these back in only 7 days.

I’m clearly also working my 1991 Upper Deck duplicates. Bill Sampen returned this in 7 days and added a great photo of the Expos road uniforms that I remember from my youth. The unique uniforms plus the extra national anthem combined to make Expos games always feel a little special.

I think I’d conflated Garth and Dane Iorg when I sent to Dane. (My brain now keeps making Dane and Garth in Dane’s World jokes) I realized I should get the pair to add to a passive collection of baseball family autographs that I’ve been building. Iorg is a fast signer and returned this in 7 days.

As these things go, I promptly got another family card in my next return. This time it’s a 10-day return from Gary Sutherland whose brother Darrell is part of my Stanford project. Since Gary went to USC there must have been some good school rivalry stuff going on between the two of them. Gary had a decent 13-year career and even scored the first run in Expos history.

While I knew Lee Elia as the Phillies manager, I had no choicebit to send him a 1983 card since his rant is legendary. I didn’t have the guts to ask him for a “print it” inscription but it’s definitely a fun card to have signed and anyone who knows, knows exactly why I selected it. Besides being a quick 8-day return, he also included an extra card from his time managing the Clearwater Phillies.

I found myself with a bunch of 1981 duplicates and figured I’d try sending those out. 1981 isn’t my favorite set but I like how it looks signed. Mike Tyson was somewhat of a defensive specialist in the 1970s with St. Louis. It felt weird sending him just a Cubs card so I pulled the much-nicer 1980 card out of my collection to go with it. I don’t normally like the double-signed look but every once in a while it’s nice to change things up. He’s a reliable signer and returned these in 8 days.

The next day I go another 1981 return, this time Craig Chamberlain in 9 days. Chamberlain had a short career but he started off with three complete game victories. This is kind of mind boggling when compared to the way today’s game is pitched.

The las return of the month is a 56-day one from David Segui. He had a nice 15-year career which started and ended in Baltimore. It’s been a while since I got a 1991 Studio card back and those are always nice to add to the collection.

All in all a very good month. With spring training winding down my single spring training return looks to have been a false alarm of sorts. I haven’t given up but I’m also not optimistic. At least the pipeline is full of other requests still so fingers crossed for April.

New box cards!

Every month or so it seems like Jason and the rest of the Chicago SABR guys get together for a junk wax rip party. The rest of us on Twitter get to look on jealously as they post the pile of boxes to be ripped as well as the resulting haul. Their most-recent party included a few boxes of 1994 Topps Stickers and, much to my surprise, I realized that there were box cards on them.

Yes, box cards have existed for decades before the 1980s with Hostess in the 1970s, Post in the 1960s, Bazooka in the 50s and 60s, and Wheaties in the 50s (to name but a few). But the idea of having box cards on baseball card boxes was something that I thought first happened in 1985.

To be clear there is something special about the 1985 Donruss cards in how the box cards are of the same design as the rest of the set. That doesn’t take away anything from the fact that there were Topps cards on the 1984 Topps Stickers boxes though. There they were, box cards a year before I realized they existed.

As a box card lover I was suitably impressed and Jason was generous enough to offer to send me a panel. No Giants or Stanford guys in the set but I was also not at all picky. I will take any and all box card panels I can get.

The panel I got has two fan favorites in Bill Madlock (ex-Giant!) and Eddie Murray. It’s kind of a wonderfully awkward design. Blank backs and just a photo with the yellow bat looming over the players’ heads. For some reason Topps included the team and batting information outside of the cut lines too. Add in the weird border around the cut lines and you have something that may actually look better as intact panels.

Jason included a bunch of other cards in the mailing. The two highlights are a 1980 Squirt cover card and a 2022 Buster Posey Home Run Challenge card.

The Squirt looks like a boring cover card: corporate logos, “get three cards free with  purchase,” and “good while supplies last.” The back though is not what I expected at all. Instead we have a list of the active players with lifetime .300 batting averages.  It doesn’t look like there are any others versions out there though but I like that Topps actually did something interesting with this card. Also, despite the decline in batting for average in the modern game, a card like this in 2022 would still have eight guys and the highest average would be .310.

The Posey card is just hilarious. The idea is that you scratch off the code on the back and pick in which game you think Posey will hit a home run. If you guess correctly you win a special card. Kind of a fun gimmick except that Topps had to go to press before Posey retired so now this card is a guaranteed loser. Is definitely a fun one for the album though.

Nine cards from the 1990s (well one from 1989) including a bunch of 1994 O-Pee-Chees which I didn’t have. Never saw these as a kid. Not the hugest fan of the knocked-out team name but the laying effect OPC did is pretty neat. Not easy to do without computers. Probably not that easy to do with computers in 1994 either. The black is not overprinting the image and is instead getting trapped with it. Also I need to remind myself to keep this player name treatment in mind moving forward.

The last batch of cards is from the 2020s. I’m not entirely sure why the Patino is here unless it’s Jason giving me a hard time about him winning his first career game against the Giants (okay it could be the ponle acento action with the tilde). The rest of the cards though are obvious.

I actually do need the “2002” Mays and “1955” Irvin since I don’t collect Archives. Though that Irvin is the kind of thing I hate. I don’t like but can tolerate Topps reusing all of its designs.* I really hate it though when Topps essentially remakes a card with apparently zero awareness that it’s doing so. Monte Irvin on a 1955 design? That had better be saying something interesting about his existing 1955 Topps card.

*Tolerate even though I don’t like it. It fits in with a lot of the way my generation in particular has approached nostalgia as something to be strip mined, repackaged, and drained of all meaning through constant reuse and an inability to grow up into new perspectives. So many things—especially movies and TV shows—from my youth are getting remade with zero desire to actually look at them with new eyes. And in the rare instance someone tries to update a property to today’s standards or values, my generation loses its shit and has a hissy fit about our childhood being “ruined.”

And I need to mention again that the Heritage Mays features the fantastic Hamm’s Beer advertisement only with the beer colored red. I’ve assumed it’s because Topps doesn’t want to feature a beer advertisement in the same way that they changed all the cigarette references in their T206 remakes.

Very cool stuff Jason. Thanks!

First Hubbell!

Anson at Pre-war Cards runs a regular sale where he offloads duplicates and things from his collection. I don’t participate much—things are either way out of my price range or they get claimed almost immediately.* His most recent sale was no exception here but a couple items that were highly relevant to my interests were neither snapped up in the first minute nor obscenely expensive.

*Previous purchases include a couple soccer cards as well as a couple Zee-nuts.

Highlight of the batch was this 1937 Dixie Lid of Carl Hubbell. It’s obviously creased and there’s also a backing cardboard attached which was either intended to stabilize the crease or is just a remnant of how it was displayed decades ago. A little sad to not be able to see the Dixie branding and know what kind of ice cream this was from but as someone who’s been wanting a vintage Hubbell for a long time to add to my retired numbers project, all of those issues meant I could actually afford this.

I’m being optimistic and calling this my first Hubbell card. I’m also being optimistic about this being my first Dixie Lid. The 1930s ones are very cool alternatives to the trading cards of that decade and the 1950s ones have left/right pairs that turn into stereo views.

This 1935 Eckstein-Halpaus cigarette card featuring Herbert Hoover and his two sons is part of a set called “The Post-war Period”—making this an explicitly post-war pre-war card. Not quite a “playing-days” card of Hoover but probably as close as I would expect to get for my collection.

The text is not the usual fare you expect to see on any trading card and is best rendered as a dump from Google Translate.

December 1928: Hoover becomes President of the USA

While the first surging signs of the unhealthy global economic situation have already become visible in Germany, the United States is still experiencing an artificially-induced economic boost. On 11/7/28, Hoover is elected the new President; under him, on 10/28/29, the great collapse of the American economy began.

That this is from a 1935 set puts a lot of things into context. The Weimar Republic collapsed in 1933 after a massive depression precipitated in part by the US stock market crash. Hitler took over as Chancellor and became dictator in 1934. Googling around suggests that this set explicitly covers (I suspect it actually celebrates) the rise of the Third Reich and contains some cards that will make my existing worst cards seem benign.

Anson, as is his wont, included a couple bonus cards in the envelope. This one, from the 1926 Player’s Cigarettes Gilbert and Sullivan set, threatens to outshine the two cards I bought. It’s not just a Gilbert and Sullivan card, it’s the very model of a modern Major General card.

One of the things I love about pre-war cards is how varied the topics are. I’m not sure you could find a set for every item listed in his song but looking through all the available sets it certainly feels as if it should be possible.  Having a card of him is kind of the perfect encapsulation of what makes pre-war collecting so much fun.

This is an oversize version of sets that appear to be much more common in regular tobacco card sizes. I kind of love many of the cards in those sets but oof are the Mikado cards rough to look at.

A card of the Luft Hansa Heinkel HE 70 from the 1936 Player’s Cigarettes International Air Liners set is a fun addition as well. I’m more of a trains guy but the early aviation stuff tends to make for very nice cards too. I’m glad that this one’s livery features what looks like a Dutch flag rather than a Nazi one. Though I’m not sure why that flag is painted on the tail since it’s doesn’t match the Luft Hansa livery from that time.

Last of the bonus cards actually ties in with my first pre-war purchase a handful of years ago where I lamented how none of the Kings from Richard II to Henry VII were available. Edward IV is probably the least notable Shakespearean monarch but his coronation does end the Henry VI cycle.

Thanks Anson. Very cool stuff which I’m very happy to slide into the album.

February returns

Finally getting some requests out again. Which meant that I started to get them back too. Always surprises me how fast things come back. Feels good to be back in the saddle even though I didn’t get to send things out to Spring Training as I was hoping to.

The first return of the month came from junkballer Chris Hammond in 21 days. He had a rough start to his career. Was having a decent 1994 when the strike hit but everything else was kind of mediocre. In the late 90s he reinvented himself as a reliever and by 2002 he’d put things together and had a pretty good three year run. His 2002 season in particular was kind of amazing as he pitched 76 innings over 63 games with a 0.95 ERA.

A 21 day return from Tim McIntosh brought another 1991 Studio card to the collection. I’m really enjoying working these duplicates as it’s one of the most-unique sets from my youth and it taught me so much about what I can consider a baseball card to be.

I got a  super fun return from Brian Johnson in 44 days. One of my favorite things about sending extra customs is getting notes back thanking me for them. Knowing that I’m offering the players something is one of the best parts of sending customs and it’s always nice to hear that they appreciate my work. This card in particular has photos from two highlights of his career. The Stanford photo is from the post-championship celebration in (I think) 1987 while the Giants photo comes from his eponymous game in 1997 (which I attended).

Johnson had an interesting career. One of only two positions he didn’t play at Sanford was actually catcher (the other was 2nd Base and of course he also played Quarterback) so of course that’s what he ended up playing in MLB. He put together an 8-year career with his 1997 season in San Francisco being the clear highlight. It’s always nice when a journeyman player manages to get a game named after him for all the right reasons.

A fast 6-day return from Richie Hebner brought another 1981 card to the collection. I wish I had more cards of him since he’s a bit of  character whatwith the gravedigger nickname and offseason profession. I also enjoyed his chapter in the Wax Pack book.

The same day I got the Hebner return I got a 207-day return from Ed Hearn. I enjoy both catching photos but there’s always going to be something about a catcher standing in a cloud of dust which takes a baseball card to the next level. I’m convinced that they don’t make dirt like that anymore and it’s a shame photographically.

1990 Fleer is a design that gets maligned (completely fairly) as boring and forgettable. It is however often transformed by an autograph. No signature this Roy Smith card would be kind of awkwardly cropped and forgettable. With the signature it has a certain something. Smith’s a bi of a baseball lifer and returned this in 12 days.

I always like being able to send cards that are like a decade apart. It’s nice to get a range of a guy’s career—especially when it’s someone whose last card is from my youth. This 8-day return from Buck Martinez is the perfect example with a card from 1976 and 1985. I only wish I’d had a card of him managing as well.

A 9-day return from Steve Balboni made me think about the way I react to players as I go through my duplicates from the late 80s and early 90s. Much to my surprise I’m finding myself having strong reactions to America League guys like Balboni or Kelly Gruber. I think this is because as a National League fan I only heard about the  more-prominent American League guys. I might remember more NL guys but the prominent AL ones are the ones that I learned through hype.

Balboni, for a few years, was a bonafide star. A ton of home runs in 1985 and even when his production declined he still hit bombs. I don’t think I ever saw him play but I definitely knew who he was.

1987 being the first full season of baseball I ever watched means I was actually invested in the World Series for the first time. I don’t normally remember mangers but I do remember Tom Kelly who makes a nice pair with the Whitey Herzog return. He returned this in 10 days.

Thad Bosley’s 1986 Topps card is one of those that sticks out to me from my youth. I didn’t include a 1986 card in my Reminiscence Bump post because I wasn’t collecting that year but either his card or Jerry Don Gleaton would be my choice for cards I remember collecting from packs of that year (the Traded set of course consisted of cards I coveted). Anyway it was fun to get a signed copy back in 11 days.

I got a 17-day return from Mike Mason who had a decent 7-year MLB career. It makes sense to get him on a Rangers card but I really wish I’d had a copy of his excellent 1988 Topps card as well. Alas I probably sent all mine to One Million Cubs years ago.

A 211-day return from Don Carman brought my second multi-hundred day return of the month. Carman spent a decade in the majors—mostly with Philadelphia—but is most noteworthy for his list of boilerplate interview responses.

Charles Nagy is a name I remember from my youth. Not so much my childhood years but my adolescent ones where despite the strike I couldn’ ignore those mid-1990s Cleveland teams. He was also on the 1988 Olympic team that I got to see practice at Sunken Diamond.

These came back in 18 days. Was surprised I had multiple cards of him. I don’t usually use 1993 Donruss but this one works. And I really like the 1997 Topps even though it’s a typical “fonts are upside down when in the pocket” horizontal design.

For whatever reason I’ve accumulated a ton of these 2010 Franchise History cards. Realizing I should send one to Renel made me realize that I should also send on to Jon Miller. It’s not summer if I don’t hear his voice and I’m a bit worried about what this summer will bring. I know that announcer Hall of Famers are a different category but it’s nice to get a HoFer back in just 11 days. It’s also nice that this is a card from the year he got inducted.

All in all a very good month. Good to be back and I’m hopeful things will continue in this manner. I’ve especially enjoyed adding a bunch to my 1986 and 1988 piles. I’m not going for signed sets (I’m amazed by everyone doing this but am not at all tempted) but the fact that I have almost 70 of each of those sets signed is still pretty cool.

Sport Magazine

So last December jimmybunchanumbers (@haymay67) put out a tweet asking who he should send a Sport Magazine with Willie Mays on the front cover to. This was part of a pre-move purge where he was looking to clear out stuff that would be better placed in other people’s collection. A bunch of people nominated me so I said I’d be happy to take it.

*I mostly kid here. Even as the USPS has gotten worse it’s been more reliable than Fed Ex, UPS, and Amazon.

It took a while to get to me. USPS is gonna USPS*. But it eventually arrived in January and looks even better in person. A great photo of Mays at the peak of his powers. June 1965 is right in the middle of his second MVP season. That he finished the year with 52 homers and a 1.043 OPS (and 11.2 WAR) means he has a lot to smile about.

I also need to quickly mention the back. I’m not sure when gun advertisements stopped showing up in sports magazines but hey were long gone by the time I was a kid. Really really weird for me to see them. It’s just not a world I’m used to at all.

Anyway, while this is in the collection because of the cover, the best thing about these vintage magazines is the articles inside. The Mays article by Monte Irvin is a lot of fun. Nice to see Monte’s memories of Mays as a rookie and compare those to the observations of him as veteran leader who’s the best player in the game.

The “What Willie Mays Really Wants” framing though is both great and sad. Turns out that in 1965 Mays really wanted to coach/manage and thought that he could bring a lot to a club that way. I hadn’t ever read about that side of Mays before and I’m a little sad that he never got the chance to try. I’m also sad that it took so long for MLB to even hire Black managers.*

*Pretty much only Frank Robinson until the late 1990s.

The article that ended up being even more interesting though is Len Koppett’s piece about what players want in a new commissioner. This is especially interesting to read with the currently going on but it’s also a great glimpse into how little the player’s understood about their power back in 1965.

What the players wanted? A strong commissioner who would reinforce scheduling rules like not having day games after doubleheaders. No real sense of contracts and compensation issues. Instead they got Bowie Kuhn who proceeded to lose labor case after labor case over the next couple decades as the players got more power than they ever dreamed of.

There was a nice story about the 1948 Indians and their season with little snippets about each player as well as highlights from the pennant race. Fun vignettes about Bill Veeck and Satchell Paige. A bit about Don Black and the way the club supported him after his stroke. But the most interesting parts was how open it was about Emil Bossard’s groundskeeping shenanigans in sloping the foul line and soaking the infield as well as Ernie Groth stealing signs via binocular with Marshall Bossard relaying them to the batter by crossing or uncrossing his legs.

Other articles in the issue were about Tim McCarver as the resident comedian on the 1960s Cardinals (beating out Bob Uecker even), how Bo Belinsky and Dick Stuart would take the Phillies over the hump after their 1964 choke job (the Phillies finished 6th in the League in 1965), whether Eddie Mathews would rebound in 1965 after his injury in 1962 and “no excuse” 1963–64 seasons (it’s worth noting he had a 132 OPS+ and averaged over 6 WAR in those down years), and a couple profiles of Wally Bunker and Dick Radatz.

And finally there were a couple fun baseball card advertisements in the back. Interesting to see complete sets being sold but the prices are definitely eye-opening. $13 in 1965 translates to around $116 today (making each $2.15 series equate to almost $20).

I’m especially curious about the catalog as well as the hobby card album. It’s been my understanding that 9-pocket pages didn’t come into being until the late 70s. Ultra Pro’s patent* doesn’t list any pocket-pages prior art but does list some flexible plastic card holders from the 1960s so we know something existed.

*I did do a post about this. 

Anyway very cool. I took my time getting this post up because I wanted to enjoy reading it. Plus I had to treat it pretty carefully since the spine isn’t in the best shape.