Category Archives: Stanford

Mailday from Marc!

So last weekend a bubble mailer from Marc Brubaker arrived. It’s been over a couple months since his previous mailing so I guess I was due.

We’ll start off with three Stanford cards, all of which are new to me. Yes even that Steve Chitren. Did I buy a decent amount of 1992 Bowman? Absolutely. But since I only bought packs and never bought singles, I don’t yet have all of the ones which are relevant to my interests. Since Chitren is in thee 1992 Topps set I never felt the need to explicitly acquire his 1992 Bowman card. Though I’m glad to have it since it’s a pose and picture which is very different from all his other cards.

The Hammonds Finest card is a nice example of a series of cards I never seek out. Finest interests me in terms of how they’re made and what the represent in terms of the 1990s product marketing. I can’t imaging having a binder full of them so I’m plenty happy just having an example or two. I think this is the first one of these in my Stanford albums.

And that Mark Appel Bowman Chrome is sure something. I don’t understand what the point of this is. I guess it’s to show that he’s so hot a prospect that he melted his card. And I guess Topps went with melt because these are plastic Chrome cards. I don’t know, it’s weird and unreadable and the back is even worse because instead of warping the text to look like the melted effect it’s just typeset on curvy lines. Do I want more of these? God no. Am I glad to have one as a sample of something awful. Sadly yes.

Moving on to the Giants. As usual I’ll go through these roughly chronologically. We’ll start off with three San José Giants cards from Star’s massive Minor League set in 1989. These are fun because they show the original San José Giants caps that they only had for their first couple of seasons (1989 would be their second season). The less said about the photography though the better. I’m pretty sure Dewey and Santana both have their eyes closed.

Time to flash forward a couple decades. The Honus Bonus cards are from 2017 and were intended to be part of a Fantasy Baseball product. I’m not fully certain what the rules were but it seems to have melded collecting cards with redeeming the scratch-off codes on the back to create your roster. I gather that there were supposed to be prizes and things but it seems like the whole enterprise blew up midway through 2017.

Neither of these two cards are redeemed so I don’t know if that means that the pack got opened after the game died or if neither Casilla nor Gillaspie were deemed roster-worthy. Anyway, it’s an interesting concept. The cards themselves are kind of wild with those greyscale players on colored backgrounds. I’m not a fan of the look—whether it’s selective color or selective desaturation—and combined with the brightly colored borders I have a hard time seeing these as Giants cards. Casilla looks like he should be a Dodger and Gillaspie an A.

The three Heritage cards I have but the boys should enjoy them. It’s been interesting to watch their tastes develop and they seem to prefer the Heritage designs as well. I should really ask them why but I do suspect that they like seeing the portraits in the photos.

And the Opening Day card is a new one to me. I don’t buy the product but like many of the things I don’t buy, it’s fun to have a sample. I remain convinced that the photo is opf Tony Watson and not Will Smith. Even though Smith actually signed this.

To sets I don’t buy, starting off with a handful of 2019 Bowman. It’s very Bowmanny. I’m not a fan of the borders but seeing how it’s a semi-transparent layer makes me more okay with them. It means the border colors fit with the card photo and also makes me see it as more of an overlay such as I’d expect to see on TV or in a video game.

The Duggar photo is surprisingly nice with low-contrast light that keeps the black shirt and cream pants from blowing out the exposure curve while keeping his face exposed without any shadows. Also good timing on the swing with the step and bat-loading.* Chris Shaw isn’t so lucky with his pants losing all their highlight detail and his jersey getting HDR’d to the max.

*Compare to the Flagship photo where you can see Topps is struggling to balance the light well

Marc was very nice in sending me a Joey Bart card. I had given up on getting any of these since he’s at his price peak right now as one of the big names in the set who all the speculators are trying to hold. And for the flip side of the coin, Logan Webb is solidly in the bust cycle for now due to picking up a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. Will he come back? Maybe. But for now he’s kind of the opposite of a prospect.

We’ll finish off this post with a batch of Donruss cards. My first 2019 Diamond King is Christy Mathewson. I had to check the back to confirm that this wasn’t part of last year’s cards. This is still a nice looking set and it remains one of the nicest cards just to hold and shuffle through your hands.

That shiny Buster Posey actually also features Joey Bart on the back. It’s a fun insert and I hope Bart is indeed a worthy replacement for Buster. Will that justify the hype he’s getting now? Probably not. But it’ll be good for the team.

And those five 2019 Donruss cards are my first samples from this set. The 1985esque designs on the Crawford Diamond King and Shaw rookie are nice but don’t compare to the wonderful red on black original. Something about the white bars just cals attention to the fact that the logos are missing. This might not be an issue for other teams but with the Giants, removing all the logos means getting rid of all the orange on their uniforms. So when the rest of the card also looks like the color has been removed the entire card feels like something is wrong. Crawford has enough other color so it’s not obvious but the Shaw looks super generic.

On the base design though the orange usage works really well at balancing the photos. Things still look a little off but these look pretty nice. Panini’s done a good job at framing the images in the space* and the result is a nice looking set of cards. It’s not one I’ll collect since it’s too large to be a fun little set build and too small to be a nice comprehensive set** but it’s nice to see Panini branching out from just aping the old Donruss designs.

*Although I wish they’d treated Hunter Pence’s bat a little differently.

**Looking at checklists over the past couple of years has helped me realize that I enjoy small sets with one or two players per team and large sets with at least a page-worth—and preferably an entire lineup—of players per team. And that any sets with checklists that fall between these values causes me to lose interest.

Very nice to start filling a Donruss page in the binder. I still need to get a Madison Bumgarner card since he’s not in any Topps products again this year.

Thanks Marc! It looks like you had some good rips with new product and I’m lucky to be able to enjoy in your unneeded cards.

TTM roundup, April edition

Another visit from family means another big batch of TTM returns delivered from my parents’ house. Not as many as my first batch but still 18 returns in a month is pretty good. Especially since my requests have tailed off a bit.

Though to be clear, I expected requests to tail of. I sent out a ton early and expected things to take over a month at least. The first batch of returns was overwhelmingly better than I expected and this batch reflects a lot of the kind of returns I was expecting to occur.

To the returns, again broken down by category.


Pete Stanicek was one of the first Stanford guys I sent to. He had a lot of potential in the late 1980s but just couldn’t stay healthy. By the time I was going to alumni games he was already in that grey zone of being done with his career but still young enough to play with the active pros. Which explains a bit why he never showed up. This card came back in 47 days—much more the timeframe I expected returns to happen.

Steve Buechele was coaching at the Rangers Spring Training so I sent him a couple Upper Deck cards. I got his autograph on a ball at my first major alumni game autograph hunting experience. Then I brought his 1989 Upper Deck card to all subsequent games I attended only for him to never come back. I’m very happy that this card came back in only 24 days.

Drew Storen is another Spring Training return. He’s trying to come back from Tommy John surgery and was in the Royals organization this spring. I haven’t been able to figure out he’s up to right now—he doesn’t appear to be assigned to a team—so I’m thankful he was able to return my cards after 53 days.

Former Giants

On to former Giants and starting off with one of my favorites. The Original Humm Baby Roger Craig signed my 1989 Mothers Cookies card in 22 days. I have no idea how good Craig was as a manager in general but he seems to have been the right man for the job. Anyway he was the skipper for the teams I became a fan of and as a result I’ll always have a soft spot for split fingered fastballs and suicide squeezes.

Ken Henderson played outfield for the Giants next to Willie Mays and Bobby bonds. As a result he tends to get forgotten a little but he was no slouch himself for a couple years in the early 1970s. He signed both of these in 11 days.

Jim Barr set a Major League record by retiring 41 consecutive batters. He was  a long-time fixture in the Giants rotation as well with a dozen solid years . These three cards came back in only 8 days. I usually don’t send this many but I like the variety of images here.

Ron Bryant was a a twenty-game winner in 1973 but got injured in the off-season and never really recovered. So he chose to retire and spend more time with his family. He signed both of these in 13 days. I particularly like the 1972 In Action card with the bunting photo.

Tom Bradley had a couple great years with the White Sox but was more average with the Giants. I do like him as a member of the sunglasses club even though he’s nowhere near as cool as Lowell Palmer. The 1973 card is an airbrushing disaster as well but the 1974 is  fun action photo showing him wearing shades and pitching at Candlestick. These took 44 days to come back.

While Mike Krukow was already announcing when I was a kid, Kuiper only entered the booth after I stopped autograph hunting. As a result I only have a signed Krukow card and was missing half of the duo that has defined the sound of Giants baseball for the past two decades.

Kuip’s 1983 Fleer card with the broken bat is one of my favorites so I’m excited to have it signed. That it took only 8 days is even better.

He also signed an index card for me. Very cool. It’s been a joy and pleasure to listen to him on the air and makes me feel really lucky to be a Giants fan.

Shawon Dunston was one of my favorite players to watch when I was a kid. Ozzie Smith was obviously the prime shortstop of the age but no one had an arm like Dunston’s. Even though he wasn’t a Giant I could never watch enough highlights of him gunning guys out from deep short. When he moved to the Giants I was glad I could finally root for him. He’s still working with the organization and signed these two cards in 15 days.

Like Dunston, Manny Trillo is also a former Cub who moved to the Giants later in his career. A great fielder with a strong arm, Trillo was more of a utility guy with the Giants. He has a great signature and returned this card in 18 days.

Current Giants

On to current Giants and there’s no better return to start off with than the man who will most-likely become the first Giants Hall of Famer I’ve watched (as opposed to Hall of Famer who played a year or two at the end of his career with the Giants*). Yes I think Bonds should be in already but in terms of predictions Boch is a safe bet. I sent him a nice note thanking him for everything and he sent these back in 22 days.

*eg Goose Gossage, Gary Carter, and Randy Johnson. 

A Giants manager card was an obvious choice. The 1960 design is an all-time classic and even though I don’t like some of the Heritage fake-retro effects it’s still a nice looking card that looks nice signed. I also wanted to send a card form his playing days. I was leaning toward a 1986 Topps one but then I found this 1981 Fleer and it was too good not to send.

Tony Watson sent me a great return from Spring Training. His two 2018 cards look great. I’m kind of sad that horizontal cards weren’t that common when I was a kid since they look nice when signed. These came back in 39 days.

Watson also signed both of my customs. I suspect that the first one he signed where he usually does and then he signed the second one in the light area so you can read his name. I appreciate that he put this kind of care into it.

My last return from Spring Training also took 39 days but was even larger than Watson’s. Ty Blach signed everything I sent him even though I only asked him for a couple. His 2018 cards look good and it’s nice to see than Big League signs as well as it looked to sign. It’s not just an old-school set it looks old-school after being signed too.

Blach signed all my customs. I’m still pleased that Topps picked the same photo I did. This is from his start on Opening Day where he out-dueled Clayton Kershaw. He also signed the team roster card I made.

And more importantly Blach signed the ugly sweatshirt card as well. This means I have half the set signed. Will Smith and Abiatal Avelino signed theirs. Sam Dyson and Ray Black did not. I do not expect Evan Longoria to send a return back.


I’ve started sending some letters out to some players who aren’t directly related to my projects as well. I’m starting off with good signers who are particularly resonant from my youth. Ryne Sandberg is a great example here. I tried and failed to get his signature when I was a kid* so I’m particularly pleased to add this 1988 Topps after only 9 days.

*Don’t worry I ended up with Billy Williams instead.

Andre Dawson is another player who was just a joy to watch. I’m pretty sure no one disliked Hawk. Plus his signature is a thing of beauty. While I knew him as a Cub I had to get his signature on an Expos card. 1987 Topps is never a bad choice for reliving my youth too. This came back in 15 days.

Wade Boggs was the gold standard for batting when I was a kid. I didn’t know too many American League guys but Boggs is one I knew enough about to watch. I went with his 1988 All Star card for this and I love how it came out. I super pleased that this came back in 16 days since he’d stopped signing for a bit after getting hammered by collectors.

And last but not least, I was lucky to get a Spaceman version of Bill Lee’s signature. He’s a great signer—only took 19 days—but doesn’t usually include this unless you ask. I did not ask but I don’t know maybe my letter prompted him to do it anyway. Anyway while I did not grow up watching Lee, his legend is such that stories about him in the game still exist. My sons have read the same stories in their books and were excited to see this card when I took it out of the envelope.

I suspect returns will dwindle down a bit more as I’ve been too busy to send out many recently. But I’ve still got quite a few out there and know that some will eventually find their way back.

First TTM roundup

A post as promised when I wrote about getting into TTM requests. I’ve now received all the envelopes that have been accumulating at my parents’ house.* Did I say over a dozen before? Turns out it was closer to 30.

*Yup. I’m over 40 and my parents’ address is still the closest thing to a permanent address that I have.

Yeah. I’m a firm believer in the “fill up the hopper” approach for this kind of thing. Send a ton out early and then take things easy and not worry about sending out as many later. I expected returns to trickle in bit by bit—taking two or three weeks at best—so having a good batch of returns I was waiting for made a ton of sense.

I was not expecting so many returns to take between one and two weeks instead. That’s been a super-pleasant surprise and meant that I perhaps front-loaded my letters a bit.* Anyway aside from a second Neshek return I’ve been getting everything sent to my parents’, tempering my excitement, and biding my time until my sister brought everything over.

*Although trying to get everything to Spring Training sort of forced my hand.

This is going to be a big post so I’ve broken it up into three different sections that cover the main categories of people I’m sending to.


I sent a bunch of request to Stanford players. Guys who pre-dated my autograph-hunting years. Guys who came after. And in the case of Ryan Turner, guys who I watched play during those peak autograph-hunting years.

Ryno was the first return I got back. Only 7 days too. I was very surprised. I mentioned him a bit in my Mussina post but he’s noteworthy for being the first player in the Colorado Rockies organization and his 1992 Bowman and Upper Deck cards are the first Rockies cards produced.

Jeremy Guthrie took 10 days to get two cards back to me. As a player who’s about the same age as me, Guthrie is exactly the kind of player who I would’ve felt super uncomfortable getting a signature from back in the day. This isn’t a bad thing or a regret, just an observation.

I like that Guthrie changes his uniform number to match the team he’s playing for. Some guys use their current number. Others stop doing that after they make it to the majors.

Bruce Robinson’s 8 day return shows the promise and fun of TTM requests. I sent him one card. He sent me back five signatures. My card, the signed index card I use as a bit of stiffener in the envelope, and two signed and personalized business cards are pretty cool but he also wrote me a very nice letter in response.

I guess it shows how much I enjoyed writing the letter to him. Robinson gets credited for modifying the catcher’s chest protector to have a hinged protective flap on the throwing shoulder. It’s even called the Robby Pad. I mentioned how, as a Product Design guy, just seeing the ubiquity of that invention in today’s game must be pretty satisfying.

It looks like I need to check out and write him back now. Kind of surprised that I’m the first Stanford collector out there too. But I guess it’s nice to have such a solid collecting niche too.

Jim Lonborg was another fast return in only 8 days. As the 1967 Cy Young Award winner he was arguably the most-prominent Stanford player in terms of winning awards until Jack McDowell won the Cy Young in 1993.

Lonborg represents my first custom return too. I whipped up a “1949 Bowman plus 1954 Topps” custom of him for Mark Hoyle since Mark has so much stuff that he’s impossible for someone like me to send anything to. The thing about using the 1954 Topps template though us that it sort of needs a signature to really sing so I figured I’d try and get one signed. He kept a couple copies, returned one, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Chuck Essegian’s card also came back in 8 days. He’s the last of the guys who started playing in the 1950s but I chose to leave him for whenever I did a summary of 1960s Stanford players.

Essegian is most famous for hitting two pinch hit home runs in the 1959 World Series—there’s even a cool 1970 Laughlin card of this—but he bounced around playing for 6 different teams (Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles, A’s, and Indians) over 6 years of cards.

Doug Camilli is another 1960s guy. His card came back in 8 days as well. I went with 1965 Topps because it’s one of my favorite sets. He was mainly a backup catcher but did get to catch one of Sandy Koufax’s no hitters so that’s pretty cool.

Camilli is tough since many of his cards are high numbers. His 1962 high number rookie I’m never going to get. His 1966 high number is as crazy as the rest of the 1966 high numbers. Thankfully I found a deal on his 1967 high number.

Bob Gallagher sent back my card and a nice note in 10 days. when sending these letter I sort of wrestled whether to out myself as an alumnus but eventually settled on it making the connection to my project even better.

Gallagher had a short career—only 2 Topps cards, one with Houston and one with New York—so I chose his 1974 card since I’ve never liked getting cards with facsimile signatures signed. I should probably track down his SSPC card as well since that one will probably look best signed.

Don Rose signed his only card in 11 days. Rose is one of the Stanford guys who intersects with my Giants fandom. Unfortunately he never got a Giants card.

Darrell Sutherland signed my 1966 Topps card in 14 days. Sutherland, as with Rose, had a pretty short career so I’m glad that he got a couple of cards out of it. His 1968 is one of those hatless awkward crops so I’m happy the 1966 is such a traditional pitchers’ pose.

Drew Jackson was my first Spring Training return coming back in only 11 days. He’s been bumping around in the Mariners organization for a few years but the Orioles picked him up as a Rule 5 draftee last winter so he’s on a Major League roster now. It’s fun to write a “congrats on making the show” letter and these Bowman designs look pretty nice signed.

Frank Duffy had a nice long career in the 1970s. His 1976 card came back in 18 days with a fun “Go Cardinal” inscription added. I had a lot of card choices here but 1976 is a design I’ve always liked to get signed.

Duffy is also one of those guys who played for the Giants but never got a card.

Jed Lowrie has signed on and off so I didn’t know what to expect when I sent to him. These two came back from Mets Spring Training in 18 days complete with the inscription. Getting A’s and Astros is wholly appropriate since he’s bounced between those two franchises a lot. He’s yet to show up on ay Topps checklists this year so it’ll be interesting to see what product he finally shows up in with the Mets.

This has been fun enough that between the Alumni Game post and Sunken Diamond post I’ve put together a page of all the Stanford Autographs I have now.

Former Giants

I figured I should go through my Giants duplicates to see who was worth sending out. It’s been a fun exercise of letting my duplicates guide me into doing some research and learning about players who I never got to see play.

Joe Amalfitano came back in 10 days. As one of the last New York Giants Amalfitano’s a fun addition. That he’s also a baseball lifer who’s not only still working in the game and actually working with the Giants is an added bonus.

This is the big return that makes everything else worth it. Juan Marichal took only 10 days. When I was a kid Marichal was on the “don’t even think about mailing to him” list so seeing him turn into a reliable signer is pretty cool. I kind of wanted to send a 1974 Topps or 1972 In Action card since the leg kick is so iconic but I eventually went with the extra 1965 I got from Dimebox Nick.

I’m still amazed that I have duplicate 1960s cards let alone duplicate Hall of Famer cards. 1965 is a beaut of a set and never ever a bad choice for signatures.

Bob Bolin also came back in 10 days. When you think of the 1960s Giants pitching you think of Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal or Mike McCormick but in 1968 only Bob Gibson had a better ERA than Bob Bolin in the National League.

Tito Fuentes came back in 8 days and included a nice index card. I’ve always liked Tito’s signature with the star dotting the I plus the nice baseball tail. It reminds me of how my son signs his name right now in all the best ways. Plus he’s one of those players who everyone likes.

He was the Giants’ Spanish-language announcer on KLOK when I was a kid and while I didn’t listen to every game in Spanish we’d turn it on on occasion and try and listen to the game. Sports is a good way to help learn the language.

I had his signature on a ball but I always intended to get him on a card. I’m glad I had a 1970 card handy instead of the 1975 I had acquired for this purpose 25 years ago.

Ken MacKenzie was another fast 8 day turnaround. While he played for the Giants he’s much better-known as an original Met who Casey Stengel immortalized as the “lowest paid member of the class of Yale ’56.”

Hobie Landrith took 9 days. He’s most famous for being THE original Met as he was their first selected player in the expansion draft.* Landrith also caught Juan Marichal’s first game so it’s nice to get the pair of them in this first batch.

*This is in comparison to Ryan Turner being the Rockies first player taken in the amateur draft rather than the subsequent expansion draft.

The 1978 Rob Andrews came back in 11 days. This card is a family favorite. Since it was double-printed I come across it a lot. As a result it’s become both boys’ oldest Giants card and they really enjoy having it in their collection.

And I got the Jack Hiatt that Night Owl sent me back in 11 days. Hiatt was the Giants back-up catcher for a number of years but had a great stretch in the first half of 1969 while Dick Dietz was injured. It’s nice that this card includes that stretch in its stats.

2018 Giants

A huge batch of the requests I sent out were packages including my customs from last season. I would call this “current Giants” but I sent to, and got returns from, guys who are no longer with the team as well. Most of these requests included a Topps card or two plus a stack of customs with a request to sign one and keep the rest.

The first return here was a big surprise. Dereck Rodríguez sent four cards back in only 10 days. As the sort of breakout rookie last season I had him pegged as a long shot of a return but he appears to, so-far, be a great signer.

I especially like the two customs he signed. As one of the breakout stars of last season I sent him a bunch. I’m especially happy with the one of him batting but there’s also something nice about a classic horizontal pitching action photo.

Will Smith also signed in 10 days. This is a great return. I love the way the Heritage card looks signed. So happy Topps stopped using the Giants in black Spring Training uniforms. I’m pretty sure the 2019 card is not of him but he signed it anyway and the custom of his roster card looks great.

Smith also signed both Wille Mac Award cards. Not sure why but this is appreciated nonetheless even though the black ink doesn’t show up well. It occurs to me that a Willie Mac Award Winner project could be an especially fun one for a Giants fan to embark on. I already have a few: Brenly, Krukow, Uribe, Bedrosian, and Manwaring from my youth and Speier, Dravecky and Pence as gifts from the wonderful members of Card Twitter.

And finally, Smith signed the silly Skybox-Basketball-style cards I made of the players in their ugly sweatshirts. As soon as I saw that post I thought there had to be something I could do with them. When I saw those 1990s Skybox designs I figured I should give it a shot and make a run at those 1990s colors and gradients. I didn’t really expect to get these signed but they were too much fun not to send off.

Ray Black signed his sort-of-disturbing 2019 Rookie card in 14 days. I had sent him an extra for him to keep but he signed both.

Black kept his ugly sweatshirt cards as well as the ones commemorating his relief no-hitter (9+ innings of no-hit relief work) last season and sent me back his signed roster card. I very much appreciate that he changed pens and used a silver sharpie on this custom. It’s a sharp look for the dark background and shows that he’s a very sensitive signer.

Sam Dyson signed his 2018 card in 14 days. Dyson made the most pitching appearances last year and was an integral part of the Giants bullpen. Unfortunately this also meant that he rarely showed up in any highlight situations since he just racked up holds and neither finished games nor was on the mound when the wheels fell off.

Dyson signed both of his roster cards but he did keep his ugly sweatshirt cards. I hope that, as with Black, this means he liked them instead of just tossing them.

Reyes Moronta signed everything I sent him in 16 days. I’d sent him an extra rookie card since I’ve heard that Topps doesn’t provide them to the players but he sent both back. I probably should’ve written to him in Spanish.

He also kept none of the customs. It’s cool to have doubles but I also feel guilty getting this many cards back. I don’t want to be one of those guys who contributes to the burnout that players end up feeling for TTM signing by sending too many in a request.

I was excited to get an Abiatal Avelino return in 16 days. My eldest’s first reaction to the Andrew McCutchen trade was to ask if the Giants got any guys we’d seen at Trenton.* He was excited to learn that Avelino was part of the trade and even more excited when Avelino got called up in September.

*I was extremely impressed at the maturity and baseball purity of this response.

It’s things like that that help prevent my son from converting to being a Yankees fan like so many other local kids. Trenton is a great Minor League experience and seeing players like Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres make a splash in the Majors only a year or two after we watched them is pretty exciting. Realizing that they might not make the majors as Yankees and instead appreciating them wherever they end up—including the Giants—is a much less dangerous mindset for the kids.

Avelino also signed his sweatshirt card! This is just too cool and I can tell he thought about where best to put his signature.

Chase d’Arnaud is tied at 7 days for my fastest return.* He seems like a super-nice guy since he’s already responded to and reacted to my tweet thanking him. I especially love the position player pitching card.**

*Ryan Turner and Pat Neshek are also 7-day turns. Given the way USPS works I’m not sure anything shorter is even possible. 

** I also sent one to Pablo Sandoval but I don’t expect that to come back.

Gorkys Hernández sent a great return in 14 days. He was another breakout player last year whatwith being one of the team leaders in Home Runs. I understand why we let him go but I’ll miss him just the same. I’m happy to have him in the album.

He signed one each of all the customs. I really like the variations in the photos here and he’s got a nice-looking signature too.

My last return was also my longest so far. Chris Stratton in 32 days coming in much closer to the way I expected things to turn out. He kept all the customs I sent him—kind of flattering actually—but it’s nice to have the signed Topps card. Stratton’s final stat line didn’t look that great but he pitched the best game of 2018 and really held the staff together at times in the season.

When I received this card Stratton was still a Giant. He’s since been traded to the Angels and while I understand why he went (no more minor league options) I’m a bit sad to see him go.

And whew. Almost 3000 words. I didn’t expect this many returns at all but what a wonderful “problem” to have. What a great start to this whole TTM thing. Pretty sure things are going to calm down a bit moving forward but we’ll see where things go. I’m looking forward to sending a few more letters out here and there as things come back.

Sunken Diamond Visitors

Of course it wasn’t just Alumni or Stanford players whose autographs I got at Sunken Diamond. Stanford played a very competitive schedule. Not just was the Pac 10 South* a bit of a powerhouse with Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC, Arizona, and Arizona State, but Stanford also played yearly series against good teams like Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State. I saw a lot of good players come through.

*For whatever reason in the late 80s and early 90s the Pac 10 had two 6-team divisions for baseball.

At first I only learned who I’d seen after they made it to the pros. But we had a subscription to Baseball America and I realized that I could use its scouting reports to start prospecting. This started off on a basic level with just getting signatures whenever the cover players were guys who’d come through.

So in 1990 it was Bret Boone. I was already aware of Bob Boone as a Stanford alumnus and had a vague dream of maybe getting this cover signed by all three Boones.* Yeah I only got Bret. Upside down because that’s the orientation I handed it to him (lesson learned, make it as easy as possible when you hand someone an item).

*It occurs to me that Bret’s son is playing college ball locally… But that would be kind of weird.

This turned out to be a decent prospecting job too. Bret went on to have a good major league career. Over a dozen years. An All Star a couple times. A few Gold Gloves. Pretty respectable stuff.

The following year a bunch of Arizona State guys were on the cover. I’m not sure how I didn’t get Tommy Adams but I did get Jim Austin and Mike Kelly. Despite the hype of the million dollar outfield, only Kelly went on to have a Major League career with 6 years in the bigs.

Once I started to read the scouting reports and mark who the top prospects were who’d I’d be seeing each year I had to get a bit more creative. I decided to use the photocopied roster inserts from the scorecards so I’d have a record of both the year and the team. These aren’t the most-attractive artifacts but they’re pretty handy for identifying everything I’d want to know about the circumstance of the autograph.

Anyway these are:

  • 1993 UCLA—David Roberts, Ryan McGuire
  • 1993 Arizona State—Doug Newstrom
  • 1994 USC—Aaron Boone
  • 1994 Arizona State—Antone Williamson

Turned out to be a mostly-successful batch of prospects. Boone and Roberts had pretty good careers and McGuire and Williamson both made it to the bigs. No one made it huge but I can’t complain.

Interestingly, for some reason the USA cards in Topps Traded didn’t include many guys who came through Sunken Diamond. The only card I got signed by a visitor was Dante Powell when he came through with Fullerton. But he also made it to the bigs—even playing for the Giants—so that turned out pretty well.

Sunken Diamond Cardinal

While the Alumni Game was my first autograph experience at Stanford, it didn’t take long before I started to collect autographs at the regular season games themselves.

It was the 1988 Topps Traded set that pulled me in. The Team USA cards were very cool* and the fact that Topps included a Head Coach card of Mark Marquess meant I felt obligated to try and get it signed. The two Stanford players on the team—Ed Sprague and Doug Robbins—were both drafted in 1988** but I knew Marquess would be back in charge of the Cardinal for the 1989 season.

*I remember going to a Team USA practice at Sunken Diamond in the summer of 1988. Other than going to the practice—I didn’t even hang around to get a ball signed—the one thing that I do remember is that everyone was talking about Jim Abbott.

**I did eventually get their cards signed at the Alumni Game.

I have two of these signed. The first one is arguably worth adding to my Beginnings post since it’s the first hanging-over-the-rail autograph I ever got. I’d learned to use a Sharpie (albeit a black one) by 1989 but hadn’t learned how to handle the card so it didn’t get all banged up.

The second one is from a couple of years later. I’m not sure where I got the duplicate but Marquess was such a fixture that I felt like “upgrading” from my previous signature.

By 1990 I’d branched out and started to get other items signed. I was still very much a literal autograph collector who only wanted the people pictures on the item to sign it.* So I got Paul Carey’s signature on both the 1989 and 1990 scorecards and Troy Paulsen on the 1989 one.

*Something I’ve encouraged my son to avoid doing since it’s nice to recognize that a score card or program is a great platform for an entire team set of signatures.

I also brought the 1989 scorecard to a subsequent Alumni Game to be signed by Frank Carey and Steve Chitren. And I trimmed them from 8.5″×11″ to 8″×10″ because I hadn’t learned about the two different single-pocket sizes yet. Yeah. Lots of things I wish I’d done differently here but I still really like these for what they represent about this stage of my life and how earnestly I was taking the hobby despite not knowing really anything I was doing.

I was still figuring things out in 1991. Where the ball I got at the Alumni Game used a ballpoint pen on imitation leather, this one uses a Sharpie on real leather and demonstrates exactly why that’s not the best idea. Ink bleeds and fades and none of the signatures* are really crisp now.

*1—Ryan Turner, David Holbrook, Matt Bokemeier. 2—Roger Burnett, Jeffrey Hammonds. 3—Frank Carey, Paul Carey, Willie Adams, John Reid. 4—Troy Tallman, Aaron Dorlarque.

I think I got this one hanging out by the clubhouse door at Sunken Diamond. I was enough of a fan to recognize the players in the street clothes now. I’m more amazed that my mom just waited for me in the car while I hung out after the game. There’s a reason she’s laughing at me now.

By 1992 I had things figured out. I’d realized that the Official Pac 10 baseballs were manufactured by Diamond and, while I couldn’t buy a clean Pac 10 ball I could afford to buy an all-leather generic Diamond ball at Big 5. So we’ve got the closest approximation to a Pac 10 ball, real leather, and ballpoint pen. It’s aged perfectly.

I wasn’t going for a team ball at this point but rather was collecting who I had determined were the most-promising prospects on the team.* Some decent calls on my part since four of the seven did make it to the bigs. But I also missed just as many names since some of the newer guys** turned out to be pretty good. Plus the biggest name on this team was John Lynch who went on to bugger and better things on the gridiron.

*1—Mark Marquess. 2—Steve Solomon, Willie Adams, David McCarty, Scott Weiss. 3—Jeffrey Hammonds, Chris Kemper. 4—Brian Sackinsky.

**Jed Hansen, Dusty Allen, Rick Helling, and Andrew Lorraine.

At the same time I was getting these balls signed I was also getting the Topps Traded Team USA cards signed. There was always at least one Stanford guy each year. Rick Helling was a transfer in 1992 and for some reason I completely blew getting his 1991 card signed but the other ones I managed to get. This was always a lot of fun since it involved getting a real-deal Topps card signed and that was always something all the players liked to see.

I especially love the Hinch card because I’ve seen his signature show up on a lot of celebratory Astros stuff the past couple of years and it’s fascinating how much it’s changed in the two-dozen years since he signed for me. I sort of want to get a duplicate of this card and have it signed now just to compare the two.

Another thing I started doing was getting our season ticket signed by whoever I determined were the most prominent players who would be leaving the team after this season. This idea was inspired by my Mike Mussina autograph the previous season. I really liked the way it worked out as a way of commemorating who I thought was the player of note each year.

So in 1991 I got our ticket signed by Roger Burnett and David McCarty. In 1992, Jeffrey Hammonds And in 1993, Andrew Lorraine. I could look at the rosters and think about guys I missed but at least each of these seasons is represented by a player who made it to the majors.

Finally, I have this signed Baseball America. I’d started getting these signed a couple years earlier* since the college preview issue frequently featured Pac 10 players. 1993 was Stanford’s turn. Two of the three made it to the majors. One ended up winning a World Series as a manager. Not exactly the prospecting payoff I was hoping for as a kid but this turned out okay.

*Will be covered in a later post.

I’ve had this folded in half in a sleeve for decades. It’s clearly kept it in mostly good shape with only a little yellowing on the exposed edge. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a better way to keep it going forward. Too big to binder. Not really the kind of thing I’d want to frame. Maybe I’ll have to consider the portfolio route.

Stanford Alumni Game

In the spirit of my San José Muni post it’s time to write about my youth collecting autographs at the Stanford Alumni game. The game used to occur in January and marked the beginning of the new baseball season. Sitting at Sunken Diamond watching college ball on February and March weekends was one of the best things about growing up in California. Not only was there really no Winter, I got to watch Baseball outside almost all year.

While my first experience at the game was getting my Mike Aldrete card signed, by 1991 after my experience in Philadelphia and going to the College World Series, I was ready to try more.

In 1991 I just brought a ball and got it signed by everyone. This is very much in the manner of my Giants ball. Yet another fake-leather baseball though this time I exclusively used a ballpoint.* It’s held up ok but shows why ball point and fake leather are not a good pair. Signatures are mostly alumni but prospects like Hammonds made it on to the ball too. And yes there’s one name I can’t figure out.**

*Signatures: 1—Mark Marquess. 2—Mike Aldrete, Jack McDowell, Frank Carey, Lee Plemel. 3—Stan Spencer, Paul Carey. 4—Steve Buechele, unknown, Troy Paulsen, Jeffrey Hammonds, Tim Griffin. 5—Jeff Ballard, Doug Robbins.

**I have a key someplace at my parents so I’ll eventually figure this out.

It’s a fun ball which really captures the state of the Stanford Alumni in the pros at that moment. Four Major Leaguers (Aldrete, Ballard, Buechele, and McDowell), a bunch of new professionals who had yet to make it in the bigs (a cup of coffee for a few like Paul Carey and Stan Spencer but no long careers), and a prospect (Hammonds) who went on to have a long career. I can look at it and know exactly what moment in time it captures.

When I was a kid I was as unsatisfied with this ball as I was with my Giants ball. Which is a shame. I really love them now as a way of capturing the event and experience. Carrying just a ball and a pen around to different players was also a much much simpler way of doing things.

I wish I hadn’t been as snobby about who signed too. In addition to the Alumni game between current professionals and the Stanford team, there was also an Old Timers game between two teams of retired former players. Some of those guys also played professionally but I just didn’t know who they were. I did eventually remember to bring blank cards with me but Steve Dunning is the only one I can find.*

*I could’ve sworn I also got Sandy Vance’s autograph but I can’t find it.

Anyway I just didn’t know about the older guys and as a result ignored them. I wanted current professionals or prospects only. Learning about the guys I ignored has been one of the best thing about my current Stanford Project.

The following year I decided I was done with signed baseballs and instead brought cards to the game. This was to be my MO from 1992 through 1994.*

*The 1994, while knocking me out of the hobby in general, also occurred right when I was starting to think about applying to colleges. As a result, I found myself withdrawing a bit from being as attached to Stanford in general and feeling weird about getting autographs from guys who were increasingly close to my age.

I learned a lot about autograph hunting with a stack of cards at these games including the value of restraint and only dealing with a couple of cards at a time. Giving the guy a stack of cards is an invitation for smudging as he signs one and slips it onto the bottom of the pack. I wish I’d known about the current method of using photo corners and a notebook although I’m not sure how I’d like the bulk of carrying the book.

But I also learned about identifying players and trusting my gut and dealing with the scrum at a ball park. Sunken Diamond wasn’t crowded but there was always a decent crowd. Learning how to navigate my way around it was a good lesson that prepared me for dealing with the bigger crowds I’d encounter at Spring Training.

I’m not going to write about individual players here. The experiences all kind of blend together across the years into one event where I can still remember keeping my head on a swivel in the patch of grass by the clubhouse and bullpen—even walking around on the field in the bullpen area and trying to recognize players based on their playing card photos.

The stories that stand out most I’ve already told. My first autograph from Mike Aldrete. Steve Chitren getting razzed for his card featuring someone else. I’ve ordered everything below by card year since it provides a wonderful slice of the generation of players whose signatures I got. I was a big baseball fan from 1987 to 1994 so logically I got cards from 1987 to 1993 signed.

Much to my dismay Steve Buechele never showed up again after 1991. I also never saw players like Pete Stanicek or Kenny Williams. But guys like Aldrete, Amaro, McDowell, and Sprague showed up year after year and I always had cards ready for them.

Sustaining vs Development

So I just passed a big milestone in my Stanford project. I still have 8 Topps (or related) cards missing* but I now have cards of every Stanford Alumnus** who appeared in the majors and actually has had a Major League card produced.*** This is pretty cool.

*1962 Doug Camilli (high number Rookie Parade featuring Bob Uecker), 1966 Doug Camilli (high number), 2013 Sam Fuld (Tampa Bay Rays team set only), 2002 Traded Rick Helling (oddly impossible to find), 1965 Jim Lonborg (high number rookie), 1968 Jim Lonborg (just more expensive than expected), 1970 Jim Lonborg (high number), and 2010 John Mayberry (Phillies team set only).

**As always I’m counting guys who either graduated or entered the pros out of Stanford. So players like Bobby Brown who went to other colleges after don’t count for me.

***I have Minor League cards of a few guys who never got Major League cards despite appearing there.

The card which took me past that milestone is this Bob Kammeyer Wiz 1970s Yankees card. Kammeyer’s career stats are kind of a disaster so I’m not surprised this is his only card. This Wiz card isn’t much to write about either with a design that looks like it was supposed to be printed in two colors but which is actually printed in four-color process. Still, these all-time-franchise-roster sets are a lot of fun and I wish the Giants had had one at some point.

Passing the milestone though is great and allowed me to think about taking a project from development into sustaining mode. For a while now I’ve been filling holes and trying to complete things. Moving forward, my concern will be just staying on top of new releases. A very different mindset but one I’m looking forward to.

My Stanford searchlist will continue to exist but will increasingly track just active players. My card acquisition will likewise go way down as I expect there to be only a handful of players with cards each year. The project will never end but I can draw a line under it. It’s not something I can work on now. I just have to take care of it.