June TTMs

The past couple months have involved just been keeping the hopper from being empty. The result seems to be a lot of quiet days with occasional multi-return days. June got off to a great start with a three-return day which encouraged me to increase my send rate as the month went on.

The first return of June was a 21-day return from Von Joshua. Joshua spent only a season and a half with the Giants but one of those was his career year.  After 5 years with the Dodgers as a pinch hitter and part-time outfielder, the Giants made him their starting center fielder in 1975. That year he posted a .317 batting average (compared to .273 for his career) and a .806 OPS (compared to a career .686).

It’s always nice to send a card out which represents a player’s best, or most-important, season. I always make sure to mention the significance of the card in the letter too. In the same way that Von Joshua’s 1976 card commemorates his 1975 season, José Santiago’s 1968 card commemorates his fantastic 1967 season with the Impossible Dream Red Sox as well as his even better 1968 season. Plus he managed to hit a home run off of Bob Gibson in the 1967 World Series.

Santiago is my second return from Puerto Rico as well. Unlike the return from Juan Gonzalez, this one only took 18 days. I don’t particularly like the 1968 design for autographs (this was another duplicate from my dentist’s stash) but this one is printed very well and the signature and photo both look great in person.

Fran Mullins’s 11 day return was the last of the opening batch. He was a light-hitting utility infielder with the Giants in 1984 but was good enough defensively to earn a positive WAR that season. This card is his only individual major league card so it’s kind of a fun one to have signed.

Harold Baines had been signing a lot during quarantine and I kind of had the feeling that I missed the window. I figured it was worth a shot to try anyway and 8 days my card came back. Very very cool.

He never felt like a Hall of Famer to me and I’m not inclined to use him as the benchmark for future inductees. But there’s no denying that he was solid player for a long time and had the kind of career any player would be proud of. Plus he did spend a couple good years with the A’s and while I’m not an A’s fan I definitely grew up with the A’s players.

1993 Upper Deck also looks great signed so I’m glad I had this one available to send to him. This one is great since it’s a little silly with his position labeled as DH yet the card showing him playing the field.

I had already sent to Duane Kuiper but I wanted to try him again with one of the postcards. 7 days later my return came back. The card was a bit beat up and faded but not so much that it looks bad. And like the Lavelle and Barr postcards last month it looks really nice with a signature on it.

I also included a 1976 Topps card in the envelope which came back nicely signed as well. Kuip’s letter was one I enjoyed writing because I can honestly say that not only I miss hearing him this summer but that it doesn’t feel like summer without him.

Pitcher Tom Griffin came back in 9 days. Griffin had a couple good years with the Astros but the only duplicate cards I had of him was a 1978 Topps with the Padres and a blurry 1982 Fleer with the Giants.

Actually he was pretty good with the Giants too. In 1980 he was a solid reliever. Not a closer or anyone who gets glory just a solid arm out of the pen who ate up innings, had a good ERA, and didn’t let guys get on base. In 1981 he moved to the rotation and wasn’t as effective.

Roger Metzger is another former-Astro, short-term Giant. He was a decent player, known for having a good glove in the mid-1970s, whose career was cut short after a table saw accident in 1980. Another player who I would’ve liked to have included an Astros card i the request, he returned his 1979 card in 28 days.

I’ve written a little about Mike Sadek before but it was nice to thank him for running those clinics back in the day. Because he gave the same fielding lesson each year his is the lesson I remember most. Four-seam grip. Working on the glove to barehand transfer. Holding the ball with both hands when tagging (as a catcher). I’ve actually used some of his advice when teaching my kids.

With Mike Kingery and Trevor Wilson I’ve now had a chance to thank htree of the instructors I remember from my youth. Tony Perezchica is another who I remember. There should be a couple others but they’re slipping my mind. Anyway Sadek’s return came in only 11 days.

Bobby Estalella’s quick 10 day return was a bit of a surprise. Not sure why but I never expect the newer players to turn things around quickly. Estalella was the catcher when Pac Bell Park opened. He never quite lived up to his promise (getting caught up in the BALCO scandal didn’t help either) but for whatever reason I have a tendency to remember my Giants teams by who the catcher was.

While I do have a 1988 Mothers Cookies Phil Garner card showing him on the Giants, since those are typically hard to find and frequently expensive I opted to send a bunch of Topps cards from the same time period.

When I was a kid I didn’t care about getting Giants cards signed, I just liked that the players were Giants. I’m sticking to the same philosophy now. Anyone who played for the Giants goes into the Giants autographs binder. So what if he only played a fraction of a season for the Giants. That fraction of a season happened to be the first season my family had season tickets.

Plus adding “Scrap-Iron” to my binder is a lot of fun too. He only took 8 days to turn these around too.

A quick 7-day return from Juan Berenguer added another Mother’s Cookies card to my collection. Berenguer was only a Giant for a year but it happened to be the year I saw my first game. While the Giants used 25 players in that game, Berenguer was not one of them since he had started the game a couple days earlier when the Giants were no-hit by Mike Scott.

My favorite return of the month was this one from Jeffrey Leonard. He’s not a TTM guy but there was a private signing at a price I was okay with so I looked through my cards and picked the one with my favorite photo. A lot of his photos he looks less than pleased to be posing but this one is a slightly more casual shot. I especially like that it catches the 00 on his back too.

Before Will Clark, my favorite player was the HacMan. We all copied one flap down on the school playground and loved his swagger. I still haven’t replaced my stolen Will Clark jersey and a large part of this is that I’m considered ordering a Leonard one instead.

It’s weird for me to think that the Giants traded him for Earnie Riles. That was probably my first introduction to how dangerous it was to pick a favorite player. Thankfully there were other players who I liked on the team at that point.

I got a nice 21 day return from John Olerud. I only sent him the 1991 Studio and 1992 Topps cards but either he really liked my letter or I mistakenly got someone else’s card. Olerud was one of those all-class players who I just really enjoyed. Great to watch him play both in the field at at the plate plus he always seemed like the nicest guy.

I’ve been enjoying getting the 1991 Studios signed. They’re a bit tricky due to the amount of black but they end up looking pretty nice. Definitely better in hand than in a scan too since the duotone interacts nicely wth the blue sharpie.

Joe Carter is going into the Giants album due to his short-term stop at the end of his career in 1998. He was pretty good in that half season too. However I had to get him on a Blue Jays card since those World Series were a big part of my memories growing up. This McDonald’s set of all Blue Jays felt like the right choice. It came back in 13 days.

A 10 day return from Steve Scarsone added another Mother’s Cookies card to the collection. The face sign is a bit unfortunate but it is what it is. The other two cards are two designs which I’ve never gotten signed. I’m not a huge fan of that 1996 Donruss design where the foil covers a key part of the photo but it felt like an appropriate photo for a signature. 1994 Score though turns out to look pretty nice with a blue sharpie.

The day after Scarsone became my first signed 1996 Mother’s Cookies card, Mark Dewey returned my second after an 11 day request. Dewey is one of those guys who came up with the Giants, left, and then came back a couple years later. He’s probably most notable for refusing to take part in the 1996 Until There’s a Cure Day because even in the mid-1990s he still conflated the fight against AIDS as condoning homosexuality. He’s clearly still evangelizing and included a personal tract card with the return.

John Pacella is a request I made because I just like the card and photo. This is one of my favorite card photos in general with the cap only inches off the ground. It’s nice to be able to send a request that’s just as simple as “I love your card and would love to get it signed.” Pacella seems like a good guy too with a nice note on the index card and a fast 9 day return.

This month I also got another round of custom cards made. Which means I was able to send a bunch of them out. The first one back was an 11 day return from John Gall who became the first classmate of mine for me to get a return from. He was a good 4-year player at Stanford and had a number of good years in the Minors on his way to the Majors. He wasn’t able to make it stick there and ended his career after a couple more decent years in AAA.

Ruben Amaro didn’t keep any customs and sent back all three signed in 15 days. I have a bunch of autographed cards of his from when I was a kid but it’s nice to send these customs out and add more of them to the collection.

I swore I had a Sandy Vance autograph from when I was a kid but I couldn’t find it on any of my multi-signed balls.* That his only card is a 1971 Topps card with facsimile autograph meant that I had to figure out a custom. I had to use his 1971 card photo since I couldn’t find any color Dodgers photos but I’m happy with the result even though his pen had some problems.

*Note, I’ve since found that I had neglected to photograph one ball yeahs ago. That needs to be remedied soon.

Why am I happy? Because notes like these make returns fun. We’ve had discussions online about sending piles of cards and how “please keep whatever” might be construed as angling for everything to be signed. I always send extra customs though with an explicit request that the player keep all the extras. It’s nice when they do. It’s even nicer when they send a thank you note back.

I got a fun 35 day return from fan-favorite Bill Mueller. The fact that he was so popular despite following in Matt Williams’s footprints says a lot about him. Even though his best seasons were with the Red Sox I’ll always think of him as a Giant first.

This is also a fun return since it adds two new sets to my collection. These are my first signed 1997 Pacific and 1998 Donruss cards. Both work pretty well despite having so much going on in the designs already.

Cy Young Award Winner Doug Drabek is a super-reliable signer who returned three cards in 10 days. I didn’t watch many of baseball games on TV—just the playoffs—but I remember watching Drabek pitch. That 1998 Score isn’t the best choice for a signature but it’s one of my favorite card photos so I had to give it a shot. A shame he doesn’t have a silver pen but it looks okay in person even if it scans/photos poorly.

Pete Stanicek was a repeat send for me but I wanted to send a custom to him. He signed two (kept one) in 17 days as well as a 1988 Donruss card. He was a hard guy to find a photo of with the Orioles but thankfully I found one that I didn’t have to scan.

Vance Law is one of those legendary signers who I always knew I was going to send cards to at some point.I figured I’d go for the mix of teams and slowly work on increasing the number of signed 1988s I have. I’m not crazy enough to go for a signed set but as much as I was disappointed with the 1988 design when I was a kid I really like it now. Law totally does not disappoint either with a fast 8-day turnaround and a really nice signature.

Bobby Witt is another legendary signer who I sent cards from two of my favorite sets to. He also turned thing around in 8 days. It’s very nice to add a couple 1991 Studios this month and I like his portraits in both that and the 1988 Topps. And like with Vance Law, I had to include an A’s card since while I’m a Giants collector, I also remember a lot of the players who came through Oakland when I was a kid.

Bill Swift is a guy who I got when I was a kid but who I wanted to send to since he has a couple cards I just really like. These came back in 8 days. The 1985 Topps becomes my oldest signed Olympics card. I’d gotten a bunch of 1988s signed but no 1985s until this one. I also love the camcorder photo on the 1995 Collectors Choice SE. Not so much a fan of the blue border but it works okay with the blue autograph.

Billy was one of my favorite pitchers in the early 1990s as the ace of the staff in both 1992 and 1993. The Giants 1993 season is probably the best Giants team I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching and Swift was a huge part of that with 21 wins and a fully-deserved runners-up in the Cy young Award.

Pitcher Renie Martin is one of those guys who’s just on the outside of my Giants fandom. He’s been a sporadic signer but I took a chance and got a nice return 14 days later.

The best part about the Martin return though was that he signed another postcard for my collection. As the fourth signed card he completes a page (with Lavelle, Kuiper, and Barr) of Giants who I’ve had fun learning about since they were all names that I was vaguely aware of as a kid.

Gary Rajsich was a quick 8 day return. He has three rookie cards in 1983 but then nothing except for this 1985 Mother’s Cookies card. Well he has a few Japanese cards and a couple senior league cards with his brother which are kind of fun. As a Giants fan though it’s always nice to get another Mother’s Cookies card signed.

Bill Wakefield goes into the Stanford album with a quick 8-day return. It’s always fun to add a 1965 too. Wakefield was already a professional when he was an undergraduate so this card depicts him as a student. I was curious how he would react to my project since he didn’t play at Stanford but in some ways it feels like he might have a stronger connection to the school because he was just a student.

Not only did I get a nice inscription on the index card, he included this nice note back on my letter. I usually include the index cards as an opportunity for the players to write back but a decent number of them do it on the letters like this instead. I need to figure out what to do with these notes now.

Lots of good returns this month but the best one was a 97-day return from Will Clark. My youngest sent it out and was very patient even though his older brother got his card back a couple months ago. Patience rewarded and I have one thrilled second third grader.

His house is a museum…

Cliff/@oriolesrise is one of the all-time greats on Card Twitter. He lives out in Amish country where there seems to be no end to cheap antique finds and auctions. Every weekend or so he’s finding boxes of cool stuff and showing photos of them on his Twitter feed.

As a result he not only has a massive collection, he has a massive number of duplicate items. He’s very generous with these and offers them as trade bait. Many of us now have piles at his house that are waiting for a proper mailday (or for those of us closer to him, to visit the “museum”).

He’s also been using a lot of his duplicates for TTM requests and has been getting a number of great returns. A couple weeks ago he asked a bunch of the rest of us if we were interested in some guys. I was and last weekend I received my first mailing.

First stack of cards are players I’ve explicitly expressed an interest in getting autographs of. A decent number of former Giants on here (Schofield, McDaniel, McDowell, Ontiveros) but the others are players that for whatever reason stuck out to me.

Quite a few of these I’ve already sent out. I’ll keep writing letters too since Cliff sent these to me with the express purpose that they be used for TTM requests (although I did grab the 1954 Schofield for the colorwheels page).

Cliff though didn’t stop with just the small stack of cards I’d asked for for TTM stuff. He sent a big additional pile of TTM guys. That so many of these are older cards is especially cool. I don’t have a lot of old cards in general and the one I do have I have for specific reasons. As a result I’m not likely to send them out TTM.

In this batch I especially like the Dave Chalk just chilling photo and the Larry Gura traded card that shows him with a team he never played for.

Last batch of potential TTM cards includes a bunch of guys I’ve already gotten but a couple like Reichardt who are interesting to learn about.

One thing I have to figure out for myself is how I’ll feel about sending out the 1967, 1971, and 1977 cards with facsimile signatures since I generally avoid getting those signed.

There was a lot more stuff in the package beyond cards for TTMing. Cliff didn’t clear out my pile but he took a serious dent out of it. Let’s start off with a dozen pocket schedules including a couple from 1986 to 1988 which correspond to the beginning of my fandom.

I saved some of these from when I was a kid but did not collect them in general. This is a bit of a shame since the schedules, especially the promotions, are a lot of fun to see and other details like who the announcers and sponsors are are a great blast from the past.

Cliff included a ton of off-grade vintage Giants, most of which is going to go the boys. I didn’t get my first 1950s card until a couple years ago. I’m kind of jealous that they’ll get theirs before becoming teenagers. I’m going to have to figure out how to split up the Cepeda and McCovey since I can see those causing some sibling trouble.

Most of these however are cards I need. This is my second Laughlin World Series card and the first Giant. The team set of 1976 SSPC is great and gives me some duplicates I can use for TTM. The near-set of 1986 Fleer is great too since I only had like two Giants.

A couple Fleer updates complete those team sets as does a similar batch of Score Tradeds. For whatever reason while I was totally familiar with Topps Traded as a kid I got very few Fleer Updates and absolutely no Score Tradeds. Never too late to rectify that oversight.

Moving on to more-recent cards. The deck of Giants playing cards is fantastic. Not sure if I should open it or if I should just keep it sealed. Studio 95 meanwhile sure is something else with that credit card design. The hologram detail on the front facsimile signatures on the back are nice touches but overall this is a wild change of pace for a set that was originally about quality studio photography.

The Upper Deck Legends  and Legendary Cuts cards are interesting. This looks like one of those sets where the cards are just filler for the hits but the base cards are kind of nice. The Legends cards look good with both color and black and white photos—something not all designs succeed at—while the sepia toned Legendary Cuts cards nicely combine an old school photo treatment with a modern design.

Another fun item is this near-complete set of the first series of 1992 Crackerjack minis. I pulled a handful of these out of boxes when I was a kid so this is totally the kind of oddball I love. I also have to point out that Donruss used different photos than in its regular cards on this which is an extra level of attention to detail that I wish Topps did now with its endless design reuses.

A half-dozen Stanford cards made it in to the mailer too. A couple more Studio 95s, a fun 1994 All Star I didn’t have yet, and two 1996 Extra Bases. The Extra Bases are the most exciting cards here, partly because they’re an odd size and partly because I never come across them. These two may take me up to six in my collection. Nice to be able to finally fill a page.

It’s not just the size difference that I like, it’s the aspect ratio that I really dig. These are close to a tobacco card ratio but by being so huge they can get away with a nice photo. Most cards feature squarish photos. I love seeing how Fleer crops things to fit the something much more eccentric.

And finally a few cards that don’t fit the rest of the themes. That’s a complete set of Quaker Granola cards. Very very cool. That’s also a stack of 1990 Fleer which was intended to complete my set (most of those needs were filled by other trading partners even though I had those cards marked as “in progress” in my need list). The other six cards here though are a bit of a surprise and make me wonder if they were intended for a Braves or Red Sox collector and made it into my stack by mistake.

Anyway, very very cool. It’s going to be fun for the boys to go through and I’m going to have a lot of fun writing letters. Thanks Cliff!

May TTMs

Into May returns. We’ll start off with a couple stragglers. When I started sending requests out last year I knew that a move was likely to come in my near future so I used my parents’ address for my returns. I haven’t sent anything out with their return address for a year now but a few envelopes are finding their way back there. At the beginning of this month they sent me a couple of those returns.

This one from Juan Gonzalez took 418 days to turn around. Gonzalez was one of the first non-Giants, non-Stanford requests I sent out. I had a card handy and yeah, he was a superstar when I was a teenager in the 1990s and I was very happy to finally get my card back.

It’s kind of amazing how much he’s been forgotten now. Being a 40-homer/year guy doesn’t stand out the way it used to. Nor does being a line drive guy in the age of launch angles. And RBIs are one of those stats that’s taken a huge beating in the modern statistical revolution since it reflects opportunities more than anything the batter has control over.

Yes, I agree with modern statistics in recognizing how much of the RBI is outside the batter’s control. At the same time, as a little league coach, driving in runs is important. Someone’s got to do it and we, as a team, are going to celebrate whenever someone gets a ribbie. Someone like Juan Gonzalez who drove in a ton of guys? He deserved every bit of celebration that he received.

Ken Williams was another of my first requests. His return came back almost exactly a year later (362 days) but spent another three months at my parents’ before getting forwarded to me.

Williams is like Bill Wakefield and falls into the grey area of this project. He went pro out of high school and as a result was ineligible for college baseball. While being a professional ball player and attending college is something that feels possible in the 1960s, I really can’t imagine doing so in the 1980s. Especially at a school like Stanford.

Calvin Murray is another one that stayed at my parents’ for a couple months after a 298 day turnaround time. Murray was one of the Giants’ top draft picks when I was getting into the autograph game but I never managed to acquire a card of him on the Giants. So it’s nice to fill that hole (so to speak) and add a Giants card to the Team USA one I have signed.

The boys also got a couple returns this month. They haven’t sent out a lot since letter writing is a lot of work. But they’re happy whenever they get a SASE back with their handwriting on the outside. This month they both got returns from Cory Snyder plus my eldest got a return from Scott Garrelts.

After a couple weeks of no returns I had a day with four returns all at once. The oldest one in there was a 77 day return from Jeff Ballard. I wanted to send him to extend my customs project and included the 1991 Upper Deck since I liked the photo. I usually include multiple customs so the player can keep one or two of them. In this case he signed and returned all three.

The best return of that batch was getting Jim Palmer back in 28 days. I’d gotten a return-to-sender in my first attempt but I saw he was signing again so I figured it was worth a second try.

Indeed it was. 1981 isn’t my favorite design but it looks good with the Orioles caps and the solid cyan ink. And Palmer is one of those guys who, while he had only just retired before I became a fan, was already legendary. I was pretty excited to add him to my collection.

Steve Reed was another 28 day return. He was a Giant twice in my youth. First, he was one of the guys I saw play at San José and debut with the team in 1992. Then he got taken by the Rockies in the expansion draft but after a couple years in Denver he resigned with the Giants as a free agent.

Jeff Reed was the last return of the big batch with a quick 14-day return. He was a good defensive backup catcher. I got his signature on a Reds card back when I was a kid so it’s nice to add a Giants card to the collection. I tossed a 1991 Topps into the envelope as well since it’s one of my favorite designs but I don’t have many of them signed.

A got another return with 1998 Mother’s Cookies in it. First Danny Darwin. Then Steve Reed. Now Jim Poole in 24 days. Those 1997/1998 guys aren’t the ones I remember from my youth but that 1997 team was responsible for my return to baseball after the strike so it’s fun to get their signatures.

Steve Soderstrom came back in 17 days. He’s one of the few guys who I’ve watched at multiple levels. Fresno State always used to come through Stanford before league games started. He then was drafted by the Giants and played at San José before debuting in the majors. Pretty cool when that happens.

Ed Bressoud’s 18 day return was a fun one. He played for the Giants in both New York and San Francisco before losing his job to Jose Pagan and getting grabbed by Houston in the Expansion Draft. It’s always nice to pick up former New York Giants since there aren’t many of them left. Plus, of the few that are still signing I usually don’t have a spare card.

For some reason though I did have an extra Post card of Bressoud. I wasn’t sure how it would look signed but it’s pretty good. There’s something wonderful about how Post is able to get everything you’d want on a card on just one side.

I really enjoyed getting a return from Bill Madlock. He’s just one of those guys who brings me back to my youth. I don’t even know why now (though his nickname certainly didn’t hurt) but he was clearly a quality player for a long time. Plus there’s something about those players whose intensity is so palpable that I think every fan is drawn to.

Mad Dog wasn’t a Giant for long but I really like his 1979 card which shows a bit of a lighter side of him. I’m glad I had some Giants duplicates since I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed a 1987 or 1988 Topps cards nearly as much.

I had a bunch of Nate Oliver cards in the pile from my dentist so I figured I should give him a try. He came back in only 9 days. Sending the 1968 worked out well too since he actually played a little for the Giants that year. He’s primarily a Dodger on cardboard and has no Giants cards—he finished 1968 with the Yankees so his 1969 card is a Yankees card—but he’s going to go into my Giants binder just the same.

I got a nice fast return from Gary Lavelle in seven days. He was a Giant for over a decade before finishing up his career in Toronto and Oakland. I just missed watching him so he kind of represents the team that existed right at the fringe of my fandom. Is nice to have a card from each end of his stint with the team.

More excitingly I got his 1983 postcard signed. These are the postcards I got from my dentist and they are the perfect size for autograph requests. Not all the guys sign but it’s nice to send some larger items out. Even just expanding the item to 3.5″×5″ makes a huge difference in the way the autograph looks.

The last return of the month was another postcard. Jim Barr returned his in 11 days. I’d previously gotten his autograph on a bunch of cards but the postcard was too nice to not try. This is also from 1983 and is a great photo of Candlestick as I remember it.

All in all a pretty good month. Started off slow but thankfully things picked up. It’s been a nice surprise to check my mail while we’ve been stuck at home during the Covid staycation.

A couple pre-war pickups

I guess I’m going to just be blogging every week about pre-war card pickups. No set this time just a couple I’ve grabbed that I had my eye on for a while.

The first pickup is a 1909–11 Murad T51 Stanford card. Aside from being relevant to my collecting interests, I’ve especially liked that it features forestry as its sport and depicts on its artwork what looks like a giant redwood forest.

This is like 65 years before the Stanford Tree masco. The fact that it depicts what would become the school mascot takes it from being cool just because it’s old (only 25 years after the university’s founding) to sort of predicting the future.

Also the artwork itself is pretty nice with its gold border ink and sense of scale in the giant redwoods and tiny horsemen. We don’t see any of forest canopy we’re just among the tree trunks. Which really is how it feels to be in those forests in California.

The second pickup is from Anson over at Prewarcards. He was clearing out some excess and one of the cards in his clear out was this Origin of Football card from the 1923 Sarony Origin of Games set. I’ve loved this card ever since Anson showed it off on twitter not just because I’m a soccer fan but because it appears to show a form of Calcio Storico.

While the backs don’t mention anything about the Italian version of calcio, the fact that a version of the sport which looks very much like this card is still being played in Florence is something I just can’t ignore.

Anyway because Anson is a great member of the community and has also been super generous with me in the past,* I jumped on his sale and was very happy to receive his extra version of this card.

*Including the card of cards from the Sarony set.

Anson included a second card in the envelope too. This is from the 1925 Turf Cigarettes Sports Records set and depicts sprinting and its record times. That the card is a British issue means it shows the 100 yard time instead of 100 meters so I can’t compare it to a historical record progression.

It is however an interesting comparison to the 1939 Churchman’s card of Jesse Owens which lists a speed of 9.4 seconds for the 100 yards—.4 seconds faster than the record of 9.8 seconds depicted on the 1925 card (Owens’s 220 yard speed is .9 seconds faster).

April TTMs

A slowish month. As expected since I stopped sending things out in March. I did however start sending again mid-April. Partly because it seems like everyone was starting to look for things to do at home. And partly because mail volume was clearly dropping off and while I wasn’t able to buy more stamps, doing what I can to increase volume as a show of support for the Post Office was something I felt was good to do.

Don Sutton’s autograph arrived on his birthday. So that was cool. It was out for 31 days—not too long but with the pandemic going on but long enough to make me start to think that it wasn’t coming back. I was always fascinated by his cards when I was a kid since they were FULL of stats. This 1981 is the right intersection of junk wax but with the correct team. Plus it shows off his glorious hair.

Bobby Grich is one of those guys who was on the Hall of Fame bubble as a “good but not great” when I was little but, as our statistics have become better at describing the game, has become clearly recognized as one of the more underrated players ever. While I’m not 100% sold on the advanced stats, they are useful as a way of highlighting guys whose numbers were not served well by the traditional stats.

Grich clearly deserved better than to fall off the ballot after one year and I was very happy to get his card back in 41 days. Did it get mangled a little? Yes. Those are the risks you take in the TTM game. But it still presents okay.

This was a fun one because it’s become my oldest autographed card. My Junior High self would be super impressed at this. Where my childhood goal was to collect one card from each year, now I have at least one autographed card from 1960–1970 as well as one from 1957.

This 1957 came from Jason. Erskine is legendary in TTM circles because he truly loves connecting with baseball fans across generations. It’s awesome. I sent him a nice letter thanking him for being such a fan favorite and telling him about how I’ve been taking the boys around Nw York to see the old ballpark locations. We can’t wait to visit the Ebbets Field location. 11 days later I got his response.

I normally include only one index card as a stiffener. In this case I included two because I’ve found that a decent number of guys use the index cards to write notes back to me and Erskine has a reputation for writing notes. Instead I got two signed cards with inscriptions and a note written on the back of my return envelope.

The note is nice. It confirms that he read my letter and shows he understands how siblings work. And it demonstrates exactly why he’s a legend.

Two cards for two kids. Will this make them Dodgers fans? No. Were they happy to see that he no-hit the Giants? Also no. Were they excited to learn about Erskine and have a tactile reminder of the Brooklyn Dodgers? Absolutely yes.

On the topic of TTM legends, I also figured it was time to send to Bobby Shantz. This was a other fun letter to write since he’s one of the old timers I met back when I was 10 years old. Never hurts to say thanks again and it was very nice to add a signed card to that project six days later.

I also included some print-outs of one of my Viewmaster scans. This is just a two and a half inch square but it looks very neat signed. I guess this is counts as a custom even though it’s mostly just an enlargement.

He also signed an index card for me and included a ton of inscriptions and he thanked me for including extras of the Viewmaster even though he returned them unsigned. Maybe he goofed and put them in the envelope out of habit.

I got a seven-day return from Jack McDowell. I sent to him to get a custom signed and figured I might as well include an extra oddball. He kept one custom and sent two back. It’s nice to be making some progress on this Stanford customs project too.

An awesome seven-day return from the original Frank Thomas added another signed 1964 card to my old-timers project to go next to Bobby Shantz. As with Shantz, it was nice to write Thomas a thank you note for being cool to a 10-year-old. He sent a custom of his own as well as a huge letter.

I have no idea how he can write so small but he apparently sends these letters to everyone who writes him. My hand hurts just looking at this but I’m super impressed. A lot of these guys show a squirrelly hand when just signing their autographs and Frank Thomas is over here filling entire sheets of paper with miniscule but very nice cursive.

I think of Danny Darwin as an Astro but he was part of the 1997 Giants team that cured me of my strike malaise. It was nice to get a 10-day return from him and add another Mother’s Cookies card—even one of the later sets with a lousy design—to the album. I’m also low-key liking 1988 Topps as a set for getting signed.

Another Stanford custom. This time Mike Mussina came back in 11 days. I’m enjoying accumulating these customs and it’s always nice when the player keeps some of them as well. This takes me to nine total signed customs and now I get to think about whether I want to page them all together or leave them with each player.

And that’s it for April. Not a bad month all things considered. It’s been a nice break to write a couple letters every week or so. Plus it’s definitely fun to get something in the mail.

Totes jelly

Kind of funny. For the past month I’ve not gotten any mail on Saturdays. It’s weird when that happens since I keep thinking mail is arriving super late instead and end up checking every hour until it gets dark. I began to think that Saturdays were only for packages and that regular letters and junk mail would wait until Monday.

Then last Saturday I got a regular delivery. And then on Sunday I woke up to find another delivery in my box which suggests that I was both correct to check for late deliveries and that of course the one day I didn’t check for a late delivery is the day I left packages on my doorstep overnight.

Anyway one of those packages was a box from Marc Brubaker. Yeah, a box. I’ve gotten boxes from Marc before but between the complete absence of baseball and much-decreased access to product the past couple months have been all about surprise plain white envelopes—something at which Marc excels.

So I opened it up and found that it wasn’t a box of cards. Yes there were cards inside but also two rolls of film and a jar of loquat jelly from his recent bounty. Film is much appreciated though I haven’t had a chance to go out for a photowalk in a long time. Heck I’m still working my way through a roll of 220 from my last mailing of film. I’m pretty sure it’s Portra 400 and at this point I hope it is since I’m exposing it as if it is.

And the jelly will be great. We’ve been making lots of pancakes and it’s great to change things up with different toppings. As someone who grew up with loquat trees in his backyard this will be a great taste to introduce to the kids as well. I’d love to be able to find them out here in New Jersey but they don’t seem to be able to survive our winters.

And yes there was also a surprising amount of cards—three team bags worth—in the box. The usual assortment of Giants, Stanford, and randoms so let’s start with the Giants. I’m continuously amazed at how I can discover new sets that were released in the 1990s and 2000s.

With the 1980s at least the sets I’ve never heard of are regional releases. In the 1990s and 2000s though there are so many big releases that I just can’t keep track. The 2000 Metal cards here are one such set that I’d just never seen. Not as over-the-top as the earlier Metal cards which remain some of the craziest cards I’ve ever seen but still an interesting finish to the card surface which remains unlike anything being produced now.

A couple other cards to note are the Pinnacle Steve Hosey and Silver signature Barry Bonds which both fill holes in sets that I only ver purchased a single pack of as a kid. The 1992 John Patterson meanwhile fills a nice hole since I have that card in my autograph binder.

There was also a lot of Gypsy Queen. I’m happy other people buy this product and send me Giants because I will never spend money on these. Same goes with Gallery. They add a bit of variety to the binder but a little bit goes a long long way. And that the Brandon Belt card is one of those fancy framed variants that always interests me from a production point of view.

The super-sparkly (or whatever this is called) Tyler Beede is a similar addition. I don’t chase these cards either and kind of hate all the insert variants. But I do enjoy adding the splash of interest to a binder page.

I do like the Wilhelm Distinguished Service card. Military service is an interesting and different way to build a checklist. Where my parents’ generation grew up seeing military service listed in the statistics of many players, by the time I was a kid that was all a thing of the past.

The Pinnacle Tim Lincecum is kind of nice too. It’s weird. 2013 Panini had a bunch of one-year-wonder sets that are more interesting than most of what has become their standard releases. My understanding is that sets like Pinnacle and Hometown Heroes caused collectors to take Pinnacle seriously yet neither of those sets were ever released again.

To the 2020 cards. Marc’s been surprisingly active acquiring cards this year. We’ve got Heritage, Opening Day, Stickers, Flagship, and Donruss all represented. Meanwhile it’s been over two months since I even set foot in a store which stocks cards.

This completes my Heritage team set (well except for the Yastrzemski shortprint) and gives me my first taste of Opening Day, Stickers, and Donruss. I can see why people like this year’s Donruss set. Logolessness aside it’s come into its own and has a clean, generic 1990sish design. Still a little too reminiscent of the Donruss designs from 2014 to 2017 for me but it at least knows what it’s doing now.

A batch of Stanford guys which features some more 2000 Metal as well as a couple other cards I don’t have yet. Some of those, like the 1989 Score Traded Mike Aldrete, are sort of surprising omissions. Others such as the Appell, Hutchinson, and Mussina are the kind of things I never search for but love to add to the binder.

Marc also went ahead and attacked some of my smaller projects. A handful of Scott Erickson cards. Four 2014 Topps for the setbuild. Two Sportflics cards for the action binder. All quite welcome and evidence of someone clicking down through the searchlists.

And finally the last handful of cards Marc includes are always a bit of a puzzle for me. Stanford Jenning is clearly a joke. Yes I laughed.

The rest though I’m not so sure about. I thought at first that the Ruth was for my photographer binder but there’s no photographer credited. The two Muñoz cards though I’m genuinely confused by. I’ll keep thinking about it ad maybe it’ll come to me.

Thanks Marc! Stay safe out there.

Grey Areas (and Mission Creep part 2)

While I’m writing about mission creep I may as well cover my Stanford Project and how it’s creeping into never-ending project territory. This isn’t an explicit expansion of the scope of the project—it remains focused on Stanford alumni who played in the Majors—but rather a reflection of how much grey the borders have and how I’m pushing into that greyness.

I’ve mentioned some of this before. Bobby Brown and Bill Wakefield are both examples of how even something as tightly-defined as my base project description has some grey. Bobby Brown didn’t graduate from Stanford but did play for the baseball team. Bill Wakefield meanwhile is the opposite. He graduated from Stanford but went pro before he could play for the team.

I initially ruled Brown out but I’ve come to accept that I should be more inclusive in general with my binder. Something tightly is nice but I found myself enjoying the random out-of-spec cards that I had also included.

Minor league cards of guys who played in the majors but never got major league cards are less of a grey area but one which pushed me out of my Major League cards only initial concept. I felt it was better to be inclusive here as well and enjoyed the resulting variety.

This of course pushed me into finding assorted cheap signed cards of alumni who didn’t make it to the majors. I’m probably also on the look out for minor league cards of these guys as well now. Not in the sense of have to get them but it’s cards like these that give a bit of variety to the binder and remind me of players I watched when I was kid.

This also meant that I started to look into cards of baseball players who went on to play football and never got a baseball card. With these cards I’ve tried to get cards that mention their baseball playing on the backs. I’m also happy just getting a card to two of each player rather than mapping a career.

Nevers is an interesting case in this group since he does have some baseball cards (I actually have his Conlon card) but they’re mostly unattainable Zeenuts. And his only vintage football card is one that’s out of my price range but it’s one I like since it shows him with Stanford.

There are also cards of non-baseball alumni that show up in baseball sets. This is mostly an Allen & Ginter phenomenon but the Tom Watson First Pitch insert shows that things aren’t limited to that. I don’t feel the need to get both regular or mini versions here, it’s really just a function of what I find.

I do however like this sort of organic creep. These are all technically baseball cards still, just not of baseball players. (Yes Jessica Mendoza counts as baseball now due to her stint as an advisor for the Mets). I don’t claim to have everyone in Ginter either since I haven’t gone over the whole checklist or insert sets with a fine toothed comb.

The Ginter cards also take us into Olympian territory. While I don’t feel any desire to get cards of players in the NBA or NFL, I do find myself liking the cards of Stanford Olympians.

Stanford’s rich Olympics history has been especially fun to research since Guys like Pete Desjardins show up in sets from the 1930s and Bob Mathias is in sets from the 1950s. While there are a lot of 1980s and 1990s Olympic history sets, it’s great to be able to throw some old cards into the binder too.

In the old card theme, sometimes I just can’t pass one up. I love Exhibits so Jack Palance was an obvious addition. There have been a bunch of Presidents sets but I like this 1956 Topps Herbert Hoover as one of the earlier ones.

And the Sportscaster Hank Luisetti was a nice solution to the “what Sportscaster should I get” question I was stuck on. With an old or weird set, finding something that fits in the grey area of my collection interests is how I choose my example card.

With more-modern weird sets, this sometimes manifests itself as a “what the hell I’m already doing this project” acquisition. Again, not something I actively seek out but fun to grab as I come across them. The non-sports ones are ones I’m more likely to grab too since they represent an interesting category of people who I don’t always expect to find on trading cards.

And finally there are the regular sports cards that I’ve just come across. Some of these have shown up in trade packages. Others just in piles of cards I’ve had access to. Again not anything I’m searching for or intentionally expanding the scope of the project to include. But they’re all fun additions which make the binder more interesting.

A couple PWEs

Not a lot of big trades going on but it’s been nice to receive random envelopes with just a couple of cards inside. I’ve also sent out a couple of these. I think we all like getting mail and maintaining some connection to the outside world.

The first envelope came from Jason who, after upgrading his 1957 Dodgers Team set found himself with an extra Carl Erskine card. Erskine is a legend in the TTM community and when I mentioned that I’ve been meaning to send to him Jason popped his extra Erskine into the ail for me. I sent it out before I could write this post so I had to wait for it to come back with ink.

Erskine, legend that he is, turned this around in 11 days and included a bunch more in his return. Those will be part of this month’s TTM round up since they has nothing to do with Jason’s mail.

Jason also included two Topps stickers. I don’t actively pursue these but they’re fun to add to the binder. The Dave Holland is particularly cool because his jacket is amazing with the Warriors Cable Car number graphic on the left sleeve.

Shane Katz has been making themed binder pages and is partially responsible for inspiring my colorwheels project. So it’s only fitting that he would be the first person to actively contribute to it. I was missing an orange 1967. Now I’m not.

The foil 2020 Brandon Belt is pretty nice. Scans badly but of all the shiny cards I think the foils are the only ones I like. Something about them still being printed on paper appeals to me.

Shane also included a couple Stanford guys. The Frank Duffy is his last pro card and it doesn’t surprise me that Shane, as a Red Sox collector would have duplicates here. The Mark Davis though is an obscure card of an obscure player who only has one MLB card that I’m aware of. Yes I have it (1992 Topps MLB Debut) but it’s very cool to add a second.

Thanks guys! Take care out there.

March TTMs

What a month. All things considered this was pretty successful. Spring training returns continued to come in and a few other requests I sent out also came back. With the whole Covid-19 debacle I stopped sending requests early in the month and things sort of dried up in the last two weeks. I have no idea what to expect for returns moving forward but I am looking forward to being able to start things up again some day.

Also it’s worth noting that the boys wrote a few letters and began getting returns this month as well. They’ve been pretty quiet since last summer but this is a fun activity to share with them plus it gets them writing.

They have a few more out there but who knows what to expect now. Anyway to my returns for the month.

I tried sending to Dave Righetti early last year. Was hopeful I’d get a return when I saw everyone else get returns around June. No dice. I figured that I’d try again this spring and send to Scottsdale instead  of Pac Bell. 27 days later a nice 1993 Topps Gold card came back signed.

Rags was one of those guys I liked watching before he became a Giant. Some pitchers you can just watch how they move the ball around the zone and really appreciate the art of pitching. Once he came to San Francisco I was happy to have an excuse to cheer for him. That he went on to become the pitching coach during the Even Years run of championships makes him even cooler.

Same Selman is yet another Giant who made his Major League Debut last year. These came back in 24 days. He didn’t keep one but I hope he liked them.

Two years into making customs and I’ve come to realize that I love sending out “congrats on your MLB debut, I made some customs for you” letters. This season I’m going to have to try and make debut or notable firsts (hits, home runs, wins, etc.) cards for all the guys making their official debuts.

Tommy Edman is a Stanford guy who was not on my radar for making it to the majors last year. But he did, had a great first season, and was literally the last guy to make it into the 2019 Update set.* I didn’t mention it when Big Shep sent me the Edman cards last year but Shep sent me an extra Edman for TTM reasons.

*Seriously. Edman debuted on June 8 and Yordan Alvarez debuted on June 9. Edman is included in 2019 Update. Alvarez had to wait until 2020 to get his first Major League card. Not sure whether the MLBPA union insisted on that cutoff or if Topps proposed it. Either way it left Update feeling like a badly-thought-out set which isn’t able to include either the top Rookies or the trades that occurred before the deadline.

Edman sent this back to me in only 19 days. Very cool and I’ve already added it to the page of Stanford Autographs. Up to 92 different athletes on there now.

Felipe Alou is probably my favorite return of the spring. I wish I’d had some vintage doubles of him (ideally 1960 0r 1962) but I also really liked him as the Giants manager and the way he used his platform there to speak about his experiences in the game and how society has changed in the decades since he started playing.

His baseball stories were great but the one that sticks with me the most is appropriate for his status as the first Dominican player. His first time traveling into the South and being informed that certain people had decided that he was black.

Needless to say I’m very happy with this card. He was one of the first letters I sent out and 31 days later I was very happy to add him to the binder.

I figured I shouldn’t just be sending to Spring Training so I sent a couple other requests out in February. Goose Gossage is one such request. His 1986 Topps card came back in 17 days. I just love the attitude in this photo. I would’ve sent him a 1989 Mothers Cookies card but I traded my duplicate a long time ago.

Chuck Essegian is another re-send for me. Once I started making Stanford customs I figured I should go back over the guys I got the first time around. The hard part is often finding photos. With Essegian I was stuck between showing him on the A’s since he never had an A’s card or putting him on the Dodgers since his pinch-hitting heroics make him a Dodger legend of sorts. I went with the Dodgers and after a couple of tries this came back in 8 days.

Spring training returns continued to trickle in after the first burst. Jandal Gustave signed in 34 days—still not a long wait. He was a bit of a surprise last season who came with no expectations and turned out to be quietly effective out of the bullpen.

After 10 days, Doug Gwosdz became the first signer to take advantage of the Mother’s Cookies “autograph” line on the backs of the cards. I’ve always wondered about that line as it felt both optimistic and a bit weird to have on the backs of the cards. It doesn’t feel like something that Mother’s Cookies would have invented but it’s not something that’s exactly common either.

I’ve gone ahead and scanned the front of the card as well. I would’ve preferred the signature be there but I can’t complain. This is actually a zero-year card since Gwosdz never appeared in the majors with the Giants. I don’t collect this theme but they’re certainly fun things to note and don’t really pop up that often (I didn’t see any Giants on the list I linked to). I appreciate that he signed the index card with his Giants number instead of the #10 he wore with the Padres.

Catcher Steve Nicosia came back in 9 days. He was a World Series winning catcher with the Pirates in 1979 and later spent two seasons with the Giants as a backup/platoon guy.

Roberto Hernandez’s 10-day return continues the theme of short-term Giants. He was only on the team for half of the 1997 season but since that pennant race is what brought me back to being a fan I remember him very fondly. His two-inning save of the game before the Brian Johnson game will be my lasting memory. He wasn’t our main closer but at that time it was quite a weapon to have a guy who could hit 100mph on the gun.

Yet another short-term Giant, Gene Richards signed in 11 days. Richards was primarily a Padre whose 56 stolen bases was the Rookie record from 1977 to 1980. This 1985 card is his career capper as he retired after his 1984 season—his only one with the Giants.

After the Richards return my mail pretty much dried up as the country went into the Covid-19 lockdown. My two-week dry spell was broken by a nice 44-day return from Alex Dickerson. The autos got kind of beat up and scratched in the return envelope but that was totally fine because Dick included a nice note as well.

This encapsulates everything I enjoy about sending out these requests. I mentioned in my letter how much fun it was to see the way he energized the team last season and giving the customs to players is a way to demonstrate my appreciation as a fan. In these days where everyone’s just waiting out the impending disaster and trying to stay safe there’s also something wonderful in just the simple “take care” sort of response everyone is giving each other.

I know the month isn’t over quite yet (will it ever end?) but this feels like an appropriate last return for the post. This blog doesn’t have many readers but I agree 100% with Alex. I hope all is well and that you’re all staying safe. Take care out there.

Assorted small maildays

A couple small maildays arrived in my mailbox last week. Yes it’s fun getting a big box of cards but the small maildays almost always represent something special which fills a specific hole in a search list.

For example, these two cards from Big Shep which represent both my first non-Giants 2020 cards and keep my Stanford project at its “basically done” state. Always nice to add a rookie card to the binder and I hope Hoerner keeps on developing the way he has been.

A couple comments on the 2020 design. First, I generally like even though it feels more Bowman or National Baseball Card Day than what I expect from Flagship. The photos have been more interesting than previous years and putting the design on the side creates more interesting croppings than the previous three years of transparency effects on the bottom.

It looks best with colored uniforms like in these two cards. The Edman in particular looks especially nice since those blue Cardinals away uniforms are fantastic. With the regular grey and white uniforms this design has a tendency to go monochrome in a bad way It would’ve been interesting to see, instead of the white transparency effect,  a solid team color in that section of the card instead.

And I wish the name and position text was rotated 180° so that they weren’t upside down on the horizontal cards. I was worried that Topps was going to have this happen as soon as I saw the mock-ups last year. This is one of those cases where it feels like no one at Topps collects cards and thinks about how people are going to store them.

Also, for some reason Nico Hoerner’s card back lists his 2019 cumulative Minor League stats but doesn’t include his Major League stats. I don’t get it.

Finally, Hoerner’s card is appallingly printed. There’s some weird purple/magenta toning going on which results in his uniform going all splotchy. I know that’s a tough color to print but this is more than just running one ink too heavy. One thing modern cards usually have over older cards is that they’re manufactured much much better. In this case though something went wrong on the press.

Speaking of things going wrong on press. Lanny came back a me with yet another off-condition Willie Mays card. Instead of surface damage, paper loss, or disintegrating corners, this time we’ve got a trimming fiasco. Not just a mistrim, this is also slightly diamond cut.

Aside from the trimming though this is possibly the best-conditioned 1969 Topps card I have. Color is great. Surface is great. Corners are great. Printing is on-register and sharp. Of all the flaws a card can have, centering is the one I care least about so this is an awesome addition to my Giants binder which takes me to needing only one more 1969 card for the team set.

Who do I still need? The high-number Bobby Bonds rookie. It’s not ridiculous but it’s not cheap either.

Anyway, thanks guys, all three of these are great additions to the collection!