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!

New Years Zapping

Last week Kenny gave me a heads-up that he’d sent me a package. I was expecting a small bubble mailer or something and kept an eye out…especially after we realized that the package had been sent to my old address. Then on Friday though my old neighbor gave me a call and said that a box had arrived for me.

A box? That was unexpected. So last weekend I popped on by (we only moved down the street), said hello, and picked up a medium priority mailing box filled with a lot more than just Yankees prospect cards.

Assorted vintage and junk wax. I love the 1975 Len Randle and am looking into other Len Randle cards now since his 1978 is one of the best of the set. The more I see of 1981 the more I like about it even though I really dislike the floppy caps still. But the bright, solid border is great and the photography has character.

A pre-A’s Dave Stewart is always fun and I’m very happy to have the giant glove Mickey Hatcher. I don’t have all the classic fun Fleer cards* but every one I do add makes me smile.

*Still missing the 1984 Hubbard and Johnstone cards among others. 

I’m also never going to be upset to add another Topps Gold card and while Collectors Choice was a set I barely collected due to 1994 reasons I like it more and more each time I see it.

Some more-modern cards starting off with a great photo on the Mark Bellhorn and then moving into more-expected territory with Yankees and Mets cards. Nice image on the El Duque card and it still weirds me out to see Derek Lowe as a Yankee.

A bunch of 2016 Archives in the 1979 design. Nice to get a couple Giants. Brandon Drury is also appropriate since I saw him rehab at Trenton. These cards all have pretty nice paper too, they just have some slightly weird photo processing especially the Billy Williams and Maz cards which feel like the backgrounds have been messed with a little.

It’s especially instructive to compare the Archives cards with the big batch of over 60 real 1979s in the mailer. Archives does a decent job at mimicking things but can’t quite get the photography right. This is partly because there’s been a standard Topps portrait setup used for all of Archives and Heritage recently and, while it’s fine for what it is, it’s not trying to capture the 1979 look either.

Some of this is the poses (the hands over head pitching posed windup is a thing of the past now). There’s also the slightly lower angle which, results in lots of sky-dominated, if not sky-exclusive, backgrounds. But it’s really cards with candid shots like the Garry Templeton which just no longer exist now. They’re not super-common in the 1979 set either but they’re there and tend to be my favorite shots of the set.

I still don’t like the 1979 design but it’s growing on me. Very photocentric and the splash of color is great. The fact that it’s the base card for Basquiat’s anti-product baseball cards is an added bonus.

Some more 79s. Larry Cox is a great catcher card. Clint Hurdle has a wonderful cheekful of chaw. I will never understand why the Cubs team cards were the way they were in the 1970s with all those floating heads. Mike Lum is a key addition to the not-yet-official Hawaii-born players project I keep telling myself I should start. And Nino Espinosa is an addition to the Candlestick binder.

Almost done with the 1979s and I have to admit that the Ken Landreaux stopped me cold when I was flipping through the stack. I joked on Twitter by calling it Vermeer lighting but in all seriousness I’ve never seen a baseball card lit like this before.

Indirect windowish light is not a situation that occurs that often in baseball as it is. The fields are exposed. Dugouts are usually open. Photographers are usually shooting into dugouts or out into the field. So getting a side shot of a player looking back from an open window? Even if it’s just a grab shot it’s one of those moments and lighting situations that makes the photographer side of me look closely.

Last handful of 79s includes another Candlestick card with the Jamie Easterly. I’m slowly putting together a page from each set showing just cards taken at the Stick. No specific searchlist, just pulling cards as I come across them This batch took me to five 1979s of Candlestick and also pushed my non-set-building accumulation over 200 in general.

Kenny included a few Giants and Giants-related cards. The Panini Joey Bart is especially nice. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get to see him in Trenton since he’s projected to end up at Sacramento but I’m hoping he’ll start the season in Richmond and only move up after they visit Trenton.

Chrome Suarez is cool and I know that Yastrzemski is an Orioles card but it just looks like a Giants card to me. The bunch of Pence cards is also fun. It’s weird to see him looking so clean cut as an Astro and I’m glad he regained some form with the Rangers.

Moving to Stanford guys. I don’t actively collect relics but this is one where I can see why people do. Not just a half-inch square of material, this is instead a big swatch which shows off how well-done Stanford’s ink/fabric color matching is. The photo is small but legible. The autograph is on-card. I don’t like the red uniforms but the color really pops here.

I’m not super-collecting Quantrill but he’s the one guy who debuted this year who got a bunch of cards from Topps. As a result I’ve picked up a lot of them and this is arguably the nicest of them all.

Three more Stanford guys in the mix. Bleich is also a former Trenton player and I’m not sure Kenny realized Ramos and Osuna were Stanford. that Osuna card is fantastic though.

Girardi on the other hand is a Spanish-language card and so fits with another of my mini collections. I’ve written about this set before and while I only have a handful of these total it’s always great to add a new one.

Speaking of non-English cards, Kenny sent me a couple Japanese cards as well. From what I can tell on his blog, Kenny visits his family in Japan and comes back with all kinds merchandise, much of which he’s generous enough to send out to other people.

God help us all if he starts bringing back mid-70s Calbee cards since these Kanebo and Card Gens are cool enough as it is. The Kanebo Bonds card is a massive improvement over the regular 2003 Topps design* because it’s deleted the Topps logo. The logo is often intrusive as it is but in 2003 it’s doubly annoying because it’s bright red instead of being reversed, black or, as is the case today, foil stamped.

*Also it uses the Opening Day photo.

Sega Card Gen is something that really intrigues me because it’s part of a video game that really has to be seen to be believed.  The card itself is pretty neat too: stiffer than a regular card and rounded corners. I actually have one on my Stanford Wantlist because San Fuld’s only 2012 card is a one of these but never expected to actually get one. Very very cool to have a sample in my collection.

Looking at the back of the Kanebo card is pretty wild. I appreciate that they translated his height and weight into metric. I also recognize that the team name is listed as “Jaiantsu” instead of “Kyojin” and am noticing the connection in voiced and unvoiced katakana syllabic pairs (in this case the BA in “Barry” and PI in “Pirates”).

Sticking with Japanese issues, There was a huge stack of close to 80 Japanese Panini Soccer cards. Even better, many of them were from 2010 to 2012 and so cover the years in which I was most interested in the game.*

*I’m still a fan but ever since Suárez came to Barcelona I’ve found myself less interested. Plus the inequality in the game itself has gotten worse and it’s become increasingly difficult to actually follow what’s going on as even highlights are going behind paywalls.

The biggest highlight in this batch is a Messi card from 2005–2006. Not technically a rookie card but pretty damn close. Messi debuted in 2004 and so probably only shows up on commemorative Campions Lliga type sets from that seasn. 2005–2006 would be the first time he’d be included from the beginning and what a season that was. A good time to be a Barça fan.

Two early-career Cristiano Ronaldo cards are also very nice. I also like seeing Keisuke Honda and Guiseppe Rossi. And even the Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid guys bring back good memories of that period of time.

More Soccer. Another Rossi. Diego Forlan. Bojan Krkic. Gianluigi Buffon, Shinji Kagawa. So many players who I watched play in Europe and int he World Cup. They won’t all make it into my album but it’s going to be difficult to cut things down to a couple pages.

Last bit of soccer takes us into current-year cards and stickers. These don’t resonate as much although Mathieu and Vidal are both players who’ve played at Barça. Rodrigo Taddei is also a former AS Siena player. I used to follow Siena when they were in Serie A but after going out of business and restarting in Serie D it’s been much harder for me to follow them. I do know they’re in Serie C now and doing well while not competing for promotion.

Also it‘s worth nothing that these cards are all mini-card sized and feel like the B5 equivalent to regular cards A4/letter size. I haven’t compared them to the classic Calbee size yet but it’s close and feels similarly satisfying to handle. Like the Card Gen cards these are part of a game and have backs that detail each player’s strength number within the game.

Okay now we’re getting into Kenny’s wheelhouse. Mostly Yankees. Mostly minor leaguers. These are from nationally-released minor league sets and as such I don’t really recognize many of the names. Jim Walewander may be the only one actually since the Melky Cabrera and Mike Stanton are part of the Major League side of Bowman.

A few more-modern Minor League issues with some Major Leaguers mixed in. Not much to say here except to note that while I like these Bowman designs they’re also some of the designs that I have the hardest time telling apart.

I also need to comment on whatever Topps did in that 2013 Heritage 1962 design. Design looks good but the photo processing looks like the black plate just didn’t print. At first I thought some of these were blackless variations but they all have the same look. It really weirds me out.

Sticking with minor league releases, Kenny included a dozen cards of guys I might see in Trenton at some point.* Most of these guys were in Tampa last year and can reasonably be expected to be in Trenton this year. The big name is Florial who I’m hoping won’t jump Trenton after a couple years in Tampa.

*Assuming there’s even minor league baseball in 2021 and beyond.

Another dozen or so cards related to Trenton. A handful shows guys who pre-date my time as a fan including three more which show the weird photo processing. Always fun to expand the Thunder collection though.

The rest show guys who I saw last season. Kyle Holder might be back though I expect him to move up to AAA.* It would’ve been nice to have had that Bowman card last year though. Same with the Jeff Hendrix although the fact that Hendrix was released early last season means I didn’t miss out much. Jhalan Jackson is another guy who didn’t make it through the season. And Casey Mize isn’t a Thunder player but was part of Erie’s excellent pitching staff which was impressive whenever I saw them play.

*Unlike Trevor Stephan who struggled with injuries last year and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at least start the season at Trenton.

It wouldn’t be a proper zapping from Kenny if there weren’t a bunch of Yankees minor league team set cards. I never properly appreciated how long he’s been Yankees prospecting but the first cards here are from 1992. I don’t like these cards individually but there’s something about seeing the progression of designs and the increased production quality which I find fascinating.

The 1992s are full bleed but the typesetting is an afterthought and the paper is super thin. By the time we get into the 2000s the cards feel and look like proper cards. I don’t know if the designs are used across all the different minor league teams the way that TCMA designs were consistent across all the teams in the 1980s but they increasingly look like national releases.

These show the 2000s and 2010s designs which are much less loving-hands customs and much more professional looking. They still don’t pass as Major League cards in part due to the print quality but they’re not bad. The stock and finish is much much better now though.

The last items in the box were three mini-binders. I’ve been intrigued by these for my Mothers Cookies sets since the four-pocket pages are perfect for 28-card sets. Unfortunately Ultra Pro seemed to have discontinued these right when I started looking. This is also probably part of why Kenny decided to dump these. I know he’s trying to condense his collection but these are a nice way to have some things on display without taking up too much space.

These came with pages inside too so that makes them perfect for me to give to the boys. They have plenty of big binders but I can see the small ones being great for the cards they want to show off the most.

It’s a good thing I opened the binders too since there were a dozen autographs in there. Bobby Brown is the big one and now forces me to make a decision about my Stanford Project. To-date I’ve not included him because he was only at Stanford for a year before enlisting in the Navy and finishing his education at UCLA and Tulane. Part of this is me preferring guys who ended finished off their collegiate careers with Stanford* and part of this is me not wanting to pay the Yankees tax on Brown’s cards.

*Or, in the case with Bill Wakefield, Stanford graduates who didn’t play college ball.

At the same time he’s in the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame so it’s clear that he kind of should be part of the project at some level and I’ve added this to the binder to reflect that.

The rest of the autographs are all guys from the 2004 Battle Creek Yankees. I’m going to assume these were TTMs and, since none of these guys made it to the majors, Kenny’s willing to include them in his clean-out. Battle Creek was a low-A level team in the Midwest League and so demonstrates how hard it is to predict who’ll make it to the majors at that level. Only seven guys on the entire team made it al the way with Melky Cabrera the only real success story.*

*For my interests Stanford-wise, Jason van Meetren was also on this team but I’m not intentionally going into Minor League team issues for this project unless it’s the only way to get a card of a guy who eventually played in the majors.

Wow. That was a lot of stuff to get through and a lot of fun to look at. Thanks Kenny! I’m going to have to touch base after Spring Training as I prep for the Trenton season.

New Year, New TTMs

Happy New Year! I haven’t sent out anything new but returns are still trickling in.

The first one came from Frank Duffy in 10 days. This is another repeat send and is the fourth Stanford custom I’ve gotten back. I’ve only made nine of these so far so I’m liking the return rate for this mini set.

The only (small) problem I have with this design is that it’s clear that there’s no obvious place to sign. I don’t like big SIGN HERE designs but with a single photo the variance in signing location doesn’t jump out at me. With two pictures to choose from, the players have to pick which one to sign on. Or, in the case of Duffy, sign on the fence between them.

This is why I love sending customs. For every mistake like the Kaline there’s a couple fun notes like this that make me happy that I’m not just mailing requests but offering something to the players too. I especially love that this is on St. Joseph’s Indian School notepaper since it feels appropriate for the content of the note.

This note does remind me that I briefly considered making these 1978ish customs be Indians or Cardinal cards instead of the Major League team but I decided I wanted the variety of colors that pro teams would bring.

Don Carrithers came back in 24 days. He showed a bit of promise in his rookie season and I’m happy to have gotten his rookie card signed. Carrithers couldn’t quite put it together for the Giants but he did have a couple good years in Montreal.

I never really bought into the rookie card mystique when I was a kid except when it came to getting cards signed. And there I liked it. With young players like at Stanford Alumni games it was fun to see guys excited to see their first big league cards. With older players? It was just fun to get as old a card as possible for them and the rookie is the logical extreme of that.

Now this is a fun one. Dave Dravecky came back in 27 days. I was just happy to be able to write to him and thank him both for being part of the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen and an inspiration in general. I don’t expect to ever be at a sporting event with fans as keyed in to every moment the way his cancer comeback game was. The ticket stub from that game is the one item of memorabilia from my youth which I most regret losing.

The Mother’s Cookies card is from 1989 and the Score card captures his challenges and triumphs over that 1989 season. Both of those are fully appropriate for my album and my memory.

Getting the Dravecky autographs also has me thinking about starting a Willie Mac Award project. There are currently 39 winners and I have autographs from 13 of them.

Post Cards from Marc

Late last week I found the patented Marc Brubaker surprise second envelope in my mailbox. This is the second or third time I’ve gotten a mailing from Mark and, within a week, find a second envelope in my mail. This time though it wasn’t a plain white envelope but instead a large 9×12 envelope.

Inside I found a cereal box with soccer cards on the back. As a family which only buys Cheerios in bulk at Costco, I never even walk down the cereal aisle at Wegmans. I wish Topps would do this with baseball cards. Even though these are backless this is the kind of thing that makes collecting fun.

MLS-wise, I still don’t pay attention to the league. I appreciate what it’s been trying to do but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for what they did to San José. Plus at a larger level the state of US Soccer development is so messed up that it’s even driving me away from the Men’s National Team.

All of which means that the only player who I recognize on here is Zlatan. He had a weird spell at Barcelona where he hit the ground fitting in with the team better than any new signing does and spent the rest of the season going into a funk because he wasn’t the guy. A talented player for sure but that season leaves a bad taste in my mouth as well.

Of course, the cereal box was really meant as packaging for other cards. Why a cereal box? Because there’s no better way to package 8×10 photos. I’m assuming these two came from Mark’s motherlode a few years ago but maybe he picked up a second big stack of photos.

These are fun. I think they’re from 1990. Bob Boone’s a newish member of the Royals and Jack McDowell’s still wearing the older White Sox uniform. The McDowell photo in particular really pops as it’s both exposed and printed perfectly. These will both slot in nicely into the Stanford album.

The last item in the package was a nine-pocket sheet containing ten more cards of Stanford guys. The McDowell Hostess is from a set I’ve mentioned previously and is a good fit for the Soccer/Baseball nature of this mailing.

Three Chad Hutchinson cards basically doubled my count of his cards. The SP Prospects card is especially nice (though it scans poorly) since most of my cards of him use the same photo as the Victory card.

The four Carlos Quentin cards are also new to me. I have his Topps and Heritage cards but these were off my radar. The Toppstown one in particular is the kind of card I’d never acquire on purpose but which I kind of love having in the album.

And two Alex Blandino cards round out the package. It’s a shame that he doesn’t appear to sign through the mail since that Heritage card would look really nice scanned.

Thanks Mark and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas from Marc

So Marc Brubaker managed to sneak a bubble mailer in right before Christmas. I couldn’t wait until Christmas morning and decided to open it up and look through the day it arrived. Marc’s mailings are fun because they tend to include random stuff from all across my searchlists rather than being just Giants cards. This one was no exception.

Starting off as usual with Giants. You’d think that I’d have as much 1988 Donruss as I ever wanted to own but nope, that Rick Reuschel All Star is both a new card and a new set to my collection. While it’s technically a Pirates card, because of the photo it’ll fit perfectly in my Giants binder.

This batch actually has a lot of new-to-me sets. The Will Clark sticker, Brandon Crawford Pro Debut, and three shiny Prizm cards are all sets I’ve never seen cards from.  Meanwhile most of the rest of these are cards that I don’t have.

The more-recent cards include a bunch of inserts I don’t have. The Cepeda and Bench.Posey ones are fun but that Ballpark Evolution card featureing the Polo Grounds on one side and Pac Bell AT&T Oracle Park on the other is my favorite of the batch.

Eighteen Stanford cards including a surprising number of 1989 Upper Deck cards that I didn’t have. For such a seminal set of my youth I never acquired much of the cards. Part of me wants to collect more. The rest knows that the Griffey rookie is still overpriced and that I much prefer the 1990 set anyway.

I love Ballard’s 1991 Upper Deck. It’s nice to get an unsigned version of the Chitren Error. This is my first 1997 Studio card. The dual Bowman Chris Carters are nice. I’m not a Panini collector at all so the Drew Storen is very different than most of what’s in my binder. And the same goes for Gypsy Queen and that Mussina.

A handful of weird cards. The Archives Wagner is interesting. I have mixed feelings about old guys in modern cards and the colorized photo in a 1993 design is especially odd to me. At the same time it’s a neat photo and I like having it on a card.

The coins meanwhile are a set that I either never saw as a kid or consciously avoided (and subsequently forgot about). I don’t have any of them and they kind of fall into the category of things I’m not sure what to do with. Cool to have a few rattling around though.

Moving on to the next portion of this package takes me to the set building pile. First off, filling in some holes in sets I’m close to completing. Two 1991 Scores for my son.* One 1991 Studio for me takes me to needing only six. And six 1994 Topps cards leaves me 39 short.

*He’s building the set that my dentist sent me and is only two cards (403 Eric Davis Master Blaster and 417 Nolan Ryan Highlight) away now.

This selection hits me square in the feels for my youth with Studio and Score showing off how varied card sets were getting while 1994 Topps is quietly showing off photography that we no longer see on cards.

A larger batch of 2014 Topps includes a decent amount of star power. I didn’t expect to get a Trout in a package so that’s very cool. As I stated when I first saw this set, for whatever reason I particularly like all the colored uniforms in this set. Something about the design and the photo processing makes me like the variety of colors depicted despite my being a staunch “home whites and road greys” guy. I still need over 200 of these, mostly series 2.

Last bit of set building is a couple dozen Bonds Home Run History cards. I thought I’d accumulated a couple hundred of these but I forgot that there was also a lot of Upper Deck Documentary in the box of cards from bullshit sets that I’m accumulating but refuse to binder.

Anyway this is an awful awful set but I’m happy to give these cards a home. I have no idea why anyone who’s not a Giants fan would want these in their house though.

Last card of the package is this autographed relic of Garret Williams. Williams was probably a Giant when Marc started putting this pile together but he got traded to the Angels earlier this month as the player to be named later in the Zack Cozart and Will Wilson trade.

He had a decent year last year at Richmond but after two years in AA gets to face his future this coming season. Maybe this autograph will end up going to an Angels collector. But who knows, last year I got a Zack Cozart auto and there’s a decent chance I’ll get to slide it into my Giants section now.

Very cool stuff as usual Marc. I hope your Christmas was a good one too!

Back on the TTM horse

It’s been busy whatwith the move and everything. I haven’t had a chance to write any letters since Spring but I finally got back on the horse and sent a few out before Thanksgiving. This is the first batch which includes some of the latest round of customs I designed and printed. It’s especially fun—in some cases even more fun than expected—to get those back.

Roy Face came back in 8 days. It’s always nice to see the generosity of some of these players. Face is not a Giant but I pretty much had to make a custom with this photo. This template is my adjustment to the 1956 Topps design so it can also work with vertical images. I like it a lot and really enjoy just making a card here or there as I come across a cool photo.

Face though is an interesting player in his own right since he’s sort of the first reliever who we can point to as starting us on the path toward the way modern baseball uses bullpens. It’s kind of wild for me to read the back of his 1968 card and see it gush about his saves and consecutive games played as being new and notable accomplishments. And yes they are but in 1968 no one knew what would happen with the game 50 years later.

Another custom so I have no one to blame but myself. How embarrassing. Oh well. Kaline still has a wonderful signature and something like this makes it pretty clear that he’s signing things. Also I can’t kick myself too hard since I double checked Getty’s records before making my card.

Heck this kicked of a decent discussion on Twitter (as well as a lot of people laughing at/with me) and a bunch of Tigers fans confirmed that they’d always thought this was Kaline too. Suggestions for who it might be instead? Don Demeter appears to be the Twitter hive-mind consensus. Right-handed. Similar build. Correct playing years.

Anyway it’s always nice to add a Hall of Famer and the fact that this came back in 10 days was very nice. Even with the wrong image it’s a fun piece to have. I only ever saw cards and photos of the older Kaline when I was a kid so I very much like having one of him in his youth. Maybe I’ll re-make this with a correct photo and try again.

Another 10-day return, this time from John Cumberland. He had a fantastic 1971 season with the Giants so I’m very happy to have his 1972 card signed. As a Giants fan I’ve most enjoyed learning about one-season wonders like Cumberland. I remember how important those were to my enjoyment as a fan and it’s players like this who symbolize a particular place and time in the team’s history.

And yet another 10-day return. John D’Acquisto won the Sporting News National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year award in 1974. I did not ask for the inscription but I like that it’s there. D’Acquisto was a fireballer but could never quite put it all together to become dominant. He was formidable enough though that I became aware of him while I was a Giants fan over a dozen years later.

I sort of wonder what would’ve happened if someone with his skill set had come up now and only had to throw for an inning at a time. That he stayed around in the Majors for a dozen years suggests he had the stuff.

Outfielder Frank Johnson came back in 11 days. I always wonder what stories  guys like Johnson could tell. He was stuck trying to break into a pretty crowded outfield but still got to play with Willie Mays. He’s a got a great signature which looks fantastic on that 1969 card too.

Kong! This is a fun one. Dave Kingman also came back in 11 days. I don’t particularly picture him as a Giant despite the team-specific rookie records and achievements he racked up. But I did grow up hearing about his prowess as a power hitter and his penchant for hitting balls into suspended elements of domed stadiums. It’s one thing to be known as a slugger. It’s quite another to be the guy who got a ball stuck in the Metrodome roof.

Dave Rader came back in 13 days. Rader started off his career with the Giants in impressive fashion as both the runner up to the Rookie of the Year and the winner of the Sporting News Rookie of the Year. This 1973 card reflects that rookie season and features one of those photos that could only come from this set.

Steve Dunning also came back in 13 days. Most of his cards have astonishingly awful photographs. Thankfully his 1972 is a nice classic pitchers’ pose at Yankee stadium. It’s the only good photo of Dunning I found s0 I had to scan this card for my custom.

I modified the 1978 manager template to reflect Amateur/Professional status and have been digging through Stanford Daily and Stanford Quad archives to pull photos of guys when they played at Stanford. I’ve been enjoying sending these out and this is the first one that returned.

Frank Linzy came back in 20 days. This was a fun request to send out at the same time as Roy Face since both are part of the first generation of dedicated relief aces. As with John D’Acquisto I can’t help wondering how these sort of players both feel about today’s game and how their careers would’ve been different if they’d played during an age of bullpen reliance.

Lots of players can kind of be compared across time but the bullpen guys are different since bullpen usage has changed so much. I’m not one of those guys who professes to say that one era was better than another. Yes I miss longer starts but I also don’t miss seeing managers leave pitchers in too long. hat does excite me is that bullpen usage is one of those things where it’s clear that managers and teams haven’t settled on a by-the-book strategy and are still trying different approaches.

Bruce Robinson is the first repeat send for me. He had an awesome return the first time and I’ve owed him a response letter ever since. Between my moving and trying to put together customs it took me a long time to write back. But I finally did and sent him a bunch of customs.

He was apparently away for a bit and took 20 days to get back to me. Another nice letter and it’s especially gratifying to be thanked for the customs. It’s cool when guys keep some but getting a thank you letter back is even better.

As much as sending out these requests and doing the research to write nice letters is fun, putting together customs and pulling the stats and everything is even more enjoyable. I love adding them to the binder (yes even that Kaline).

Jim Lonborg is another repeat request. I sent him versions of both my 1956ish design and 1978ish design. He kept one of each and sent the rest back in 6 days. I really like how both of these came out and it’s fantastic to start off with so many of these customs getting signed out the gate.

Time for a break until next year. I know I’ve got at least one return waiting for me at my parents’ house still and there are a decent number just out there in general. But it’s too close to holiday season to send anything.

I’ve got more customs to try though but until then I’m just going to put all the signed one at the bottom of this post since I’m so happy about how they turned out.

Basically done

I received a plain white envelope from Tim (@BigShep79). Tim blogs a little at bigshepscards.com but he mainly runs the About the Cards podcast which has turned into a fun summary/discussion of things going on in the hobby each week.

I’m leery of a lot of card podcasts and videos because they tend to feel like guys who’ve managed to get industry hookups and, as a result, feel like they have to be positive about everything lest they risk being cut off from their supply.* Tim keeps things from getting too negative and the conversational format allows for multiple opinions and points of view.

*There are a decent number of blogs like this as well which purportedly review products but read like sales sheets.

He’s a Royals and Giants collector who, since he’s often looking to offload cards of the other 28 teams, I’ve never traded with. When he put out a call for people looking for 2019 Update I mentioned the two cards of Stanford guys that I needed for my project.

I don’t much care for Update as a product but it’s always nice to get those first Major League cards of guys I’ve been tracking as part of my Stanford project. Cal Quantrill has been someone who showed up in Bowman for years as a top prospect. He finally made it to the bigs last season and did okay in a mix of starts and relief appearances. I suspect the Padres, and everyone else, expects him to take another step forward in 2020.

Tommy Edman though kind of came out of nowhere. There have been no Bowman or any other prospect-related cards of him so 2019 Update was the first real card of his at all. He had a great 2019 too as a versatile fielder and above-average hitter and I’m very happy to add him to the binder.

With these two cards and a couple pending shipments my Stanford Project is at a stage of being essentially complete. There are of course always more cards to add. There are 10 guys who are active in the bigs and many more in the minors. And there are multiple oddballs and weird cards of players who are already in the binder. But in a general sense there’s only a handful of cards I’m actively looking for.

Three Topps cards that I don’t have:

  • Doug Camilli’s rookie card is a 1962 Topps high number that he shares with Bob Uecker. It retails for close to $100 and so I don’t expect to ever get it.
  • John Mayberry Junior has a 2010 card that is only available as part of the Phillies Topps Team Set. I’ve never seen it sold individually.
  • Sam Fuld’s 2013 card is similarly only part of the Rays Topps Team Set that year and is also one I’ve never seen sold individually.

Seven cards that show players on a team or in a year that’s not currently represented in the binder:

  • Steve Dunning is only depicted as a Ranger on a 1993 Keebler All-time Rangers card.
  • Sam Fuld’s only 2012 card is a Sega Card Gen card from Japan.
  • Mike Gosling’s only 2007 card is a Kahn’s Reds team issue
  • Steve Hovley is only depicted as a Brewer on a 1994 Miller’s Brewing All-time Brewers card.
  • Brian Johnson’s only 2000 card is a Royals Police card.
  • Dave Meier’s only Rangers card is also only in the 1993 Keebler Rangers set.
  • Don Rose’s only Mets card is in the 1991 Wiz New York Mets set.

And that’s it. A very small set of holes left. The Keebler, Miller, and Wiz cards are available but are often overpriced. Card Gen, Royals Police, and Kahn’s cards on the other hand are as hard to find as the Topps Team Sets.

Still things will get picked off nice and slow and each one will be savored. It’s nice to have so few holes and be fully in sustaining mode. Thanks Tim!

Surprise from Scott

Earlier this week I found the dreaded USPS plastic bag in my mailbox. I didn’t even need to read the note to know that the contents were a mangled package. In this case it was a half-ripped envelope that had clearly been folded in half despite the big DO NOT BEND writing on both sides. Ulp.

I opened it anyway and found a nice note from Scott Berger which referenced three cards. There were still three cards in the envelope so it appears everything came through unscathed. Moral of the story? Assume your envelope will bend and just make sure that you give it an obvious place to bend that’s not a card. Scott did this by having two toploaders side by side. The toploaders were fine and the envelope folded right between them.

Anyway enough about the packaging. Scott’s an Arizona State guy who watched a bunch of the same Pac 10 baseball players in Tempe that I did in Palo Alto. When he comes across Stanford cards he thinks of me. When I come across Arizona State cards I think of him.* There aren’t a lot of us doing college collecting projects so the company is nice to have.

*My end of this bargain has mainly been on Twitter since, unfortunately, the only Arizona State card I’ve come across in person is a card of Jacob Cruz which talks about him being drafted by the Giants.

The first card is a 2008 Donruss Elite card of Sean Ratliff. Ratliff played after I graduated but when I could still attend a decent number of games at Sunken Diamond. He wasn’t what I’d call a star of the team but he was always one of the more consistent players and it was no surprise to see him get drafted. He doesn’t have a lot of professional cardboard out there so it’s always nice to add a new one.

Ratliff’s been the hitting coach in Brooklyn for the past couple of seasons now. I might have to whip up a custom to send his way if he’s still there next season.

Bryce Love is a product of Stanford’s recent resurgence as a Football School™. I’m so done with football that I haven’t paid attention although my understanding is that things have reverted so Stanford Football is back in its traditional spot of propping up the table and no longer being the hot ticket on campus.

Still, it’s nice to add some variety to the album. Most of the football players I have are guys who played baseball but I’m gradually fleshing out the album with non-baseball-related cards. Not looking to be a completionist here like I am with trying to get all the Stanford Baseball Topps cards, it’s just nice to have some different designs and looks while I flip through the pages.

And the last card is just a wonderful Gary Carter Archives card. On the Expos like he’s supposed to be. With that pink color that’s a perfect choice for the Expos uniforms. In that fantastic 1959 design that I should dislike except for some reason it feels like the most-distinctive Trading Card™ design off all time.* I just wish that Topps had centered the names correctly.

*Seriously. It shows up around the world and there’s a reason my 10-year-old son chose it for his Halloween costume this year.

Thanks Scott! I’ll get you some ASU guys eventually.

A Lonnie Mailday

A surprise envelope from Mark Hoyle arrived late last week. When I opened it up I found a couple non-card items that, on the heels of the Jay Publishing mailday, suggest that my collection is crossing from being just cards and is instead getting into card-adjacent areas.

The first item is a 4×6 print of Jim Lonborg being interviewed after the Red Sox won the 1967 American League Pennant. I always like these kind of post-celebration photos* where athletes are still happy but the reality is setting in too.

*There’s a reason I sent the Trevor Wilson card I did.

This one is also a great look at how interviews worked before today’s much-more organized media room press conference table. One interviewer with a microphone plus another mic on a stand and two more being held by disembodied hands belies the relative calmness of the photo.

Mark’s a Lonborg supercollector. While I have a much more casual Lonborg collection due to him being just a part of my Stanford Alumni project, because I’m making customs and things* for my own usage I’m able to send Mark some Lonborg items he doesn’t have.

*This will be a post of its own someday.

This Gypsy Oak custom is an example of other Lonborg customs that Mark has acquired over the years. It’s also a 4×6 print even though it looks like it should be a linocut.* If I remember correctly there are versions of these that are more like postcards and evoke vintage Exhibit/Arcade cards instead.

*While I haven’t jumped into the world of 3D printing yet I’m keeping an eye on it for both linocut/letterpress related printing and investment casting.

I’ve kept my eye on Gypsy Oak’s work for a while* but never pulled the trigger since I’ve been a bit scared to jump down the rabbit hole of modern card-related art. As nice as the artwork looks it’s something that I can see getting out of hand. It’s hard enough to limit my scope with just cards. Including other stuff like this? Where do I draw the line?

*Well until I got blocked on Twitter and he closed his BigCartel shop.

It’s some pretty cool stuff though—especially his Helmar Stamp cards. They just don’t quite feel right for my Giants collection but they very much feel more appropriate for the Stanford one. I’m glad my first is a Lonborg since he’s sort of the first noteworthy Stanford baseball star. Thanks Mark!