August Returns

Continuing with customs and my junk wax dupes. The more customs I get back the more I’m inspired to make more of them.

First return of the month was Kent Hrbek in 34 days. Those Minnesota Twins World Series winners were pretty prominent in my early baseball fandom and Hrbek in particular is one of the players I remember most. I couldn’t help but make a card of the play where he pulled Ron Gant off the base. It’s definitely a moment that stands out to me today and I kind of love how it’s become a thing between Braves and Twins fans on Twitter.

While I was expecting a decent number of customs back, I was not expecting this 282 day return from Chad Hutchinson. I chose to make a football version of the 1978 Topps template I’m using for Stanford Alumni. This was partly because he had a longer NFL career and patly because I wanted to challenge myself to expand on the template. I did however include both his MLB and NFL stats on the back.

Another custom, this time from Padres slugger Nate Colbert in 44 days. when I was growing up, his five home runs in a double header was one of those feats that either really made an impression on me or which got mentioned an awful lot in the books I was reading. Either way, despite him being somewhat forgotten now he’s one of those guys who resonates for me.

While Tito Fuentes was one of my first TTM requests, I figured it would be fun to send him a custom. He’s one of my favorite characters and as I mentioned in my previous return from him, was the Spanish-language announcer who I listened to when I was learning Spanish as a kid.

Fuentes is a good TTM signer and sent these back in 10 days. He also sent me a great note which encapsulates why I enjoy sending customs out so much. It allows me to give a little something to the players and it’s clear that many of them appreciate the gesture. Hrbek, Hutchinson, and Colbert all kept at least one custom as well.

I’m not sure if there’s another player like Dave Parker who has so many cool portraits. I put two together on this custom and was very happy to get it back in 45 days. I hope he enjoyed the custom as well since he kept the two extras.

Ted Kubiak took part in SABR’s Burdick Award ceremony for Doug McWilliams. I sent him a quick note thanking him for his participation and he sent my card back in 22 days. Given that this card is shot at Candlestick it’s a decent bet that McWilliams took the photo.

Kubiak sent me a separate envelope with four more signed cards. I would’ve liked to have sent him an A’s card but I only had his 1968 and it was asking for a face sign. I won’t complain about getting extras as a bonus though. I much prefer having him in the binder as an A and the 3x World Series  inscription is a nice touch.

Another fun return. Yes I’ve sent to Al Hrabosky before but I wanted to try and get the “Mad Hungarian” inscription this time. I didn’t ask but I sent a much-more-obvious photo in the custom. He didn’t keep any but sent them all back in 9 days.

My first 1988 return of the month was Tim Stoddard in 15 days. He had a nice 13-year career which ended around 1988 but I wasn’t able to find any earlier cards of his in my collection (I have some in sets but I’m not pulling those out for TTM). 1988 always looks good signed though.

A quick 9 day return from Bill Landrum brought the first 1991 Studio back in a long time. These always look nice signed although they tend to scan a bit dark. Landrum played for 8 years in the National League during my peak Giants fandom. His longest stint was with the Pirates and it turns out that that’s where all my duplicates are too.

I had to make a Juan Marichal custom since none of his cards really capture his leg kick to my satisfaction. I was very happy to get this in 18 days. I’m curious how much longer he’s going to be signing too since his signature has gotten a lot shakier than it was two years ago. It’s not bad yet but thw writing is on the wall.

A 13-day return from Maury Wills brought another signature from a guy who’s probably not going to be signing much longer. As with Marichal you can kind of see where things are going. Still, Wills is one of those great players who I always forget is not in the Hall of Fame. When I was growing up during in the 1980s, the historical path which led to Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson began with Wills establishing the stolen base as a legitimate offensive weapon. It’s possibly the part of baseball I miss the most now.

I’m starting to get into my 1989 duplicates and after 16 days, Mark Parent is the first of them to return to me. I like his catchers’ pose on the 89 and it’s nice to have a different team on his Stadium Club card. For a light-hitting catcher he put together a pretty nice 13-year career.

A 32 day return from Blas Minor brought my first 93 Fleer Ultra to the collection. These cards look nice signed, I just don’t have a bunch of them. Minor has an interesting inscription too. It’s a nice-sounding bible verse* though zooming out and seeing that the context is specifically about the behavior of slaves takes some of the shine off of it.

*“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

One of my favorite returns of the month. I sent a 2010 Topps Giants Franchise History card to Renel Brooks-Moon because I realized that it would be fun to add her to the binder. She’s been the voice of he Giants for over 20 years now and is as much a part of the experience of attending a game at Pac Bell Oracle as the product on the field. I’m glad that my kids both had their first MLB experiences in San Francisco and that she’s the voice they heard and imprinted on for what a Major League game should sound like.

19 days later, I received a small manilla envelope with a San Francisco Giants return address. At first I was a bit confused and was trying to remember what I’d ordered directly from them. The I realized it was probably Renel’s return. Inside was my card but also a lot more. The 2020 Opening Day card was a fantastic addition since I think it’s the only official card she’s ever gotten. But there was also signed photo and a nice note.

The photo is ~5″×7″ and looks to be the same photo session that Topps used. It got beat up a little in the mail but it’s still great. I love the Go Giants inscription as I’m not used to getting returns from fellow fans. And it’s always nice to be thanked for the letter.

A 75 day return form Len Matuszek brought another 1988 to the collection. His 1984 is a nice add since, not only do I not have many of those (signed or otherwise), it represents his best Major League season as well sinc ethat was the year he took over after Pete Rose left the Phillies.

An 11 day return from Steve Rosenberg on another 1989 duplicate. While I’ve started sending these out, I haven’t gotten as far into them as I expected to. It’s another nice and simple design that takes a signature well and I’m looking forward to increasing my variety even with guys like Rosenberg who only played a couple years at the peak of my card collecting youth.

The last return of he month was an 11 day return from Andre Dawson on a custom. Finishing me off where I started with my seventh 1956ish (or as someone on Twitter pointed out, also 1960ish) custom of the month. These all look great and Dawson’s signature on this one is especially nice.

Next month looks to be light since I’ve not sent out much in August. Maybe once the kids go back to school I’ll get some more out. Fingers crossed that there’s no COVID complications as school gets roaring back into session.

Chocolate Bars

A quick post about a pair of cards that I’ve picked up this year. While I’m doing pretty well in terms of getting Giants team sets (minus Willie Mays and some high numbers), I’ve not gotten into all the different insert sets from the same time period. Some, like the deckle edges, I’ve liked a lot. Others don’t move me, especially at the prices they’re currently listed at. Though I am always keeping an eye out for any that are particularly cheap.

One such set is the 1965 Embossed set. I grabbed this Orlando Cepeda for only a buck at a card show a couple months ago. It’s not as beat up in person as it looks on the scan but it’s been plenty loved none the less.

I’ve not grabbed any of these because I’ve been unmoved by the design. Besides the embossed profiles being pretty nondescript, there’s something about this that just makes me want a chocolate bar. However, at a buck it’s a nice addition to the binder.

One fun thing to point out from the scan though is that the trap around the player name is super visible. Most of this card is a metallic gold with red ink overprinting  everything for the design. The player name though is the only part which is unprinted and that bright red halo is the only section of the card where the red ink is not printed on top of the gold. In-person, it doesn’t stand out this much but the way metallic ink scans so dark makes the trap a whole lot more visible.

Last week though I grabbed another 1965 Topps Embossed card and my feelings about it are very different. This is from Topps’s Presidents and Famous Americans set which I can only assume came after the baseball set since it shows a lot of improvements.

First off, it’s a bit larger in size, more of a tall-boy card than the slightly-undersized baseball card. The embossed portrait is much better detailed with recognizable facial features. And the way Topps scaled back on the gold, using it just for the embossing and borders, makes it all pop so much more. Topps took more care with the type as well and the bio really balances out the composition

There’s also more color in this set. Hoover’s card is white because he was still alive when the set released. Presidents who were assassinated got black cards. Other presidents are red or blue depending on political party (I think) while the rest of the famous Americans got green. The result is a set that manages to be colorful while keeping the novelty of the embossing.

July Returns

A decent number of customs coming back this month plus a bunch of guys from my childhood as I work through my 1988 duplicates.

The first return of the month was a 15-day return from Tom Poquette who unfortunately never got a chance to endorse Motel 6. Jokes aside (and they’re impossible to avoid) he was a decent player for the Royals and demonstrates one of the interesting things about the TTM hobby in that requests and returns have a tendency to interact in unexpected ways. In this case, Willie Wilson’s emergence is what spelled the end of Poquette’s Royals days.

Frank DiPino is one of those names from my youth. As a Giants fan it’s the National League guys who I rally got to be familiar with. DiPino fits that bill between being a somewhat distinct name and a NL guy who, by being a reliever, I’m pretty sure I saw in person even if I don’t remember any highlights. I don’t usually use 1990 Donruss for requests but it works well with a red-colored team like the Cardinals. This came back in 11 days.

Another 11-day return brought the first 1994 Donruss to the collection. I just don’t have many of those since it came at the end of my time in the hobby but after pulling a 1988 duplicate I figured I’d look through the rest. Bill Wegman was a Brewers lifer who pitched for 11 years and put together a nice respectable body of work.

Ken Schrom was an All Star in 1986. His stat line shows a 91 ERA+ that year so it must’ve been slim pickens over in Cleveland. I like that I was able to hit two of my childhood sets and get two different teams here. The photos are also pretty good—both cards are good representatives of their years. They came back in 53 days.

Bob Gallagher was one of the first people I set to a couple years ago but I had yet to send him a custom for the Stanford Album. He kept two and sent one back in 10 days. I’m up to two dozen different subjects in that set and every new one I get back is a lot of fun.

This was a fun one. I’d previously sent to Bobby Shantz and Frank Thomas but hadn’t sent to Bob Veale despite him being the best part of my Old Timers story. I finally put a custom together and sent them out with a letter thanking him for being so cool to a ten year old kid who had no idea who he was. 10 days later I got a couple customs back and a couple notes as well.

Two notes is interesting. Veale continues to be a good guy and it sounds like he appreciated my memories of him. I like the 1971 World Series Champions tag and I couldn’t help but smile at him trading me one of his cards for one of mine. It’s always fun to find a player who collects.

The card that he sent me in exchange for one of my customs (I usually send three and only ask for one to be signed) is a 1960s era Pirates team issue which I understand were used to giveaway for getting autographs on. It’s got a big Giant Eagle logo on the back for the full local tie-in* and is definitely one of the cooler player-provided photos I’ve gotten even though I don’t recognize Veale without the glasses.

*Giant Eagle is a Pittsburgh grocery chain.

Amos Otis is another of those players who I remember learning about when I was a kid. He had a good career in the 1970s and is definitely one of those definitive 1970s players who make a good fit for my customs project. I was happy to get these back in just 8 days.

Not sure if this was a thank you note for the extra customs but maybe it is. In any case, it’s always nice to get a note back from a player.

A couple more customs, this time Luis Tiant in 14 days who didn’t keep any extras. The 1956ish design is obviously the main one I’m working on but the black border is based on my Giants customs for this year and is proving to be a versatile one for images that don’t fit my main custom design.

Tiant is of course on of those guys who every fan from the 1970s loves and, despie no being in the Hall of Fame, is clearly someone who everyone would embrace being enshrined. I got his autograph on a ball decades ago but it’s nice to add a few cards to the collection too.

Mike Matheny is the current Royals manager but he also had a brief stop in San Francisco 15 years ago. Not long enough to make an impression on most people but I do remember him playing in those weird years when Barry’s career was ending and it wasn’t clear what the Giants’ next identity would become. He did however end up becoming the first Giants catcher to win the Gold Glove Award while he was in San Francisco.

I sent him in the beginning of the season when the Royals were doing well with a .600 record after April. Unfortunately, 67 days later when I got this, the Royals had kind of fallen off the pace with an abysmal June in which they only won 7 games.

A 14 day return from John “Blue Moon” Odom brought another custom back to me. Odom has one of the all-time great nicknames and is also a bit of a Bay Area legend due to his time with the A’s in the 1970s.

Paul Assenmacher was kind of the definitive LOOGY as he pitched in 884 games over 14 seasons but only amassed 855.2 innings pitched. I remember seeing him pitch at Candlestick before he fully became the one-out guy and it was nice to get these back in 42 days.

Sometimes you just find a good photo. I’m a sucker for these multiexposure action images and really like how they end up looking on customs (Tiant above and Elroy Face a while ago). So I sent this out to Guidry and was very happy to get it back 20 days later.

Joe Sambito is a guy I remember from my youth but never realized how good he was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As much as I studied card backs, I was not too smart about relief pitching and wouldn’t have recognized how dominant his 1979 season in particular was. The 22 Saves doesn’t look like much but the 1.78 ERA in 63 games and 91 innings is a lot more impressive. I was happy I had an Astros card to send in addition to his 1988 card and was pleased to get them back in 8 days.

A 10 day return from Don Gordon brought another 1988 duplicate to my collection. Gordon included this very nicely made custom card which confused me for a moment because I thought it was a real Big League card and couldn’t remember sending such a card out.

Gerald Young was one of those guys who was full of promise when I was  a kid. He never panned out but he’s definitely one of those names that I remember. I don’t like the outsize influence that prospecting has in the hobby but there is something about the rookies who were big when I was a kid and whose entire careers I was looking forward to watching. These two came back in 30 days and I was very happy to get them.

I sent another request to Frank Thomas because I wanted to thank him for his Christmas Card 9 days. I put a custom card together from his time with the Pirates and another SABR member asked if he could order a couple hundred for Frank. So I took care of that and sent him a couple hundred to keep in addition to my request.

As usual I got a nice letter back (in only 9 days!) written in his miniscule handwriting. This time I need to send him a letter back though since he asked me some questions about the custom cards.

One of the things I especially liked about the 1988 set are the Team USA cards in the Traded set. Some of this is because of the number of Stanford guys in the set but I also just like the way Topps did the text. For whatever reason I had an extra Billy Masse card so I sent it out since I enjoy getting them signed. He never played in the Majors but an official Topps card is an official Topps card. 51 days later it came back and I got to add my 6th card (and 5th different member) of the 1988 Gold Medal winners.

Moving to customs. This time a 12 day return from Wade Boggs who signed all three cards despite my asking for him to only sign one. I love the chicken photo and one thing that I love best about making customs is how I can pick photos that you don’t usually see on cards.

Steve Garvey, like Boggs, also sent back all three cards in 12 days. This is a great photo which Getty has tagged incorrectly as Garvey scoring in a game in Dodger Stadium instead of the play at Yankee Stadium where the umpire blew the call and called him out. Still, the photo is fantastic and everyone of the right age who sees this card on Twitter (even Yankee fans) responds with “Garvey was safe.”

Back to my 1988 duplicates. Bob Kipper, as a middle-relief guy for the Pirates, is another of those guys who I probably saw pitch at Candlestick at some point. I’m really enjoying the look of the 1988 cards signed and was very happy to add another one in 14 days.

Vida Blue is a Bay Area legend for his time with both the Giants and the A’s as well as his continued involvement as a Giants community representative. I got his autograph on a ball during Spring Training decades ago but wanted to make a custom of him as well. These came back 17 days after I sent them. Should I have made an A’s custom? Probably. But I’m a Giants fan first and foremost.

Denny McLain is a guy who I made customs of because I didn’t have a card. His 1968 season was the stuff of legend when I was a kid and has only gotten more amazing since whatwith how the game has become so bullpen dominated. I sent these out the same day as Vida Blue and got them back the sam day as well for a bit of fun kismet in that they’re two members of the exclusive club of players who won both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the same season.

McLain didn’t keep any customs but instead gave me different inscriptions on each of them as well as signing the backs.

A fun one to go into the weird section of my binder. I love the Sidd Finch story/joke. It was fun to read about when I was a kid and it remains a the gold standard of April Fools jokes in sports even today. Joe Berton is the guy in the famous Sidd Finch photo which in many ways became the most iconic part of the story. I figured it would be fun to make a Finch card and send it to Berton. 28 days later I got two nicely-inscribed cards as well as a note thanking me for the copy he kept.

Kevin Frandsen is currently one of the Phillies broadcasters but I remember him as on of those fun examples where a local kids ends up being drafted and playing for his local team. He grew up in the Bay Area, went to high school in Santa Clara, college in San José, got drafted by the Giants, played minor league ball in San José and Fresno, and finally ended up in an Francisco. Very very cool. I sent this to the Phillies ballpark and he sent it back in 67 days. It’s a fun photo and his signature works really well with it.

A 27-day return from Cy Young Award Winner Randy Jones brought back my first Padres customs. Jones is one of those guys who I remember learning about as a kid but just hadn’t managed to get a card of. Customs to the rescue. Jones signed two and kept one but he signed each one differently which is kind of interesting.

The last return of the month is a new longest return for me. I sent to Max Venable back in May 2019. 785 days later his return showed up at my parents’ house. It looks like he moved some time between my request and his return since the return came from a completely different state. Venable started with the Giants and hung around the majors for a dozen years.

And that’s it for July. A very good month indeed and I’ve still go a few customs pending to look forward to in August.

Oldest Sports Card

A fun blog bataround idea which I first saw from NPB Card Guy. “What’s your oldest sports card” is a simple-enough prompt but, as always, once pre-war cards are involved the answers aren’t always so simple. So I’ll go through a handful of cards/sets here which can all work as answers to the question.

Since I’ve blogged about all these before I won’t go too much in depth here. In other words, definitely click on the links and read more about whatever seems interesting.

1893

We’ll start with my oldest trading card. The Arbuckle Coffee History of Sports and Pastimes of all Nations is definitely a sports card but it’s also so generic in what it depicts that it also doesn’t feel quite like a real sports card. Still, it deserves to be mentioned because it features both baseball and cycling.

1901–02

The Ogden’s Tabs set is huge and features all kinds of subject matter. The sporting subjects are definitely sports cards so the first three samples here—especially the shot put and horse racing cards—are probably the best answer to the prompt. But I also have to give a shout out to RG Knowles who, while not depicted as a baseball player, kind of is.

1909–11

I’m including this Murad College Sports card because it’s the oldest card I have from a set dedicated to sports. Of course, my sample doesn’t actually depict anything which would count as a sport nowadays.

1910–11

Moving on to oldest cards depicting specific sports, this card in the second Players’ Cigaretes Polar Exploration set counts as my oldest soccer card though it doesn’t come from a set at all dedicated to sport.

1916

My oldest baseball card which functions the way that modern cards function in how each card is dedicated to an individual, named player is this Zeenut featuring Johnny Couch. One of these days I’ll work my way into T205s or T206s and move this date back another handful of years.

1928–29

And finally, my oldest soccer cards which depict distinct players are these John Player and Sons Footballer cards. I could do other sports but the 1934 Gallaher Champions set takes care of most of them and the ones it doesn’t (namely basketball and gridiron football) don’t have very exciting examples.

May Returns

No mail today so there’s no sense in waiting to publish this post next week. May was a decent month as I mostly worked through my childhood duplicates. But I did pick up a few fun bigger-name players.

Let’s start off with a couple signatures from guys who were a big deal in my childhood. Jeff Reardon was one of the best closers around before LaRussa and Eckersley completely changed the position.

I didn’t send a Twins card even though he was a part of that 1987 World Series Championship since I didn’t like any of the options available to me. I did however like the photo on his 1987 and I’ll always send a 1991 Studio card if I can. I was very happy to get these back in only a dozen days.

Howard Johnson was even a bigger deal than Reardon. Besides the fact that he used to kill the Giants, he also was one of the guy whose inserts and special cards I always used to pull. I’d want a Will Clark or Kevin Mitchell but I’d invariable get a HoJo. Kind of amazes me how much he’s been forgotten now but third base was a pretty deep position in those years.

I of course had a ton of inserts to choose from for this request but I went with a 1986 Mets Fan Club card because it was my favorite of his oddballs and also represented the World Series year. This came back in 24 days.

A 9-day return Shane Rawley continues the run of guys who had their best seasons during my formative fan years. With modern stats we can see that Rawley put together a very good 12-year career with a handful of solid WAR and ERA+ seasons. At the time though that 17-win season in 1987 (for a sub-.500 Phillies team) was impressive instead.

This is the fist time I’ve gotten a base and All Star card signed and I kind of like the way that having the pair together works. Not a lot of reliable signers who I can do this with though.

Since I’m not a huge college football guy, I was unaware of Cris Carpenter’s college career as an all-SEC punter. He was just one of those Rated Rookies from my youth whose career I lost track of in the strike year. I do remember being confused when Chris Carpenter debuted with the Cardinals in the early 2010s though. Nice to add a Rated Rookie signature in 9 days though..

A 7-day return from George Wright brought another 1986 card to the collection. Wright had an excellent 1983 season and a historically bad 1985 season. I’m not a huge proponent of WAR but his –3.7 WAR i 1985 is one of the worst on record.

I associate Tim McCarver with many of the big games I watched in TV when I was a kid. I didn’t get to see a lot of TV and so bringing it out of the closet for playoff baseball (or the Olympics) was always a special occasion. That McCarver was frequently part of those occasions means I think of him fondly. This came back in 9 days

A 54-day return from Erik Hanson added another 1989 Rated Rookie to the collection. I also like this 1991 Topps card and it captures his career-high 18 wins in the 1990 season.

Stormin’ Gorman Thomas is one of those fun nicknames and I enjoy the attitude in this career-capping 1987 Topps card.  I would’ve liked to use an older card but I didn’t have any good ones handy. But I was happy to get this one back in 10 days.

Thomas also included a signed index card for his Stormin’ Sauce business. I’m not a huge sauce guy in general but I have to admit I’m a bit curious.

And Thomas also included this note about how to order. I enjoy how different the St. Jude notepaper is compared to Thomas’s fu manchu image.

I thought this return had gotten lost. In late March I received an envelope that had already been opened. It had a Michigan postmark and the only person I’d sent to there was Ernie Whitt so I figured these were gone. Turns out it was another card. No idea who but the Whitts came back after 72 days.

Whitt was the last original Blue Jay to play for the team and put a solid career together in the 1980s. He’s since become the manager of the Canadian National baseball team as well.

It’s always fun to get a postcard back.  I would’ve sent this out a long time ago but I didn’t realize that Darrell Evans signed. I was starting to thing I may have lost this too but it came back in 70 days.

Evans is one of the definitive underrated guys, a couple amazing seasons with the Braves in the 1970s and a decade of solid, or better, production from the mid-70s to mid-80s. His name doesn’t come up as often as it should considering that he’s that near-Hall of Fame tier type of player.

It’s especially nice that this postcard is from 1983 which is both his best year as a Giant and the year he won the Willie Mac Award.

Since I’m not building 1979, I’m okay sending out non-duplicate cards to reliable guys. Barry Bonnell is one such player and returned these in only 8 days. One of the things I enjoy a lot about hitting my 1986 duplicates is finding guys whose cards I have in earlier sets.

The difference between 1979 and 1986 doesn’t seem that big to me now but I haven’t shaken my understanding of these two sets as being the difference between OLD and current. This mentality works for Bonnell’s career in which he’s just starting off in his 1979 card while 1986 represents his last year in the bigs.

Funny how things work out. Back-to-back returns of 1979 cards and I’m not even working that set. I remember Jim Beattie’s 1987 card from my youth. Such a distinct photo and definitely different than most other photos in the set. Beattie is also an interesting player in that he went back to school and turned himself into a General Manager, with the Expos first and followed by the Orioles.

This was a weird return. I write my address in both slots of the return envelope just in case something happens. Still, I never expected to find an envelope that had been ripped completely in half with the stamp and half my address missing. Someone taped up the ripped side and the return address took care of the rest. Inside I found a 62-day return from Mark Eichhorn and the cards no worse for wear.

Eichhorn had a distinct sidearm motion that you can get a sense of in these photos. He’s also currently a high school baseball coach in Aptos.

I only caught the end of Cecil Cooper’s career but he’s one of those guys I kept running into cards of during my youth. I couldn’t avoid him in all those 1980s oddball sets and as a result I always think of him as being a bit of a star. He definitely had a good decade-long run in the majors and it’s nice to add another 1988 card in only 18 days.

A 12-day return from Bert Roberge increased my 1986 count to 54. I’m not trying to build a signed set but it’s been fun to work my duplicates. Roberge is the first of those 54 to sign with a ballpoint pen. This is pretty common even with 1970s players but the 1980s and later guys seem to understand that sharpies are better.

Always nice to add another Stanford custom. I got Willie Adams’s autograph when he was at Stanford and I was a teenager. I didn’t mention the story about his dad asking him to “sign one for the little guy” (I was pushing 6′ at time but Adams was 6’7″) but that was a fun in-person memory from three decades ago. Comparing to his college sig these are pretty close. He did not keep any customs and sent everything back in 31 days.

The Team USA cards are fun but I enjoy having a signed card of him as a pro. It’s also nice to add my first 1998 to the collection.

Frank Eufemia is almost local and returned his card in just 6-days. He had a short career but also featured as a replacement player for the Yankees in the 1995 fake spring training.

Another 1986 return. This time from Jack Perconte in 8 days. He’s written a couple books about hitting and seems to be a decent guy in terms of wanting to help kids and their parents navigate the world of youth baseball.

Ed Wojna also sent back a 1986 card in 8 days. Wikipedia states that this card was massively overproduced but I have my suspicions since the assertion isn’t sourced and I haven’t run into as many of this card often enough for it to stand out as a double or triple print.

Wojna sent back a really long letter which represents the first Jehovah’s Witnesses’ pitch I’ve received. I’m not surprised to receive evangelical tracts and personal testaments but many of them feel like they come from similar churches.

A 25 day return from current Ranger broadcaster Mark McLemore was a fun one. I remember him as an Angel since that’s who he played for in my formative years but he put together a more-than-respectable 19-year career with seven different teams.

I’ve been working a Scott Erickson collection of sorts because of high school reasons so I figured I should look up what other players attended my school. It’s a short list consisting of four players,* only three of which have cards showing them with a Major League team.** Sandy Wihtol was the only one with flagship Topps cards so I grabbed one and sent it out for a request.

*Doug Clarey, Sandy Wihtol, Scot Erickson, and Evan Marshall.

**Clarey only has 1970s minor league issues. Marshall meanwhile has only a Bowman card and a Total card to his name.

It came back 35 days later. Wihtol is now a high school coach for a rival school but I got a nice “Go Mustangs” note on my letter. The high school project doesn’t have enough players to be a real project like my Stanford one but it’s a fun little mini collection to have going.

And that’s it for May. I’ve been slowly working on customs and am close to placing an order. But for now next month looks to be more of the same as I work through my duplicates.

A couple PWEs

A quick round-up of a couple recent small maildays. As the card supply dries up, there’s less stuff out there in everyone’s collections that needs to be redistributed.

The first mailday was a couple of cards from Andrew who found a bunch of cards on the sidewalk one day and recognized that one of them was a Stanford guy. This is a little beat up but still a lot of fun to add to the album. I didn’t yet have a Jim Plunkett card either so it was good to take care of that as well.

The second mailday came from The Shlabotnik Report (@Shlabotnik_Rpt) and contained a Giants team set of 1990 Topps Mini Leaders. I always liked these cards since they were similar to the base Topps cards but featured gloss coatings and white paper. The mini size was also a lot of fun. While the Giants had no cards in the 1986 set, by the time the run ended they were up to six league leaders.

There were a half-dozen other Giants cards in the envelope. Four I had but these two were new. Always fun to add some Pro Debut since it’s a set I don’t ever come across. The gold Longoria Big League meanwhile is fun in the exact opposite way since I very much enjoy this set and while I don’t seek the parallels out they’re always welcome.

April Returns

April continues my returns of junk wax and players from my youth. Lots of players who my parents would sarcastically refer to as household names but every single one of them jogs one of those “oh yeah that guy” memories from my childhood. I kind of miss being able to remember every card I owned while I’m also quite glad that I’ve trained my mind to no longer have to hold on to that information.

The month started off with a 15-day return from catcher Chris Hoiles. He had a 10-year career with Baltimore, including an especially excellent 1993 season, catching a no hitter in 1991, and and hitting two grand slams in one game in 1998.

Bruce Benedict is another one-decade catcher who spent his entire career with the Braves. He stuck around as a good fielder who backed up maultipe catchers who the Braves hoped could provide good offense. He returned these cards in only 9 days.

A 31-day return from Dick Schofield prompted me to add a families tag to my database because his father played for the Giants in the 1960s. Schofield had a nice 14-year career, most of it with the Angels, in the majors.

Stewart Cliburn added another 1986 card to the collection in 12 days. In addition to being a set that I’m using a lot for TTMs, this specific card has his very good 1985 stat line on the back. Cliburn only played parts of a couple seasons but his 1985 line of 44 games and a 2.09 ERA is impressive.

A 22-day return from Scott Medvin added a pair of 1989 cards. Medvin is another guy who only played a few seasons in the majors. but he managed to time it with my peak fandom. Both of these 1989 cards are from sets that I like to get signed but which I usually don’t select due to other cards looking better.

This is a pull from my dentist haul instead of my childhood cards. There were a couple Paul Popovich cards in the pile so I decided to try sending one out. Seven days later it came back. Popovich is primarily a Cub who was known for being a bit of a “super sub.”

An 8-day return from Buddy Groom added a cool photo of Turn Back the Clock day in Cleveland. Took me a long time to figure out that that weird Detroit uniform was a throwback and Municipal Stadium has the same kind of pillars in the grandstand at Tiger Stadium for me momentarily think this photo was a home game. Something about all the textures in the dugout really makes this work as a card. I can’t imagine any modern park looking this beat up ever.

Okay this is a fun one. As a Giants fan, Jose Canseco wasn’t one of my guys when I was a kid. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t he wasn’t a big deal on the playground. My junior high self would’ve totally expected him to make it to the Hall of Fame and the fact that he played locally made him even a bigger deal.

I went with the 1989 card for 40/40 reasons since it lists that season on the back. It’s also just a nice clean photo and design featuring him at the peak of his powers. My teenage self would be very pleased by this. Heck, three decades later I was still excited to find that in my mailbox after 55 days.

The same day I got Canseco I also got a 10-day return from Rick Parker. While he’s not a childhood hero of sorts, his excellent (it’s possibly the best photograph in the set) 1991 Score card made this a return I enjoyed a lot as well. The fact that Parker was a bench player for the Giants made it relatively easy to track down the actual play depicted.

The bad news, Parker is out here. The good news, this is the end of a play where the Giants were down a run with two outs in bottom of the ninth inning and Will Clark doubled with runners on the corners to tie the game. Parker was thrown out to end the 9th but the Giants won it in 10 innings.

I recently read The Wax Pack by Brad Balukjian. It’s fun and touches on a lot of the things that all of us who collect cards feel when we look back on those cards from our youth. It’s a bit more about Brad than the cards and players but some of the vignettes wth each player are great. The Jaime Cocanower chapter is a good one. He’s one of those distinct names that’s memorable to a kid and which, as a result, is able to evoke an entire age.

While I didn’t mention the book to him, as someone who’s using this activity to reminisce a bit about the guys from his youth, I couldn’t help smile and enjoy some of the overlap between my project and the book. Not all the guys in the book are good signers but Cocanower returned his card in 27 days.

I had put off sending to a couple Stanford guys because I wanted to make customs for them. Unfortunately, finding photos of a number of them has proven to be quite elusive. So I decided it would make sense to send out index cards to a few of the players who I don’t have cards of. Former Angel and Stanford catcher Jim Hibbs set this pair back in only 11 days.

I sent two index cards because I’ve noticed that a lot of the Stanford guys like to write notes back due to the nature of my project and I like to give them something to write on. Hibbs instead signed bith cards and enclosed a nice note on his own stationery.

Von Hayes doesn’t have the strongest stat line but his best years happen to correspond to my first years as a baseball fan. As a result, he’s one of those players who still stands out in my memory. Very nice to add another 1986 to the collection. This one took 12 days to come back.

A 66-day spring training return from Daniel Robertson caught me by surprise. This one came from Milwaukee where he’s playing this season. Always fun to add a signed custom and this is one which I think turned out really well. He did not keep one however.

Back to the 1986 cards. Dane Iorg came back in 13 days. Most of his career was with the Cardinals but his career highlight in many ways is his game-winning hit in the infamous Don Denkinger game in the 1985 World Series. This 1986 card sort of commemorates that World Series victory.

I bought this Brett Jodie card a year and a half ago because I was planning on trying to get it signed at Somerset. Sadly, the season got cancelled and Somerset affiliated with the Yankees and, as a result, Jodie got left without a job. He’s now the manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs and I sent my card out thanking him for his time a Somerset and wishing him luck in his new gig. He sent this back in 12 days.

Journeyman infielder Mike Fischlin was a quick 9 day return. He put together close to a decade in the majors but is probably most notable for being both one  of Scott Boras’s first clients as well as a member of the Boras organization.

Bryn Smith was also a 9 day return. He was on multiple National League teams so I know I probably got to watch him at some point. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a Rockies card since he has a notable place in Rockies history as having recorded the first win for the franchise.

Harvey Shank is like Jim Hibbs and represents a Stanford guy who has no cards nor any photos online that are high-enough resolution to make customs.  I’m not going to go down the index card rabbit hole but they have a place in the collection and I will eventually do something more with them than just having pages of index cards.

Shank’s return actually confused me a ton because it came back in a bubble mailer. I didn’t recognize the sender nor had I ordered anything. Only after I opened it up did I realize it was a TTM request coming back after 13 days. Inside were my two index cards, a very nice note, my unused SASE, and this book which is blurbed by John Ortberg (among other people). I’ve gotten tracts before but this one seems to be aimed at atheists rather than being a general “here’s my personal story” testament.

A 10-day return from Rich Thompson added another 1986 Topps card to the collection. I like the photo on this one quite a bit and favor photos like it for my custom cards.

Kevin Elster set a MLB record by playing in 88 straight games in 1988–1989 without making an error. He also hit 3 homers in the first game at Pac Bell Park. His card came back in 12 days.

While the first Series I ever watched was 1986, the first one I watched as a fan was 1987. Tom Lawless was an extremely light-hitting infielder—good glove and speed but his 1987 batting average was .080—who happened to surprise everyone with a home run (and bat flip) off of Frank Viola in that series. He sent these back in 57 days.

Willie Montañez had a dozen-year MLB career—even making the All Star team in 1977—but from 1975–1982 he managed to play for eight different teams including two different stints with the Phillies. His two-seasons with the GIants were actually pretty good and it’s nice to add him to the Giants album after only 10 days.

A 9-day return from Mark Wasinger added another two-year Giant. Wasinger though was only ever a bench guy even though his second game with the team involved him going 4 for 5 with a homer and scoring 3 runs. He stands out in my memory though as one of the Mothers Cookies cards I always needed.

Mike Easler was wrapping up his career when I was starting out as a fan but he was one of those names I just knew. His “Hitman” nickname certainly didn’t hurt here either and while it would’ve made sense to get his autograph on a Pirates card, these are the two I remember him from.

Easler in the midst of writing a book and included a business card soliciting donations for his project. It’s clear that a lot of other fans remember him fondly too.

Another short 10-day return and another short-term Giant. Alan Fowlkes only pitched for the team in one season but that got him cards in the 1983 sets. 1983 is one of my favorite Topps sets and designs too but for some reason I just don’t have many of them, signed or otherwise.

And i’ll finish the month off with a 20-day return from Justine Siegal. I made these customs way before she got a Ginter card last year but never sent them out. Siegal does great work with Baseball for All and, as a Little League coach who’s both coached girls and had to tell his players to knock it off when we played against girls, I very much support and believe in her mission.  I was a little surprised that she didn’t keep any of these customs.

And that’s it for the month. A good one with a few great returns and a lot of fun ones. Lots of pending stuff out there still so here’s hoping that next month is more of the same.

A few PWEs

Time to catch up on a couple more plain white envelopes which arrived over the last few weeks.

The first envelope was from Scott Berger who likes to add Stanford football players to my collection. Richard Sherman is an especially good one and comes from the weird (to me) era when Stanford was a football school.

I like that Panini does football sets which feature current players in their college uniforms. I wish Topps did the same sort of thing for baseball players but I suspect that there are too many high school and international players that doing a similar set is way more complicated.

The second envelope came from Jeff Katz. Jeff was trying to move some extra Tim Raines autographs and I inquired about what he would be interested in. That all he wanted was a bunch of my customs made this an easy trade for both of us.

I’d ideally like a Raines autograph on an Expos card since the first All Star game I ever watched was in 1987, but I’m also not too picky. Besides, this is my first signed 1992 Pinnacle card. I really liked these as a kid but didn’t trust getting them signed with all that gloss. It’s still a design I like now, clean and crisp while still being very of its time.

Very cool guys. Thanks!

Texas PWEs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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