A pile from Night Owl

Way back in November, Greg/Night Owl made a plea for people to take a bunch of extra Dodgers cards off his hands. While his request was intended for other Dodgers collectors, I figured it was a sign that I should take the plunge into collecting Shawn Green so I commented hat if he felt like dumping a bunch of Shawn Green on me I’d be happy to take them.

The madness of the holiday season means that sending mailings out like this gets backburnered until the week after Christmas. Sure enough, I found a bubble mailer in my mailbox on New Year’s Eve and inside was the stack of Shawn Green cards and an almost-threatening note.

I appreciate that Greg kept things in check. Where the other Stanford guys who didn’t play baseball for Stanford tend to not have many of cards at all, Green has a ton.* As I said way back when I first added him to the binder, I don’t want to supercollect him. But I won’t turn down a big stack and as a legitimate star/semi-star he does show up in a lot of sets which I’ve not included in the binder.

*Checking Trading Card Database. Bill Wakefield has 14, Bobby Brown has 34, Kenny Williams has 62, and Shawn Green has 4,445.

Anyway, to the pile. Since Greg is a Dodgers fan it only covers 2000–2005 when Green was getting Dodgers cards. He did however do a nice job in giving me a few cards from each year.

Starting off in 2000. I’m glad there’s one card depicting Green as a Blue Jay here. I have Giants cards from most of these sets but I’m pretty sure none of them are represented in my Stanford Album. I’ve tended to focus on either the base flagship sets or oddballs in that album. This is partly for simplicity’s sake and partly because I can’t be bothered to learn about the thousands of sets released in the 1990s and 2000s

This group of six kind makes that point since not only are none of them are from base flagship sets, they’re all from releases that only lasted a couple years. In many ways I love how much the hobby was trying things out. In other ways it’s a clear sign that everything was out of control.

To the 2001. Same story as with the 2000s except that I need to point out that my Stadium Club coverage of these years in all albums is thin to none. Greg included Stadium Club cards for 2000–2003 and they were my first representatives of those sets in any of my collections. I should probably rectify that for other Stanford guys as well as the Giants. Anyway this 2001 Stadium Club card is an especially nice image of Pac Bell Park in its first year.

The two Topps HD cards intrigue me. I don’t quite understand what makes this set HD since nothing besides the card thickness really jumps out to me as being different. I also don’t really understand what was going on with Topps Fusion. Both of those sets appear to be single-year experiments though so it’s nice to have a couple samples.

2002 has probably the most interesting mix of cards. Traditional photography like Stadium Club. Crazy chromed out stuff in Finest. Retro “painting” on the Topps 206. Acetate/clear stock on the E-X.

The Bats Incredible card is the one that catches my eye though. It kind of looks like an insert and it kind of looks a base card from a set that was designed to have a relic or signature in the top right corner on the hits. Definitely another one-year-wonder of a release but I can’t help but wonder how and why it was released.

This image covers both 2003 and 2004. Not a ton to say about these except that I love the 2003 Playoff Portraits card. As leery as I am about most of the fake paintings that end up on cards, the way this set is actually textured really enhances the painting feel. I’m pretty sure this was around for only one year which is a shame since it would’ve been nice to collect a couple seasons of these.

The Bowman Heritage in the 1955 design meanwhile shows the kind of thing that I dislike about so many of the Heritage cards. 1955 Bowman, despite the color TVs dominating the design, has a really distinct photographic look. An extreme crop from a generic action image like this doesn’t quite measure up and demonstrates a certain lack of understanding about what makes sets memorable.

Finishing up with the 2005s. Where the Playoff Portraits is great, the Diamond Kings is mess. It’s worth pointing out here that this is the only year with anything approaching the standard base cards. These are the only base Donruss and Fleer in the pile and the Opening Day is basically identical* to the Flagship card.

*And arguably an improvement with the blue foil on the Dodgers card.

Having the Opening Day card inspired me to add Green’s Topps Flagship run to my Stanford wantlist page.* I’ll probably take a gander at Sportlots or Cardbarrel at some point. No real rush though especially with so many Green cards in the Binder now.

*As well as Bobby Brown’s Bowman run.

Thanks Greg! I’m glad I could help with your duplicates problem.

My first NWSL card

The increasing presence of soccer (and women’s basketball) cards has kind of ramped up the gravity which is pulling my Stanford project into mission creep. I’m increasingly interested in old, vintage cards of Stanford athletes,* but I was doing fine staying away from modern cards until everyone started opening packs of NWSL cards last summer.

*Not in a comprehensive must-get-every-card way, just as a way of picking up some examples of classic Topps/Bowman/Fleer Football and basketball cards.

It turns out that I kind of love looking through checklists from sets like this to find Stanford players. It also turns out that guys who buy the packs for a cheap fun rip also find themselves with a pile of cards which they don’t want to keep all of. One such guy was Shlabotnik Report who sent me a quick note to let him know who the Stanford alumnae* were in the set.

*#8 Tegan McGrady, #124 Kelly O’Hara,  #141 Tierna Davidson, #143 Jordan DiBiasi, #158 Lo’eau LaBonta, #160 Averie Collins, #191 Ali Riley, #192 Jane Campbell, and Cityscape insert #13 Sophia Smith.

He went through his cards and found that he had the Averie Collins. A couple days later I found it packed with a bunch of other cards in a PWE in my mailbox.  Very cool.

Collins was part of the team that won Stanford’s second NCAA championship in 2017. She also did the very Stanford thing of graduating with a year of eligibility left and then playing a last season as a grad student at another college (which resulted in her missing a second NCAA championship as Sanford won again in 2019).

These Parkside cards have the feel of  some of the Minor League team sets and I’m trying to figure out why that is. Could be the printing quality but it could also be something about the design.

Moving to the other cards in the envelope. Sticking with soccer, this foil Coutinho Attax card was included to add to me Barcelona page. It’s only a page for now but people do seem to like sending me Barça cards since while I don’t seek them out I’m happy to keep them.

Coutinho is a good player who hasn’t the greatest fit for the team; one of many such signings the team has made over the past 5 years or so as I’ve kind of drifted away.* It’s tough to watch a team of players who haven’t been assembled with any clear philosophy besides “hope Messi does something.” I’m hopeful this year, as bad as it’s gone so far, represents a fresh start of sorts.

*The difficulty ins even finding match highlights has not helped either.

Took me longer than it should’ve to recognize hat these two 1979s were actually O Pee Chees. You’d think between the logo, white card stock, French backs, and horrible trimming that I’d’ve figured it out sooner but nope. Like the Barça cards these are things that I love adding to the binder but which I never seek out.

Three Topps mini leaders. With their glossy finish, white card stock,  and colored backs, these were some of my favorite cards when I was a kid. Something about the small size made them feel special too. Little cards made to a higher standard featuring the better players.

And finally a handful of 2004 Total (not a cereal tie-in). I love the Total concept of having a lower-quality produced set featuring all the players. Not sure if it works for set collectors but it’s great for team collectors. I’m not quite ready to create a searchlist for these but I probably should.

And that’s it. Lots of fun stuff and definitely my favorite kind of Christmas cards.

October Returns

My sending has gone way down just like my blog posting has. But cards are continuing to come in so that’s been fun.

Th first card of the month came in the dreaded damaged-envelope envelope. My SASE was intact, it had just been dropped in a puddle or something and fully saturated. I don’t mean any disrespect to Bruce Fields here but I was kind of glad ha the soaked card was just his 1989 Topps duplicate. Thankfully Sharpies use acetone as a solvent instead of water.  Anyway this came back in 24 days and despite the damage looks and scans well enough to go in the album with the rest of my 1989 duplicates.

Rich Monteleone was a Giant for that ill-fated 1994 season. I’m glad I had a card available to send and 1994 Fleer always looks good. I wish I’d collected more 1994 cards as a kid but it’s clear I was already drifting away before the strike did me in. Monteleone sent these back in 14 days.

Kurt Stillwell is one of those names I remember from my youth since he was a bit of a rookie prospect in my first years as a collector. I was happy to try a 1987 Donruss since I haven’t sent many of them out yet. It’s also been way too long since I got another 1991 Studio signed so I was very happy to get both of these back in just 13 days.

A 24-day return from Jim Palmer is one of the last from my most-recent batch of customs. It’s always a good day when I get a custom back though and it always makes me happy when the player keeps some of the ones I sent.

I got a surprise 238-day return from AJ Hinch who looks to be getting to his spring training mail now that the season is over. I’m glad he bounced back with a decent season with the Tigers this year since, while I don’t condone what the Astros did, I also think Hinch got treated as the fall guy for something that the league both enabled and condoned and which is pervasive across all the teams.

I was a little disappointed with this return because he didn’t sign any of the customs I sent. Maybe he’s a strict one-signature-per-request guy. Maybe he doesn’t sign Astros cards anymore. Or maybe he just wanted to keep all the customs. I’ll assume the last one since it makes me happiest even though I can’t add another signed 1978ish custom to the collection.

I couldn’t be too disappointed though because signing the 1993 Traded card makes for a fantastic pair with the card I got signed back in early 1994 when Hinch was still a teenager. It’s always fun to see how someone’s signature has evolved—especially from teenage years to middle age—and I appreciate how he still avoids signing right on top of the black chest protector.

Another longish return, this time 74 days from Bobby Meacham who’s definitely one of those names I remember as a kid. Unfortunately it’s probably in part due to his shenanigans with Dale Berra but I think there’s more to it than that too. Plus it’s always nice to add another signed 1988 Topps to the collection.

A pair of cards from Eric Soderholm came back in just 7 days. I felt a little bad sending the 1976 card since he missed that entire season due to injury but it was the oldest one I had. Plus, Soderholm won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1977 after coming back from that season.

A 204-day return from Roy Thomas brought anther 1986 Topps to the collection. After working my dupes pretty hard I’ve already stopped expecting to see them come back. This isn’t the best representative of the set with Thomas looking very much like a guy whose career is wrapping up and who’s seen a lot.

And that’s about it. Nothing the last two weeks due to my sending being way way down. November looks to be super light as well though I should try and send some out before the holidays. Maybe I should just buckle down and sort through dupes for next year.

Mailday from Marc

Earlier this week I found the fattest PWE I’ve ever received in my mailbox. USPS’s maximum thickness where an envelope becomes a package is a quarter inch and I’m pretty sure Marc Brubaker hit that thickness right on the head. A lot of the thickness was the stiffening cardboard but it also had 23 cards inside which I think is the most I’ve ever gotten in a PWE.

It was the usual eclectic mix I expect from Marc but we’ll start off with the Giants cards. I’m very happy to get another copy of this Pablo Sandoval because it means I now have enough to give each son one of them. I don’t think they need identical stacks but a 3D card of on of their favorite players is extra cool and definitely the kind of thing that would cause some sibling friction.

The Pacific Paramount Stan Javier is a typical foiled-out Pacific design (sadly not in Spanish) with the typical 1990s problem where the foil covers the bottom half of the photo. It is however very much of its time and I appreciate that. The Joey Bart is another one that’ll go on the kids’ pile and, hopefully in a couple years they’ll be very excited to have his cards.

There was also a handful of 2021 Heritage cards. Most of these will also go in the duplicate pile for the boys although I’m not sure any of them will be excited by the Justin Smoak.* The Joey Bart card on the other hand means hat one can get the Opening Day and the other he Heritage.

*Who shouldn’t even be in the set since he was literally released by the Giants before the 2020 season ended. Topps does this kind of thing way too often though where players who have no business being in the set end up on the checklist.

The Willie Mays Award card though is one I didn’t have. I hadn’t included it as part of the Giants team set because it’s not. But it is Willie Mays and so I have no problems sliding it into the album.

On to the weirder stuff. The Scott Erickson Ultra Pro card is wild. I don’t think anyone is doing the corporate jersey thing anymore* and this one is such a generic jersey that I wonder why they even bothered. It’s not a great card but it’s weird and that’s always welcome in the binder.

*I do kind of miss the 1990s thing of creating baseball jerseys (check the Summertime video for examples) for all sports though.

The Buechele meanwhile comes from Marc’s apparently-infinite supply of stickers. There aren’t many cards of him with the Pirates though so that part’s pretty fun too.

More weirdness. I passively collect Barcelona cards. Very very passively. Love adding them to the album. Can’t be bothered to even search for them and the idea of buying them doesn’t even cross my mind. I’m not exactly sure why this is but it means that I very much appreciate each and every one that gets sent to me.

And finally, Marc, as a member of the custom card crew, included a bunch of his customs that I’ve been seeing him working on over the past year.* Is great to see these in the flesh and I’m kind of jealous because Marc has a good copyshop that he prints these at while I’ve been getting mine online at Magcloud. I have no complaints about Magcloud—it’s exactly what I expect and the quality is great—but man the paper Marc uses is so much nicer and thicker.

*The Bernie card is a fun joke which I didn’t get at first since I’m not that familiar with 1982 Fleer.

I’m especially liking the Dan-Dee inspired Dusty Baker. I’m always a fan of classic-feeling customs and the tweaks to the Dan-Dee are exactly the kind of thing I enjoy. But there’s a lot of good stuff going on in the Castro—I really want to see Marc try making the logo into a burned-in brand feel—and the Mays design is one which Mark is turning into a generic custom design for various fun photos and seeing its versatility has been awesome.

The last two cards are actually my designs. I was screwing around with creating a Ginterizer a couple years ago and sent a bunch of files to Marc ages ago since a bunch of them were of his Vintage Base Ball team. Marc went ahead and got them printed and they’re fantastic in hand. He actually ent me a couple different paper options (where not all 23 cards are depicted in this post) but the one I like best is the uncoated stock since it just feels right.

Super cool to see these in person and thanks for the PWE Marc!

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.