So that didn’t take long. This was always the most obvious logical move where rather than trying to start a trading card company from scratch Fanatics would buy Topps and acquire both a trading card manufacturer and the legacy of the brand that is synonymous with sports cards in this country. When the news officially broke officially yesterday there was a collective sigh of relief across the hobby as people realized that there was no longer a looming deadline followed by a big question mark about WTF was going to happen next.
It’s good news for the hobby. The collectors who appreciate the legacy being continued get to maintain that connection to the history of baseball. And the speculators who Fanatics looks to be courting get a certain guarantee of stability that things will continue on reliably.
My kids are happy. As should I be. Yet when I read about the announcement my initial gut reaction was one of disappointment.
I love the idea of Topps Flagship as a record of the nature of the game each season. Everything else though? I wouldn’t miss at all, especially the way Topps has been filing the unique edges off of every release and turning them into a mishmash of uninspired pack filler that gets tossed in the trash after the “hits” are pulled. So many of the current releases appear to just be churned out formulaically. No professional pride, just a desire to get stuff out because it’ll sell out no matter how bad or boring it is.
Not that I expect Fanatics to be any better here. Business after all is about making money efficiently not creating good products. But Fanatics has a different business model and distribution network. Creating products that support its existing infrastructure could’ve resulted in stuff that looked very different than what we’re used to. Which is really all I’m still hoping for in the next couple of years.
Fanatics is now making cards sooner than we all expected them too. They’re probably not going to rock the boat too much productwise to start whatwith lead times being close to a year. Distributionwise though I’m on alert and fully expecting some changes in that department—hopefully resulting in cards being more available again. And of course starting next year there should be some changes creeping in the product side.
Or at least I hope that there are changes. As reassuring as it sounds to say that nothing will change, we’re desperately in need of some change and fresh ideas.
What a month. All things considered this was pretty successful. Spring training returns continued to come in and a few other requests I sent out also came back. With the whole Covid-19 debacle I stopped sending requests early in the month and things sort of dried up in the last two weeks. I have no idea what to expect for returns moving forward but I am looking forward to being able to start things up again some day.
Also it’s worth noting that the boys wrote a few letters and began getting returns this month as well. They’ve been pretty quiet since last summer but this is a fun activity to share with them plus it gets them writing.
They have a few more out there but who knows what to expect now. Anyway to my returns for the month.
I tried sending to Dave Righetti early last year. Was hopeful I’d get a return when I saw everyone else get returns around June. No dice. I figured that I’d try again this spring and send to Scottsdale instead of Pac Bell. 27 days later a nice 1993 Topps Gold card came back signed.
Rags was one of those guys I liked watching before he became a Giant. Some pitchers you can just watch how they move the ball around the zone and really appreciate the art of pitching. Once he came to San Francisco I was happy to have an excuse to cheer for him. That he went on to become the pitching coach during the Even Years run of championships makes him even cooler.
Same Selman is yet another Giant who made his Major League Debut last year. These came back in 24 days. He didn’t keep one but I hope he liked them.
Two years into making customs and I’ve come to realize that I love sending out “congrats on your MLB debut, I made some customs for you” letters. This season I’m going to have to try and make debut or notable firsts (hits, home runs, wins, etc.) cards for all the guys making their official debuts.
Tommy Edman is a Stanford guy who was not on my radar for making it to the majors last year. But he did, had a great first season, and was literally the last guy to make it into the 2019 Update set.* I didn’t mention it when Big Shep sent me the Edman cards last year but Shep sent me an extra Edman for TTM reasons.
*Seriously. Edman debuted on June 8 and Yordan Alvarez debuted on June 9. Edman is included in 2019 Update. Alvarez had to wait until 2020 to get his first Major League card. Not sure whether the MLBPA union insisted on that cutoff or if Topps proposed it. Either way it left Update feeling like a badly-thought-out set which isn’t able to include either the top Rookies or the trades that occurred before the deadline.
Edman sent this back to me in only 19 days. Very cool and I’ve already added it to the page of Stanford Autographs. Up to 92 different athletes on there now.
Felipe Alou is probably my favorite return of the spring. I wish I’d had some vintage doubles of him (ideally 1960 0r 1962) but I also really liked him as the Giants manager and the way he used his platform there to speak about his experiences in the game and how society has changed in the decades since he started playing.
His baseball stories were great but the one that sticks with me the most is appropriate for his status as the first Dominican player. His first time traveling into the South and being informed that certain people had decided that he was black.
Needless to say I’m very happy with this card. He was one of the first letters I sent out and 31 days later I was very happy to add him to the binder.
I figured I shouldn’t just be sending to Spring Training so I sent a couple other requests out in February. Goose Gossage is one such request. His 1986 Topps card came back in 17 days. I just love the attitude in this photo. I would’ve sent him a 1989 Mothers Cookies card but I traded my duplicate a long time ago.
Chuck Essegian is another re-send for me. Once I started making Stanford customs I figured I should go back over the guys I got the first time around. The hard part is often finding photos. With Essegian I was stuck between showing him on the A’s since he never had an A’s card or putting him on the Dodgers since his pinch-hitting heroics make him a Dodger legend of sorts. I went with the Dodgers and after a couple of tries this came back in 8 days.
Spring training returns continued to trickle in after the first burst. Jandal Gustave signed in 34 days—still not a long wait. He was a bit of a surprise last season who came with no expectations and turned out to be quietly effective out of the bullpen.
After 10 days, Doug Gwosdz became the first signer to take advantage of the Mother’s Cookies “autograph” line on the backs of the cards. I’ve always wondered about that line as it felt both optimistic and a bit weird to have on the backs of the cards. It doesn’t feel like something that Mother’s Cookies would have invented but it’s not something that’s exactly common either.
I’ve gone ahead and scanned the front of the card as well. I would’ve preferred the signature be there but I can’t complain. This is actually a zero-year card since Gwosdz never appeared in the majors with the Giants. I don’t collect this theme but they’re certainly fun things to note and don’t really pop up that often (I didn’t see any Giants on the list I linked to). I appreciate that he signed the index card with his Giants number instead of the #10 he wore with the Padres.
Catcher Steve Nicosia came back in 9 days. He was a World Series winning catcher with the Pirates in 1979 and later spent two seasons with the Giants as a backup/platoon guy.
Roberto Hernandez’s 10-day return continues the theme of short-term Giants. He was only on the team for half of the 1997 season but since that pennant race is what brought me back to being a fan I remember him very fondly. His two-inning save of the game before the Brian Johnson game will be my lasting memory. He wasn’t our main closer but at that time it was quite a weapon to have a guy who could hit 100mph on the gun.
Yet another short-term Giant, Gene Richards signed in 11 days. Richards was primarily a Padre whose 56 stolen bases was the Rookie record from 1977 to 1980. This 1985 card is his career capper as he retired after his 1984 season—his only one with the Giants.
After the Richards return my mail pretty much dried up as the country went into the Covid-19 lockdown. My two-week dry spell was broken by a nice 44-day return from Alex Dickerson. The autos got kind of beat up and scratched in the return envelope but that was totally fine because Dick included a nice note as well.
This encapsulates everything I enjoy about sending out these requests. I mentioned in my letter how much fun it was to see the way he energized the team last season and giving the customs to players is a way to demonstrate my appreciation as a fan. In these days where everyone’s just waiting out the impending disaster and trying to stay safe there’s also something wonderful in just the simple “take care” sort of response everyone is giving each other.
I know the month isn’t over quite yet (will it ever end?) but this feels like an appropriate last return for the post. This blog doesn’t have many readers but I agree 100% with Alex. I hope all is well and that you’re all staying safe. Take care out there.
It’s been a while since a tweet encouraged me to write a blog post but this is one of those prompts that got my mind working. While I can’t deny that there’s a bit of a midlife crisis thing going on, the real reason I slipped back into collecting cards is because it represents a near perfect intersection of my already-existing interests.
I love looking at printed ephemera and seeing how things were designed and manufactured. I love looking at photography over the years. Focusing these interests on subject matter that interests me is a good thing.
Without focusing on baseball I’d likely be picking up god knows what kinds of printed material. Baseball allows me to ignore a lot of things.
But it’s not just the cards as objects that interest me. I particularly enjoy their historical aspect as well. Collecting teaches me the history of the game and provides a tangible connection to players and teams of the past. That I’m able to enjoy this activity with my kids is the icing on the cake.
They also enjoy the history but they, so far, especially enjoy learning about the players I grew up watching. They’re excited to find cards of my guys and will ask me about players from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s fun. I exchange I get to let them guide me with their knowledge of current players. I’m unable/unwilling to stay on top of everything the way I used to so it’s fun to let them be the experts on some parts.
We’re able to collect together and that’s far better than any mid-life crisis.
Serves me right for making the suggestion. Although it is appropriate to send him to Princeton. I’ll have to find someone in Texas to mail this to next.
Oh, and Mark also sent me a bunch of 1979 Topps Giants cards. I didn’t photograph those since I suspect they were mainly an excuse to send me this ghastly piece of cardboard. But old Giants cards are always welcome!
Being mixed race means that I grew up constantly being put into different “what are you?” boxes.* Society likes to sort us and I often describe my maturation in terms of which box I was most-likely to be sorted into—my standard description is along the lines that I was “chinese” when I was in grade school, “mexican” as a teenager, and only became white as an adult. But I was never actually any of those things. I only use those descriptions as shorthand for being aware of how society types me, what triggers that identification, and what behavior I may need to modify for my safety in that situation.
I preferred to identify myself as not having a box at all. Even though I was lucky to have many mixed-race friends in school I never really thought of them as my group. None of us had identical racial backgrounds and, so while we could discuss a lot of common ground in terms of experiences we shared, we all had very different identities.
It was only in high school when we had stars like Dean Cain and Russell Wong that the idea of a “hapa”* box became feasible. I wasn’t interested but I could see the appeal. There were people like us in mass media and yeah, while they had to play either completely-white or completely-asian roles, at least they sort of existed. By then though I’d also already embraced my non-categoriness and absorbed the idea that I would always have to defer to someone else who was more of whatever part of my identity I was partaking in.
*I’m using “hapa” in this case specifically because of its extremely-limited half-asian/half-white meaning which the multiracial asian community jumped all over in the late 1990s/early 2000s because of the gaping absence of any other term to self-identify as. It’s no longer a term I use to describe any group of people even though I do still use it to self-identify—with family from Hawai‘i, I feel like it does capture some of my specific story. But the fact that it all-too-often loses its Hawaiian context is a big problem. As is the fact that it all-too-often is limited to just asian/white people.
It’s not that being mixed-race means that I’m insufficiently anything. It’s that I’m aware of the limits of my experience of my culture. I know that there’s always more to learn and more family history to uncover. I know that my culture and experience is best described in terms of where my ancestors came from rather than who I am.
Sometimes though I wonder if things could’ve been different. I’ve seen my sons’ friends ask if mixed-race parents like me are the parents of his similarly-mixed-race friends. It’s not just that there’s a cohort of mixed race kids. Many of the parents are also mixed race now and, while kids are still grouping by type—it’s amazing how engrained that idea of what a family unit should look like is—I get the sense that much of my sons’ generation has a much different understanding of how culture works and that there is a benefit to being typed into a box which kind of fits you.
Representation is always good. But it’s more than that. What seems to be a lot of the driving force in this though is that they understand what they might grow up to be like. Which is really where the family-unit typing seems to come into play. Kids learn early on that they’ll grow up to look like their family. A lot of the “what about the kids” panic with mixed race couples stems from the fear that the kids won’t look like their parents. And while that’s bullshit, I have seen that as kids learn how race works really early and that, once that view is in place they see racial differences as overriding any other similarities.
So it‘s a good thing that my sons’ generation is growing up where mixed-race adults are common. I’m kind of jealous. I’m glad I had peers but I can see how different things are to just see what you could look like as a grown up.
It was only in getting back into baseball cards that I realized that there were a couple of years in the late 1980s when my classmates had accurately identified a mixed-race adult for me to look like.
When I was ~10 everyone started calling me Atlee. I was a Giants fan and I supposedly looked like our pitcher, Atlee Hammaker. He’d been a star, of sorts, a few years earlier but by the time I was a fan injuries had kind of derailed his career. As a result, he’d developed a bit of a reputation as being a headcase—specifically the type of pitcher who’s great when no one’s on base but loses his composure as soon as anyone reaches base.
I hated that nickname and being told that I looked like him—mostly because, in my view, he wasn’t that good. Looking at his stats now gives me a better sense of it. He was in the midst of going from a decent—albeit injury-prone—pitcher to a replacement-level one. A decent career with a few high points—just not the trajectory any kid wants to be associated with.
Getting back into cards though has involved me googling around about players whose cards trigger my memories. In Hammaker’s case, I discovered that he was mixed-race, specifically German/Japanese—very close to the same thing I am. I’d had no idea when I was a kid—no one else did either—but finding that out kind of softened my memories. Rather than seeing his cards and having a visceral “oh god I hated being called Atlee” reaction, I’ve warmed to him and begun to wonder how I would’ve reacted if I’d known as a kid.
Would I have latched on with the same sense of ownership that I latched on to Scott Erickson—who grew up a stone’s through from my house—a few years later? No idea. But I suspect I would’ve been more supportive instead of rolling my eyes each time he got the fidgets when someone got on base.
And no, I didn’t grow up to look like him. That’s not how any of this works. But as someone who rarely smiles in photos, I am enjoying looking at his cards from the 1980s and being amused at how he never smiles and always has the same deadpan expression on his face. I’d like to think that his special 1984 All Star card is a reflection of his disastrous appearance in 1983 but it’s just the way he always looks.
The art created by people of color were only represented in the “ancient” and “pre-columbian” sections of the museum — as if our stories only existed a long time ago and there was nothing notable happening in our communities since then.
I touched on this in an earlier post but haven’t really gone off on a proper rant. I like the Princeton Museum a lot, but whenever I go I’m always steeling myself against getting too upset at how it treats art made by non-white people. I wish it were just that the Asian, African, and Pre-Columbian American galleries are in the basement. But it’s not. There’s so much more.
There’s the way that the Pre-Columbian gallery lumps everything from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego together in the same way that the African gallery (minus ancient Egypt) treats Africa as a single homogenous concept.
There’s the way that even artists working in, or in conversation with, the Western Art World upstairs get pigeonholed as ethnic craftsmen. Yayoi Kusama? In the basement. Toshiko Takaezu? In the basement. The art world is already extremely white. Taking the non-white artists out of the art galleries and putting them in the craft galleries makes it appear even whiter.
And I wish this were just a rant about the Princeton Museum. But it’s not. This kind of thing occurs all over the place—to the point where not needing a museum map is a joke I’ve made with fellow non-white museumgoers. We’re used to heading downstairs to see our cultural heritage. We’re used to seeing it lumped together with every other culture on the continent. We’re used to seeing it portrayed as an ancient tradition that no longer exists.
We joke about it because it comes with the price of admission and because it’s easier to laugh than to get mad.
@vossbrink @nikhiltri We appreciate your great insight. Tell us more. What do you want to see more of from museums?
I’ve covered art and function as well as design before but never really tied together my issues about how many museums display art with how I’d love for them to treat more art as Design.
One of the wonderful things about design* is that it’s about how people interact with items. This is hugely important when discussing any art. Just looking at something is interactive—where you look, how long, how it makes you feel, what information it conveys. Understanding who the audience of a piece is and the artistic context it’s part of are also elements of the design.
*Full disclosure, as someone with a design background, I have to admit that there’s an element of “when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” going on too.
As much as we like to conceive of art as being about the artist only—to the point where considering an audience makes us think about “selling out”—once something gets pulled into a museum, it’s inherently in conversation with the museum audience and the other pieces in the collection. Sadly, museums only really present things this way with design-specific exhibitions.
In design exhibitions you have displays which explain the context. We need to know what the products are and what makes their particular designs interesting. Maybe they allow for use in a particularly elegant way. Maybe they’re using materials in a new and novel method. Maybe they’re moving a previously-utilitarian concept into a luxury space. Maybe they’re doing the opposite and bring a product to the masses. We have to understand what else is going on in the world which is informing the designs.
In an art setting, asking and answering the same design questions will help us better understand things. What is this piece in conversation with? How is it intended to be used? How have people actually used it? What has it influenced or changed? This allows you to call out how the West has mined the rest of the world for cultural inspiration,* point out how technologies have travelled,** and recognize that art and artists—especially in the 20th century, especially in continents that have been colonized by the West—are very much aware of the general track of western art.
**Also something Princeton did wonderfully, the Itinerant Languages of Photography show treated photography and photographic images as design elements that get constantly repurposed and reused in Latin America.
I’ve never been a Luis Suárez hater—I have serious reservations about the way the racial abuse stuff was handled* and the biting stuff, while admittedly abhorrent, is not actually dangerous play. Still, I’ve never liked him despite his obvious greatness as a player. There is too much baggage there where, while I’m not convinced in the severity of everything, I don’t want anything to do with him still.
*Mainly because the way the translations were handled felt both culturally and linguistically simple.
This is distinct from how I enjoy rooting against Ronaldo because he’s a brilliant heel.* If the worst thing Suárez did was the handball against Ghana, I’d still consider him a heel.** But this is something worse where while I think the hatred may be harsh, I can see and understand and even agree with where it’s coming from. I can’t defend him. I also think the people defending him have to cherrypick so much evidence that they appear to be the worst kind of fanboys.
*It’s fun to root against him. It makes the game fun to root against him. At the same time, appreciate him for what he is too. I’m a Barça fan but the constant Messi vs Ronaldo thing is annoying and awful. Appreciate the fact that we’ve got two players playing at—and pushing each other to—levels that no one else has ever reached.
**I thought that play was brilliant BTW.
Which is why I’ve been dreading the end of Luis Suárez’s suspension all season. When Barça signed him I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. There have been a lot of things the club has done in recent years that I have disagreed with but none of them have affected my feeling for the team itself.
Now, one of the chief attacking weapons whose goals and assists I’m supposed to count on and celebrate is a player who I don’t want anything to do with. He’s a player I don’t want to discuss with other fans. He’s a player who I know I’ll get crap about if I wear my Barça jersey.
I drifted away from being a Giants fan during the last half of the 2000s. Mainly because of Barry Bonds and the endless steroids sideshow and how I eventually ended up keeping the team at arms-length because the face of the franchise was something I couldn’t support anymore. Bonds was unlikeable and eventually undefendable and, as such, I found myself paying less and less attention to the individual games and instead just checking in every once in a while to see how things are going. I cared about the team in general. I just didn’t want to know the details.
One week of Suárez in the starting lineup and I’m finding myself taking the first steps to not caring about Barça in exactly the same way. I don’t want to watch the play-by-plays because I find myself hoping he doesn’t do anything good—or if he does, there’s no enjoyment in it. I don’t want to read the write ups because he’s the big story right now. I second-guess wearing my jerseys because I don’t want to talk about him.
I want to be proud when I wear my jersey. I want to take pleasure in being able to watch the games and joy in whoever our goalscorers may be. It’s easy to say that rooting for a team means rooting for laundry. But it’s not true. The people wearing the laundry matter. I’m rooting for both laundry and whoever’s wearing it. If I can’t root for both, I’m stuck not rooting at all.
If 2012 was the bonus round, what the hell is this? I’m definitely happy. But I’m also really confused. My brain is still hardwired to expect disaster and before 2010 I’d pretty much convinced myself that I’d never see the Giants win the World Series.
Now it’s happened three times and I’m in a daze.
I can’t adjust to this new reality where people are throwing the “dynasty” word around. We’re not a dynasty. The Yankees are a dynasty. When did we turn into the Yankees? Oh geez are Giants fans as insufferable as Yankees fans are? This can’t be right. All of the Giants fans I know are like me: giddy with joy and full of disbelief that this has happened.
It’s a nice state to be in. There’s none of that pressure of decades and decades of failure. Nor is there any of the entitlement that we expect to win each year. It’s a team of scrappers and good pitchers and hot hands and we’ll see what happens and how long this ride will go and it should be a good ride no matter what.
And holy crap did riding Madison Bumgarner’s hot hand result in something from another era of baseball—both with the inning count and the dominance. I avoid player-based merchandise but I’m thinking of making an exception here. It’s rare to see a player, in any sport, dominate a tournament like Bumgarner has. So to have him be a player on my own team is extra special and worth commemorating.
This is fun. It’s nice when sports is fun. We’ll see how long this bonus round lasts.
Something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I got some feedback to this tweet which was along the lines that this is a stupid idea because Street Photography is all about tropes and surface. While I agree with this characterization of Street Photography, those comments missed my point.
Certain tropes are damaging.
The pretty girls thing is one of them
Says he shoots "street." [internet photographer] Really shoots pretty girls and homeless people.
The homeless thing is another post but it’s a similar idea of objectification. With pretty girls, the nature of the objectification in the trope bothers me given how photography in public is going.
This isn’t to say that all photos of pretty girls are bad. Or that all street photography is bad. Or even that we should all stop taking photos of women in public.
It’s just that a lot of the pretty girl street photography I see falls into the technically competent photos of pretty things camp where because the subject is attractive, many people think the photo is good too. While this is a recipe for boring photos which score high on the interestingness scale, it also skirts into human zoo territory. Not a good look.
And it’s worth flagging that the male gaze is one of the tropes of the genre. Questioning this is important. Comparing approaches is important.* Looking and thinking about what works and what doesn’t and where the lines are is important. Most street photographers don’t want to get into the creepshot thing but I always get the feeling that there’s something lurking in there** and I think it’d be interesting to pull it out.
*I’m also actually interested in comparing how different photographers approach the same trope and one of the things we’ve semi-joked about on Hairy Beast is to create a photographic Aarne–Thompson.
Doing a Women are Beautiful edit for multiple street photographers would hopefully show that there’s more to a good photo than just a pretty girl. Or they could show how difficult it is to do something constructive with the male gaze. I don’t know, I haven’t seen this proposed tumblr.
But I want to see the problematic tropes get called out more. It’s not a problem that a genre relies on tropes. It’s a problem that the tropes themselves are problems.