We had a Bald Eagle and an Odd Squad agent this year.
Continuing from last week. This roll finishes up the Packer trip with photos from the Tamarack Trail and then includes photos from the rest of summer such as our trip to Pomponio and to San Francisco (where I visited Pier 24 and SFMOMA).
Most of the box consisted of about 120 1978 Topps cards. This takes my set progress close to 50% complete. While I’ve still got mostly commons, Matt was kind enough to throw in a decent number of star cards in this batch including the Jack Morris rookie among a handful of Hall of Famers.
I’m fast approaching the point now where I need to consider getting a dedicated set binder and paging everything with empty spots for the missing cards. Looking over my current checklist shows that I don’t yet have a completed page and that I would still have one empty page. When I change both of those statuses is when I’ll dedicate a single binder to this.
Most of the rest of the box consisted of a huge batch of Pacific barajitas. It’s not a ton of cards but these don’t seem to be commonly available as lots. That Spanish-language Pro Set card sent me down a rabbit hole of Spanish-language baseball cards. I grabbed a Topps Zest set last year but most of my attention has been in learning about the 1994–2001 Pacific issues.
I had a handful before this mailday—a few Giants here, a few Stanford guys there. It was nice to have them as samples but they didn’t really provide a sense of the set and brand. The nine 1994s are fun. The ~40 1995s though are wonderful. Where 1993 and 1994 feel very much like baby steps into proper card production, 1995 is a legitimate set which has some interesting photography—I especially like the Ozzie Smith card—and feels like a demonstration of Pacific’s subsequent branding.
The 1996–1999 sets continue that sense with the gaudy graphics and overdone foil stamping. These designs aren’t my cup of tea but there are things about all of them that I like and there’s a certain distinctiveness in the identity that I appreciate.
Matt also included a couple dozen Giants cards. A decent amount of junk wax coupled with a few newer cards. I probably have a few of these but many look completely unfamiliar to me. Of the batch I especially like Duracell oddball and the Matt Williams Pacific. But it’s also fun to have another diecut even though I still don’t understand the point of these. And I like the Will Clark Studio card and the Triple Play with the Turn Back the Clock uniform.
The last card in the box deserves a special mention. The Christie Mathewson mini is here because I forgot to photograph it with the rest of the Giants cards, but the Jorge Campos 1994 World Cup card is one of the few non-baseball cards that really strikes a chord with me. If 1994 marks the point where my baseball fandom took an irreparable hit, it also marks where I jumped seriously into soccer.
Attending the World Cup was just part of it. But between learning much more about the sport via high school soccer and watching all the World Cup games on TV, I came out of the summer of 1994 totally down on baseball and totally up on soccer. Jorge Campos, while not a huge star of the cup, was a clear star for all of us youth soccer players in California. Having a card of his is a fantastic reminder of that summer and my youth playing the game.
This 1994 Upper Deck set is the kind of thing I can see myself grabbing random singles of players I remember fondly from the World Cup—Romario and Hristo (it should be no surprise I ended up a Barcelona fan), Bebeto, Bergkamp, Valderrama—and the rest of my mid-1990s early soccer fandom.
Anyway this whole box was awesome and I need to get my return package of 1978s for Matt’s set chase put together and into the post.
One of the things that’s happened after I wrote about how baseball cards formed a certain amount of my visual literacy has been that I’ve become increasingly aware of non-American cards and how different they can look. In particular I’ve been increasingly exposed to Japanese cards from the 1970s and have been stuck by how different they feel compared to my experience with Topps.
The main product here of course is Calbee whose full-bleed photo-centric cards with minimal text and design is as much a polar opposite you can get from anything Topps was doing in the 1970s.* And that’s before even getting into the photography itself.
*The Yamakatsu cards and their own wonderful photo-centric look which, when coupled with the player signatures, creates fabulous looking cards deserve to be mentioned too.
I found myself seeing samples of Calbee cards using telephotography that put the 1970s action cards to shame. It’s not just that it feels like the camera technology was better* but the light itself is better. Most of the Topps photos are shot in the day with full sun—resulting in harsh shadows and high contrast images. The Calbee ones have flatter light which often feels like they were taken indoors or in the night.**
*Given Japan’s position in the camera industry—especially in the 1970s—this is entirely possible.
**Which makes me wonder what kind of film they used and if this is an early Kodak vs Fuji difference. And yeah these results would put me on team Fuji.
There are also ones which use wide angle lenses to give us beautiful cards that we can only describe as the kind of thing that Stadium Club aspires to today—over four decades after Calbee printed cards like this in Japan.
All of these factors combined have made me periodically search on ebay for Calbee cards. Usually the results—if any—are way too expensive (especially once shipping from Japan comes into play) but low and behold I found some at a decent price which would ship in the international version of a plain white envelope (in this case a manila policy envelope). So I took the plunge and got a half-dozen 1975–1976 Calbee cards that caught my eye.
Amusingly they were all Yomiuri Giants. This is completely coincidental to my collecting interests but not that surprising. As the Yankees of Japan, the Giants had the biggest budget and biggest name players at the time and it was only fitting that the first Calbee cards I’d purchase would feature those players.
From an American point of view, Sadaharu Oh is the obvious must-have card. I was pleased to find two of them at an affordable price as his cards often command the “only Japanese star Americans can name” markup. I really like both of these and am glad to add them to the only Oh card in my collection.
The head shot is close to the standard Topps look with that raking shadow. But it’s super tightly cropped and has wonderful detail on the helmet logo. If it’s posed it doesn’t look it. The batting shot meanwhile shows off his distinct leg kick while also being an unusual angle of not just right behind the plate but also almost below field level.
Shigeo Nagashima meanwhile was the most popular player in Japan and had taken over as the Giants’ manager. So it’s nice and fitting to have his cards as well. The portrait is a nice casual shot but I really like the celebration photo. There are so many great things going on with it with all the other photographers in the frame and the park details such as how the foul pole has lettering on it. I also appreciate that the date stamp for the celebration is not just October 16 but specifies 3:40PM too.
I grabbed the Davey Johnson card because I liked the way it shows how differently the caps were constructed. But it’s also an interesting artifact which fills in a two-year hole in his Topps card record. Because he went to Japan to play from 1975–76 he has no 1976 or 1977 Topps cards and the only mention of what happened in that two-season gap is his 1978 card mentioning that he was a teammate of both Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh.
And I just liked the card of Hisao Niura tying his shoes. It’s a photo I’ve never seen on a card before and reminds me how the current all-action approach to baseball card photography misrepresents the sport. It’s nice to have cards capturing the down time when “nothing” is happening but which make baseball baseball.
Niura is also an interesting character in that, like Oh, he wasn’t considered Japanese despite being from Japan. Where Oh was Chinese, Niura was Korean and I like having these in-between cases in my collection too.
I’ve titled this post “First Calbees” since I can see getting more of these in the future—especially if the photograph catches my eye. However these are also plenty sufficient to satisfy my curiosity. I wasn’t ready for how thick they are compared to what I’ve come to expect from food-insert baseball cards. The printing is also pretty good—especially for its time.
It’s also nice to see cards in a size that doesn’t follow the Topps standard. These are slightly smaller but don’t feel like minis. With the slightly smaller size and the slightly thicker paper they feel really good in hand.
Late last months, @LumberjackCards made a New Year’s offer to send a bunch of us a few packs of junk wax* and I happily raised my hand. I didn’t know what to expect but it’s always fun to open packs with my kids. My package arrived on January 2 and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had a few more goodies hidden between the packs.
*While I’ve posted about going through junk wax in repacks before it’s worth discussing the term and how most of us who grew up in the peak junk wax days of 1987–1993 use it fondly as a way of enjoying nostalgia on the cheap rather than thinking of all our childhood hobbies as being trash.
The main goodie was a Caveman autograph. I got a few cards of his signed in Philadelphia but this 1989 Topps was not one of them. As a Giants fan, 1989 was one of the more exciting baseball years of my youth and this takes me right back.
The rest of the goodies were a handful of Giants cards. I kind of like how the Chrome scans black—especially with the Giants cards. I also understand the brand a little better when it’s applied to cards with borders. On the current full-bleed cards I never understood the point. But then I’m not a sucker for shiny the way I used to be.
I still am not a fan of Ginter but I can admit that the minis do scratch a bit of my oddball itches. On the Venn Diagram of Insert vs Parallel vs Oddball I’d put the minis right in the middle as part of all three sets. And that’s kind of cool.
The Buster Posey Triple Play card made me laugh because @LumberjackCards put it in a penny sleeve. And the Grizzlies contest was not a winner but no surprise there. Yes I know that the Grizzlies are no longer the Giants AAA affiliate but my gut still thinks of them that way.
The real fun though was the packs. When I showed them to the boys (after a few days of waiting for them to clean up all their Christmas Legos) they excitedly asked if these had gum in them. I had to explain how only Topps had gum and these had puzzle pieces instead. But they had a lot of fun tearing open their packs and seeing who they got.
My five-year-old had a Kirt Manwaring card right on the top of his stack and got very excited to have found a Giants card. The rest of his pack was not nearly as exciting though he was as intrigued by Oil Can Boyd as I was when I first saw him pitch in the 1986 World Series.
My 8-year-old’s pack was a bit better. No Giants but he got George Brett, John Olerud, and Lou Whitaker. He knows enough now to know what the Hall of Fame is and be happy finding cards of guys who are in it.
My packs meanwhile had a bunch of the MVP inserts, a Robin Ventura Rated Rookie, and an Atlee Hammaker card. 1990 Donruss is another one of those designs which has grown on me. It gets a lot of snark about being the Red Set and it is true that the Green (Rookies) and Cyan (Best of NL/AL) sets are a bit easier on the eyes. But that script font and the color spatter and even the bright color all scream 1990s design to me in a way which I really appreciate now.
I had also forgotten the way wax packs smelled. In a good way. Something about the mix of ink and paper and wax reminds me of being a kid again. A little kid. If the smell of UV coating reminds me of opening cards in the early 90s as an early teenager, the wax pack smell reminds me of being nine years old. Which made this a perfect way to kill an hour of time on a snowy day with my kids.
While I’m getting close to completing my Old Timers project, I just completed one of the first projects I set out for myself when I reintegrated into this hobby. I’ve been working on collecting all the Giants Mother’s Cookies sets from when I was a young fan (1986–1998). Aside from representing a period of my life in which my baseball fandom was the most pure, these sets also represented the only cards which I continued to collect and acquire after I left the hobby in 1994.
Of those thirteen sets, completing my 1998 set proved to be the most difficult task. Last month though I managed to acquire the last three cards (John Johnstone, Broadcasters, and Coaches) and now I’ve got a binder which is complete for all the Giants teams I grew up watching at Candlestick.
The great thing about the Mothers sets is that the set numbering was such that the first two pages of the 28-card set gave you a really good snapshot of that season’s team. The sets aren’t alphabetical or random, instead the manager is first followed by the bigger star players and then the regular rotation. So it’s really easy to just page everything by set number and looking through the binder gives me a really good impression of the team.
I only went to one game in 1986 but boy was it a doozy. This set reminds me of guys like Vida Blue who I just missed seeing play and it’s nice to see rookie cards for Will Clark and Robby Thompson reflect how they’re not quite mainstays of the team yet.
I can’t not mention that goofy Greg Minton pose either.
1987 was my first real season. We went to a few games but baseball card day was not one of them. That year was also the first year I was really collecting cards so I either wasn’t aware of the promotion or didn’t care yet.
Looking at this set now I can’t help but notice how Chris Brown and Mark Davis are still part of this team. That trade with San Diego for Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts, and Kevin Mitchell was a big deal and I mentally think of those three players as Giants much more than I think of Chris Brown and Mark Davis (and Mark Grant and Keith Comstock).
Also, I kind of love how in both 1986 and 1987 sets Jeffrey Leonard couldn’t be bothered to pose for the photographer. in 1986 we have an action shot which stands out as being very different than the other posed shots. And in 1987 it’s a generic headshot clearly by a different photographer.
Another thing I have to mention here is that the Mothers Cookies sets love posing pitchers with bats. In these cards Mike Krukow and Greg Minton are both pretending to be sluggers while Scott Garrelts is pulling of the always-wonderful bat AND glove pose.
In order to get playoff tickets in 1987 we had to sign up for 1988 season tickets. I think we just did the 20-game pick’em plan but baseball card day was definitely one of the days we chose. I’ve already written a little about about this set last week and I’m happy to have finally acquired the Jose Uribe to complete it after almost three decades. It’s the set which truly marks the beginning of my favorite Giants teams with Will Clark as the face of the franchise and I have a soft spot for all the other players here too.
I love that Brett Butler is posing as if to bunt and Kelly Downs is making sure we have a pitcher batting represented as well.
Matt Williams keeps moving up the checklist and it is still weird to see Gary Carter as a Giant. Steve Bedrosian should be weird too but he was the first in a succession of Giants hiring big-name closers for one last season or two. Also he was integral to the 1989 Pennant run so he’s more memorable than a lot of the other guys.
This was also the first set where my 8-card redemption managed to be perfect so this was the only set which I had complete until Mothers stopped doing the redemption thing.
Nice to see Dave Righetti as a Giant. Also I have somewhat fond memories of Willie McGee as a Giant. Darren Lewis was exciting too and while never a big-name rookie, he was definitely someone I sort of invested in both card-wise and autograph-wise.
This was almost the last season in San Francisco which means I think I paid closer attention to everything. This is also a team which had pretty much overhauled its pitching staff from the previous late-80s guys. Where before we had Mike LaCoss, Scott Garrelts, Kelly Downs, and Rick Reuschel, now we had Billy Swift (with a bat!), John Burkett and Bud Black. The big bats were mostly the same but there was excitement with Royce Clayton to go along with Darren Lewis now.
This was a hell of a season. It was wonderful to have a season at all but with a new manager in Dusty Baker and a new star in Barry Bonds coupled with the last of the Roger Craig crew this is was a strong team which, even though it didn’t win the division, produced probably the best season of Giants baseball I ever saw.
This year was also the first year that Mothers stopped doing the send-in redemptions and instead had us all trading cards in the stand. It was great.
Oof. I don’t know when baseball card day was supposed to be this year but I missed it. And it’s just as well in some ways since the strike spun me out of baseball for a while and almost totally killed my card collecting habit.
There’s some weird stuff going on on the second page here. Darrel Strawberry as a Giant just looks wrong. As does Salomon Torres with a bat. That poor guy was supposed to be the next big thing but the fanbase just killed him for losing the last game in 1993. Which is totally unfair and sucks.
Probably the nadir of my interest in the game. There’s a bunch of guys on the second page whose names I just don’t recognize at all. I do dig that William VanLandingham (who I do remember seeing in San José) photo however.
I was back in baseball and remember trading these cards to complete the set. There are still a few guys on the second page who I don’t remember but I love that Rod Beck is next to Barry as one of the stars of the team. And I can’t help but LOL at remembering all the hope and hype and disappointment around Osvaldo Fernandez.
This was another fun season with that late-season series against the Dodgers (including the Brian Johnson game) being the stand out. I don’t like the design change however.
And the last year of Mothers sets. It’s nice to see many of the key players in that 2002 World Series run show up here for the first time.
For some reason I didn’t trade these ones so I have a ton of Alex Diaz cards. I regret that decision now because it turns out that finding these cards was a lot harder than finding the cards from the 1980s. But it seems like much of the hobby is this way. It’s not like cards from the late 90s and early 2000s are expensive, they’re just impossible to find at all. If 1995 was the nadir of baseball watching, 1998 marked when I finally completely gave up on baseball card collecting itself.
Anyway, so what’s next now that I’m done with the project? Part of me wants to just leave things as they are and enjoy the memories. The other part of me likes the idea of using these as a base for collecting other Giants team sets and regional issues. Which means that I’m definitely considering getting the 1999 Keebler set to finish off the Candlestick years.
There’s also a 2001 Keebler set which is intriguing but that’s the last regional-issue ballpark giveaway I can find. This kind of thing seems to have stopped being a quaint regional oddball and is now part of Topps corporate promotions.
And I’m also considering going back and looking for Giants team-issued sets which predate my time as a fan. The 1983–1985 Mothers sets are the obvious first step here. Marc already got me started on the 1979 and 1980 Giants Police issues. But looking through the web there’s not much else. There’s a set of 1971 Ticketron schedule cards. And there are the 1967–68 Dexter Press issues. But those straddle the baseball card or photo line and everything else seems to cross that line into being more photo card/print.
Which isn’t to say that those photo sets aren’t cool (They very much are). Nor is it to say that I don’t want them (I’d be happy to have any samples I could find). But they also represent a different level of collecting than just baseball cards. And are probably a step beyond both my collecting budget right now and my collecting expertise. Maybe one day however things will change.