Surprise from Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fantastic (Sam’s) Mailday From Scott

Way back before New Year’s Scott Berger found a bunch of Fantastic Sams discs at his local Goodwill. Naturally all of us oddball collectors got a bit excited.

1980s oddballs reflect the retail environment where chains were just going national but hadn’t taken over everywhere yet. So you could have a large area of coverage across multiple states but still be effectively a regional thing. So we had malls and chain franchises and things that could show up as monoculture in TVs or movies but for a lot of us those brands only existed on-screen.

For me, stores like the Circle K and chains like Fantastic Sams were in this realm where I was aware of them but not through any first-hand experience. They just didn’t exist in my region and so they were as fictitious as 555 phone numbers.

This kind of “everywhere except not” corporate nature resulted in kind of the perfect distribution for baseball cards. Always things to find out. Always things to talk about. Rewarding to find stuff when you travel or have family elsewhere in the country. Even today guys find things that are surplus in their neck of the woods but which others of us have never even heard of decades later.

These Fantastic Sams discs are like that for me. Not only had I not ever encountered a store, the idea of including baseball cards with your haircut is a tie-in I have never encountered.

The 20-disc checklist seems incredibly optimistic for a single-year release. Unlike with food issues where the temptation to buy another pack of beef jerky or sunflower seeds or to visit McDonalds yet again is a plausible impulse, how often are you going to get your hair cut?

Especially for a tiny unlicensed photo of a player with a single line of stats on the back. Oh well. I think they’re pretty cool now.

Scott was hoping to get a full set with his batch. Instead he found four different cards and a ton of duplicates. So he sent me a batch in a plain white envelope. I’m going to keep the coupons attached (if I can, they’re super brittle) and put these in a four-pocket sheet so having four samples is the perfect amount.

Scott also included a few Topps Archives Giants cards. The 1981 designs are nice-enough. Not my favorite design but there’s something comfortable about it.

The 1959-designed Clark meanwhile is this close to being a great card but I can’t get over the off-centered name. A shame. 1959 Topps is kind of a wonderful design to update and repurpose. Something about it just screams “trading card” and featuring Clark’s signature makes the whole thing pop so well.

The final card in the envelope is a Stanford Football card. I’m not actively collecting non-baseball Alumni but I’ve been putting the ones I do come across into my Stanford Albums* and this one fits in just right there.

*Yes I’ve been coming across others too.

Thanks Scott! I need to go through my duplicates and really see who deserves to be on your ASU pile.