PWE from the President

When it rains it pours. Last Tuesday I found a plain white envelope from Mark Armour in my mailbox. Since his last mailing to me Mark’s moved on from being the chair of the SABR Baseball Cards committee to being the SABR President (and I’ve stepped into his large newly-empty shoes as committee co-chair).

We’ll start off with the envelope because instead of boring American Flag Costco stamps or the USPS-generated barcodes we’ve got a pair of Kadir Nelson Marvin Gaye stamps. These should be used for all trade packages because of Marvin Gaye reasons but Nelson’s work has also been featured on the SABR blog.

Inside the envelope was a bunch of 2019 Heritage. I have all these. My kids do not. They were very excited and not at all pleased when I told  them to wait until I had a chance to photograph these for a blog post. They’re now up to 19/23 for the Giants Heritage cards this year which is pretty good. They’re only missing the three short prints and Will Smith.

Coming on the heels of Marc Brubaker’s mailday where I mentioned the “sunset” cards in Heritage High numbers it’s nice to have a few of the blue sky cards to make the comparison to the sunset ones. The Shaw/Garcia card is the only one here with the Heritage High light. And yes I’ll continue to call these sunset cards even though I realize the photos are of a sunrise.

There were also three customs from Gio at When Topps Had (Base)Balls who’s one of the better custom card makers out there. Gio does a great job at recreating Topps’s designs and creating cards of players who never got cards, appeared on multi-player rookie cards, or whose cards were horribly airbrushed.

The no-name guys who missed out on cards in a set are the most interesting ones for me. Don Mason and Frank Johnson are two such players here. Don Mason is one of those guys who barely made it on to the checklist each year and so his cards don’t correspond to his best seasons. Frank Johnson is similar. He’s on 1969 and 1971 but not 1970.

Cards of fringe players are tons of fun. They’re the ones I’ve enjoyed making the most in my customs and they’re definitely the ones I enjoy sending out. It’s the weird fringe players who make a set interesting and ultimately fix things to a specific moment of time due to their short tenures.

The third card is a dedicated rookie card of George Foster. This is a nicer approach to the zoomed version Topps made in 2003. Unfortunately it also brings up the unfortunate trade the Giants made (though it did take a few seasons after the trade for him to find his footing in Cincinnati).

Speaking of the Foster trade, Frank Duffy was one of the players the Giants got for Foster. Gio’s actually offered to help me source some photos for a customs project I’m doing for Stanford players. Guys like Don Rose for example who didn’t have any really good cards and whose photos don’t come up easily on search. I need to reply to his email but it looks to be promising even if I don’t find everyone I’m looking for.

An Eclectic Bunch

While Mark Hoyle’s mailday arrived while I was gone, I received a surprise from Mark Armour the day I returned to New Jersey.* Mark’s package was a fantastically eclectic group of cards—some of them very very much up my alley, others I suspect were there to make me laugh.

*Just in time given the airport chaos that developed by the end of last week.

Since the group is all over the place I figure I’ll start with my favorite card of the batch. This 1970 Kelloggs 3D McCovey is my second from this set* and the first Giants card. I love 3D lenticular cards as it is; a Willie McCovey in decent shape is awesomeness.

*The first came from Dimebox Nick.

These unfortunately don’t scan well. And since the ancient plastic doesn’t feel like something I want to handle too much, making a wiggle gif is not an activity I feel comfortable doing. I do however have to point out that I’m always surprised at how sharp the photos on these look in real life.

Two other great vintage cards in the 1961 Gil Hodges Post and the 1972 Fleer Laughlin Famous Feats Cy Young.The Hodges is my first 1961 Post card (I have a few from later years). For a long time these sets sort of confused me with their backless nature and how everything—stats, bio, photo, and numbering—is crammed on to the fronts. I’ve come to like them and their design efficiency now.

I also like the hand-trimmed nature of them. This Hodges is substantially overtrimmed but all the pertinent information is there aside from the top part of the card numbering (it’s #168). Seeing those janky hand-trimmed edges though reminds me of being a kid and trimming my own cards. I know that some little kid cut this out of his box of cereal almost 60 years ago and what’s not to love about that.

The Cy Young is my first 1970s Fleer Laughlin card. I have a few of the 1986 Fleer team logo stickers that reprinted this artwork in black and yellow on the backs. Seeing the artwork with red and blue and in the slightly larger size is a very different experience. I also like the writeup on the back side.

At first I thought this 1979 Topps Burger King card was just a header/packaging card. Then I turned it over and realized it was a checklist. These late-70s, early-80s Topps sets which feature the exact same design as the base set only different numbering to reflect the regional nature of their release are kind of fascinating. The photos are usually the same. Sometimes a rookie will get their own card. Othertimes a player shows up in an updated uniform. Usually though it’s the same image only it’s clearly been printed by a different printer.

This isn’t a bad thing. In some years the Burger King (or Coca Cola) sets aren’t printed as well. Other years they’re printed better. But there are always slight differences to notice. Croppings change slightly. So do fonts.

It’s a great reminder of how much work it used to take to prepare things for print. In this modern age where everything is direct-to-plate and a locked-up PDF is will generate the same output no matter when you run it, it’s easy to forget how many steps were involved in stripping cards together and burning plates by hand.

The handful of more-modern Giants cards about which I have little to say except that Brian Wilson’s beard is printed in a way that reminds me of those late-60s blacked out caps. Oh, and all these foil cards are a pain in the butt to scan.

Which takes me to the part of the mailer that was intended to make me laugh. First off, two 1991 Stadium Club cards where the Topps logo is masking the Olan Mills logo. I liked a lot of the cards in 1991 and 1992 but good lord the way Topps chose to depict draft picks in their early-1990s casual clothing and hairstyles has aged so poorly.* Besides these cards in 1991 Stadium Club, 1992 Topps and 1992 Bowman are also full of this kind of thing.

*So poorly that they’re arguably awesome now—but still they’re mostly WTF.

That Hillary vs Maverick play at the plate card is something else. I’m glad it’s not worse. I also really don’t want to know more about what set this came from.

I’m also morbidly curious where Mark got Australian Rules Football and Cricket cards from. The most interesting thing with these for me is noting how they conform to the Topps standard introduced in 1957.

I’ve become increasingly interested in the card-collecting traditions of other countries especially in how they were before standardizing on the American model. So things like the Japanese Calbee and Menko-like cards, Panini soccer stickers, or British tobacco card tradition are wonderful to learn about in how they suggest other ways of collecting and I find it sad that it seems like everything worldwide has standardized on the 2.5×3.5 card size.

In the case of these cards I found myself wondering if Australia had a card collecting tradition before standardizing on the Topps size and if it differed from the UK’s. I also noticed the rounded corners and common back on the Football card and only just made the connection that the standard Topps trading card size was probably based on the standard Poker-size cards that the US Playing Card Company had been producing since the late 19th century.

Better than Ted Cruz

On the heels of my mailday from Shane, I received another batch of 1978s from Mark Armour (@MarkArmour04). As the co-founder of the SABR Baseball Cards committee/blog, Mark in many ways bears much of the responsibility for pushing me back into the hobby by reminding me of all the things I liked about cards and encouraging me to think about them as sitting on the intersection of my print and photography interests.

Mark has a formidable collection of vintage Topps sets and apparently a ton of 1978 duplicates which he checked against my searchlist when he realized I was trying to complete the set.

It’s funny, I think I’ve been completing this set a bit like Zeno: somewhat easily completing half the set, then getting the next quarter, then the next eighth, etc. This latest batch cut my searchlist in half to where I only need 35 more cards. Yay! There’s an every-increasing light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately half of those 35 are Hall of Famers and I’ll probably have to knock them off one by one in order to finish this off.

Mark’s batch didn’t have any Hall of Famers but did include a number of stars like George Foster, Vida Blue, and Dave Parker—all of whom are especially welcome in the binder. For a few years in there those guys were among the best in the game. Despite ultimately falling short, in some ways it’s those semi-stars who most define an age because their peaks were so brief.

For me, as alate-80s Giants fan, seeing cards of young Mike Krukow and Bill Fahey is especially enjoyable. I knew Krukow as the ace of the staff (though by the time I was a full-blown fan he never measured up to his 1986 season) and Fahey was one of the coaches. Seeing them as players in the 70s is both weird and wonderful.

The other card of note to me is that Bruce Kison card which looks like it was taken at Candlestick (it sure doesn’t look like Three Rivers to me) only the Pirates are wearing their white home jersey. The Giants weren’t wearing orange at home yet so I have no idea what’s going on in this photo. Did both teams just wear whites and have different colored pants?

Anyway Mark completed eight more pages and it’s just exciting to see the binder fill in that way. It’s one thing to cross stuff off a checklist, it’s quite another to actually slide the card into a pocket and provide that tactile sense of completion. I suspect that that’s the most enjoyable portion of building a set by hand.

Tucked in among the 1978 Topps cards was this surprise. It’s much much preferable to Mark’s previous surprise. While I have problems with Heritage and the way that Giants cards in particular tend to feature those awful black training jerseys, the 1965 design is one of my favorite Topps designs of all time and I really like that it doesn’t feature any of that “please sign here” screened-out image that Topps does with most of its signed cards now.

Joe Panik is also a welcome autograph for any Giants fan. He’s not blossomed into the star we hoped he could be and, as such, his signature is one of those cards that most people would be disappointed to have as their box hit. But I’ve enjoyed having him on the team—both as a player as one of their more personable characters in the advertisements and media outreach.

Very cool Mark. Thanks for pulling me back into the hobby and thanks for getting me so close to finishing my set that I can almost taste it.

Chain letter

A cautionary tale about what can happen if you start trading cards with unsavory characters you’ve met on the internet…

One week later…

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!