Salie Utz

Late last week I found a plain white envelope in my mailbox from Mark Hoyle. What kind of weird and wonderful item would I find this time?

Nothing too crazy but Mark sent me my first (and probably only*) Topps Utz card. Much to the pleasure of many of us, Topps decided to release a set of cards as a food issue. It’s not a special design like the food issues I grew up with in the late-80s, early-90s. It’s more like the Burger King and Coca Cola cards of the late-70s, early-80s which slapped a logo on the base design.

*Though Posey, Crawford, and (sort of bizarrely given how he’s been out for the season since he had Tommy John surgery almost a year ago) Cueto are also on the checklist.

And since it’s all computer-assisted design now I’m pretty sure the photo is exactly the same as the Topps flagship photo. No re-stripping or re-cropping as part of the reprinting process. Just a larger patch of white blur to allow for Salie Utz to be placed above the player name.

Still, it’s fun to be able to buy food and find cards inside. Utz exists in my neck of the woods but I haven’t noticed any that come with cards. If I came across a package that did I’d probably have to get it. Food issues are one of the things I miss most about the hobby from my youth and I’ve really enjoyed the various posts I’ve seen from other bloggers reminiscing about their childhood diets as told by food issues.

I don’t have the energy to scan all the different oddballs I collected as a kid. But looking through them all I can see that I ate a lot of Cracker Jack, Jumbo California Sunflower Seeds, Mothers Cookies, Nabisco products, and King B Beef Jerky. Chewed a lot of Bazooka. Drank a lot of Coca Cola. And went to Dennys and McDonalds a decent amount. I also managed to convince my mom to buy some Hostess, Kelloggs, and Post products and even a loaf of Wonder Bread.

As a parent I’m sad that this sense of cards being everywhere is not something my kids are growing up with. But I’m also happy that I don’t have to field requests to buy all kinds of garbage just because there are cards inside.

Anyway, very cool Mark. Thanks!

American Beauty

I came back from a trip to California last week and found a few surprise maildays waiting for me. The first was a plain white envelope from Mark Hoyle which was an extra surprise since I had so recently received a package from him. I was definitely not prepared for what I was to find inside.

Mark is a Jim Lonborg collector. Since Lonborg is a Stanford guy I obviously collect him too and Mark felt my collection would be improved by adding one of his extra 1976 Safelon Super Star lunch bags to it. It certainly is.

This is something I had never even heard of and it’s foreign to me on multiple levels.By the time I was a kid in the 1980s, lunch bags were no longer being made out of plastic. Yes they frequently included multiple plastic bags inside but most everyone (in California at least) was trying to reduce our plastic consumption. The idea of buying packages of cheap disposable plastic bags like this feels like something from another world.

Also, the idea of including player pictures like this as part of a national product issue speaks to an age when kids knew all the players in the sport. That I initially thought that these had to be a regional Philadelphia issue confirms how much things had fragmented by the time I was a kid. I can only imagine the equivalent of these from my youth featuring team logos and being sold on a by-team basis.

Now to figure out how to store this. It’s slightly too tall for an 8.5×11 sheet but I’ll probably just fold the bottom up when I put it in. And then my Stanford binder will get a little more odd and a little more wonderful.

Mark also included ten junk wax cards of Hall of Famers for the kids. So we had a little draft.* It’s fun to see what they choose and why. The Biggio was a hit because of the photo. Gossage was the last card standing but only because my eldest didn’t realize that Rich and Goose were the same guy. Both of them were happy to get a Gary Carter because he had also played for the Giants.

*I’m not going to lie. I was kind of tempted to steal that Schmidt All Star Glossy (I didn’t though)

The boys then proceeded to play some kind of War* game with their stacks of cards where they’d pick two cards, compare a certain stat, and then celebrate if their card had better stats. THEN they had to sort these into their binders. I had no idea that ten cards could turn into two hours of fun.

*Or TEGWAR since I couldn’t figure out what the rules were.

A mailday for my son (and a beaut for me)

My eldest is deep in his baseball, and baseball card, obsession now. For Christmas he got three Dan Gutman Baseball Card Adventures books, a San Jose Giants Team Set, a 25th Anniversary Trenton Thunder Team Set, a 2018 Topps Factory set, and a 1991 Topps Factory set. Yes we had lots of cards and Ultra Pro pages all over our floor that day. And yes we made sure that he cleaned up all the wrapping paper first before sorting and paging everything.

The 1991 set though deserves comment because it was a special gift from his godfather. Apparently it was the one thing his godfather wanted for Christmas that year and was so special that it stayed untouched in its box on his bookshelf at his parents’ house for the past 27 years.

Or so we all thought.

Upon opening the box we found that his godfather had sorted everything by team before leaving it untouched. This was pretty cool since my son had decided that he wanted to sort this set by team as well so he could learn a bit more about baseball as it was in 1991.

And learn we did. He noticed that there were 14 American League teams and only 12 National League ones and wanted to know why. So I got to explain how interleague play was relatively new and how before 1997 you needed an even number of teams in each league so that one team wasn’t left out every day. We got to try sorting things by order finished in the divisions (this ended up being too confusing for him). Lots more to look at besides just the numbers on the backs.

Then, when I said I’d show him my favorite card in the set, we noticed that the A’s stack was kind of short. And by kind of I mean really. Where every other team had like 30 cards (something else he appreciated compared to the current offering of closer to 20 cards per team) the A’s stack had under 20. Yeah. It turned out that the complete set wasn’t complete at all.

At first we thought that his godfather had pulled out a couple pages of A’s because the A’s at that time were the team in the Bay Area. But the Giants stack was untouched and his godfather was (and is) more of a Giants guy so that killed hat theory. Then I decided to check for the Chipper Jones rookie and realized that someone had raided the set.

This both sucked and was kind of cool. Instead of just paging the set we now had a project. After going through everything we determined that my son was missing 19 cards.

A’s: Todd Burns, Jose Canseco, Jose Canseco All Star, Ozzie Canseco, Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Harris, Ron Hassey, Rickey Henderson, Rickey Henderson All Star, Carney Lansford, Tony LaRussa, Mark McGwire, Scott Sanderson, Dave Stewart, and Walt Weiss.

Others: Carlos Baerga, Bo Jackson, Chipper Jones, and Eddie Murray.

Based on the missing cards I’m guessing it got raided pretty early in the 1990s. Any time later on in the 90s and I suspect just the Chipper Jones rookie would’ve walked. And more-recently anyone who knew anything about this would’ve also known that this set isn’t really worth anything.

Anyway my son was thankfully not disappointed and dutifully left spaces open in his pages for the missing cards. And he sat with me and played the “do you remember this guy” game as well. I do indeed remember many of them. I also don’t remember a bunch of them.

I meanwhile had been keeping twitter abreast of the developments. Partly because it’s fun to see kids get into sets that are three times their age. Partly because I enjoy the forensic logic of realizing when a theft must’ve occurred. And partly because I needed somewhere to write the missing-cards lust down since I knew I’d be writing this post and searching for the missing 19 in trade eventually.

I did not expect to receive 18 of the missing 19 cards before I even got around to writing the post. But on literally the first day of school in the new year a small package from Mark Hoyle arrived and inside were all the cards my son was missing except for the Ozzie Canseco.

The Walt Weiss is as glorious in person and dutifully impressed my son. The Rickey Henderson is also great and that Dave Stewart is awesome in a way that reminds me of the 1973 Juan Marichal.

When my son got this set I told him that this was one of my favorite sets ever and that for my money it was one of the top three sets Topps has ever made.* Yes there are some printing issues. But the photo-centric design is great with the colored borders and team logotypes and the photos are mostly good and frequently wonderful.

*Also on this list. 1956 and 1965.

Just looking at the 18 cards here shows a variety of images that reminds me of how good a set can look and how enjoyable having a set that includes  all kinds of photography is. The modern fragmentation into having a portrait-oriented set (Heritage), and action-oriented set (Flagship), and an artsy-photo oriented set (Stadium Club) makes sense from a corporate point of view but it really short-changes each of the three products.

Hiding underneath all the 1991 Topps cards was a single goody for me. It takes one hell of a card and photo to upstage the 1991 Walt Weiss but this 1967 Topps Poster of Willie Mays does just that. As a 5×7 fold-out the only thing truly poster-like is the super-thin paper. But the over-size image combined with a great photo of The Kid looks fantastic and this is now one of the oldest Willie Mays items in my collection.

It’s in great shape too. Yes there’s some writing on the back. And yes it’s diamond-trimmed and off-center. But for something that feels this fragile I’d expect it to be coming apart at the folds and have wrinkles/creases everywhere.

Super cool Mark. Thanks for coming to the rescue. Thanks for the awesome Mays poster. And thanks for the great start to the New Year.

Tacoma Programs from Mark Hoyle

A couple weeks ago I received a surprise mailer from Mark Hoyle. He’d mentioned the mailer to me and it looked cool but I promptly forgot about it until it arrived. He’d found a batch of 1961 and 1962 Tacoma Giants programs (as a Red Sox guy he liked that Johnny Pesky shows up in them as the manager of the Seattle Rainiers) and figured that I would be an appreciative recipient of a copy of each.

He figured correctly. As a Giants guy, getting a glimpse of their minor league system at the beginning of the 1960s is extremely fascinating. And I also have a soft spot for Tacoma and Cheney Stadium. Aside form being the final resting place of Seals Stadium’s seating, one of my favorite autograph experiences occurred there.

To the programs. The 1961 program is striking with its duotoned photo of Cheney Stadium and the night sky stripped to be black-only. I also always love when linework is designed to be two colors like this with the black drawing and orange accents on the uniforms .

Checking out the roster shows a lot of players who show up—briefly—on team sets in the 1960s (Ron Herbel, Georges Maranda, Julio Navarro, and Dom Zanni) as well as a few bigger names like Manny Mota, Dusty Rhodes, and Gaylord Perry.

Perry is the obvious star and I like how this photo is the same one Topps used on his 1962 Rookie Card. Also, seeing him as a member of the 1961 team makes me respect him even more for showing up to the 1963 team reunion. That’s a lot of time to be bouncing up and down between San Francisco and Tacoma.

Rhodes meanwhile is the veteran playing out his last years in the game. It’s clear that he would’ve been a great DH had he entered the game in the 1970s instead of the 1950s but instead he was a star pinch hitter who ended up finishing his career in the minors after he turned 30.

And for all of Manny Mota’s lengthy career I always forget that he came up and debuted with the Giants. I’m also not used to seeing photos of him so young.

The rest of the program is a wonderful example of two-color printing and period advertisements. The Pan American advertisement is especially nice from a printing point of view* and I like how the photo content is intentionally duotoned differently.

*Content has retro appeal but also makes me cringe as someone whose family comes from Hawaii.

I also like seeing little things like how much the ticket books cost, the organization of the Giants’ Minor League system, and Cheney Stadium’s ground rules.

The programs are 16-page self-covers with the innermost sheet being slightly-thicker, uncoated stock so as to incorporate the score card. One of the things that amazes me most when I see old programs and scorecards is the degree to which the printing changes day-to-day. As a child of the Xerography age, offset printing always carried with it a degree of permanence. Seeing how the game-day rosters are printed on the scorecard* will always sort of blow my mind.

*On other vintage scorecards people have posted on twitter, the starting lineups are sometimes printed.

That these programs also include a lucky number on the reverse of the scorecard shows that there’s two different runs of post-printing production going on. That plus the final stitching of everything together for each game is a lot of work for each game—or at least the first game of each series.

The scorecard shows that the Giants played the Padres (a White Sox affiliate at the time) in a game featuring only a handful of the players who didn’t make it to the majors. The Padres won 6–5 with the Giants blowing a 5–3 lead in the 8th inning.

I really like the back cover advertisement with its sketchy two-color illustration. I also completely misread the KTNT TV 11 line as KNTV 11 and found myself completely confused as to why a Bay Area TV station was broadcasting in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area.

On to 1962. The cover is not as exciting but it’s still a fun two-color illustration and I like the Attendance Leader trophy as a shout-out to the fans. The script “Giants” is also different than the San Francisco logo but looks close enough to be of the same family.

Gaylord Perry is still on the roster. And has the same photo as 1961. Same with Dusty Rhodes. New Giants I recognize from 1960s team sets include Dick LeMay and Jose Cardenal (who went on to bigger things on other teams).

More 1960s advertisements and design. The big restaurant ad is a fun snapshot of the era and they use the correct Giants font/logo on the team schedule box, roster box, and KTNT advertisement. I especially like the shirt design in that KTNT advert too. As in 1961 there’s a lucky number for, I’m assuming, between-innings giveaways or contests.

Scorecard this time is only complete through three innings. A different hand than the 1961 scorer and I can’t comment on the game besides noting that the Spokane Indians are a Dodgers affiliate.

I do particularly enjoy the Tacoma Stars in the Hall of Fame panel as well as the way the plaques have been turned printed in two colors so as to emphasize the player portraits.

All in all a great mailing which I thoroughly enjoyed going though. I’m sure I’ll find some more interesting things the next time I flip through these. Thanks Mark!

Mailday from Mark Hoyle

One of the things that a lot of guys my age on card twitter have been doing is pursuing their birth-year sets. There’s a bunch of things going on here. My generation of collectors having a midlife crisis of sorts and rediscovering cards is a large part of it. But that sets of the late-70s are the right mix of achievable yet challenging—not junk wax but not quite “vintage” either—also makes this sort of project very appealing. If you’re patient you can find bulk lots of hundreds of cards for ~$10. There aren’t any high numbers or short prints to deal with. There aren’t even that many expensive rookies.

And many of the previous generation of collectors often have a ton of duplicates still lying around. Mark Hoyle is one such collector. Mark’s a Red Sox/Boston guy who seems to have everything. Seriously. Every morning on Twitter he’s posting a photo of something I’ve never seen from before my parents were born. It’s a lot of fun to see and he’s been a great guy to chat with and learn about all kinds of products.

When Mark found my set needlist he realized he could fill a bunch of holes and late last week a bubble mailer arrived with a bunch of 1978 Topps cards inside.

Since most of my 1978 build has come via cheap commons lots* my set build has been pretty thin on star power. Mark included a very nice assortment of big-name cards in the set. The Nolan Ryan is probably the best of the bunch (I have very few card numbers ending in 0 let alone 00) but it’s always nice to see a stack of Hall of Famers.

*Though Matt Prigge did include a bunch in one of his mailings too.

I think this might also be my first vintage Thurman Munson and Jim Palmer cards too. Also, George Hendrick’s photo is at Candlestick. Just seeing that old press box in the background makes me smile.

I love the Bobby Bonds card here. The tight cropping is often a bad idea on baseball cards but it really works here. I also always like seeing Duane Kuiper in that caveman Indians uniform.

The Dave Kingman in its airbrushed glory always weirds me out. It’s not as bad as the Greg Minton but it sure is something. This is also my first checklist of the set—which kind of weirds me out since you’d think those would always end up in commons lots. Nice to see Rick Dempsey and Al Oliver. And the Roger Metzger photo was also taken at Candlestick.

All told a super batch of 1978s which took my set build past 60% and close to the ⅔ mark. Pretty soon I’m going to have to start searching for stars and rookies. But Mark did not stop there and included a couple extras.

In some ways these are best kind of extras in that they represent my first samples of sets. It’s one thing (and great fun) to build a set and approach a finish line of sorts which each new card. There’s a different kind of thrill when you encounter a set for the first time. You get to see what kind of cardboard it’s printed on, how it was printed, etc.

The two 1963 Fleers represent my first exposure to this set. I’ve been meaning to get some of these at some point so this surprise is very much appreciated. This is a good-looking set with photography that’s distinct from the usual Topps look and in many ways presages the speedlight-dominated look that Topps sort of abused in the mid-80s.

Anyway, seeing medium format fill flash work that results in a slightly-underexposed background is a look which pops pretty well and is perfectly served by the clean geometric design. The way Fleer moves the team/position line around so it fits in the space is less impressive however. And I like seeing photos of the Giants taken in the Polo Grounds. Even though it was the Mets’ stadium in the early 60s, it will always be the Giants’ ancestral home.

Mark also included a 1939 Billy Jurges Play Ball card. Play Ball is one of those sets/manufacturers which is completely off my radar. I grew up a Topps guy. I’m beginning to get to know Bowman now since for much of the 1950s it was the card of record along with Topps. I have only a cursory awareness of pre-war (really pre-1948) cards.

I’m aware of Play Ball as representing sort of the first modern baseball card. Real photography. Real information on the back. Roughly the same size and form factor of current-day cards. That it debuts in 1939 and doesn’t survive the war makes it an easy issue to forget.

All of which means that I’m very excited to see and have one of these now. It’s my oldest Giants card by a decade and one of only ~40 New York Giants cards in my collection.

Thanks Mark!

For the kids

The bubble mailer was not just for me though. Inside was a team bag of ~50 cards with a small note instructing me to give them to my sons. I went through and sorted everything by team so I could break up the giveaway into a couple sessions. It was a fun mix of cards with a few old ones (one 1973 Blue Moon Odom and a handful of early-90s junk wax) and a bunch of more-recent issues.

The first session involved just the Giants and A’s cards and the boys, despite getting 9 cards each (I put them all on the table and had them take turns picking) managed to use those to trigger a complete binder overhaul. The second session was the balance of ~30 cards (they cleaned the house before having their draft) and they were both very happy with their haul.

It’s fun to watch what they like. The youngest likes the shiny chrome stuff. The eldest likes vintage. They both like facsimile autographs. Neither of them is taken with the stickers. I was just impressed that they took turns and didn’t fight at all.