Sunday, September 22, 2013

Morning Mail

After spending some time in the archives this weekend, time for a little more recent acquisition.

Wade Miller was one of those guys you just like watching play, even though he never plays for your team.  Well, actually he continually plays against your team.

Miller and Roy Oswalt joined the Astros rotation in 2001, and despite the latter having more success at the big league level, Wade was always my guy.  He was a smart pitcher who just seemed to consistently get outs.  Particularly against the Pirates.

I had been hoping to add an autograph of his for a while, but I never found a certified version in the bargain bin.  So I was thrilled when I saw he had started signing ttm.  I can't say anything bad about these beautiful blue signatures on some nice early season cards of his.  Definitely a nice addition to cross off my wants list.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Into the Archives, Pt 2

When you reach the point where you have more autographs than you can remember having, it probably means you have too many cards.  But on the bright side, it also allows for some great opportunities to enjoy and re-enjoy your collection. 

Matt Williams was one guy I really enjoyed watching in the late 90's.  His star had faded significantly from his time in San Francisco, but he managed to be an underappreciated piece on some really good teams.

I was really happy to get his auto TTM, and he signed a Dbacks and Giants card for me to cover the biggest stops on his journey.

 Sometimes you catch guys on their way up, other times on their way down.  Jeff Torborg had been recently fired as manager of the Marlins when I got this card signed.  It didn't seem like that much of a stretch that he would land himself another managing gig after that.  Instead the Marlins would go on to win the World Series in '03, while Torborg would stay out of the dugout for good.

Meanwhile, I got this auto of Terry Francona before he was a World Series manager.  He was a pretty good signer at the time, but I guess winning a World Series or two in Boston can change your signing habits.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Into the Archives

 TTM returns have slowed to a crawl since the move.  I think there has only been one return this month.  But while the new mail is slowing down, I came across scans from some of my earliest TTM returns, mostly from 2004-2005.  Some are truly exciting, while others...don't quite stack up so well 9 years later.

First up is this entrant from The Mad Hungarian.  Those powder blue Braves unis are painfully bad.  Adding in the secondary red color was definitely a good decision.
 This Carmona auto looked like an absolute gem for a couple years, even with the finger print at the end.  For a while he looked like an ace in the making.  Now...well, it's still an auto from a decent major league starter.
 Joe Niekro was an obscenely common autograph until his untimely passing.  Now I wish I had sent to him a couple more times, since he was one of the best TTM signers around, and played for a great variety of teams.
 Rich Amaral was one of my favorite Mariners of the 90's, and I absolutely love the '94 Pacific design.  He has a really neat, clean autograph that really looks fantastic on the card.

And finally Ron Gant was one of the underrated power hitters of the 90's.  While the rest of the league exploded in power, he seemed consistent (and perhaps non-roided?) in his clout, but it paled in comparison to the crazy home run totals being put up.  Definitely a cool auto to add to the collection from one of my favorite Topps sets.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Mayor and The Kid

I think we can largely agree that game used cards have lost their luster these days.

And with some of the higher end products offering 2-3 per pack, it's like the damn things are the new base card.  But once upon a time, they were a little tougher to hit and a lot more fun to pull.

I've never gone out of my way to add non-Pittsburgh gu cards to the collection, but when I hit one in a pack that interests me it's locked down in the PC.

This bad boy came out of a few loose packs at a now defunct card shop.  Right now the Bucs are locked in a tight race with the Reds.  But I liked watching the team in the early 2000's, when Griffey could actually stay on the field.  Sean Casey will be in Pittsburgh this weekend to sign autographs at the Pirate game, and I'm looking forward to getting some things signed that I've been holding onto since his time here in '06.  I think this is actually the second or third Griffey gu card I own, though sadly none are of the Mariners variety.  That might be one game used card I'd actually be willing to shell out for.

Into the Archives

I've been cleaning up my external hard drive, which largely consists of digging through a bunch of unsorted image folders.  That includes scans of some cards I haven't really given a second thought to in years.  So enjoy the trip as I take a stroll down memory lane.

I pulled this Troy Patton auto from a blaster around when the product released.  It seems like a long, long time ago - and obviously my collecting interests were completely different.

Patton never really lived up to the hype as a top prospect, moving to the pen after a rapid rise through the minors.  Still, he's turned in to a solid reliever for the Orioles.  But geeze, I really did hate the red/black color scheme the Astros had for the 00's.  I'm glad to see it gone.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shine Bright...Like a Diamond?

I've discussed it at length over at Battlin' Bucs, but I love 2000 Topps.

It's the set that got me back into collecting, and it has some really fun quirks to it.

A few years back I picked up a few boxes of 2000 Chrome.  The product was super high end to me at the time.  I think my mom bought me a few packs once, but it was strictly base Topps for me back then for the most part.

The break was great.  And while I probably didn't even recoup my $20 a box value wise, it was a great break.

But I did come away with some awesome cards (not to mention an unreasonably large stack of doubles).

I somehow managed to avoid the curse of the scrub refractors.  In my two boxes, I hit quite a bit of star (and future star) power.

But not just regular base stardom.  2000 Topps had some cool subsets within the base release.  The first cards in each series were the special achievement cards like the Ripken, each having 4 or 5 different versions that were identical except for the accomplishment listed on the front.  The 82 ROY is definitely a cool for Ripken.

And the 20th Century's Best cards look amaaaaazing.  In the base set they're a foil card.  But in Chrome?  Mmm mmm good.  And considering other players in the subset include Lance Johnson and John Franco, I think I did pretty well.

Maybe Beltran wasn't the biggest hit in 2000.  And even after a stint in NY he doesn't get the hobby love his skills deserve.  But anything with the Topps Rookie Cup is a winner in my book.

But the biggest hit of the bunch isn't even a refractor.

In 2000, there was still nothing hotter than Mark McGwire.
A chrome reprint of the red hot McGwire USA rookie?  It was every kid's dream.  Despite ripping a ton of base Topps (or what was a ton in the relative world of a 12 year old, which probably equated to about a box and a half's worth).   Obviously a lot has changed since 2000.  McGwire doesn't carry the star power he once did.  Refractors seem to come two per pack rather than two per box.  And boxes of 2000 Chrome cost you what a couple of packs used to. 

But you can't have much more fun with a break than I did with this one.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Oddest of Oddballs

With so many cards out there to chase as it is, I've never really been a fan of many of the off-brand oddball cards that came out in the 80's and 90's.  Sure some make interesting novelty pieces, but overall the cards just scream knockoff. 

Whether it's airbrushed logos, terrible designs, or paper thin card stock, they just don't do much for me.


I picked up a large lot a few years back.  Mixed in were a few large stacks of these RBI Prototypes, including all of the biggest starts of the early 90's (except of course Bonds, whose card I would have actually wanted). 

See all of the above commentary.  Paper stock that could pass as toilet paper.  Designs that any modern day photoshop amateur could surpass in minutes, and...wait.  A cool photo?

Most of the cards were lackluster at best.  But this Nolan Ryan card just screams awesome.  Clearly the photo comes from some kind of press conference.  Maybe his introductory presser after signing with the team?

Either way, it was a nice little gem in a otherwise unexciting stack.  If anybody wants one, I think I have a couple dozen of them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Since moving, my ttm sending has come to a halting stop.  There's just too much going on right now to have the time and space to send out a batch of letters.

But there's always time for more direct routes.  I found a few minor league autos of ex-Bucs I was interested in, and while checking out the seller's other items found some nice non-Pirate autographs.

I got outbid on an auto of prolific journeyman catcher Dusty Brown, yet I managed to score this sweet Josh Johnson rookie auto for just $.99 with free shipping.  Sure, his stock has dropped quite a bit after a terrible season north of the border, but I can't pass up a chance to add an All-Star autograph for less than the price of a cheeseburger.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oh, this silly thing

Talk about taking some time off.  We're well past due for an update here.  And while a lack of card shows in the Pittsburgh area may mean there won't be any additions to my miscellaneous collections for some time, I certainly have quite the backlog of fun cards that deserve some love.

I don't know if there was ever a team that was as cool as the mid 90's Mariners.  Young phenom Alex Rodriguez, flamethrower Randy Johnson, total badass Jay Buhner, and of course The Kid.  There was somebody on that team that every little league player wanted to emulate (my batting stance was Griffey-esque, even if my swing wasn't).

These two cards were dime box finds a few months back.  The Griffey is classic, while I love the Kingdome photo in the background on the Big Unit card.

And before leaving Ohio, I managed one last trip to Dayton.  The show was disappointing in terms of Steelers and Pirates cards, but yielded some other cool finds.  Wells is a notoriously tough auto, and I was stunned to find it in a dollar box.  I'll always remember him as a Yankee, but since he will only sign Jays items (perhaps they fed him well in Canada?), this will probably be as good as it gets for me.  Lopes was a great TTM signer for years.  And of course I never sent to him before he abruptly stopped signing autographs.  Again, this isn't the card I would have chosen, but I'm not thaaaat picky when it comes to autograph collecting.  And for a little more than the cost of two stamps, I'm glad he's a player I can finally add to my collection.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Morning Mail

The Nats have quickly become one of my favorite teams in baseball, and you have to love their uniform combos.  I haven't sent out many requests to current players thus far this year, so it was a nice surprise to get this one back.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Morning Mail

It can be easy to take reliable signers for granted.  After all, how many cards do I really need of Fernando Vina or Frank Tanana?  But it's always fun to find those interesting, unique cards that you just know will look great signed.  And when that card is of a guy who you know is a reliable signer?  Even better.
 Pat Neshek is one of the best guys in the hobby, and type of player you can't help rooting for.  I already have some signed Twins cards in my collection, but when I found this Cognac parallel in a quarter box, it seemed worthy of another mailing.  The card looks amazing in person
And this one comes from the Wisconsin Woodchucks, a wood bat summer league.  It looks like they were doing some kind of anniversary set.  Kind of interesting to see Neshek pictured in what appears to be a more traditional pitching motion.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mail Call

 Some more mail, including my first return of the seaon from an active player.  Lowrie has shown nice pop for a shortstop, and has been signing pretty consistently this season.  Definitely a nice signature to add.

I loved Don Baylor's Rockie teams in the mid 90's So of course Topps decided to stop making making manager cards those seasons.  But the 87T is a nice consolation prize.
 Brooks Kieschnick was a top prospect, who went the anti-Ankiel route, converting from position player to pitcher.  He played a dual role as pitcher/pinch hitter for the Brewers for a couple seasons.  I'm hoping I can tack down one of his Brewers cards featuring him on the mound at some point. 

I forgot how much I liked the 97 Stadium Club set as a kid.  I may have to take a crack at putting it together one of these days.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Now Pitching...

 It's always interesting to see who signs TTM and who doesn't.  Whether it's the guy that was impossible to get during his playing days who suddenly decides to start his stacks of mail once his schedule frees up, or vice versa. 

One thing I've noticed in my years of ttm mailings is that it seems like pitchers and catchers are often pretty good signers.  Or at least it sure seems that way.  This can be a blessing or a curse.  If it's a former starter, that probably means there are a bunch of cards out there to be signed, even for the most middling pitcher.  For a reliver, the prospects are less optimistic.  Especially in recent years, it seems like the middle innings guys are very hit or miss as to whether they'll make their way into a card set during a given year.

So enjoy some of my recent returns from the guys on the mount.
 The 1991 and 1987 sets are two of my favorite designs, and have a special place in my collection.  87 is my birth year, while '91 marked my first pack of cards, which my dad picked up for me during a trip to the gas station.
 I've been told that these strange markings somehow resemble letters.  I'm picking up an H, but that's about it.
 The spaceman finally did away with the "Earth" insciption he has added to all other autos I've sent to him.  I do love signed vintage.
And finally, a swift return from a very good signer who surprisingly I had never sent to before.  I may be strange, but part of me misses the early 90's Mariners logo, though it looked more like a gas station logo than a baseball team.

Morning Mail, On Ice

 I don't collect much hockey.  My Pens collection is the smallest of my Pittsburgh collections, at just a little over 200 cards.  It's not that I don't have an interest in them; hockey cards just seem to be nearly impossible to find at decent prices in Ohio/Pennsylvania. 

Beyond my Pens cards, the entirety of my hockey collection comes from a huge box of commons I (my parents) bought when I was 9 or 10 at a garage sale - 20,000 cards for $20.  It was a goldmine for a kid.  Probably 7k of those cards were hockey, which are still sitting in a big box in my parent's house.  There is probably some TTM fodder in there, but I am so backlogged with requests I rarely look.

Except when something catches my eye.

I've said it a million times, but I love cool jerseys.  And by extension, I suppose I love goalies.  So when a name caught my eye while skimming successes on SCN, I knew I had to dig out a few cards from the mysterious hockey box.

 As much as I loathe the smug Caps these days, I love the old jerseys, and these are two great action shots.
The Lindsay was a little less romantic.  I knew he's  good signer, and dug through the rare hockey dime box at card shows until I finally found a card to get out to him.  It's not my favorite card, but I can't complain about adding a very gracious TTM signer to my collection.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Other Colts

Now that I finally had some time to scan some non-Pirate cards, I'm on a bit of a posting frenzy here.  Should anyone actually be reading these, I apologize. 

Dave Giusti was a relief ace for the Pirates, and an overall good guy.  But he also happens to be featured with the Colt .45's on two awesome vintage pieces.  I had a couple Pirates cards I didn't have signed by Giusti, so it seemed like a great excuse to send these in the mail as well.
Being a jersey nerd, I really like the fact that his compact signature doesn't obscure the jersey in either of these photos.  It's certainly for the best that the team in Houston switched to a, but like the Seattle Pilots, these cards are among my favorite oddball teams to get signatures of.

Morning Mail

 I've been collecting TTM autographs for almost a decade now.  My first requests were sent out during spring training of 2004. 

Yet almost unfailingly, I continue to discover fairly significant players who are great signers...who have never found their way into my collection.

It's not oversight, per se.  My card collection spans from the late 80's forward, as does my baseball fandom.  I consider myself a student of the history of the game, but certain aspects just get lost.  So I was shocked to see both how good Ken Singleton was, and that I had never even thought to write for his autograph.

A few vintage dime cards and a surprise find of a 2012 Archives card later, and these beauties were back in my mailbox.

I love the vintage (and once again current) Orioles logo and helmet design, and these cards look great signed.  Another easy signer down, who knows how many more to do.

Seeing Red

My non-baseball ttm collections are weak at best.  The vast majority of my non-baseball cards are from the 90's, and there simply aren't a ton of players from that period who sign ttm.

But occasionally I run across some cards that allow me to expand my collection a bit.

I actually pulled the ATFF card on the right from a blaster box in 05 or 06 (which also contained a Fridge Perry certified auto.  Woo!).  A few years later, I looked up the common players in the blaster to see who signed TTM.  Foley is a great signer, but I didn't want to use two stamps for a single card of a player who I knew almost nothing about.

Fast forward a couple years, and last month I was able to find not one but two different vintage football cards (at two different shows!) after a few years of looking through vintage fb dime boxes.  Off to the mailbox they went, and I must say it was worth the wait.  The cards look great in red sharpie.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Marino Monday

Dan Marino was my first true player collection.  Or focused collection of any kind.  By age 10 or 11, my dad started taking me to a few Pitt games each season at the now destroyed Pitt Stadium.  I instantly became a big fan, and was amazed by the fact that perhaps the greatest quarterback in the game, Dan Marino, had not just gone to Pitt, but was from the Pittsburgh area.

And so started my fleeting childhood obsession.  Marino instantly became my favorite player, and the Dolphins my favorite team.  Soon my bedroom was decked out in teal and orange, from the bedsheets to the garbage can.  And so started my humble Marino collection, since around that I also discovered the amazing world of local card shops.

My collection never grew to anything resembling epic proportions.  A couple hundred base cards, the odd insert or two, and the crown jewel: a serial numbered card!  At that age, and for the late 90's, it seemed like an amazing collection to me.

I haven't really given much thought or effort to the collection since then - the occasional Marino pickup at card shows if I find something in a dime box, but that's about it.

But I'll make an effort to show off both old and new pickups.  Both these beauties came from a dime box.  Edge was probably my favorite card company growing up.  I know a lot of collectors take issue with their cards, but they were shiny, affordable, and had some nice designs.  What more could a pre-teen want?

At this point my hobby funds are going in too many different directions, and the sheer number of Marino cards out there too overwhelming to seriously restart the collection.  The natural completest in makes my collecting endeavors all of nothing pursuits.  But it's definitely fun to revisit my collection, and hopefully some luck (or great trading partners) will allow me to add a few new pages to my Marino binder.

A Man of Many Hats

 Some players just get around.

There are the guys who are perhaps as noteworthy for their mobility as for their production on the field - Matt Stairs and Octavio Dotel have suited up for quite a few teams, particularly during their latter career.

But some guys just kind of fly under the radar.  Or all over the radar, depending on how you look at it.

Jose Hernandez certainly found quite a few different cities to strike out in, including some time with the Pirates.  I already had a few of his Pirate autos in my collection, so when I noticed he had started signing TTM as a minor league coach, I decided to see what else I could get signed.

Apparently Jose wore many a hat during his Topps photoshoots over the years.  And there are still a couple teams unrepresented, so I may have to track down some more cards to finish off the "set."

He sent back this beautiful stack of autographs in under two weeks.  I knew about his time with the Bucs and Brewers, and knew of his time with the Dodgers because he was a favorite with then-Pirates manager Jim Tracy, who had brought him over after being fired by the Dodgers.  But the Rockies?  Not a clue.  Indians?  Like any good Pittsburgher, I make it a point to ignore most things going on in Cleveland.  Though from what I've been told most Clevelanders follow a pretty similar rule.  It looks like I have the Rangers and Cubs left (he ended his career with the Phillies after a midseason release from the Pirates in 06, but I doubt he was set-worthy at that point). 

Sunday, June 2, 2013


One of my friends in grad school once told me, "There's nothing I love more than a good USA chant."

The Olympics may have canned baseball, but Team USA has produced some of the top players of the past few decades.  The card front, for me at least, has been less appealing.  I've always sort of viewed them as a ship with no port.  I'm a team collector first, and my player collections are more often than not just extensions of those collections.  I collect some guys who have played on Team USA (Warren Morris, Andrew McCutchen, Charles Johnson), but I've never actively chased their Team USA cards.

But when Upper Deck acquired the Team USA license in the early 00's, the excitement of some big name autos con(vinced) me to pick up a couple of the USA boxed sets.  My hits were pathetic, and the base sets sat in a box for the next decade.

But I recently came across them, and realized that though the boxes themselves yielded some less than exciting autos, the set offered some great cards of some reliable signers.

 Better yet, the cards are perfect for autographs.  With a large space to the left of the player photo and nice, big headshots (in some awesomely bad trucker hats), the card offers enough space for the player to sign without really interfering with the photo.
There are a lot of bigger names (and some flamed out prospects) in the set that I'll never be able to get signed.  But I have about a dozen or so cards queued up to be sent with my next round of mailings.  They're some fun cards, and a nice unique side collection for what had been a sunk cost for the past decade.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I love the 90's

Even for a side blog, Returned to Sender has been woefully neglected recently.  It's not for a lack of interest in the cards posted here.  And it certainly isn't for a lack of returns filling up my mailbox.  In fact, the last month or two have yielded a steady stream of TTM returns and some great dimebox finds at recent shows.

The problem, more simply, is one of time and space. All my TTM returns get sent to my parent's address, since I worry that one of those mysterious thousand day returns would get lost in the address shuffle I've been doing far too frequently over the last few years.  On top of that, wedding planning, work, and research have eaten up much of my time.

But I'm hoping to start posting more regularly here, and the current batch of TTM returns certainly give me enough reason.

Growing up during the 90's was a great time to be a sports fan.  I don't have much memory of Bo Jackson or Barry Bonds as a Pirate, but everything after that made for a glorious sports childhood.  There are some great looking cards from those years to boot. 

The downside is that far fewer players from the 90's/00's seem to sign than previous decades, particularly among the bigger names.  But I was thrilled to see decent success rates for two of my favorite 90's players.
 Simply put, Ed McCaffrey just seemed like a total badass.  I loved the Broncos growing up, led by Elways and TD.  McCaffrey seemed like that steady, but not flashy, player who was tough as nails and got the job done.  And though I've tired of the Broncos strange striping over the years, in the late 90's it was awesome.

If that wasn't enough, my mailbox also yielded a couple autos of recent HoF'er Willie Roaf.  Roaf was one of my favorite linemen, probably because the sports media told me he was good.  And he was one of the few o'linemen to be immortalized in plastic by Kenner's Starting Lineup figures (and later McFarlane).  I can't imagine I watched a lot of Saints games on tv in Western PA as a kid, but I do remember him being the top rated lineman on Quarterback Club 97.

Ah, to have your entire frame of reference for something be toys, video games, and Sportscenter.