Friday, October 23, 2020

So... Atlantic City it is.

 The National officially announced that the 2022 show will be, as I suspected, in Atlantic City.

And thus begins the planning. On an even more positive note, I have a friend who may be able to hook us up with some amazing lodging as well.

So this actually works out well. Arron and I can expand our travel a bit and add New England to the itinerary. It's not out of the realm of possibility that we might drive up to Portland, ME and/or Manchester, NH for games in those cities before looping back down to New Jersey. That would also knock out two states I have yet to visit, and I could make it three if we drive through part of Vermont on our way to another spot like Hartford, Worcester, Syracuse, Binghamton, or Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Yeah, it's not direct but everything is close enough up there that it's certainly doable.

Yes, I plan to taunt them about how much better Ohio's maple syrup is. Vermont makes the most; Ohio makes the best. Don't @ me on this.

On the way up I can also knock out South Carolina with relative ease. Even if we can't go to a Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, or Augusta game we likely will pass through it.

Midweek, we'll have Wilmington (1:40 drive time), Trenton (1:30), Jersey Shore BlueClaws (1:00), Philadelphia (1:00), Reading (2:00), and Lehigh Valley (2:00) as possibilities. Not quite as convenient as Cleveland's under-an-hour for the Indians, RubberDucks, and Captains, but still, we could handle this alright if a few of them play at home (preferably the first three).

Delmarva would be doable if they would just build something like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel instead of making us take a ferry. Monday after, maybe?

So my goal of All 50 Before 50 will be even closer-- just lacking Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the following twelve years if we can hit all four aforementioned ones. And if we come back via the Midwest, I could knock out Nebraska with a game in Omaha, then Montana when my wife and I go to Yellowstone for a combination birthday/anniversary trip.

Here are the VIP free autograph signers for the last Atlantic City show in 2016: Ron Blomberg, Dave Cash, Von Hayes, Jim Lonborg, Greg Luzinski, Gary Matthews, Bake McBride, Kevin Mitchell, Don Money, John Montefusco, Bobby Shantz, Nate Archibald, Maxie Baughan, Bill Bergey, Seth Joyner, and Pete Retzlaff. Unfortunately, I only have a major need for a few of them (Blomberg 72 Topps, McBride 04 ATFF, Mitchell 90 DK) but I may be able to dig out a few photos on guys. Retzlaff died this year so he won't be on the list, clearly.

2020 was supposed to have Mickey Morandini, Tommy Greene, Everson Walls, and Joe Klecko (04 ATFF) to start with before its cancellation. So that gives something of an idea as to who we might see in 2022. I'll be hoping for some hockey, personally.

So, as plans come together in the next 21 months I'll keep posting on them here. Hopefully it'll be about this time next year that we start hammering down on teams' schedules-- and even their existences-- and start planning around where we can and can't go.

Other stuff: if you're on the Twitter, give me a follow @DFWGrapher. I'm shutting down my current account when it hits 10,000 tweets (hopefully that last one will come on November 4) and starting this new one up, dedicated solely to autograph content and things that don't make me want to dropkick things across a parking lot. I made the mistake of following a bunch of political shit on my regular account which can be great at times (like the three tweets I've made with over 100 likes, including one with 2000) but I'd like to just eliminate most of the infuriating stuff-- which I think will be easiest to do just by starting over again.

Lastly, bad news: the Texas Air Hogs are no more, announcing today that they are terminating operations immediately. A shame, because it was close by, had cheap tickets, and had opportunities for autographs from some former MLB players and prospects, some of whom have even returned to the majors (Tyler Matzek and Brett Eibner, anyone?). It's a nice ballpark, and I'm hoping someone will move in there. The American Association said they anticipate further 2021 Texas expansion; if so, I wonder if someone will buy the franchise's entry and bring back a team in the near future.

Then again, I've hoped for the same with the Fort Worth Cats and LaGrave Field, and that's clearly not happening.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

August and September Mail

It feels weird to say September was slow, but compared to July and August, it was. August set me a new personal record for most autographs obtained TTM at 235 cards signed. July/August combined to a two-month record of 459, and July/August/September combined to a three-month record of 619.  I also had 38 sigs on 8/31 (record) in 9 successes (tied a record).  And lastly, I have surpassed a new record for most TTM-signed cards in a year (1067).

Anyways, I'll try to do better with a single month updated at a time. Granted, I said that on SCF too, and even have fallen off on daily updates of the YouTube channel.

I have a lot to list here, so I'm keeping it shorter than usual: date, name, fees, and just for the hell of it if I got a set card signed or something. Any specific questions (where I sent, how many, how long, etc.), just leave a comment.

Rafael Palmeiro
Deron Quint - added two Russian cards

Charlie Frye
Yvon Labre
Rob Ray
Kelly Miller
Roy Smith
Dan Schatzeder

Calvin Schiraldi
Doug Simons
Rob Ramage
Pat Peake
Bob Kudelski

Bob Shirley

Vladimir Malakhov
Mike Smithson

Zane Smith

Mo Sanford

Shane Schwab - Pacific soccer set project

Chad Kelly

Tim Cheveldae

Ken Linseman
Allen Pedersen

Juan Guzman
Dave Mlicki
Bob Aspromonte - 1972 Topps

Joe Negri
Davey Johnson
Tim Thompson
Larry Stahl
Burke Waldron

George Fernandez - Pacific soccer set project
Roger Federer
Brian Rafalski
Ed Asner

Jose Canseco - Paid signing with Chris Rifon

Stan Bahnsen - 1972 Topps

Al Santorini - 1972 Topps
Chuck Brinkman - 1972 Topps

Billy Jo Robidoux

Derek Lilliquist
Tom Kurvers
Steve Shields
Jeff Nelson
Jimy Williams
Joe Sambito

Phil Coyne
Billy Demars
Eddie Taubensee

Oddibe McDowell
Ron Brand - 1972 Topps
Kevin Mench

Garry Howatt
Doug Lidster
Mike Lalor

Charlie Puleo
Steve Dunning - 1972 Topps

Bill Virdon - 1972 Topps

Buzz Schneider
Jeff Johnson
Jeff Tackett
Dennis Rasmussen
Tom McCraw - 1972 Topps
Dyar Miller
Dave Roberts
Pete O'Brien
Joe Moeller

Justin Masterson
Gary Mielke
Frank Thomas

Craig Muni
Charlie Manuel
Gorman Thomas - Diamond Kings and ATFF

Frank Seminara

Scott Pellerin

Scott Ruffcorn
Scott Kamieniecki

Will Middlebrooks - 1972 Minis

Rich Monteleone

Scott McGregor

Bill Haselman
Brooks Robinson - 1972 Topps
Lee Norwood
Ron Pruitt
Johnny Grubb

Xavier Hernandez

Russ Springer
Joe Randa
Mark Eichhorn

Jamie Langenbrunner
Dennis Powell
Paul Mirabella
Bobby Morgan

Rejean Lemelin
Dane Iorg

Bill Campbell
Bill Stein

Doug Sisk
Warren Morris
Bill Long
Derek Plante

Tom Poti
Matt Laporta

Brad Marsh
Barry Bonnell

Rey Sanchez
Blas Minor
Dan Rather

Roger Mason

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

OH SHIT NO!!!!!!!!!!!

 Well. About that 2022 Cleveland roadtrip?

The notice...

...and my reaction.

So. There's that.

What's going to happen?

Atlantic City?


The new Huntington Cleveland Convention Center downtown?

A roadtrip will be happening in some way as long as there is baseball-- bank on that. We just don't yet know where it will be going. Or when exactly.

Smart money right now is either the Huntington Center in Cleveland to keep from having to make a huge change or Atlantic City to make up for the loss of this year's show. I'd set Baltimore third, and almost guarantee there's no other location. The last time the National was in a place other than Chicago, Cleveland, Atlantic City, or Baltimore was 2006 in Anaheim. Last one before that: 2000, also in Anaheim. And before that: the lowest-attended National of all-time, the 1999 Atlanta show.

To make the most of this on a baseball 'graphing perspective, I need it to stay east of the Mississippi, and honestly the further east the better. In Cleveland, that's potential access to the Indians, Pirates, Lake County, Akron, Toledo, Columbus, and Erie all within about two hours; plus Mahoning Valley if we want to try a short-season (we don't, and frankly they may not exist by 2022). Atlantic City gives us the Phillies, Mets, Yankees, Trenton, Lakewood, Lehigh Valley, and Wilmington, plus Staten Island and Brooklyn (meh; I hear Brooklyn's ballpark is nice at least). Baltimore gives us the Orioles, Nationals, Phillies, Trenton, Wilmington, Bowie, Frederick, Fredericksburg, Hagerstown, Delmarva, Harrisburg, and Reading, plus Aberdeen (short-season, blech). Anaheim would give us the Angels, Dodgers, Lancaster, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and Lake Elsinore; but the teams in between here and there are FAR more limited than they would be going back east.

The National also has its hands a bit tied in terms of venues though. From speaking someone familiar with their selection procedures, they need 250K+ contiguous square feet of space, limited union restrictions on setup and takedown, willingness to book two-plus years ahead and not bump it off for something more lucrative, solid presence of hotels and/or public transportation nearby, and a major airport within a short distance. So for everyone asking "DOOD Y U NO PUT IN [insert city here]," that's probably why: they don't meet at least one part of these criteria.

So hopefully Huntington's 225K feet of space is enough and that they have an opening. If not, then it looks like our travel is going to shift to another city.

Well, damn.

I'll have an update on the TTMing soon. Been posting video of them all, but lazy about doing it here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

2022 NSCC Roadtrip? Yes!

Is it too early to start talking about the 2022 National?

We don’t know where anything is going with COVID-19. The 2020 National has already been postponed once. Many are wondering if it will be outright canceled (apparently the Philly Non-Sports Card Show rescheduled for October has already been given the axe).  If it’s still on for December, I’m exploring the possibility of flying up for a couple days of it.  The plans right now are to hold it December 12-16 in Atlantic City-- that’s a Saturday through a Wednesday. If it’s still on, and if people actually do the right thing and mask up and distance themselves from now until then (haha yeah ok), and if we have a new president-elect who actually takes this seriously and has a plan to figure it out, then I may fly up late Friday to Newark, drive down to a hotel near AC, go to the show Saturday and Sunday, maybe part of Monday, and fly out late Monday night.

If it gets canceled outright, do we see some movement with Atlantic City getting the 2021 or 2022 show, thus delaying the trip to 2023 or 2024?

(MID AUGUST EDIT: It got canceled. As of right now, no, they aren't pushing everything back a year. 2021 is still Chicago, so I'm hoping/assuming 2022 is still Cleveland).

Right now, the trip is still on for 2022. Arron and I have talked about extending the 2022 trip by a week if we can.

Another problem: field netting and minor league contraction. We’re still planning on getting crazy with the minor league ‘graphing if we can. But how are teams going to handle the ever-growing scourge of pole-to-plate-to-pole netting? Will they have a few open spots for ‘graphers? Will they do like the Rangers did at the old Ballpark with the over-the-dugout netting and have it at least partially raised until the National Anthem?

And what teams will be there in 2022? Will contraction even take place by then? I’ll be honest with an unpopular opinion: I LOVE the idea of minor league contraction. Baseball does not need three different levels of A-ball and a AAA level that is largely a storage spot for has-beens and won’t-bes. More and more players are making the jump from AA to the MLB level. Contracting the minor leagues will hopefully help to keep teams from wasting time, space, and money on the Zach Cones, Cody Buckels, and Royce Bolingers of the world and perhaps use the AAA level as something more than just a storage spot for veteran replacements for injured players.

Knock out 30 to 60 teams-- have each team get affiliated AAA, AA, High-A (now to be known as just plain A), and Rookie teams (formerly Low-A), with short-season development done via the GCL and AZL teams at Spring Training complexes. Low-A and Rookie ball are redundant when you have High-A and short-season A. Five levels are plenty. Right now we just don’t know who’s in and who’s out-- and don’t give me this crap, it’s not even remotely official and still changing. The contraction will likely be across all levels, which means some cities will need to change levels. There’s talk of demoting some AAA teams and adding others in from Sugar Land, St. Paul, and New Orleans, maybe moving Brooklyn and Bowling Green from A to AA, and more. It sucks for fans of the teams that are cut, but if the contracted teams are truly viable, independent leagues will take them in. Maybe you’ll even see an expansion of indy ball-- speaking of the Cones, Buckels, and Bolingers. Farm systems and affiliation killed the independent minor leagues that thrived from the dawn of baseball through WWII. Maybe this will help bring something of a renaissance for it.

Even if we go by that not-even-remotely-official list linked above, Binghamton, Erie, Lancaster, Frederick, Hagerstown, and all the short-season squads would fit fine into the Atlantic League. Perhaps the New York-Penn league continues its existence as an indy. Beloit, Burlington, and Clinton would fit into the American Association. Daytona and Florida could go to the Empire League to help out the Georgia and Puerto Rico teams to not be so isolated. Lexington, West Virginia, Jackson and Chattanooga could go to the Frontier League. The western Rookie teams could go to the Pacific or Pecos League, and the eastern ones could go to the Frontier, Empire, Atlantic, or the aforementioned newly independent New-York Penn League.

So maybe it’s a little early to start talking about a huge ‘graphing trip, but at the same time I’m seeing stuff from the 2014 National and 2018 National Road Trip coming up on my Facebook Memories and it’s making me antsy. So, let’s imagine that COVID-19 is under control by late 2021, the 2022 National remains in Cleveland,  and teams still make it possible to ‘graph pre- and postgame inside the ballpark. Let’s take a look at some plans…

For the 2018 trip, we left Texas the Saturday before the National started. For 2022, we’re looking at going a week earlier than that. The show is likely to run Wednesday, August 3rd through Sunday the 7th. So I’m thinking we’ll leave Friday, July 22. That way, we can leave maybe at like 6 or 7 pm, drive 3-5 hours, and just get a jump on everything so we don’t have a 10-hour first day the way we did in 2018. We likely will try to limit ourselves to 300 miles of driving per day; so 3-5 hours from here in DFW puts us in Shreveport or Monroe.

So Saturday July 23 would be our first game. If we hold tight to the 300-miles-per-day maximum, we’re pretty well limited from Shreveport-- the Mississippi Braves and the Memphis Redbirds are our only hopes.  From Monroe we would have those two, plus the Jackson Generals as options, and if we violate the 300-mile rule just a little bit, we could do Birmingham or Montgomery, perhaps the Rocket City Trash Pandas if we want to really push it.  I liked Birmingham, but it would also be nice to see another city.  My vote would be either Rocket City, Montgomery, or Mississippi.

Let’s say we push it to Rocket City for a Saturday game (450 miles... oof). Stay there for a night and on Sunday we have a lot of options. That’s why I like having the extra week-- we won’t have to hurry to Ohio and can stay south and east where teams are a lot closer together. Maybe we’ll even get lucky with some two-a-days with a 1 pm game in one city then a 7 pm in another one close by.  Probably not Sunday though: twelve teams all fall in that 300-mile zone but unless it’s some combo of Rome, Chattanooga, and Gwinnett, it’s not happening. But sometime during the weeks, it’s happening. I mean, we did it once in 2018 and had planned to do it twice.

Several teams are 120 miles or less apart from each other. I was going to list them all here, but it’s too many. Arron and I were able to do Cedar Rapids (noon AND ‘graphed postgame) and the Iowa Cubs (7 pm start time) both in one day and they’re 128 miles apart, so I figure that’s a good maximum target distance for any potential two-a-days.

Let’s see how many teams will be in our potential range. I’m skipping Short-Season A and Rookie ball since it’ll be tough to get cards of those guys; granted, some teams may get moved up following any contraction that may or may not happen, but we’ll tackle those once those decisions are made. I’d like to stay north of I-20, west of I-95, south of I-90 and east of I-35 for everything-- both the trip up and the return. I could go a little outside those (Michigan, looking at you with this one) but I wouldn’t want to stray too far. Realistically, we could hit some combination of these teams on the way up and during the show:

MLB: Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, NY Mets, NY Yankees, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.
AAA: Memphis, Nashville, Gwinnett, Charlotte, Durham, Lehigh Valley, Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Toledo, Columbus.
AA: Mississippi, Montgomery, Birmingham, Rocket City, Jackson, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Richmond, Bowie, Trenton, Reading, Harrisburg, Altoona, Binghamton, Erie, Akron
High-A: Fayetteville, Carolina, Winston-Salem, Lynchburg, Salem, Fredericksburg, Frederick, Wilmington
Low-A: Rome, Augusta, Columbia, Greenville, Asheville, Hickory, Kannapolis, Greensboro, Bowling Green, Lexington, West Virginia, Delmarva, Hagerstown, Lake County

On the return, possibilities include:
MLB: Detroit, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis, Kansas City
AAA: Columbus, Toledo, Indianapolis, Louisville, Iowa, Omaha, Wichita, Oklahoma City
AA: Springfield, Northwest Arkansas, Tulsa
High-A: None
Low-A: Dayton, Lansing, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Kane County, Clinton, Peoria, Quad Cities, Burlington, Cedar Rapids

I’d like to try to avoid the non-Ohio ballparks we’ve already seen, but I’m not dead-set on that either. But still, if we can pass up on Birmingham, Lexington, West Virginia, Fort Wayne, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa, I’d like that. I know Arron wants to hit up Quad Cities if possible, and I’m definitely down for that: Chuck Grassley has apparently been told that Iowa, Cedar Rapids, and Quad Cities are all safe (Clinton and Burlington, not so much) after QC was on the original leaked list of possible cuts. Now, that list implied either Quad Cities or Beloit would be on the list, but with QC being declared safe and Beloit getting approval for a new stadium that should save them, who knows what’s going to happen.

Clearly a lot more will go into it than just plotting crap on a map depending on what teams are still around. Who’s at home on what days and at what time; who can we see on the road (gotta maximize the sheer number of teams we get to see-- there’s no sense in going to Bowie if we’ll see them in Akron, for example); what teams will have the most cards for my set needs (don’t forget, the 2021 Heritage sets will be in the 1972 design; I’d like to knock out as much as I can on those); what teams have players we’ll be likely to see in the near figure in Frisco (since we’ll see their AA squads we could eliminate the A-level affiliates of Texas, LA, Seattle, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, St. Louis, and Houston… or we could get them and use that as a time to grab team sets on them for future Frisco use); what ballpark giveaways will be going on. We’d also like to plan some rest days and some activities that don’t involve ‘graphing: maybe a day in Cooperstown, maybe a day out at Cedar Point, laundry time so we can lighten the clothing load, etc.

We learned  a lot about trying to construct the perfect baseball road trip in 2018; 2022 will be a good test for these things. Rest is good and sleep is important. We don’t need a cooler or even many snacks in the car because gas stations are a thing: only buy or bring what you will eat that day. I’m not going to practice the guitar and probably won’t need to do any busking so it can stay home (maybe the mandolin… maybe). Pack fewer clothes, get a roll of quarters, and spend a couple hours doing laundry each week. Stay in a hotel closer to the IX Center, even if it has to be in Parma: it’s not worth it to save $20 a night vs. trimming significant time off driving to and from five days of the show. Have small bills to buy VIP autograph tickets and carry extra cards to get signed; someone is always looking to dump a ticket or two and plenty of people need autographs of guys like Steve DeBerg and Andy Van Slyke to where you’ll have some great trade bait. 

Plenty of things we did worked out well. The small folding stool and water bottle are worth their weight in gold. Pay the extra money for the All-Access upgrade. My big folding map of the show was unnecessary but a notebook to jot down booth numbers is crucial. Buy important stuff early and frivolities late. Grab a minor league box the first day because you’ll undoubtedly pull cards of guys you need at games during the week and the way back. Ride the ferris wheel.

I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. Or on paper. Or really into electrons. So much is still up in the air for the 2022 National, but it’s never too early to start at least considering some ideas and options. But again, going back to my original question…

Is it too early to start talking about the 2022 National?

Yes. Yes it is. My apologies for this Shaggy Dog Story of a post.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Finishing Off July

May may have held the record for most items signed TTM for a bit, but that record has been shattered in July. Here's a list of new personal records now that we're through month #7...

Most TTM sigs in a single day: 37 (July 6, 2020)

Best single month of TTMs: 224 items signed

Best two-month period of TTMs: 374 items signed in June and July

Best three-month period of TTMs: 570 items signed from May through July

All of those come up well short of my all-time record of TOTAL autographs in those categories (131, 270, 528, and 767, respectively), but considering I can't do any IP graphing and even TTMs are starting to see some changes due to the volume of collectors looking for a new project, I feel like those are some nice numbers.

Speaking of new projects, I've been helping a friend who is using TTMs as a summer geography lesson for her kids.  She's started out with just Kansas City Royals (with successes from Mark Gubicza, Greg Gagne, Terry Leach, Kevin Koslofski, Jerry Don Gleaton, Jim Eisenreich, Rick Luecken, and Jeremy Guthrie all coming back in under two weeks so far) but plans to expand out to other teams soon.

Anyways, here's the rest of my month after the previous entry...

Mark Teahen, c/o Sorso Wine Room, 4/4, 2 months
John Gordon, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks
Damian Rhodes, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Wallace Johnson, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
David Maley, c/o home, 4/5, 2 weeks (did not sign Fleer Throwbacks or explain why he won't sign it)
Bob Rodgers, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

David Segui, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Keegan Thompson, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month

Rich Becker, c/o home, 4/4, 2 months (postmarked from FL)

Steve Smith, c/o home, 6/4, 3 weeks (wrote back a short note and signed protective index card)
Lenny Randle, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks

Steve Searcy, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Mike Peluso, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week

Charles Hudson, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month
Sergei Gonchar, c/o home, 6/6, 1 month (postmarked from TX)
Jose Cruz, c/o home, 2/2, 1 week (paid $3 each)
Scott Pearson, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week

Olaf Kolzig, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Rick Schu, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

Dustin Hermanson, c/o home, 4/4, 6 weeks
Steve Trachsel, c/o home, 3/4, 1 month, returned one unsigned

Jim Slaton, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks
Rem Murray, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Jerry Reed, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

Mark Kerlin, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month
Jeremy Sowers, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month
Don Robinson, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Marty McInnis, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Wayne Rosenthal, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Kevin Romine, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

Clint Malarchuk, c/o home, 3/5, 2 weeks, kept 2 cards
Troy Loney, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Troy O'Leary, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Bryn Smith, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Rob Mackowiak, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks
Kevin Miller, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

Ryne Sandberg, c/o home, 2/2, 6 weeks (paid $5 each)

Lastly, I forgot to mention I did a second appearance on the TTMCast podcast back in early June. Make sure you check it out (as well as all their other episodes)!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

June and first half of July update

If you've subscribed to my YouTube channel you've likely seen these already. But June was a month almost on par with May for quantity of success and July is shaping up to be similar.

My daily success streak ended at 25 days on June 9, but I did manage to set a few more personal records: most autographs obtained TTM in a day, second highest number of individual successes in a single day, second fastest response, most TTM autographs in a two-month span, and working on most in a three-month span.

I've mailed out a ton and have even more ready to go soon. I should likely break my record for most mailings in a single year as well: I sent 357 in 2017 and I'm at 226 this year. I should be close to 300 by the end of the month. I could potentially hit 400-700 this year if I keep this up.

Made a bunch of trades too, adding to several of my sets.

And, if the current pandemic is manageable by December, I'm considering a trip to the National-- just for a weekend and not the full five-ish days. I can fly here to Newark late on Friday for $200 roundtrip, drive two hours down to AC, and stay outside the city in like Millville or Vineland and go to the show Saturday, Sunday, and maybe even early Monday, flying out late Monday.  We'll see. Being close to Philly and NYC, perhaps the hockey content will be better than that of the Cleveland shows.

Anyways, the TTM recap...

Billy Sample, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks

Dan Pasqua, c/o home, 3/3, 3 weeks

Don Hood, c/o home, 4/2, 2 weeks, added two signed photos, personalized all
Keith Lockhart, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Jim Palmer, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month, $10 each fee
Steve Braun, c/o home, 2/1, 1 month, wrote note back, $4 fee
Dan Ford, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Dan Peltier, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Richie Scheinblum, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks
Bob Grich, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks, $5 fee

Don Aase, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month
Ricky Bones, c/o home, 3/4, 2 weeks, kept one card

Lee Guetterman, c/o home, 5/4, 1 month, added signed card

Willie Fraser, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks
Terry Leach, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Buck Showalter, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month

Kelly Holcomb, c/o home, 2/2, 2 months
Dave Goltz, c/o home, 3/3, 1 week

Mike Paxton, c/o home, 3/2, 2 months, signed protective index card
Bruce Gossett, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks

Ted Power, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month
Dave Lemonds, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks
Vance Law, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

Buddy Groom, c/o home, 4/4, 5 days

Joe Morgan, c/o home, 4/3, 1 week, wrote note back
Art Howe, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Mario Marois, c/o home, 6/6, 6 weeks 

Jay Howell, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Bill Mueller, c/o home, 3/3, 2 months
Ed Hobaugh, c/o home, 3/2, 2 weeks, signed letter

Bob Bailor, c/o home, 4/4, 6 weeks
Pat Neshek, c/o home, 4/6, 2 weeks, kept two cards

Rich Amaral, c/o home, 5/5, 7 weeks
Dave Johnson, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Scott Terry, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Anthony Telford, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

Don Gordon, c/o home, 5/4, 3 weeks, added signed card
Rick Kehoe, c/o home, 2/2, 1 week
Bob Tewksbury, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Jim Johnson, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Alexei Gusarov, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

Vincent Damphousse, c/o work, 4/4, 2 months
Brad Jones, c/o home, 3/4, 2 weeks, returned one unsigned
Yuri Khmylev, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

Kip Gross, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Tyler Stephenson, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks
Eddie Tucker, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks

Vida Blue, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month, $10 each fee
Chris Hammond, c/o home, 5/5, 3 weeks
Drew Henson, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Tim Stoddard, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Dimitri Khristich, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Mark Sweeney, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Phil Stephenson, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Jim Eisenreich, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks

Bubba Starling, c/o home, 2/2, 3 weeks

Jose Tabata, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Jamie Moyer, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

Bob Weiss, c/o team, 3/5, a year and a half, kept two cards

Saturday, May 30, 2020

April Showers bring May Flowers

And Mayflowers bring pilgrims. And I had a record setting number of cards make a pilgrimage to my mailbox this month!

My last entry I mentioned being in way over my head with the combination of the 1972 project, All-Time Fan Favorites sets, and Diamond Kings; so much so that I almost decided to completely end my work on all but the 72s and trade off what I had.

Instead, no. I'm going to keep working on them, but they're definitely getting de-emphasized. When it comes to paying for players who charge to TTM, the 1972 sets come first. Then the others second. I'll still keep trading and just working on freebies and cheapies any time I can.

Sometimes you just need a momentary freakout to really clear your head.

With the fact I'm a Moderator In Training at SportsCardForum, I was asked by their assistant GM if I might make some TTM success videos. This has now turned into an entire YouTube Channel. Check it out and subscribe!

I also added on a few moderators to the Facebook groups I run.

With the fact that I'm still working from home through the current pandemic, my wife was able to get unemployment since both of her jobs shut down, and we got our Donnie Dollars, I decided to go ahead and mail off a ton of TTM requests. Several tough signers have started picking up the pen, and a few long waits have come back to me. Overall, I got 193 sigs by mail, which breaks my previous single-month TTM record of 177 set in November 2017. That month saw me set three other personal records (Most TTM successes in a day, then did it again, and most total TTM sigs in a day) but never saw a streak of more than six delivery days in a row with a success.

This month, no records for most in a day, but I've only had two delivery days without a success (with an 18-delivery day streak rolling into June) and the quality has been incredible.

Charlie Hall, c/o home, 3/3, 1 week
Carl Hairston, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks

Luke Walker, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks - 1972 Set Hit!

Cleo Miller, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Rance Mulliniks, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week
Russ Courtnall, c/o home, 3/5, 1 week, kept two cards

Lonnie Chisenhall, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks
Ruben Amaro, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week

Dave Schmidt, c/o home, 5/5, 1 year - DK Set Hit!
Jose Lind, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks, paid $1 per

Kurt Stillwell, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks - DK Set Hit!
Paul Assenmacher, c/o home, 3/4, 3 weeks
Mike Fischlin, c/o home, 3/4, 2 weeks

MAY 8-9
The only two mail delivery days with no successes...

MAY 11
Kevin Maas, c/o home, 5/5, 2 years - ATFF Set Hit!
Jim Lachey, c/o home, 4/4, 3 weeks
Sal Bando, c/o home, 2/2, 3 weeks - 1972 Set Hits!
Steve Bono, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week

MAY 12
Clay Carroll, c/o home, 2/2, 1 week, paid $5 each - 1972 Set Hits!

MAY 13
Rick Mirer, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

MAY 14
Elliott Maddox, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks, paid $5 - 1972 Set Hit!
Cleon Jones, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks, paid $10 each - 1972 Set Hits!
Steve Kemp, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

MAY 15
Rick Wise, c/o home, 4/3, 2 weeks, paid $5 each, he added an extra card - 1972 Set Hits!

MAY 16
Tim McCarver, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks, paid $10 - 1972 Set Hit!
Andre Ware, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks - Heisman CIC Set Hit!

MAY 18
Alex Dickerson, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks
Ben Petrick, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks
Erik McMillan, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

MAY 19
Lou Piniella, c/o home, 2/2, 1 month, paid $5 each - 1972 Set Hits!
Roberto Hernandez, c/o home, 6/6, 3 weeks 
Harold Baines, c/o home, 3/3, 1 week, paid $10 total - DK and ATFF Set Hits!
Terry Adams, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week
Bill Swift, c/o home, 6/6, 1 week

MAY 20
Jim Acker, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week

MAY 21
Ken Singleton, c/o home, 1/1, 2 weeks, paid $5 - 1972 Set Hit!
Franklin Stubbs, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks
Mark Chmura, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
John Friesz, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Craig Paquette, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

MAY 22
Jeff Andretti, c/o home, 1/1, 3 weeks
Ken Oberkfell, c/o home, 6/6, 2 weeks

MAY 23
Fredrik Modin, c/o home, 4/4, 2 weeks
Jeff Ballard, c/o work, 5/5, 2 weeks
Willie McGinest, c/o home, 5/5, 2 weeks

MAY 26
Steve Garvey, c/o home, 2/2, 9 months, paid $5 - 1972 and DK Set Hits!
Jean-Guy Talbot, c/o home, 4/3, 5 months, added a signed photo
Bryan Oelkers, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month
Denny McLain, c/o Top of the Mound Enterprises, 2/1, 3 weeks, paid $5, also signed protective index card - 1972 Set Hit!
Lee Elia, c/o home, 1/3, 2 weeks, returned two unsigned

MAY 27
Michael Cuddyer, c/o home, 1/1, 3 weeks

MAY 28
Jeremy Guthrie, c/o Texas Houston South Mission, 4/4, 1 week, kept a card, wrote short note back

MAY 29
Jermaine Allensworth, c/o home, 5/5, 3 weeks
Dave Ford, c/o home, 3/4, 3 weeks, kept a double
R.A. Dickey, c/o home, 1/2, 1 week, kept one card - 2013 72 Mini Set Hit!

MAY 30
Broderick Perkins, c/o home, 3/3, 1 month
Juan Marichal, c/o home, 2/2, 2 weeks, paid $10 each - 1972 Set Hits!

So if you're scoring at home, that's 19 new sigs added to the 1972 Topps set, one added to the 2013 72 Minis, four Diamond Kings, three ATFFs, and a Heisman Index Card.

And that's only the TTMs.

I've started listing my entire tradeable signed card inventory on SCN just to see if I can get a few bites. It's a hell of a process. We're talking nearly 5000 in baseball alone, another 3000 or so in hockey, and a bunch in basketball, football, auto racing, and indoor soccer. And there's no way to just upload the entire list as a spreadsheet or anything. We're talking player by player.

But boy have I ever gotten some bites...

I worked a few trades and purchases on SCN, ABC Unlimited, eBay, and Facebook.  So far, I've gotten three for my ATFF sets (Tommy John and two Maury Wills) and two for 1972 (Dusty Baker and a likely-ghost-signed Joe Coleman that's at least a decent placeholder and was just a throw-in on the trade), plus I bought several signed Indians cards of Brandon Phillips. You may know he refused to sign Indians cards after being traded from them in 2006 (a policy he kept at least until 2010 and I haven't heard anything of him changing it in the last ten years).

I'm awaiting shipment on several 1972s that I bought through a long-time collector on Facebook (Tim Foli, Moe Drabowsky, Bob Lemon, Paul Blair, Duke Sims, Phil Regan, Bob Barton, Jim Fregosi, Tommy Davis, and Mark Herrmann); a 1972 Don Eddy from a trade with a collector via SCN/Facebook; DKs of Kevin Seitzer and Keith Moreland plus a 1972 of Marty Pattin from a trade with a friend via Facebook; a 1972 Bruce Kison via a SCN trade; and a John Smiley DK from eBay.

So once those are done, I'll be getting another 13 1972 sigs, and three DK sigs.

And I'm working on another potential deal for some DKs right now. A collector on SCN has eight I need, and I have ten 1991 Upper Deck needs of his...

The YouTube channel is likely going to get a lot of content put on it, even when I don't get any TTMs. Maybe a couple videos on advice for how to write letters, IP graphing etiquette, my sets, my collecting biography, spotlighting other channels and podcasts and forums and such, and anything else that comes to mind.  Maybe if I get enough subscribers, some live streams and chats just showing off some items in my collection.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

April report, and ... a thinning of the herd?

Obviously, I have no IP reports to talk about. But I hit the mailing hard at the end of the month and plan to do so in early May as well.

Orland Kurtenbach, c/o Canucks Alumni, 3/2, 4 months, wrote a short note back

Luis Melendez, c/o home, 3/3, 5 months

Gene Alley, c/o home, 3/4, 5 months, returned one unsigned

Tom Tupa, c/o home, 4/4, 4 years

Keith Millard, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week
Charles Nagy, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week
Reggie Cleveland, c/o home, 1/1, 1 week, paid $2 signing fee
Will Wilson, c/o home, 5/5, 1 week, personalized all

Chris Perez, c/o home, 4/4, 1 week
Bobby Witt Jr., c/o home, 2/2, 1 week
Goose Gossage, c/o home, 1/1, 1 week

Charlie Hall, c/o home, 3/3, 1 week
Carl Hairston, c/o home, 3/3, 2 weeks

From April 20-27, I've sent off 45 requests. I have enough stamps to send 55 more domestically, plus 20 outgoing stamps for international requests. One is going to Japan. I also have about $100 in cash to get some players who charge.

And that leads me to something I'm thinking about. I might decrease my number of sets I'm working on.

I don't plan to give up on the indoor soccer or hockey sets. I'm super close to being done on all of those. Football, Nascar, I could go either way on those.

But the baseball sets are pure hell. The 1972 Topps set has 787 cards and when you include all the multi-player cards, it'll take 863 sigs to complete (this includes a random cardless player/coach/owner/broadcaster/organist on the team card, and an umpire on each checklist). I have 383 at last count. I'll never complete it-- I mean Mays, Aaron, and Mike Marshall, all want well over $200 per sig, plus Clemente, Don Wilson, Jim McGlothin, Danny Frisella, Danny Thompson, Bob Moose, and Thurman Munson all died before 1980. And I plan to hit the 2021 Heritage sets super hard too-- by which I mean the regular, high numbers, AND minor league sets.

I also have been working on the 2003-2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites sets. 442 cards in them. I have 183 signed including several now deceased. But again: Mays, Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and several others who charge way more than I can afford, plus several deceased that I never got. I'll never finish it either.

And I've been doing the 1982-1991 Diamond Kings because clearly I am a masochist; not even going to get into those.

Maybe it's time to scale back and drop the ATFF and DK sets. There's a LOT of trade bait in there-- Ernie Banks, Nolan Ryan, Yogi Berra, Jim Bunning, Don Sutton, Alan Trammell, Sparky Anderson, Ernie Harwell, Fergie Jenkins, Whitey Herzog, Goose Gossage, Harold Baines, Wade Boggs, Brooks Robinson, Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, Ralph Kiner, Ryne Sandberg, Monte Irvin, Tony LaRussa... and that doesn't include the non-HOFers like Joe Carter, Dale Murphy, Jim Kaat, Johnny Pesky, Don Zimmer, Jose Canseco... I think you get my point. And I didn't even touch on the DKs (Canseco, Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Tim Raines, Ivan Calderon...).

I hate giving up on a project that I've sunk so much time, effort, and money into, especially when the 1972 is a comparatively recent thing for me (I started the ATFF sets in 2007, the 1972 Topps set in 2014, and the DKs around maybe 2016). But sometimes you just have to know when to turn your attention to something a bit more viable. At the very least, maybe someone will be willing to trade my ATFF Fergie Jenkins for their 1972s, my ATFF Brooksies for their 72s, something like that. I don't know. It's not official yet, but I'm giving it some major consideration.

Meanwhile, expect to see a lot more of me (screenname of *censored*) at SportsCardForum. I've become a made man... err, I mean a moderator there. I have a training period to go through first, but I'm on my way moving up the ladder there. With that, I'm going to be adding a few moderators to the Facebook groups in which I'm an admin (Baseball TTM Autographs; Ballpark Graphers; Baseball Autograph Traders) this weekend.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March Report

Despite quarantines and all the hilarity that has not ensued, I've hit a couple nifty milestones this month. I completed a set and harpooned a white whale.

I've also been forced to probably cancel the West Texas trip as it appears there won't be any baseball until at least July 4.

Anyways, a quick report...

Frank Stams, c/o home, 5/4, 3 and a half years; wrote a short note back

Dion Phaneuf, c/o parents' home, 4/4, 3 months

John Van Boxmeer, c/o home, 3/2, 4 months; also signed protective index card

Dmitri Bykov, c/o team, 2/1, 2 and a half months; also signed protective index card

Yes, you read that correctly: I got a TTM success to and from Russia! I figured that of the final 11 I needed for Topps Total that Bykov might be the last one I get. He only spent a year in the US and played in Boston (where I lived at the time) before the card came out. So I never had the chance to get it signed myself, and I knew no one who had gotten it signed. The postal system in Russia typically sucks so I didn't think TTMing would be possible. But when I found he was coaching a team in Moscow, I figured that was worth a try (apparently mail to Moscow and St. Petersburg is decent, but it's highly questionable anywhere else).

So, pro tip if you send to him, address your envelope in both English AND Cyrillic. It should look like this...

Dmitri Bykov                  | Дмитрий Быков
HK Krasnaya Armiya            | ХК Красная Армия
CSKA Ice Palace               | Ледовый Дворец Спорта ЦСКА
Leningradskyi Prospekt 39/41  | Ленинградский Проспект 39/41
125167 Moscow                 | 125167 Москва
Russia                        | Россия

Your SASE can be in English alone. But do yourself a favor and GET PROPER POSTAGE FOR IT!

I went on eBay and got a 45-ruble stamp. It cost me about $3 and it had to be shipped to me from Moldova, but it was worth it, clearly. Your outgoing envelope needs a US Global stamp (runs something like $1.20).

And so with that, I sit at 10 cards remaining for the Topps Total set: Paul Kariya, Jason Allison, Mike Richter, Mark Messier, Todd Bertuzzi, Tommy Salo, Lubomir Sekeras, Espen Knutsen, Miroslav Satan, and Andrei Nikolishin. A friend in Finland has my Nikolishin card hoping to get him with the KHL team he is with, and I have someone who may be able to help with Bertuzzi. Satan has been known to sign occasionally TTM, ditto on Richter, Salo, Sekeras, and Knutsen (though I have failed on all at least once). I think I can safely say that my white whales now are Messier and Kariya; as one would expect. Allison may be the third-toughest.

I put a few posts out on Facebook and Instagram hoping for some trades. And I got even better: Mike from Minnesota helped me out with the last card for my 2008/09 Upper Deck Rookie Class set, sending me the signed Steven Stamkos card that graced my mailbox today. So I'm now at three complete sets...

My hockey want list now sits at 50 cards. I may have help coming on as many as 15 of them from various trade talks and even a long-running 50/50 deal.

Lastly, I made my return to the broadcast booth a couple weeks ago, calling games for the Texas Open Floorball Tournament in Arlington. The games were originally going to be broadcast online, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the broadcast crew was unable to make it, so we tried to cover the games as best we could with a three-person crew, a camera, a computer, and a couple mics. As soon as they're on YouTube, I'll post some links here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

February Recap, and a trip preview

As expected, it was a light month.  On the positive side, the guitar amp is out of the shop and sounding incredible. So barring any unforeseen expenses, I should be back to mailing out pretty soon. We're also only a month away from the start of baseball season, so Frisco runs should start happening pretty soon too.

FEBRUARY 1 – Dallas Renegades Practice
Lance Dunbar, 3/3
Eric Dungey, 2/2
Landry Jones, 4/4
Frank Alexander, 1/1
Daryl “Moose” Johnston, 3/3
Greer Martini, 2/2
Sean Price, 1/1
Hau’Oli Kikaha, 4/4
Derron Smith, 2/3
Bob Stoops, 1/1
Tre Watson, 2/2

Rick Wilson, c/o business, 1/1, 1 year

Brad Maxwell, c/o home, 4/4, 1 month

Ken Holtzman, c/o home, 1/1, 1 month

Terry Labonte, c/o home, 4/4, 10 months

Ryan Reed, c/o team, 3/3, 10 months

I'm also looking at doing another graphing mini-trip with Arron in early June. We can catch Corpus Christi at Midland, Las Vegas at El Paso, Salt Lake City at Albuquerque, and Midland at Amarillo all in a four day span on June 3 through June 6. So that's pencilled in on the calendar. It's a good holdover until the 2022 National trip.

Speaking of that, we're now less than a year away from the 2021 Topps Heritage set being released with the 1972 design. I plan to go nuts on this set with TTM and IP and trading to get as much signed as I can in the base set, the high-numbers set, and the minor league set. I already have an improbable piece of work with the 1972 set project; I might as well add more to the Sisyphusian task.

Help me out here fans/collectors: what's my best way of doing this? Buy a hobby case? Retail case? Blaster case? Just grab a few complete sets off eBay? Snag a bunch of base lots from people breaking cases? Maybe a combination of a blaster case plus a box or two of hobby or retail?

I'm not looking to make a killing on inserts or SPs or anything like that, but I'd like at least two complete base sets, preferably three or four just for an overabundance of preparedness. And I'd like to do it in the most cost-effective way possible, knowing I'll have to lather-rinse-repeat in the fall with the high-number and minor league sets.