Oh man. So much for staying on top of things and catching up on the backlog in 2020. I feel like that’s the constant refrain of the beginnings of my posts. At any rate, I have a dozen folders of package days – not a dozen trades, mind you, but days when trades arrived – that need to be blogged, and that’s only 2020 stuff. Now, most of those are small trades, but I was supposed to be staying in step with those, and I haven’t even managed that. Whoops.
But, let’s get back to a thing I mentioned, oh, six weeks ago? When I was looking back at autographs acquired in 2019, I realized that I sent to several more private signings than I initially remembered. While I love TTM autos and in-person ones most of all, these are great ways to knock out holes in my ambitious Astro-graphs project, and pick up a few other notable names. So let’s have a look at whose scribbles I got via commission in 2019.
These were the first ones of the year. Well, of the baseball season, that is. I believe there were a couple others in early 2019, but they had already been blogged. Former Astros and Mets (among other teams) Sid Fernandez and Dave Magadan were both appearing at the White Plains show, and were both relatively cheap* pickups. I found a gentleman on SportsCollectors.net who was attending the show and had posted them as private signings, and leapt at the chance, since neither has been reliable via TTM for a while. Sid was especially cool to add, because that 1997 Stadium Club is his only Astros card. Two more names down!
*If they aren’t cheap, I don’t tend to pick them up, but there are occasionally exceptions.
There are a few SCN members who know former players that head south to visit family and friends, and will regularly coordinate a dozen or so private signings on a trip to the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, or somewhere else. That’s how I wound up with these two beauties, which came via a Sid Monge trip. Castilla is one of those big names that took a brief stop in Houston. He was released by Tampa in May of 2001, having hit .215 in 24 games. The Astros decided he was worth a flyer, and from mid-May through the end of the season he hit .274/.320/.492 with 23 homers, 28 doubles, and 82 RBI in his 122 games with the club. He leveraged that into a two-year contract with Atlanta and wound up playing 5 more seasons. I nabbed Vinny’s sig for a scant fifteen bucks! At that price, adding in Mario Mendoza was a no-brainer. He was another stop on Sid’s trip, and getting my ’81 Fleer signed by The Line was just too good to pass up.
If you’re a regular reader, then you’re probably already familiar with my love for 1981 Fleer and have seen me mention how great they look signed. Welp, when a cheap Omar Moreno signing popped up for eight or ten bucks, I decided that not only would I get his 1983 Topps Traded card signed for the project, but that I also would add his ’81 Fleer to the mailing. I’m really happy with how these turned out, he’s got a lovely and unique signature. That M is a real nice flair. Moreno spent 97 games with Houston in 1983 as a light-hitting center fielder, and picked up a ring with Pittsburgh in 1979, when the speedy leadoff batter hit .282 and led the National League with 77 stolen bases, a year after leading the majors with 71.
Within days of the Moreno signing, the same user was also having a signing with Bake McBride: 1974 NL Rookie of the Year, member of the 1980 World Series champion Phillies, and sporter of some legendary hair. I think this one was in the fifteen dollar range, and I couldn’t help but send in this card to get yet another 1981 Fleer, a ROY, and cardboard icon all in one.
Speaking of cardboard icons, this card was a consensus favorite for one of the top cards of 2017 out among the blogosphere. I heartily agreed, although I believe I submitted the 2017 Topps Now card of George Springer making a catch that sucked the air out of the Yankees in game 6 of the ALCS, because I saw that catch and heard the Yankees fans around me deflate. At any rate, a very affordable signing with Rock popped up in 2019 (thirty bucks, I think?), and when I couldn’t locate his 1981 Donruss card (it’s somewhere in storage), I eagerly sent this along in order to add another HOFer to the ranks. It’s a little hard to see in the scan, but this is an absolute beauty in hand.
The final signing I sent in to in 2019 was pitcher Bob Knepper, seen here on an impeccable Mother’s Cookies card – a nice wholesome card from a wholesome company, not like those dreadful Topps monstrosities* that were corrupting our youths. I love how the MC sets are ripe with pitchers with bats. Bob spent 9 years with Houston before closing out his career with two seasons back in San Francisco. That included an excellent 1981 season in which he went 9-5 in 22 starts, with 5 shutouts, a 2.18 ERA, and a 1.06 WHIP, earning him the first of his two All-Star selections.** He led the NL with 5 more shutouts in 1986, before leading the league with 17 losses the following season, when the Astros hitters could push any runs across the board.
As for the bat, Bob was not your typical abysmal pitcher when at the plate. In his 15 seasons and 982 plate appearances, he smacked 115 hits and drove in 59 runs. That includes 28 doubles, two triples, and six dingers! I’m not sure which is more impressive, the triples or the homers, to be quite honest.
* I’m not sure if this still holds, but Knepper wouldn’t sign Topps cards for a long spell because he disapproved of Garbage Pail Kids.
** Both of these were with Houston, the latter coming in 1988.
Alright! Five Astro-graphs, a HOFer, a ROY, and The Line! Not a bad haul at all. Time to start catching up on trade posts now. Maybe I’ll have something posted by March.