May is almost over, so how about I finally post about the TTM returns from last May? There were several fun things that came back with ink on them!
Tom Grieve: 1/1, 6 days.
First up on the docket is Ben Grieve’s dad! Tom and Ben are not only a baseball family, but also the first father-son duo to both be selected in the first round* of the draft. The Senators made Tom the sixth overall pick in 1966, and Ben was the second overall pick by Oakland in 1994. I actually have an auto from when I wrote Ben as a kid, so this completes a baseball family from my checklist. Tom played ten seasons, was involved in baseball’s first four-team trade, and went on to the Rangers front office after hanging up his cleats, serving as the GM from 1984 to 1994.
*I believe that they also held the distinction of highest-drafted major leaguers for a family, until Bobby Witt Jr. debuted this season. Bobby Sr. was a #3 pick and Bobby Jr. went #2.
Miguel Tejada: 1/1
The second inked-up card of May came via a reasonably priced private signing for Miguel Tejada. He’s one of the more notable modern names I had been missing from the all-time roster, and I had been starting to doubt the feasibility of picking up a signed Astros card somewhere other than eBay. Miguel was part of the post-Killer B’s decline days, when the lineup was peppered with respectable names** but the team couldn’t put it together across the long season. Pitching might have helped. This was a nice name to scratch off the list!
**Berkman, Tejada, Kaz Matsui, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn
Eric Anthony: 3/3, 15 days.
I remember this one distinctly, as a few returns from Anthony had started making the rounds on Twitter. Sure, I had an Anthony autograph in the binder, but it was a secondhand pickup signed in ballpoint, and not my first choice of card. It was filler, picked up at the right price at the right time. The opportunity to get an actual return from this outfielder of my youth caused me to pull out my dupes and immediately write him. I was delighted to add this trio of fun cards – the ’91 Studio made the Astro-graph binder – I’m sure Nick will like that.
Ivan Rodriguez: 1/1
This was one I knew I’d have to shell out for at some point, and by the looks of it I’m glad I did. Most of you probably had no idea that Pudge was once an Astro, but he opened the 2009 season with the club before being traded back to Texas in August, getting into 93 games with the club. This one-year wonder knocked out one of the final remaining Hall of Famers I need from the roster. Pudge needs no introduction, but I’ll remind you that in his 21-year big-league career he was a 14-time All-Star, 13-time Gold Glover, 7-time Silver Slugger, MVP winner, and a World Series Champion with the 2003 Florida Marlins – for whom he played just 51 more games than he did for Houston. Oh, and thanks to a TTM return in 2019 from his son Dereck, I finished another baseball family!
Tim Raines Jr.: 2/2, 9 days
This return hit a few sweet spots for me. First of all, it allows me to highlight the fact that sometimes, just sometimes, Topps gets it right – like this excellent Jr./Jr./Jr. rookie prospect card from 2000. In addition to Tim Raines Jr., this also has Gary Mathews Jr. and Garry Maddox Jr. – that’s just fun. It also fills a slot from my 1999 Just set, one which I took around on our big baseball roadtrip and got several signed when it was new. I’ve been quasi-chasing it ever since, and I love when I can add another autograph to it. Heck, I should build it a page just like I did with 1981 Fleer. I’ll add it to my list of never-ending projects. Oh, and this also completes a baseball family, as I got Tim Sr. via a private signing a few years back! A veritable trifecta of fun right here.
Haywood Jeffires: 3/3, 9 days
While I’ve dropped several non-baseball requests in the mail this year – and received several back – those were a rarity for me in 2020 and 2021. These Haywood Jeffires cards had been tossed in the “write ’em someday” pile ages ago, and I can’t speak to just what led me to pull them out. Jeffires dates to the days when I casually watched football as a kid, and I recall him being one of Warren Moon’s favorite targets. This was a pretty sweet nostalgia hit when I opened the envelope.
Juan Marichal: 2/2, 25 days.
The final return of May was the big one. Sure, Ivan Rodriguez is one hell of a Hall of Famer, but I think most of you will forgive me for being more excited about this return from the Dominican Dandy. I love the character of the 1970 Topps card, with its misprint and pinhole. It was one of the earliest HOF cards I picked up, if I remember right. The other option was just too good to pass up, documenting Marichal’s dominance over the hapless Houston Colt .45s in 1963 as he no-hit them on June 15, 1963, allowing just two walks (Spangler in the 4th, Aspromonte in the 7th) in a 1-0 win. He struck out the final two batters of the game, Pete Runnels and Brock Davis – the last one looking.
Sidebar: Dick Drott actually pitched a fine game for Houston that day, allowing a single to Willie Mays in the bottom of the first and not allowing another until Jim Davenport led off the bottom the eighth with a double. He got two more outs, then surrendered his third hit of the day, a double by Chuck Hiller which plated the only run. Drott then got Felipe Alou to pop out to finish the eighth.
So yes, it was a fantastic month of maildays last year! We’ve got two Hall of Famers, two new important Astro-graphs, one Astro-graph upgrade, four baseball family members (Marichal has a big-league cousin who was born two years after he retired!), and one football player of my youth. What a month! This means I can finally try to get under a year’s worth of outstanding TTM Reports. We’ll see if it happens. I’d like it to.