I say this a lot, but I really do mean it: I would like to become a more consistent blogger. Not necessarily an everyday blogger, but I’d like to keep up with the fun stuff in a timely manner. It’s been pretty busy around these parts, and when I’ve had free time I’ve been pouring myself into other projects – several of which still need to get posted here!
I’m going to try to kick-start that catch-up process with some more of these TTM Reports. At the very least, I’ll get these already-prepped drafts out of the way. I made a little goal to try and write 1 request per day for the year. I’m behind on that, of course, but I’ve written a lot of people! So there have been a lot of returns to go along with that, which you’ll get to see across all these posts to come.
For now, let’s take a look back at February. I started off the month with a few returns from private signings.
Mike Felder: 1/1
This is admittedly an Astro I’ve put off for a long time. Felder has long been available for a modest fee, so when someone dropped a signing on SCN, I thought to myself, “well, I should probably just knock this one out already.” It certainly didn’t hurt that the organizer had another Astro I needed in line for a signing around the same time.
Mike played in 899 games across 10 big league seasons, primarily for the Brewers, and worked his way into 58 games for the 1994 Astros, the last stop in his major league career, having been acquired from Seattle in exchange for Eric Anthony. Oh, and some pitching prospect named Mike Hampton – one of my favorite Astros of the late 90s, arguably the better Mike in the trade. The first card I think of when his name comes up is a very nice 1993 Upper Deck card depicting him bolting out of the box while sporting throwback digs for the Giants. It’s great. Then, of course, comes the trio of 1992 cards of Felder laying down the same bunt, also in Giants throwback digs: Score, Topps, and Upper Deck. Mike got onto a few Astros cards, and the one I think about most is the 1994 Collector’s Choice card depicting him in a rundown. He’s got a nice 1994 Leaf as well, which I don’t have dupes of, and his last MLB card is this 1995 Fleer. I pulled out this and a copy of the Collector’s Choice card, and the more I looked at this thing, the more my twisted brain enjoyed it, and that’s how I settled on a card from one of the most audacious sets in history.
Rafael Ramirez: 1/1
That other private signing from the same organizer? Well that was infielder Rafael Ramirez, who has lots of Astros cards. This 1991 Stadium Club was the clear winner when I thumbed through my dupes, though, and it’s a fabulous example of just how cool and revolutionary this inaugural set was. Two signings, two new Astro-graphs!
Julio Franco: 1/1
The third private signing featured the ageless wonder himself! As a kid, I adored Julio Franco. Prior to interleague play, my Astros never played the Rangers, and so there was room in my heart for the stars of that other team up north. Even at the beginning of interleague play it was a mostly friendly rivalry. Then the Rangers got good and their fans became disrespectful jerks while we were mired in our darkest hours. But I digress. Julio rules, and I’m of the belief that he could still probably suit up and rap out some hits today. I got to add some ink to his wonderful 1994 Bowman card, which I have loved for a long time. Julio has a nice signature to boot! I have to admit I was a tad worried about what it might turn out to be. This is just awesome.
Alright, that does it for signings this month. Everything else from February was a bonafide TTM request.
Chris Bassitt: 2/2, 17 days
Um, it is just insane to think about getting back on a mound after taking a comebacker to the dome, much less in the timeframe with which Bassitt did so. I already liked the talented righty, and he put up quite a season in 2021 for Oakland. Then the A’s dealt him to New York, and he turned around and had another great season for the Mets. This one was pretty darn cool – when I saw he was signing my mind immediately leapt to the 2020 Topps Gold parallel I knew was stashed in my traders.
Vernon Maxwell: 2/2, 17 days.
I have tried to work in some more non-baseball requests this year – primarily some of the basketball and football HOFers who sign for free or dirt cheap. Vernon Maxwell is not a Hall of Famer, but the legend of Mad Max runs deep here in Houston and if the Rockets ever start a franchise Hall of Fame he should unquestionably be a part of it, even if only for the continued trolling he gives Jazz fans on Twitter. When I saw that he was signing I rifled through the Rockets cards which I’ve held over from my youth and found a few beauties to send. I was ecstatic when these came back. That Skybox set is legendary, the 92-93 Upper Deck ribbon is gloriously understated, and the 93-94 Upper Deck has a beautiful finger roll and comes from our first championship season. This was my second non-baseball return on the year.
Matt Duffy: 1/1, 17 days
This Matt Duffy, not that Matt Duffy, played for the Houston Astros. That Matt Duffy is still punting around the big leagues and high minors, but this Matt Duffy is not. Instead, he’s got a baseball academy in Massachusetts these days. That’s where I sent this 2016 A&G card, which came out rather nicely. That’s a new Astro-graph!
Dick Hughes: 1/1, 7 days
The next return brings us a delightful name, and a wonderful signature. Dick was a young stud who finished runner-up to Tom Seaver in the NL ROY voting and led the Cardinals to the 1967 World Series. Unfortunately (as was the case with so many pitchers decades ago) an arm injury ended his career far too early, and he was out of baseball before the Seventies came around. In that 1967 season Dick went 16-6 with 12 complete games (including 3 shutouts), striking out 161 batters and leading the NL with a 0.954 WHIP (and a rate of just 6.6 hits per 9 innings pitched).
Buck Martinez: 2/2, 10 days
Wait, Marc – where’s the 1981 Fleer? you ask. Well, my ’81 Fleer went missing in a failed prior attempt, but I landed two nice cards here. Young Buck on the left almost looks like a child. Buck’s spent a lifetime in baseball – playing, managing, and broadcasting. He was originally signed by the Phillies, and was later selected by the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft in 1968. Houston would flip him to Kansas City at the end of the year, where he’d break into the bigs in 1969.
Trevor Rogers: 2/2, 15 days
This lefty starter may have finished with 7-8, but he quietly put up a damn fine season for the mired Marlins in 2021. He made 25 starts for Miami, striking out 157 of the 550 batters he faced (a 10.6 K rate) and posted a 2.64 ERA. Those landed him an All-Star selection and second place in the NL ROY voting. I’d had it in my mind to try writing him when I pulled this wild-ass parallel from 2021 Chronicles and that sealed the deal for me. This puppy SHINES, it is glorious in hand.
This last return from February clocks in as the third non-baseball success of the year, and boy, is it a doozy – for me at least.
Alexi Lalas: 2/2, 32 days
This one is just wild to me. Like, I cannot even believe that he signs. Sure, he’s not a soccer God, but for a soccer-playing kid in the US when the World Cup came here in 1994, he may as well be a soccer god. He was loud and lovable and we all wanted to be him. Even writing this post some 8 months later I’m still kind of shocked that this came back. Alexi played all-out – and the “fiery red-head” stereotype probably helped play up his reputation. There are a few other guys from the ’94 team whom I’d like to get, but somehow none are quite as memorable as Alexi, though they were arguably more talented (John Harkes, primarily). Man, this one was cool.
Alexi made 96 caps with the national team, scoring 10 goals in international play. He played for the team in the ’92 and ’96 Olympics, in addition to that ’94 World Cup, and was on the roster for the ’98 World Cup but did not see any playing time. Alexi was selected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2006, so that makes this another HOF autograph for the collection!
So let’s do the breakdown: that’s 10 returns for February – three signings and seven TTM requests. We’ve got three new Astro-graphs, a Rockets legend, two ROY runner-ups, the oldest person to homer in MLB, and a HOF soccer hero from my childhood! That’s a lovely month, but as I’ve hinted at there are many more returns to come. Maybe I’ll get around to posting them pretty soon.