Alright, I had mentioned needing to maintain a “post every other day” pace in order to get myself caught up to the present and have the February report filed on time. Well, I let that pace slip and now I basically need one a day to stay on track. December 2020 was quite a month, and while January 2021 didn’t quite match it in terms of quantity, there were still a solid dozen returns which slid into the mailbox. That’s a busy month by my standards. I’ll stop yammering and start showing off already, I know that’s why you’re here. That, or you’re a kind soul who still feels compelled to read this drivel even though I basically stopped posting for two years.
Harrison Bader: 1/1, 39 days.
All hail the high socks brigade! Bader is a fun player to watch, a speedy feller with a flowing mane and some charisma. That’s enough for me to count this as a nice little pickup. He’s a 1-card-per-request guy and personalizes, but it’s always cool when the active players are signing – and have a real signature!
Nate Colbert: 1/2, 35 days.
Holy heckin crap! Nate started signing out of nowhere! The man who still holds the Padres franchise record for most home runs (163) began his career with Houston, and I’ve always thought that I’d need to shell out for his autograph. To my great surprise, this came back! I sent an Astros custom as well, but he only signed one. I need to finish that custom off – it’s my 1968 Topps replica and I haven’t made a proper back – and write him again. This was an outstanding return!
Royce Lewis: 2/2, 28 days.
Lewis is another hot prospect who’s been fairly good about accommodating autograph requests. The Twins made him the first overall pick of the 2017 draft, and even with the weird anomaly that is 2020, he looked to be on track for a 2021 debut. An ACL tear derailed him just two months after I received this, though, and he missed all of last season. Still, the future looks bright for this kid.
Mike Ivie: 2/2, 16 days (with fee).
Phew, Mike is a guy who’s stay with Houston was short and whose Astros cardboard is scant. I despise fascmile signatures on designs, but I finally decided that I ought to just go with this 1982 Topps. Fortunately, there was a delightful 1981 Fleer to send with it, and I happily plunked down his $5 per card fee to finally add Mike to the Astro-graphs binder and my 1981 Fleer page.
Milt May: 3/3, 46 days.
Speaking of Astros-Giants players, I’m fairly certain this Milt May return came in the day after Ivie’s return. Milt is a ballpoint guy, apparently, which makes for a bit of an underwhelming addition to his cardboard, but is still a nice little signature. The ‘76 replaces his “brim shot” from 1974 which held his Astro-graphs spot. I had picked that one up in a trade a while back. I was also able to add two more of my favorite sets in here: 1981 Fleer and 1983 Topps. The Fleer is with its brethren, while the rather swell looking 1983 Topps card is in my Baseball Bloodlines pages, as Milt is the son of former Phillies third baseman Merrill “Pinky” May. Milt never played for Philly, but he started and ended his career across the state with the Pirates.
Luke Gregerson: 4/4, 22 days.
This was also a really nice return! Luke put in solid work for the Astros for a few years. I’m afraid he suffers the same fate as most pretty good relievers – a disrespected public opinion due to availability bias. So many non-star bullpen guys endure no more than a typical number of lumps, but the bad ones stand out in the minds of the fans. We’ve got two pretty good looking flagship cards here (2015 and 2016), as well as a solid Heritage card from 2017 in the mix. That last one replaced his 2016 Heritage in the team binder, eliminating a “sig over fake sig” situation, which I hate. But wait – that says 4 items, and there are only 3 cards here. What was the fourth item?
That would be this 2017 World Series cachet, which I’d previously had Jake Marisnick sign in person! I’d really like to add to this one. If there weren’t a lockout, I’d be hoping to add a name or two at the Astros Fan Fest or Winter Caravan. I literally just realized that I’m not going to get to enjoy those this year due to the lockout. Oof.
Roger Metzger: 3/3, 25 days.
Speaking of big items, I added a second signature to the fun 1971 team headshots “photo” I picked up at the February 2020 TriStar show, with this Roger Metzger return! I really need to devote a little more time to this project. A few of these guys have left us in the recent past, but there are a lot of names on here who are good signers: Miller, Rader, Forsch, Billingham, Dierker, Griffin, Lemaster, Culver and Hiatt – and maybe even Larry Howard down there. Who should I send this to next?
Along with the “team photo” I’d sent a solid 1978 Topps and a copy of the Astrodome card from the 2014 Heritage Baseball Flashbacks* inserts. Metzger was the first solid long-term shortstop Houston had. Well, solid with the glove at least. He spent eight seasons with the club, beginning a long tradition of light-hitting glove-first fellers to fill the five hole.
* I still want more copies of that card, by the way! Let me know if you have extras of it or the ‘Dome insert from 2014 Ginter!
Steve Pearce: 2/3, 194 days.
This was another “wait, THAT GUY is signing now?” return here with two out of three cards coming back from Steve Pearce. I’m a little bummed he skipped the third, which was a 2019 World Series highlight card from 2019 Heritage featuring his heroics. Still, this was a lovely addition to the Astro-graphs pile, and I do rather enjoy getting those 2015 Stadium Club cards inked. Also, that a Phiten necklace appears in both shots is positively hilarious.
Bob Scanlan: 5/2, 17 days.
Yowza! There were more returns than I remembered for sure! I offered these extra customs to Bob, who said welp, guess I’ll sign all four of them!
I remember Bob as a lanky bullpen guy whose autograph I’ve had for 25 years at this point. Unfortunately for me it was stuck on a Brewers card, as that’s all I could find of him in my youth. Bob never did get any Astros cardboard, so I found a nice shot of him in action, tongue clenched in his teeth, and whipped up one of my customs. Bob’s got a big loopy signature that looks great across the card, and I’m pretty happy to finally upgrade his slot in the binder.
Travis Driskill: 2/2, 8 days
When I take the time to make up a custom, I often go on a little spree. After all, it’d be kind of silly to print up a full page of one guy. Travis Driskill was one of the names I’d seen who needed an Astros card, so he made it into the batch with Scanlan. This one came back on a very quick turnaround!
Jack Howell: 3/3, 547 days.
This return from another short-term ‘Stro of my youth took nearly eighteen months to make it back to my mailbox. Needless to say, I’d written this one off for a while, which was a bit of a bummer – it had taken me a while to find a spare copy of Jack’s 1998 Pacific Online card, his only appearance with Houston. I love this broken little set – such an eyesore in so many ways and yet it still managed to get a lot of the fringe guys into the checklist. Jack answered some of my questions, telling me that his favorite memory was a broken bat homer he hit in Yankee Stadium. He also answered about the strangest thing he’d seen in baseball: “My broken bat HR, LOL.”
Dan Majerle: 3/3, 13 days.
We’ll close out January 2021 with a non-baseball return! I found more cool Dan Majerle cards while pulling some basketball cards for a trade a while back, and decided I ought to write him again. The Team USA card is pretty swell, and that 92-93 Upper Deck of him going up to the hoop is a great shot. Basketball cards are full of ridiculous action shots. I really like this design with the banner as well – I’ve been thinking I ought to try and recreate it.
So, just over a year later, I have finally posted about what arrived in January 2021. That’s a full dozen returns, with five new Astros (one being Colbert on the Padres card), three Astro-graph upgrades (Gregerson, May, Scanlan), a World Series MVP, a franchise stalwart, some hot prospects, and a man who could drain three pointers with the best of them. All in all, a great month!