Alright – we’re still over a year behind on these, but if I keep that momentum rolling, I’ll be on-time with the February report. What happened in October of 2020? Well, there were a couple private signings, and a lot of Astro-graphs in the mail this month! Let’s get to it.
Manny Sanguillen: 1/1
First up is a private signing. I’d wanted a Sangy autograph for a while, so when a reasonably priced signing came up with him I rushed to pull out a card. His best looking card is probably his 1968 rookie, but this 1972 is great, especially given his role in the World Series.
Rick Ankiel: 2/2
This was another private signing which took care of a fella I’ve wanted for a long while. I remembered Ankiel’s meteoric rise when he first started – he seemed to fare especially well against my Astros. His battle with the yips and comeback as a fairly good outfielder made the desire for an autograph even more desirable, and when he exploded in 2013 Spring Training, earning an opening Day roster spot, that turned the want into a need. Ankiel wrapped his career that year, but after his monstrous Spring Training he didn’t fare well at the plate and his stay lasted only 25 appearances. The Mets gave him a shot after that and he got into 20 games before retiring. He earned no Astros cardboard, but I’m quite pleased with this custom and his lovely signature.
Will Harris: 3/3, 21 days
Well this one was quite a welcome surprise! I figured it was gone for good when I dropped it in the mail, as my prior attempts at getting Will had been unsuccessful. To my delight he signed a 2016 Topps as well as his Starchives cards from 2018 and 2019, keeping the extra copies I sent. That’s a pretty nice sig, too! It looks like he signs as William.
Max Stassi: 8/5, 26 days
Max Stassi blew will out of the water, though, signing two regular cards – his 2014 Heritage rookie stars and a 2018 Topps card which I rather like, and the 3 Starchives I sent him as well as the extra copies which were offered to him to keep. This covers his 2018 and 2019 “base” cards as well as a game card from 2018, highlighting a tag play he made at the plate on April 22, 2018 against the White Sox, which saved the game.
Randy Cardinal: 3/2, 160 days
Hey look, more customs! This one is a backless version, reimagining the 1962 Phillips “Here Come The Colts” magazines as cards. I finally committed myself to making these into a full set – I’ll have more on that in a future post. Randy signed a spare copy which is currently waiting in a trade pile for Billy (Astros A to Z), as well as his 1963 Topps Rookie Stars quad-card, Cardinal’s only real card with Houston outside of the Jewish Major Leaguers set from 2003. Dave McNally is the actual semi-star featured among these prospects. It’s always a nail-biter sending off old cardboard, so I’m very happy this one came back.
Troy Snitker: 1/1, 38 days
Here’s another Starchives success! There were a lot of these which came back in October. With the season winding down, I buckled down at the beginning of September and dashed off a dozen or so of these requests, including several Astros coaches. Assistant Hitting Coach Troy Snitker was the first of the coaches to make it back to me. I suppose this one qualifies for my Baseball Bloodlines project as well, though Snitker never saw big league time, as his dad is the manager of the reigning World Series Champion (ugh) Atlanta Braves. I found this photo combing through 2019 game galleries. I can be rather meticulous in doing so, and this is actually from a road game gallery against Oakland. The photographer there seems pretty thorough, and when I found this shot I breathed a big sigh of relief – I figured a photo Snitker would be pretty hard to find and that I might be forced to resort to his Spring Training shot.
Joe Espada: 1/1, 42 days
Here’s another Starchives success from an Astros coach! It pays to fill that hopper. Bench Coach Joe Espada moved on to the Yankees in 2021, but I was able to add him to the Astro-graphs binder before he did so. This is a nice shot of him watching BP before a game.
Josh Miller: 1/1, 47 days.
Like I said, there were several coach returns this month! This one features Assistant Pitching Coach Josh Miller, who will likely take over as the main pitching coach in the wake of Brent Strom’s retirement. This card is another example of finding a difficult photo among the game galleries. Landing three new coaches in a row like that felt pretty great!
Ben Francisco: 2/2
Alright, here’s the third private signing of the month. This one popped up for cheap, and so I dashed off to the ol’ interwebs to find a nice photo of Ben to use for a custom. As I often do for short-term ‘Stros like this, I reached out to my fellow Astro-graph hunters Billy and Wendy. In this case, the spare is for Wendy. Ben’s got a nice little sig with some flair to it!
John Edwards: 8/5, 9 days
The final success from this month was another packed envelope. I’d come into a spare 1970 Topps card of Astros catcher Johnny Edwards, and had also come across a nice shot of him while photo hunting, which I’d turned into one of my Wilson Franks style customs. I sent him a spare copy to keep, which he did. I also like the accidental ‘stache he’s given himself on that ’70 Topps.
Johnny also included his standard set of extra black and white photos. This is my second set of these, since it is my second time writing him. I figured these might get included, but wasn’t sure if he would bother to send them along because of the other items I’d sent.
And just what were those items? Well, it was a trio of oversized items, two of which I’d picked up at the February TriStar show. That 2020 show from two years ago is still the last card show I’ve attended, and unfortunately I’m going to miss its return this weekend, so the streak will go on. But that’s beside the point – first up are a pair of horizontal items: a team photo from 1970 and a super cool composite team roster from 1973. Edwards is the first signature I picked up on both of these – I’ve since added a ‘Stro to the ’73, but I should probably put a little more effort into getting some more ink on these. The large format makes mailing a bit of an extra exercise, but it can be worth it. The blue around the borders here is some painters tape, which holds the photo to a backing board in order to protect it during its travels.
The third oversized item is an illustrated 8×10 which I stumbled across at the TriStar show – from the same dealer in fact. There were several more players with illustrations like this, so it seemed that perhaps they were issued throughout the year at games. These date back to 1971. I’d picked up a copy of the Edwards and another player or two in anticipation of sending them out for autographs. This turned out rather nicely!
Phew! What a month! I told you at the top there were quite a few returns. For those keeping score, that’s one golden era ‘Bucco and nine Astros, including SEVEN new Astro-graphs in the bunch: Ankiel, Cardinal, Espada, Francisco, Harris, Miller, and Snitker. Stassi is also a nice upgrade over his prior entry in the binder, a hand-glued copy of my 1984-ish customs I made several years ago. I’ve never quite been happy with that design. Perhaps if I get caught up (lol) I’ll eventually revisit that, but as I mentioned in the middle here – I’ve already got a custom set (or several!) in the works.