When this post was a freshly formed draft, I noted that if I was successful in catching up on my TTM Reports, then this would be published right around the beginning of February.
It was not. But, the train rolls on! I’m going to work hard to be caught up by the end of July. I’ve only got 6 more of these to file until I’m once again on time, and I should be able to sprinkle these nicely throughout the rest of the month, along with some other things I want to cover. So let’s travel back in time a bit, to the beginning of this year, and see what hit the mailbox!
Jorge Soler: 3/2, 272 days.
When this showed up, I was both delighted as well as disheartened. You see, Jorge had a big role in the Braves dismissal of my Astros in the World Series, demolishing a baseball in Game 6, and hitting two more in the Series en route to capturing the World Series MVP Award. I sent this to Royals spring training, so finding a return was a bit of a surprise, as I’d figured it was gone. The rookie card was a nice get, and that 2019 Topps is probably one of my favorites from the set. The Royals are the first team I can recall wearing gold trimmed uniforms after a World Series victory, and I kinda like how they just continue to roll them out there.
Clay Bellinger: 1/1, 30 days.
Return two was another World Series “hero.” Clay Bellinger, father of fellow World Series winner Cody, made a great catch which “saved the day” in Game 2 of the 2000 Subway Series against the Mets. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure this would have been a double, not a dinger. Still, Clay had a much more successful career than I, and he checks another baseball family name off the list. I wonder if I could ever add Cody. I probably should have bought low last year.
Dick Nen: 1/1, 17 days.
Return three of January is another baseball dad! This time it’s Dick Nen, whose Senators moved West to become the Rangers and later on signed his son Robb. Robb turned out to be pretty good! Dick had a 12-year career in pro ball and got into 367 games in the majors across 6 seasons. His best year was 1965, when he hit a nice .260 in 69 games for Washington, driving in 31 runs in the process. He couldn’t keep the batting average up, however.
Jeff Darwin: 2/2, 19 days.
Here’s another family man – there’s going to be a lot of that happening this year, if you hadn’t caught the theme, as I put a bit of focus on baseball bloodlines. This time we have a baseball brother! While I was well aware of Danny (aka Dr. Death) and his lengthy career, I had no idea his little brother Jeff existed, let alone made the majors. Jeff and Danny were born 14 years apart, and he related that it often felt more like a father/son relationship due to the gap, but they were briefly teammates at the end of Danny’s career. I’ve had Danny’s autograph for decades, so this one finishes off a family!
Kelly Gruber: 5/4, 38 days.
Kelly is a native Houstonian, whom I recall as a prime third baseman for several formative years of my early baseball fandom. He’s got a beauty of a signature, and even signed my letter, along with answering my questions. It’s really hard to pick a favorite among these cards. The Diamond King looks exquisite and clean, with the blue sharpie popping sharply amid the white of the jersey and the yellow background. The ’91 OPC Premier is just an excellent set, and getting one signed by a player on a Canadian team is icing on the gateau. That ’93 Donruss is a great action shot and again leaves a great space for the autograph to pop. The final card is from a 1993 McDonald’s set put out by Donruss, highlighting moments in the Jays history, and has my favorite photo. It highlights a 1989 moment when Kelly became the first Blue Jay to hit for the cycle. He also completed what should have been a triple play in the 1992 World Series. Alas, there was no replay review, and the ump blew the call. Kelly mentioned it in his reply.
From the questions Kelly answered:
Favorite moments: “Winning the World Series, of course!”
Favorite players as a kid: Cesar Cedeño, Doug Rader, Buddy Bell, J.R. Richard
Biggest impact on how he played the game: Pete Rose, Kirk Gibson
Strangest thing he’s seen in baseball: “The ’92 World Series with Deion Sanders triple play, where we clearly got 7 outs and were credited with only 2 outs!”
Seriously, go watch the play if you haven’t. Kelly’s got a bit of hyperbole in his answer, heh, but it’s a clear out. Unfortunately Kelly’s big-league career ended with just 18 games in 1993, while he was putting up nice production for the Angels, as he retired due to a degenerative disk in his neck. He’d attempt a comeback in 1997 with Baltimore, getting into 38 games in AAA Rochester before hanging up his spikes. It’s a shame, really. Heck, Kelly put up 14.4 bWAR in just 3 seasons from 1988-1990. But I digress – I’m very happy with this return. I just dug up an 8×10 of him, so I may have to try one more time. If I decide to do that, I’ll probably whip up a custom of some sort.
Bob Cousy: 1/1, 10 days.
The final return from January slipped in at the end of the month: legendary Hall of Fame point guard Bob Cousy. It’s my second time writing this legend, and I’m honestly amazed he is still signing – and without a fee! This one comes with a personalization: “To Marc – Best Wishes” is the inscription. This is from the 150-card 1996-97 Topps Stars set which had three cards each of the NBA Top 50 list, which had been decided upon the prior year. I have one more card of Bob from this set, and I have half a mind to drop it in the mail soon.
If you’re on Twitter and would like to follow along a bit closer to real-time, I do have a rolling returns thread for the year, and have actually kept up with it! You can start with this tweet about the return from Mr. Cousy – the thread broke above that, but you just saw everything that arrived beforehand.
Hopefully that thread will have many more returns before the year is out. I set a goal to send out one request a day – a goal both accomplishable and slightly insane. I’m a ways behind, but I tend to fire off requests in spurts. I’ll provide an update on the numbers when I do the February report in a few days.