Okay, there are 9 days left in the year and 9 months left to recap. Coincidence? You better damn believe it. I’ll try not to bore you by just playing out the string on these TTM Reports either. There are certainly other things to post. For now, let’s plow through the April returns – there are only 6 here, not a full 16 like as in March.
Dave Owen: 2/2, 36 days
Right off the bat we’ve got another baseball brother! You may have noticed an uptick in these types of requests in 2022, and you’d be correct to note that. I did try to target more baseball family members in my requests. Of course, I’ve since made my own custom card design for baseball families, and by “made a design” I mean I came up with a front and have let the backs languish in purgatory, which in turn has meant that this trend actually tapered off for the time being. I should really get back to those. Anyway, you’re probably more familiar with Dave’s little brother Spike, who had the more significant career of the two.
Gene Garber: 4/4, 18 days
This was a super-duper return from the rubber-armed pitcher who famously ended Pete Rose’s hit streak. Just look at what’s here! A delightfully cheeky 1981 Fleer! A beautiful 1978 as well, and those 1983 Super Veteran cards are always fun. I’m glad I finally hauled out his cards to write him.
Cecil Fielder: 1/1, private signing
This is the only private signing from the month, and I jumped on it because it was at a fantastic price. Cecil was a super slugger of my childhood, and he’s the first player I can remember who went off to NPB and then came back. Oh, and of course he’s also a baseball dad! This card is just too damn cool, and I need to find a way to replicate this design.
Bobby Jones: 1/1, 20 days
The first non-baseball return of April was another basketball Hall of Famer whose card was tucked into my Sportlots order. Bobby Jones was a famously charitable and honorable defender, held in the highest esteem by his peers. He was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight times, with an additional second team selection and picked up the Sixth Man of the Year award in 1983, when his Philadelphia 76ers brought home a title. On playing defense, Jones went on the record saying that anything other than an honest approach would have been unacceptable.
“If I have to play defense by holding on, that’s when I quit,” Jones said early in his career. “If I have to use an elbow to get position, then I’m going to have to settle for another position. And if I foul, or if the official makes a mistake, there’s no use screaming about it. It won’t change things or make me happier.”
Jones was also a member of the silver medalist 1972 USA Olympic basketball team, and was finally enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. He’s a willing signer, but appears to have a 1 card per request limit, if you’re inclined to write him.
Guy Fieri: 1/1, 45 days
The second non-baseball return in April? Oh come on, he needs no introduction, dude. This one was just too much fun. I picked up the A&G card in a TCDB swap. I’ve come full circle on Guy: his shtick is less shtick and more full-throated enjoyment of life. I can appreciate that.
Vern Law: 4/4, 35 days (with donation)
Alright, the last return in April was a whopper, at least by my personal standards. I’ve met Vern Law once, some 20-odd years ago, and written him before as well. However, I wanted – no, I needed to get this 1985 Topps Father-Son card finished off, and so I’d piled up a few fun cards to send his way in the process. A lovely 1965 Topps dupe? Check. A rad 1979 TCMA NPB issue of him as a coach for the Lions? Check. A beautiful 1993 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes triple-folder? You better believe it. Vern not only signed for me, but also loaded me up with inscriptions, and answered my questions at length! I’m particularly fond of the star he drew on the father-son card, but every one of these is a winner in my book.
Here are some highlights from his responses to my letter:
What are your favorite memories from your time in the game?
A: Being the starter for the 1960 World Series… Also pitching against the Milwaukee Braves – Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, etc. on 2 days rest.
Who had the biggest impact on your pitching, and how?
A: My pitching coach in Davenport, Iowa Bill Burwell. My brother Evan, who was my catcher in high school, Am. Legion, & Santa Rosa. He kept me in shape during the winter months.
Who were some of your favorite teammates?
A: I loved all my teammates, but Smoky Burgess was my roommate on the road and my catcher in the Big Leagues.
What was it like to coach in Japan?
A: I really enjoyed working with the players, who [were] anxious to learn the American way. I’d give thumbs down to management. Too much like being in the Service (military).
How did it feel to see Vance become a ballplayer?
A: I was thrilled to see him wearing a Major League uniform. He was a dedicated hard worker from day one when he picked up a baseball.
What do you enjoy most about baseball?
A: Just wearing a major league uniform and competing against some of the greatest players during that era. Also the camaraderie of my teammates.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen in baseball?
A: How the game has changed from what I call the Golden Days of Baseball. The way they manage the game today, how many pitchers they use during the game – pitch count of 100 pitches or 6 innings, whichever comes first.
So that’s the half-dozen returns that floated my way in April: three more family men, a Cy Young winner, a home run hero, a chef who lives full tilt, and a basketball Hall of Famer, all on some stupendous cardboard. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go construct the cat fort for our porch cats. Y’all stay warm!