Bagwell's Hall Bound!

It's finally happened! As I'm sure you're aware, the Hall of Fame results were announced this evening, and my boyhood hero finally received a well-deserved and long overdue phone call announcing his election. Congratulations Jeff!

In celebration of this fact, I went hunting through my Bagwell collection for any Hall of Fame related inserts. Surprisingly, there were only a few of these - I seemed to recall more, but this was all I found. Plenty of cards mention Jeff's potential in their blurbs, and I have many fantastic inserts of him, but these three were the only ones to directly reference Cooperstown.

First up: 1998 Leaf - Heading for the Hall Sample #2

Next is 1999 Topps Chrome - Early Road to the Hall #ER8

Finally, we've got a jersey relic! 2001 SP Authentic - Cooperstown Calling Game Jersey #CC-JB

Well Jeff, Cooperstown has finally called. If your shoulder had held up for another season or two, I think you would have gone in by your second ballot at the latest, but as it is you still hung them up as one of the top five first basemen of all time. You were a two-time 40/30 man, won the 91 NL ROY,  94 NL MVP,  and had four All-Star selections, three Silver Sluggers, and a Gold Glove. Not to mention you were perpetually underrated for your defensive and baserunning abilities, and racked up 449 homers, 448 doubles, 1529 RBIs, 202 SB and 79.6 career WAR. I know you spent the last few years playing the, "it's nice if I ever make it," card of politeness, but I'm so happy that this dream has finally come true for you.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this former Astro also got a call to the Hall today - as well as Tim Raines, thank goodness! There aren't many cards of Pudge in Houston out there, but for some reason in the past few years Topps has decided to start putting out more. This one comes from 2014 Triple Threads, and is a lovable PWS, numbered 13/18. To be honest, I thought Pudge would probably have to wait another year to get elected.

I'm going to bed a happy camper indeed.

 - Bru


Overdue Treat: A Quick Package from Gavin

Let's do a little more catch-up, shall we? Here's a quick post to acknowledge some cards that came in from Gavin last year.

This treat came in just in time for Halloween. Yeah, I might have been a little busy. There were certainly some more cards, and many filled holes in the collection, I remember that much. But these were two of the highlights from the package for me - a great Bowman rookie insert of Richard Hidalgo, and an autographed Aaron McNeal for the Astros signatures and relics collection. The Hidalgo card is actually ridged across it and pretty shiny.

McNeal never made it to the big leagues, with a 10-year minor league career that saw him reach Triple A. His time in the Astros system saw him hit AA before being traded to San Diego during Spring Training in 2002 for Cristian Berroa, a shortstop prospect who also never saw time in the majors. Currently, McNeal runs a training academy with former big-leaguer Dan Meyer.

Thanks Gavin! Sorry I never got around to posting sooner.

 - Marc


RTA's Goals for 2017

This post was almost titled "Collecting Goals for 2017," but my number one goal is actually to get rid of cards. With divestment at the top of the docket, I'm hesitant to use the word collecting. So let's instead talk about what I do hope to accomplish with my cards and this blog over the course of the next year.

1. Get rid of a lot of cards. This one is pretty simple - I've got a lot of cards that I no longer want/need in my collection, and I (and my wife!) would be much happier to see them go to someone who will appreciate them. I've got a good start in the works, with three long boxes of cards pulled earmarked for trades and about 400 cards already sent out this year. I'm going to be really ambitious here, and make this a three-part plan.
  1. Get rid of all my football and basketball cards. (I have a handful of each I'm saving, but other than that they've gotta go).
  2. Get rid of 1,000 cards per month.
  3. Stretch goal of getting rid of 18,000 cards this year.
I'm also trying my best to build the bulk of my trades at a high cards sent to cards received ratio. Several of the trades I've made so far have been at a nice 5:1 clip. Considering that I'm only getting in cards I want, that's pretty great.

2. Limit my spending. This one is pretty self-explanatory. We've got a baby on the way, after all! Don't expect me to buy much of anything 2017.

3. Scan my Bagwells. I've thought about tackling this for a while. According to TCDB, I've got 921 of them, and I know there are a few that aren't listed. A few a day would get this done.

4. Post more frequently. Consider I posted for a couple weeks at the beginning of 2016 and could then count all my posts on one hand, this shouldn't be too hard. I have a few series of posts that I'd like to do, though:
  • Sharing my Bagwell collection. I need a good name for this series, so suggestions are welcome.
  • Post series for a few of the random PC's I have underway: "Hallo Spaceboy" (Bill Lee), "Almost Perfect" (Harvey Haddix), and Ellis D (Dock Ellis).
  • Consistent TTM recap postings.
  • Keeping up with trade postings.
5. Keep that TTM train rolling. I've been having some great successes lately, both with my Astro-graphs project as well as other players. I've begun loosely targeting HOFers, award winners, and pitchers who threw no-hitters.

6. Astro-graphs project beyond 50%. Currently, I'm at 42.86% of players who have appeared in a game for the Astros (plus some coaches and broadcasters), with 38.4% of those in a Houston uniform. I'd like to cross that 50% threshold this year. The stretch goal would be to get the in-uniform guys above that number. I got some nice big names in last year, including a few from private signings like that Doc Gooden at the top of the post. Talk about a short-term stop! Doc pitched in one game with Houston in 2000, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings before being sold to Tampa Bay. Yep, sold.

7. Follow your blogs more! I get pretty bad about keeping up with this. I'd like to maintain a better following of your blogs if I can. 

Alright, that's enough for now I think. Have a good one, and here's to a great year.

 - Marc

Trading Place: No Longer Waiting

First off, congratulations to Tom and all the other Cubbies fans out there on your World Series title. I hope the end of the 2017 season will allow me some further fraternity with you once Houston's completed their championship run.

You'll know this is an overdue trade post because when these cards came in, Eamus Catuli was still titled "Waiting 'til Next Year." He only had to wait a couple weeks longer, though. I'll admit, Game 7 was one of the most incredible games I've ever seen, and I may have been pulling for Cleveland just so as not to upset the natural order of the baseball world (and winning at home, with all the twists of that game, it would have been amazing), but at the same time I was just as happy to see the Cubs take the series.

Back in October Tom must have been building up that good playoff karma, because a nice little package came in unannounced with all of these great Astros cards. I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites.

Let's start with a pair of my favorite hometown pitchers when I was growing up. I always dug Harnisch, and Drabek just seemed like a pitching wizard, with his flowing mullet and that intimidating mustache. Nice cards here for sure.

Then we have a pair of slugging outfielders that came up at the end of the 90's: Richard Hidalgo and Lance Berkman. Yup, Lance originally came up as a slim left fielder. Young Lance cards are some of my favorites.

Tom also sent along another Astro-graph for the collection. I've already got a Felipe Paulino, but I didn't have this Paulino. Thanks Tom!

There were a great many Biggios in the package as well! These were all new to the collection. I really dig the Century Legends and Ionix cards. As a lover of shiny things, late-90's Upper Deck products often make me happy. Plus, there's that Pacific mini!

Of course, there were some Bagwell cards in the package too, much to my delight. There were many that I needed, these are just a few of the great ones.

But my favorites were these two bold Upper Deck issues. Ionix and HoloGrFx were just fantastically crazy shiny wonderthings, and while there are those who will pan shiny cards, I just think they're great. This wild Black Diamond insert is very nice as well.

Thanks again for all the cards Tom, and congratulations again to your Cubbies. Sorry if I was pulling the other way, but I was really pulling for the drama. I kid you not, I called the Rajai Davis HR when he was announced to bat. I wish I could be that clairvoyant all the time.

 - Marc


New Year, More TTM Returns!

Boom! It's another post here at RTA. That makes two in less than two weeks. I'm cool with that schedule.

By the way, I'm still trying to unload a boatload of cards - perhaps a skiff or dingy's worth. I've got about 70 trades I'm trying to cook up over at TCDB, so head on over to my profile and see if there's something on my trade list you're interested in, and help a guy out.

In baby preparation news: it's a girl! So in anticipation of that, the nursery is set to begin taking shape. Hence, the card clear-out. I may not be able to grab them quickly, but I am very open to dealing them.

Ok, time to talk about some returns! I've had a few nice ones come in lately.

1. Jose Cruz Jr.: 3/3, 35 days.
You've probably already figured this one out, thanks to the card at the top of the post. I'd been meaning to write Jose Jr. for a while now - he works for MLBPA and responds to requests there. However, Jose Jr.'s time with Houston was short, a brief stop at the end of his career that we all hoped would work out better than it did. As a result, he never had an Astros card. I finally have a nice custom format that I love now, thanks to these that I've been based on the old 1954 Wilson Franks design, and after some photoshop work, this was ready to send out. I'm pumped to have some nice cards signed by him, given his otherwise great career, his dad's legacy with the team, and his performance here in college for Rice.

2. Jack Hiatt: 2/1, 10 days.
Hiatt was a catcher with Houston from 71-72, and valued for his defense. Another Astro off the list!

3. LaMarr Hoyt: 3/3, 19 days.
LaMarr won the 1984 AL CY Young Award after turning in a 24-10 season with a 3.66 ERA and only 31 walks in 260 2/3 innings. 

4. Ed Kranepool: 3/3, 20 days.
Ed's often remembered for his contributions to the Miracle Mets that won the 1969 World Series. He turned in an All-Star season in 1965, and was Mr. Met before there was ever one. He was on the original '62 team, and stayed with the franchise until he retired in 1979.

5. Dusty Baker: 5/3, 325 days.
I sent these to Dusty at Spring Training back in February. I'd all but written these off, but was very excited to see them hit my mailbox recently. I got a ticket signed by dusty at an Astros game some 15 years ago, and many people now know Dusty for his managing career (and his tendency to overwork pitchers). But Dusty had a fine 19 year big-league career, hitting .278 with 242 homers, over 1000 RBIs. His hardware includes the 1977 NLCS MVP, two All-Star selections, a World Series championship with the 1981 Dodgers, two Silver Sluggers, and three NL Manager of the Year awards. He also signed the two index cards I include with every request (for card protection), which is a nice bonus.

6. Dave Nicholson: 4/3, 12 days.
Dave's always been on my short list as someone to write, as he's a habitually quick responder. He spent parts of two seasons with the Astros, and while he didn't hit many homers, he hit big ones. He's known for a 573-foot monster that cleared Old Comiskey's left field. The ball either cleared or bounced off the roof of the next building, as it was found in the street. Dave signed both of the customs I made, even though I offered one for him to keep.

7. Bobby Richardson: 2/2, 17 days.
Richardson, a lifetime Yankee, was instrumental to the team's success in the 50's and 60's. His performance in the 1960 World Series earned him the series MVP award, despite the Pirates thrilling game seven victory thanks to Mazeroski's homer. He's still got a beautiful signature, and responds quickly to autograph requests, always including a religious tract about Mickey Mantle.

Alright, more to come later - including some quick trade posts! I've got some cards scanned and just need to find some time to type.


I'm Back! Merry Christmas!

Hi again! I know you all wanted something special for the holidays, so I'm happy to let you all know that RTA is back. You'll get to read droves of drivel about Astros cards and my autograph adventures once again.

Ok, so maybe it wasn't at the top of your list, but I do hope you'll enjoy the blog being active once again. I'm certainly looking forward to catching up on your collecting adventures.

Huge things have happened here in Houston recently. I wrapped up my MBA two weeks ago, and finally walked that stage after two straight years packed with classes. Gonna brag a little here, but I finished with a 3.85 GPA and earned a Dean's Award, though it hasn't been explained what that means. Now the job hunt can begin.

More notable than that, however, is that there is a Baby Bru on the way! Yes indeed, we're expecting in May. In fact, in just a few days we'll find out whether the toys will be pink or blue.

That means that I'm shuffling plenty of things around, and still looking to unload a huge portion of cards. I've got stacks building for a few of you, and would love to get plenty of these out the door before too long.

I've refocused my collecting efforts on Astros, a few select PCs, and whatever vintage may float my way. One thing's for certain: my card budget is basically zero now, so I'm not too worried about new cards.

Autograph collecting brings me a great deal of joy, though, so that's where I've chosen to spend my time this year. My mailbox has seen 160 returns this year, with a week still left on the calendar! On top of that, there were several opportunities to pick up autographs in town throughout 2016, and I made significant progress in my Astrographs project. I'll do a tally before the end of the year, but I think I added close to 100 signatures this year. There have been some really fabulous additions, including that 1987 Topps Team Leaders card of Yogi Berra in the upper right. Berra spent a few years as an Astros coach in the '80s, which overlapped with his son Dale's time with the club. He was fairly instrumental in developing a certain young man by the name of Craig Biggio, who I believe went on to do pretty well for himself in the baseball world.

I really do have so much that I want to share with you, but for now I'll just stick to the autograph returns that have rolled in this week. One of the things I started chasing was Award Winners (MVP, ROY, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, Reliever of the Year), so you'll see a few of these guys in the mix.

1. Todd Hollandsworth: 1/1 card, 11 days.
Hollandsworth was the 1996 NL ROY, and the fifth (!) Dodger in a row to win the award, after Karros, Piazza, Mondesi, and Nomo. I remember thinking that was insane that LA had managed to do that five years in a row.

2. Rawly Eastwick: 2/2 cards, 22 days.
Eastwick won the NL Rolaids Reliever of the Year award back in 1976, back when these guys were dubbed firemen. We should really bring that back. Rawly went 11-5 in relief with a 2.06 ERA and 26 saves in 1976. In the 1975 World Series, he earned wins in games 2 & 3, along with a save in game 5.

3. Sam Mele: 1/1 card, 8 days.
Sabath Anthony Mele, or Sam for short, is one of the oldest former ballplayers on earth, currently 16th on the list and set to turn 95 in January. He had a fine major league career, playing for 10 years, and probably would have been in the game a bit earlier had he not spent time in the Navy in WWII, where he played ball with Joe DiMaggio and led the Navy League with a .358 average in 1944. After hanging up his spikes in 1956, he went on to coach and manage, leading the 1965 Twins to the AL Pennant.

4. Fred Lynn: 0/1 card, 7 days.
Lynn was the American League's ROY and MVP in 1975. A nine-time All-Star who hit the only grand slam in All-Star game history, Lynn's fearless play earned him four Gold Glove awards. Unfortunately, it also provided him with several injuries that hampered his career. He wrapped up a 17 year career in 1990, finishing with a .283 average, 306 HR, 1,111 RBI and 1960 hits in 1969 games. I may try again - a little research has revealed that a donation to the FACE Foundation, an animal charity he supports, will get my card signed.

5. Jerry Grote: 2/2 cards (with donation), 47 days.
Grote came up with the Colt .45s, seeing action in 1963 and 1964 before spending all of 1965 in AAA and subsequently being traded to the Mets after the season. He was regarded as an excellent defensive catcher, making two All-Star teams and of course playing for the Miracle Mets that won the '69 World Series. While Johnny Bench won all of the Gold Gloves, he was once quoted as saying, "if Grote and I were on the same team, I'd be playing third base."

6. Roy Sievers: 3/3 cards + 2 index cards + note, 9 days.
Sievers is a phenomenal signer. The 1949 AL ROY came up with the St. Louis Browns, then struggled with shoulder and arm injuries for the next few seasons before moving on to the Washington Senators in 1954. The move rejuvenated his career, and despite the cavernous left field, the right-handed hitting Sievers absolutely pummeled the ball in Washington. He made five All-Star teams and in 1957 led the AL in homers (42), RBI (114), extra base hits (70), and total bases (331), while batting .301.

Sievers was only the 22nd player to reach 300 home runs, retiring with 318 to his name. He and Gil Hodges were the first two members of the 300 HR club to not make the Hall of Fame. In a note on my letter, Sievers expressed that he had a wonderful career, with his only regret being that he never got to play in a World Series. I really dig the '56 up there and the '59 "Baseball Thrills" cards, and hunted them down specifically to send to Mr. Sievers.

Alright, I suppose that's enough for now. Merry Christmas to you all, and may your mailbox be full of joy. I'll have more to come shortly.

 - Bru


Long Time Coming

I haven't posted in over four months. The weird thing is that I actually would have had more time in the summer, I suppose. Part of it was due to having my laptop stolen. The rest, I'm not entirely certain as to why. Some schoolwork, some work work, etc.

I'm busier than ever right now. I guess posting is a little stress relief, or maybeI just need to reconnect with the outside world a little bit. I'm in my final semester of my MBA program - I got cleared to graduate in December, and I just have to pass these last three classes.

I haven't picked up many cards lately, though I've bought a little of each retail set from 2016. I scored a few nice pulls that I'll try and show off later. What I have done, though, is maintain a pretty steady TTM level, and that's lead to a bunch of returns, including this one that was out for nearly 14 months.

Now that 1998 Upper Deck and all its shiny doesn't scan very well, but it's pretty damn nice. It's my second signed Wood RC, after the one I sent him just days after he struck out 20 of my beloved Astros just weeks into his debut in 1998. These were sent via the Cubs in August last year, after I saw a few returns reported.

In my time away from the blog, I've made some really nice progress on my Astrographs project. Provided that the totals I have on my recreated spreadsheet are correct, I'm up to 323 autographs of players/coaches in a Houston uniform, and another 40 in other uniforms. I need to take some time to update the page I have for it here, but that full redesign I'd like to do will probably have to wait several more months. The Astros held their Legends Weekend in early August, and I hit up the pregame signing on August 6th that featured nearly two dozen former players, including several from the 1986 team. The big score of the day for me was Mike Scott, whose no-hitter clinched a playoff bid for the 'Stros that year. I'll work up a full post on that one soon, hopefully. I also added Le Grand Orange, Rusty Staub, via a private signing recently. It was nice to check those two team stars off my list.

The TTM train has been rolling along steadily, and I have so many returns that I need to post. Maybe I can try to throw a few a week up, but who really knows what sort of time I will have between now and graduation.

Here's my most recent return, which came in today: long-term minor leaguer, short-term Astro, and current Royals bullpen coach Cody Clark. After a decade in the minors and Indy ball, Cody got a callup in late 2013 when the Astros hit a rash of catching injuries, including a surprise fastball to Max Stassi's jaw. All told, Clark played in 16 games, collecting 4 hits. These are two customs I made (I sent him an extra pair), based off the 1954 Wilson Franks series and the 1979 TCMA Japanese set. The "Wilson Franks" features Clark's first hit, which took an agonizing 11 games for him to realize, and the "TCMA" features the subsequent postgame bath he received after the team won. Clark had gone 0-for-25 in 27 plate appearances before hitting a single off Jason Vargas in the 5th inning on September 13th.

I fell in love with the Wilson Franks layout thanks to a Mark Hoyle post I spotted on Twitter, and it has subsequently become my default go-to for Astros customs now. It's nice to have an official style for the series. I replaced the hot dogs with the team logo - the 60's shooting star version is my favorite, and I use it with older uniforms and the current ones, though I've stuck with correct logos for the Eighties through the horrific brick red and pinstripe days of the Oughts. I matched the fonts as close as I could, and got rid of the facsimile signatures, as I'm interested in using these to collect the real deal. I'm interested in trying to develop a version of the back that I can use for my customs on a regular basis as well, so maybe I'll get to that in, I don't know, January?

Finally, I'll show off another recent autograph addition. I got this one when the Cubs came to town in September.

That's probably not who you were expecting to see, huh? Fox had brought their crew in for the Saturday day game, and I decided to head over and try to catch some Cubs at the team hotel in downtown. I was hoping for Dexter Fowler (for my Astros collection) and maybe Maddon and some of the young Cubbies, so I loaded up some cards and threw in a few of the Fox & Cubs broadcasters just in case. To my dismay, I was at the wrong hotel - for the Cubs, that is. They stayed outside of downtown, but the broadcasters and sportswriters were all staying just blocks from the ballpark. Smoltz was very nice to the three of us who were waiting, and I was very grateful to come away with a pair of signed RCs.

I'm a doofus, though, and didn't realize that some of the Astros call-ups were put up at the hotel as well. I hadn't brought any Astros cards with me, and missed out on Alex Bregman. Whoops.