Me and through-the-mail autographs

Back in 1997 I moved out to San Diego from Ann Arbor. I had just gotten out of graduate school and had taken a post-doctoral position in a research lab. While I enjoyed San Diego (Solana Beach), being a post-doc was tough. First, everyone hates post-docs. Post-docs think they know everything, and every graduate student wants to knock you down a notch (or ten). Also, as a post-doc, you come in as a lone ranger. There is no incoming class, just you. It’s not fun.

So, here I was, a down-trodden post-doc. I couldn’t even call my eastern time zone friends half the time because I got home too late. It sucked. What was I to do? Like the anti-social dork that I am (my wife would not argue), I got back into collecting baseball cards after a long layoff.

Just north in Encinitas was a little card shop. I bought a number of packs – mostly Topps, Stadium Club, Fleer, and Sports Illustrated. I liked it, but I wanted something a little more exciting. So, I went online, found mailing addresses of baseball teams, and sent cards out for autographs.

I quickly learned that modern cards are so amenable for autographs. The slick surface isn’t good for signatures – even for a Sharpie. The cards I got back were mostly smeared. After some more online searching, I found that rubbing the cards with baby powder would rough up the surface enough to allow the Sharpie to hold. Viola! It worked. I think at my peak I was getting nearly a 50% response rate.

I was only in San Diego for about a year and a half. Even after taking my current job, I still sent out plenty of baseball cards, 3×5 index cards, and even government post cards. I don’t know why, but after a couple years the autograph bug let me go. I got hooked on vintage cards again, and that was it for the modern stuff and autographs.

Still, now I find myself with some of my old signed cards. These and other cards from the 70s and 80s will be the topic of some random weekly posts for the foreseeable future.

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