So far, I've had a pair of successes during the course of this mission - both Footer Johnson and John Pyecha kindly obliged. However, after a few months of inactivity, I was disappointed to find my first failure sitting in my mailbox 😞:
Rationally, I knew that not everything was going to come back successfully; but, nevertheless I was kinda proud of how this particular custom turned out and I had high hopes for this return. C'est la vie.
For the heck of it, here's a closer look at my take on Thomas "Duke" Simpson:
I went to the trouble of colorizing the only photo of "Duke" that I could find on the internet, a black and white original. Then, I attempted to mimic the "hand-painted" style of 1953 Topps - a template I chose because Simpson's only MLB action came during that season. A painting of Fenway made the perfect background, even if Mr. Simpson never actually took the mound in Boston. Overall, I was mildly happy with my colorization and thought my custom mimed the style of the original card set well enough to cross my fingers and hope for TTM success.
Heck, I even went to the trouble of creating a back side for my custom "Duke":
According to the write-up that I included on the back:
"Thomas attended the University of Notre Dame for just one semester before enlisting in the U.S. Army. After his service, he enrolled at The Ohio State University, where he starred in both the classroom and on the pitcher’s mound. After graduation, he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics organization, tossing a seven inning no-hitter for Savannah in the Sally League in 1950. The Cubs took over his contract this winter in the Rule 5 Draft and hope that the young hurler can earn a regular spot in their rotation or bullpen for 1953 and beyond. When “Duke” takes the mound at Wrigley Field for the first time, the tall, lanky moundsman will be making his Major League Baseball debut."
As you can tell, I wrote it up as it might read had he actually occupied a slot in the second offering of Topps' checklist. After making the team out of spring training in '53, Simpson stuck with the Big club all season, making 30 appearances coming mostly out of the bullpen. All told, his next theoretical baseball card would show a 1-2 record, with an 8.00 ERA in 40 innings for his only MLB season.
With such a dud of a season, it's no surprise that Mr. Simpson was ignored by Topps and Bowman and, best as I can tell, he never appeared on any sort of trading card. Thus, when I came across a TTM address on the Sports Card Forum with a recent success, I whipped up the above custom in hopes of his authenticating it with his signature. Obviously, that did not work out - apparently the 90 year old has moved in the last year. Hopefully all is well for the former Cubs moundsman.
Previous to this disappointing "return to sender," the last sight of my initial round of TTM's came back on November 10th, courtesy of John Pyecha. So, of course - after months of inactivity - the very next day after Simpson came back, I found another familiar envelope in my mailbox:
And wouldn't ya know it, it's another failure - I guess when it rains, it pours. 😞x2
Of course, this may be a case of the cosmic forces of the universe protecting me from myself. Upon further examination of my work upon return, I noticed that I made some pretty glaring errors on this card, which was based on 1966 Topps (Bob's maiden campaign). So, perhaps it's better off that Mr. Raudman never actually saw it and it's rather embarrassing mix-ups.
For whatever reason, I decided that Bob was a pitcher when I put this card together; the reality is that he played 16 games in the Chicago outfield, from 1966-67. In fact, I can find no record of Raudman having ever taken the mound in a professional setting; thus, I have no idea what I was thinking when I drafted his card. Maybe his name just sounds "pitcherish?"
Furthermore, that wasn't even the worst error - I wasn't careful enough with my image search and the photo culled from the internet is actually of former Cubs catcher, Randy Bobb. Therefore, I managed to both screw up his position and his photograph on the card I created to "properly" represent him in my collection. It's a damn wonder that I spelled his name right... I did spell his name correctly, right?
As if that wasn't enough, I got lazy and didn't even bother with drafting a back, in an attempt to get the monstrosity into the mail more quickly. Egad - yea, I'm definitely glad that the USPS was unable to deliver this monstrosity... I likely would have insulted the man!
Here's the real Bob Raudman, during his brief Cubs trial.
"Shorty" Raudman stood 5'9" and posted a .200/.228/.236 slash line in 57 plate appearances. The purported slugger once popped 20 long balls (1966 with Tacoma) in the PCL, but never went yard with the Cubbies. Maybe he should have tried pitching? Anyway, although his Major League career was quite short, his time with the Cubs organization was quite long, as the minor league vet toiled in the minors with the franchise from 1961-67, plus one bonus year in the Cincy chain in 1968. Also, fun fact, the thrill-seeker was a professional dirt bike racer during the off-season and one manager described him as a "Hell's Angel."
Being that his time in the show was so brief and relatively unsuccessful, it should come as no surprise that Topps never honored "Shorty" with a spot in their Flagship set. Plus, to my knowledge, he never appeared in a retrospective or regional oddball checklist, necessitating my "hail mary" attempt at getting his signature on my custom creation. That said, after doing some further research, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that, just like Tom Brady in Super Bowl LLI, I came up empty.
According to this article from the Duluth News Tribune from back in 2011, Mr. Raudman has fallen on hard times. In the fall of that year, the local hero (then 69) was arrested for allegedly striking his wife at their Minnesota home. It was then discovered that complications from dementia had left him incompetent to understand the charge against him and unable to assist with his own defense. From there, the domestic assault charge was dismissed and Raudman was civilly committed to a secure mental health facility. Yikes.
We can only hope that Raudman got the help he needed - dementia is a terrible and debilitating disease. On the bright side, he again turned up in the public record in October of 2016, when he was interviewed by the local Fox affiliate about his former club's World Series run - “It’s great they finally made it to the World Series,” said Raudman. It's also implied that he and his wife were able to reconcile.
Here's hoping that all is well in the Raudman clan and things have settled down.
"Shorty" giving an interview in 2008 with The Average Guys.
Thankfully, the streak of failures ended at two days. As of now, I have had two successes, two failures, and I still have two more outstanding requests. Here's hoping those other two that are still in the care of the United States Postal Service actually made it to their intended targets.
Now, after all of that, I'm left with a few questions. Barring the possibility of tracking down new addresses to send out my customs to Simpson and Raudman (I don't think I'll be bothering Bob, though), what do I do with my custom cards? Do I include them in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection, sans autograph? Should they count towards my ultimate total of Cubs players acquired? Do I disregard them because custom cards aren't "real" cards? What would you do in this situation, eh?
One thing is for certain though: those error-ridden Raudman cards are going straight into the recycling.