This feeling was reinforced just today when I got one of the best TTM returns ever in my mailbox. Regular readers know that I lump all TTM returns I get during a given month into one big post, but this one is so special, it deserves it's own post. Right, before we get to the return, some backstory.
As you all know I've been on a Chunichi Dragons kick. Pretty much 90% of my posts this year have been devoted to the Dragons and many more will come in the future. As much as I like the Dragons, two aspects of the card collecting hobby that I consider crucial have long eluded me. An IP autograph and a TTM autograph. The IP autograph goal will have to wait until I go back to Japan when games are going on. On paper the TTM goal should be easier, but in reality is even tougher. I've mentioned it in passing before but a lot of NPB clubs have banned TTM requests. The Dragons are one of them. What this effectively means is that if you want Dragons autographs via TTM, your only chances will be with OBs (which stands for Old Boys, which is a Japanese term used to refer to retired baseball players).
Enter クリッパー (Clipper)-san, a fellow TTM autograph collector who is based in Japan. Clipper-san usually sends requests stateside to foreigners who used to play in the NPB. Clipper-san's blog has an impressive log of such returns and two out of every three returns he receives has me going "wait, he played in the NPB?" Go check it out if you have the time.
Anyway, I had one player in mind to try out an international TTM request with, and I noticed Clipper-san had managed to get a success from him before. A few DM's and a carefully worded letter later, I sent out a request headed to my motherland of Japan. Less than two weeks later (it was a really quick turnaround), the SASE I sent came back. Inside was...
Yes that's right folks. I got a TTM return from the God of Forkballs, Mr. Shigeru Sugishita.
The minute I saw that sase in my mailbox I was grinning from ear to ear. It'd been a while since I was that excited for a TTM return. I mean, all returns are special to me, but this was especially cool since it's my first TTM return from Japan. My home!
The God of Forkballs was also kind enough to send along TWO extra autographed cards along with the EPOCH card I sent above. The first card was part of EPOCH's Japan Baseball Promotion Association set from 2014, the one that commemorated the association's 20th anniversary. The second card was part of last year's BBM set that commemorating 80 years of the Chunichi Dragons being in existence.
Mr. Sugishita was kind enough to send all three in this plastic bag to make sure they wouldn't go flying all over inside the SASE.
And if you're curious about the postage, I had some family members get stamps for me so I could send a proper SASE. Success!
I really love how these signatures turned out. For the first time ever I sent along a blue sharpie, my lucky sharpie that I'd been using for IP autographs since 2015. The very pen used by the likes of Luis Torrens, Gaylord Perry and Goose Gossage, ended it's journey with me by delivering me my first international TTM return. I hope Mr. Sugishita can make good use of the sharpire to make other fans happy too.
I already wrote a post profiling the great career of Mr. Sugishita a while back so I thought I'd add some things I left out. Like the video above of Mr. Sugishita pitching in his prime (dig the glasses).
Or this video of Mr. Sugishita throwing out the first pitch at last year's Home Opener for the Dragons. He really is the God of Forkballs, just look at that curve. Keep in mind that he was 90 years old when the video was taken.
I've heard from Clipper-san and various other outlets that Mr. Sugishita's body is starting to slow down a bit at age of 91. I hope whatever is ailing him doesn't stick around too long and Mr. Sugishita continues to be the OB presence he's been for pretty much the last 50+ years.
So yeah, this has easily been the best TTM return of the year (for me) so far. Probably during my time as a TTM collector in general too. It's gonna be hard to top this one.
And as always thank you, the readers, for stopping by.
Take care :).