On to the artifact!
The First Pass
After restarting my "assessment clock" with the code on the package, I look over the card. The interesting features I see:
- Hey that's a QR code behind the player!
- Oh it's that horrid handwriting font again.
- A bit of gibberish at the top of the back of the card.
- The stats look all wrong.
I started by dealing with the QR code. My phone is not QR-aware (yet, I guess), and I didn't feel like finding out how to make it QR-aware, so I looked for some online decoders, used Paint to cut the code out of the corner of the image (thanks BLG for providing a digital image of the artifacts!) and submitted it to several different online decoders as a check. The first line read "Throw out the man behind the man in the mask" and was followed by three lines of nonsense. The three lines suggested the haiku was to be found here, but the second line was very short despite needing the most syllables. My original interpretation was that I needed to remove "umpire", not that I could really find that in the nonsense underneath. Submitting that as a check revealed that that was a common misperception. At this point, I put this aside.
I decide to focus on the top where the cryptogram is. The personal info listed is clearly nonsense. A quick check shows that there are fourteen numbers listed, and the cryptogram is fourteen letters long. This suggests that the numbers are a one-time-pad type of key, and the main question is whether the numbers are used to encode (i.e. add the numbers to the real answer to get the cryptogram) or to decode (i.e. add the numbers to the cryptogram to get the real answer). A bit of back-of-the-envelope calculating shows that the first method keeps all the letters in the range A-Z without having to wrap around, so we begin with that method. This turns the team QRVQTHBBP GSLKQ into MINNESOTA TWINS. I don't submit that as an answer, though, since that's ... well, that's a team. A quick glance back at the front of the card confirms that our player is listed as belonging to the Twins. I decide this means that this is confirmation that I have done the right thing, but I need to also translate something else. "2nd BASE" is clearly not gibberish. "Emmett Earnnell" is also not gibberish, but it does have the same number of letters. Attempting to perform the same mechanism on the name gives "adebeerscarhop". I'm not sure what that means, so I leave it there for the moment.
First and Third BaseWe now have the batting records information to look at. The years are given in nonconsecutive order, although they do come in pairs. I originally focus on the phrase at the bottom "Touching Each Base Counts Towards Letterman Awards" and calculate the total bases for each year. I only get about three lines done, however, before I notice that all the numbers given are between 1 and 26. I then scrap that completely and change over to converting the numbers to letters. I get more gibberish. I decide to sort by year in an attempt to fix that, but I still have gibberish. I then remember where I started: each of the 2B, 3B, and HR columns have exceptionally small numbers, so I can convert each number (individually) to total bases. I then get a series of mostly-well-known players: Joe D., J. Cronin, Yogi B., Billy M., Whitey F., J. Bench, Munson, Cal Jr. Each of these players has had their number retired (which is clued by the blank column "RET #" on the card, which I did not notice at all until I started writing this up--I instead noticed the huge retired-number symbol while looking up the Wikipedia article on Thurman Munson, whom I had erroneously believed was active a lot earlier than the 1970s listed on the card). I was planning on turning those numbers into letters, in accordance with the rest of the puzzle, although I became concerned when the first few I looked up were 4, 5, and 8 (since I still had them sorted by year), worried that I was getting the proper ordering and still had to determine what the actual clues were. Fortunately I got a 15 and another 8, so keeping the letters idea and putting the people back in their original order gave me HOPE and HEAD. Submitting those answers, I got a confirmation that I had the first and third base answers. I surmised that the second base answer must come from the top of the card, and I noticed that if I put diamond (suggested by debeer) in the middle I get (somebody) Hope, Hope Diamond, and Diamond Head. I decided it must be Bob Hope, and submitted those answers rather quickly. (Too quickly, as it turned out, since the system on the other end apparently discarded my Diamond Head answer and I had to resubmit it.) As I was waiting on those confirmations, I went back to the cryptogram and checked my work, and found my errors in the original attempt, and was now looking at "A DeBeer's carbon" which definitely clued diamond.
After another bit of time spent looking at the results of the QR code again with no new insight, I turned my attention to the comic. The answer to the "riddle", "On that same date, exactly 100 years after his revenge!" definitely looked like a big clue to the when. I needed to come up with the "he" that was referred to, who had struck out and then had a revenge. The picture showed a pitcher, a batter, and an umpire. There appeared to be an arrow drawn from home plate to third base, with "...AC" written underneath it. Brainstorming with all of that, eventually I came up with Mighty Casey--I knew there was a sequel or two running around, and I thought third base might represent C, so I had "CAC" to sound out and get Casey from as well.
I submitted "Mighty Casey" as a method confirmation submission, despite the lessons from last time--at least I was worried about it at the time, and I rationalized it to myself by convincing myself that "Mighty Casey" was so unambiguous that it couldn't go wrong. As I was waiting for the response, I realized that if I followed the arrow (so the word would read backwards), I would have YESAC filled in, and I would have written "YES" in the dots, which seems like a very clever little confirmation to me. I did receive e-mail confirmation back, looked up the publication dates, assembled the answer (the date of the original publication of Casey at the Bat, with the year 100 year's after the publication of Casey's Revenge), and submitted it.
I had two seeming clues remaining to puzzle out the haiku: throwing out the man behind the man in the mask from the QR code, and the handwritten "I will possess you!" on the front. I was completely flummoxed by what the "man behind the man in the mask" would refer to, or what could be possessed; so I decided to ignore both clues and look at the actual lines of letters to see what, if any, patterns would jump out at me. After a day or two, off and on, the best I had come up with was a series of suffixes in the letters: -matic, a couple -one, a -nova, etc. However, I couldn't make the whole set of letters turn into suffixes, nor decide how to pick between all the options for the generic suffixes; and a method confirmation submission came back negative, along with a gentle chide that the hint says to "throw things out", not to add them.
So: it was time to focus on removing something. The only problem is that I had no idea what to remove. The lines start with an m, an a, and an n, respectively, so I briefly consider removing those letters throughout, or the letters directly "behind" them, which gets nowhere. I decide I need to remove a man of some kind, so maybe I need to remove a specific man, i.e. a man's name. The first line starts with matic, so I try to remove a Matt; there's another t on the line, but it's a long way away with a lot of gibberish in between. Mack doesn't seem to get anywhere, but Michael does. If I take out Michael, what's left is "at work or" which is a very good start. Flipping mentally between "famous Michaels" and "what leaves sensible words" leads me to remove Michael Keaton and uncover "at work or at home".
Next step: Why Michael Keaton? A small amount of brainstorming (while staring at a picture of a baseball player!) eventually leads to "Batman". Sure enough, the next line contains Adam West hidden inside it, while the last has Val Kilmer. The middle line of the haiku (which seemed dangerously short) reads "A Y B A B T U" which takes me several attempts to parse as standing for "All Your Base Are Belong To Us". I almost replace the initials with the phrase, but at the last minute I remember that this is supposed to be a haiku, and the phrase has eight syllables instead of seven. So the letters it is.
The QR code will have to play the "spy story" role for this artifact, I suppose. Some really neat puzzles here; the second base puzzle I liked, with the slight misdirection and/or confirmation. I suspect in the final analysis that I am actually missing a puzzle, as presumably there is a "Home Plate" puzzle that leads you to Bob. (I would guess it would have to come from the part of the card labeled "Catcher", somehow. My best attempt--and best is definitely a relative term here--is to somehow try to relate "Twins" to "Bobbsey Twins" and if we are being possessive, then we have "Bob's". Alternatively, perhaps "Bob's your uncle".) Perhaps you are meant to come up with Bob purely as the only famous Hope, but I expect more out of my artifacts than that (even if that's exactly what I did anyway). I was not fully on the author's wavelength for the signature puzzle, but I had enough to be able to basically brute-force the rest, so it will do.
From this puzzle, the lesson I came up with was "Do things first; rationalize them later". This is most clearly seen in the signature puzzle (where I needed to come up with one of the people first before I could figure out who the people were), but can also be seen with the CASEY/YES clue (I can't imagine anyone being able to figure that out "forward", so to speak; but once you have come up with the name Casey then filling in the blanks gives you the clue). I am notoriously bad at these sorts of things (I want all my clues to be "forward" clues), so I need to keep that possibility in mind.