1989 Topps At A Crossroads

This year, Topps got me thinking about 1989.

Seeing how this year’s die-cut minis and Archives set took some annoying liberties with the original design, it got me to look at the originals with fresh eyes.
1989 Topps Wade Boggs

…And those fresh eyes said “This set is really nothing special.”

No offense to those of you who grew up with 1989 Topps, and for whom this set holds a special place in their hearts.  Believe me, I know how that goes.  1974 will always be MY set, just like Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor will always be MY Doctor.

But I was in my mid-20’s in 1989, so my heart had long since been given away to another Topps set.  I collected the Topps set because it was Topps… but out of the five main sets that came out that year, I’d have to rank Topps in 3rd place.

…And the 1989 set you’re probably thinking of is not in the top 2.

What the heck, I may as well run down the rankings from 5 to 1. (And part of me wants to shout out “It’s Funny Five Time!”, except this top 5 was not voted on by Dementions and Dementites from coast to coast, border to border…)

Number Five…

In 5th place is the set that makes me want to listen to live Johny Cash albums or rattle a tin cup against steel bars… 1989 Fleer!
1989 Fleer Carl Nichols

For most of the 1980’s, I was a Fleer guy.  I appreciated that Fleer seemed to understand that baseball cards are supposed to be fun.  88F wasn’t a favorite, but I still got a factory set.  1989 Fleer was the first Fleer set where I said “Ehhhhrrrrrrrr… No thanks.”

Number Four…

#4 is the set I’m sure many of you were thinking I’d rank #1:  Upper Deck.
1989 UD Gregg Jefferies
This set was not aimed at me in the slightest.  Sure, the cards were head and shoulders above the competition in terms of printing quality and other factors, but they were far more expensive than anything else on the market.  The “Return On Investment” just wasn’t there for me.  It  may have been a nice set, but it was way too serious of a set.

Number Three…

The #3 set is, as I mentioned, 1989 Topps.

1989 Topps Kirk McCaskill

Number Two…
#2 is 1989 Score.
1989 Score Ron Darling
It wasn’t as nice of a design as their debut set, but I still liked it plenty.  For a novel change of pace, they actually got the team name on the front.

Number One…

I think that 1989 is the only year in the history of baseball cards where I could say that Donruss was my favorite set.
1989 Donruss Jamie Moyer
I’m not entirely sure why, to be honest.  It’s got the usual thin Donruss cardboard and the photos are printed kind of dark and a bit blurry, but something about it just strikes a chord with me.  Simple, yet colorful.


I’ve strayed off of my original topic, which is 1989 Topps being at a crossroads.  For years I intended to collect as many Topps sets as I could, but that goal is several years gone.  For now, I do have a long-term goal of completing at least one set from each year starting with 1973, but as I’ve mentioned, there are two sets in line ahead of 89T.

To be honest, there’s one little detail that keeps me from just going ahead and purging the set and being done with it… and that’s the fact that I have 774 cards from this set.  Yes, that’s right, I’m 18 cards away from completing it.

To be honest, though, completing this set wouldn’t really feel like an achievement for me.  I think that completing it would be a mild relief with regards to one fewer set to keep track of.  I can also accomplish that same relief by getting the one or two cards I would really want from the remaining 18, declaring the set a “TKO” and then going back and dumping all the Dale Mahorcic and Don Heinkel cards that do nothing beyond take up space in a monster box.

It’s a tough choice, but to get my collection to the size I’d like it to be, I’m going to have to make these tough choices…


I’ll be frank about this, I’ve been waffling on this for a couple of weeks now.

I also haven’t sat down with the set and gone through it… Maybe I’m forgetting something or missing something about the set that would make it worthwhile to keep.

…Or maybe it’s the prototypical junk wax era set that I could replace for $5 if I ever changed my mind.

Does anybody want to make an impassioned plea for or against 1989 Topps?

O Broder, What Art Thou?

So I was in Target during lunch yesterday, stocking up my “work pantry”, and I decided to check out the 100-card repacks on the way out. I know these repacks aren’t worth the money I’m putting into them, but they can be a fun diversion… or a Junk Wax Festival. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

My attention was caught by one repack which had this card on the back:
1990 Shanks Rookies Gary Sheffield

I thought “What the devil is that?”

Yeah, right. I really thought “What the @#%&*! is that?”, but I like writing “What the devil…” because it makes me sound like a scientist from a low-budget 1960’s science fiction movie. And there are worse things to be.

“I was a mathematician before I became a bad actor… That number is pi!”
(Let’s see if anyone gets THAT extremely obscure reference)

I kinda like the card, even if it is book-value worthless… as opposed to any other 1990 base card which has a book value only because Beckett has to give it SOME value.  The card sort of has a 1966 Topps bottom and a 1969 Topps circle.

Here’s the back to the esteemed Mr. Sheffield’s card:
1990 Shanks Rookies Sheffield back

“The Shanks Collection”, eh?  All right, if you say so.  I did some Googling on “1990 Shanks Collection” and all I got were some eBay listings.  I think this can be safely classified as a Broder.  You know, it’s been many years that I’ve been using the term “Broder” for an unlicensed-by-anybody card, but I’ve never seen an actual Broder.  Maybe someday…

UpdateBy “actual Broder”, I mean the original Broders, as opposed to cards which fall under the generic term “Broders”.

Wait a second, I hear a truck… Crap, I’ve got to put the recycling out by the curb.  I’ll be right back…

OK, sorry about that.

Well, you’re here and I’m here… Did you want to see what else I got in the repack?

I figure that, on the whole I got 10 dime-b0x needs for my $4, but I did well in terms of cards I actually want.  Here, let me show you…

I got this lovely George Foster Diamond King that’s been on my want list for… Oh, thirty years.

1983 Donruss George Foster DK

George Foster is one of a line of big-name players that the Mets brought in past their prime and who did just fine for the Mets but not anywhere close to the expectations of the fans who foolishly thought the Mets were acquiring a star player in his prime.

Moving right along…

Ahh… The elusive 1984 Donruss!  And it’s Shlabotnik favorite Benny Ayala!

1984 Donruss Benny Ayala

In 1974, Benny hit a homer in his first Major League at bat for the Mets.  This young Mets fan’s expectations of Benny were based on that random occurrence.  Silly me.  Anyway,  Benny had a 10-year career as a 4th outfielder, mainly with the  Orioles.

Jerry Willard!  A player I collect!  Wooooooooo!

1986 Donruss Jerry Willard

I saw Jerry play in the minor leagues, just in case you were wondering why someone would collect Jerry Willard cards.  I saw Jerry when he was in the Phillies system, but he traded to the Indians before he made it to the Majors.  This is why you shouldn’t get hung up on the fact that your local minor league team isn’t affiliated with a team you like… There’s always a decent chance that the guys you’re watching will make it with some other team.

Moving along… “Captain Kirk” McCaskill!  Another player I collect, even if it’s from the tremendously drab 1989 Fleer.

1989 Fleer Kirk McCaskill

I know we were meant to think “pinstripes”, but I’ve always thought “jail cell”.

Attica!  Attica!

Finally, I got this interesting TCMA “Baseball History” card of Jim DePalo.

1979 TCMA Baseball History Jim Depalo

Who is Jim DePalo?  If Baseball America had existed in the 1950’s, he might’ve been on the Yankees’ Top 10 Prospects list.  He peaked at AAA in 1956, going 13-5 for the Denver Bears.  I’m guessing that the TCMA guys found this photo and said “Hey, let’s add it to the set!”

1979 TCMA Baseball History Jim Depalo back

Aw, hell, look at the time!  I spent too much time on this, I’ve got to go shower.

…And thus ends my early morning free-form blog odyssey…  “On the bass:  Derek Smalls, he wrote this…”