Looking at the image above, it kinda reminds me of a Ramones logo. I imagine a band called The Bells doesn't sound totally punk rock, but Mike, Juan, George, Derek, and Jay sound about the same as Mark, Joey, and Johnny (Ramone). Anyways, laying cards out like this is one of the many great things about '91 Fleer.
Today, we'll be looking at every player from the set whose last name is Bell. Pulling these cards out of the binder was pretty easy, since Fleer arranged all the cards by team, and put the players in alphabetical order.
Starting off with Jay first. This is probably my favorite card from the lot, as we catch Bell trying to lay down a bunt, with a floating glove, a lurking Andy Van Slyke on deck, and the Wrigley bricks in the background. A lot going on here. Not to mention that the Pirates color scheme matches the design perfectly. For some reason, I thought that Jay was primarily a second baseman, but this card and baseball-reference.com tell me that he spent most of his time at short. B-R.com also tells me that this was a pose he struck frequently in 1991, as he led the league in sacrifice bunts with 30.
Glancing at the back, I noticed that Jay was born in Florida on Eglin Air Force Base, so I'll assume that he comes from a military family. After being traded to the Royals, he signed with the Diamondbacks and later the Mets before he retired. He was a bench coach for the D-Backs for a while, but is currently the hitting coach again in Pittsburgh. Looks like he's got them playing Jay Bell-era baseball, as they're looking like a winning team, something that was last seen when Bell was playing in the infield.
Rookie Card Alert! This is Derek's first card with the Fleer brand, and '91 was his first year in the majors. Okay, if you want to get technical, there were a few other Derek Bell cards that came out with other brands before '91, but do those even count? Well, not on this blog.
In Bell's rookie year, he would bat .143 (4 for 35) with an RBI and five runs scored. Over his eleven year career, he would blossom into a .276 hitter, and include a stint in Houston where he became known for his last name: as a member of original "Killer B's" joining Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. He also seemed to be kind of a jerk and was always anxious to leave the team the he was currently playing for.
While looking through the bevy of Bells in the bunch, I wondered if there were any baseball brothers in the bigs. Well, George and his little brother Juan fit the bill. George was a power hitting outfielder with the J's, while Juan was a light hitting infielder for the O's. This is Juan's first card with the Fleer brand, though he made his MLB debut in 1989. The slugger gets the action shot, while the guy who would average 1.42 homers a year over seven years gets relegated to the empty stadium batting practice shot. Little brother inferiority complex at it's finest.
As you can (barely) see on the back of their cards, they were both born in San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic. George wins the award for most obscure minor league team - the Spartanburg Phillies of the Western Carolinas League in Spartanburg, SC. Juan's back-of-the-card photo seems to be from the same photo session as the one on the front. Though George is featured here as a Blue Jay, he signed with the Cubs before the '91 season, soooo...
This card was included in the Update set. I think I prefer this over the card from the base set, though my copy is slightly miscut. Maybe a little generic, but nice to see a smile from good old "Liberty" Bell. Apparently that was a nickname of his.
The last Bell of the ball. Rookie Card Alert, Part Two! Mike Bell broke into the majors in 1990, hitting .244 in 36 games for the Tomahawk Chops. He would only get into 17 games in '91, his last season in the majors, and would end his stint in the majors with an even .200 batting average. Of course, the best part about this card is the guy in the khaki shorts and polo shirt hanging out in the corner by the Fleer logo. Nice stadium shot of my favorite baseball stadium of all time, good ol Jack Murphy Stadium.
Well, there you have it, every Bell from '91 Fleer. Not quite enough to field a whole team, though you get most of an infield and the corners of an outfield. Not too shabby.
In the end, I think I might have to change my opinion. As sharp as the Jay card at the top is, there is so much character in Mike's card. As a consolation prize, Jay wins for best action shot, while George's Cubs card wins for best smile. Yep, that was a real category.