Saturday, July 27, 2013

Best of the Team Set - Expos

As you may or may not know, the 1991 Fleer set, like many sets produced by Fleer, has put the checklist together by team.  Cards 1 through 28?  Those are all A's.  Cards 681 to 708?  All Braves.

They also put all of the players for each team in alphabetical order.  This makes it really easy for me to find cards for any given post, since I don't have to really consult a checklist at all.  If I know what team they're on, just find the team in the binder, then figure out where his last name falls.

Anyways, this isn't totally relevant to today's post, but I just thought I'd lay it out there if there's anybody who wasn't aware of the Fleer checklist configuration.  Riveting stuff, I know.

Well, since each team is already organized into a "team set", it's been kinda fun to take a look at each card and choose which card I think is the best.  Usually you have to look for just the "standout" ones to do this, since the teams are scattered throughout the checklist.  But seeing a side by side comparison is much easier to do this.

If you search for "team sets" on eBay, the seller usually just chooses one or two of the best cards in the team set to "represent" the team.  So today's poll question is:

Which 1991 Fleer card is the BEST from the Expos team set?

* I will eventually be doing this for all the teams, but chose the Expos first for a number of reasons, chief of them being that since this is blog is still in its infancy, there aren't a lot of readers yet, and I'd like to save the "marquee" teams until I can get at least a few more followers, just for the sake of the voting.

Anyways, onto the cardboard!  I've chosen a few of the Expos to showcase, since showing the whole team wouldn't be effective, and might split a lot of votes.  Starting off with the Marquis Grissom at the top, you have the sharp looking red jerseys with the powder blue pants in the batting cage.  Grissom looks focused, hopefully more so than the guy in the background with his hands in his pants.

Next up, two marquee names for the early Expos, Tim Raines and Larry Walker.  I think I prefer the uniform that Raines is Rocking, but Walker might have a more interesting shot, as the ball appears to be very near his face.  Lost of guys looking on in the background as well.  Raines' last year in Montreal was in 1990, and makes an appearance in the Update set in his White Sox duds.

If pitchers are more your thing, here are three in a row.  Oil Can Boyd spent a year and a half with Montreal from '90-'91, going 16-14 with a 3.15 ERA for them over that stretch.  "El Presidente" Martinez was, of course, a stellar pitcher for them as well, leading the league in ERA and complete games in 1991.  Who is Drew Hall?  Just some guy with a cool looking baseball card.  He only played on year for the Expos, going 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 1990, his last in the majors.

Look at The Big Cat, Andres Galarraga.  He appears to be kicking up a cloud of dust, as well as a Mets player's butt.  Literally.  This likely would've made an interesting panoramic shot, as we will only be left wondering who the player laying on the ground is.  Plus, whose elbow is in the shot on the right?  Questions questions.  Maybe this is one of his 56 stolen bases during his eight years with the Expos.

What about defense?  Maybe you prefer cards that are flashing the leather.  It looks like Tim Wallach is taking some practice grounders in spring training, while Mike Aldrete is making everyone uncomfortable with his "ready" stance.  It might be that he's not used to playing on the infield, as this card has him listed as an outfielder, but he's sporting a big first baseman's mitt.  Aldrete played 28 games at first from '89-'90, compared to the 144 he spent in the outfield.  He played for the Padres and Indians in 1991.

Last but not least, the "pose in front of a mostly empty stadium" shot.  I can't imagine any of these winning, especially since there's three, so even if there were a few fans of these awkward shots, the votes might get split.  Still, I had to show each of them, because they are as unique and beautiful as snowflakes.  I'll let you fill in the blanks on the commentary for these ones, but I think that Scott Ruskin has the most flattering of the cards.

Well, there you have it!  The twelve contestants for the first "Best of the Team Set" Poll.  This may become a weekly thing, and I may come up with a better title for the poll.  Either way, please vote away!  Choose your two favorite, that way we can (hopefully) avoid any low scoring affairs.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

For Whom The ____ Tolls

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 tell me that he spent most of his time at short. 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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

'91 All-Star Matchup

Since last night was the All-Star game, I thought it'd be fitting to do a post on the 1991 All-Star teams.  Last, night, just as in 1991, the American League won.  Today, however, we'll be assigning a new score to the game: points based on head to head cardboard match ups!  Will the AL come out on top again?  Or will the NL avenge its losses and gain home field advantage for the World Series?

Wait, they didn't award home field advantage for an exhibition game in 1991.  Sorry NL, I guess this is just for "the fans" then.

Instead of listing all the reserves and bullpen All-Stars, we'll stick to the starting lineups for both teams.

Starting Pitchers: Tom Glavine v. Jack Morris
Wow, starting out with a no-doubter.  I'm not sure if there's a card from '91 Fleer that would be considered "beloved" by the cardboard community, but Glavine's is as close as it probably gets.  Not nearly enough cards of pitchers sliding into home.  Morris' card is actually from the Update set, since he was shown as a Tiger in the base set.  Glavine gets the NL on the board in his first of many All-Star games.
NL - 1 / AL - 0

Catchers: Sandy Alomar, Jr. v. Benito Santiago
If you know me, you'll know that I'm a huge Padre fan.  However, on YC, I'm all about objectivity.  While the Santiago card from Wrigley field is a good looking piece, Alomar takes this one, since catchers gear-cards trump just about any other cards.
NL - 1 / AL - 1

First Base: Cecil Fielder v. Will Clark
It might be fitting that a post about the 1991 All-Star Game features a card of Cecil Fielder at the 1990 All-Star Game.  I mean, I'm assuming that that's how a pre-interleague play card was made of a Tiger at Wrigley Field.  I'm guessing this was from the Home Run Derby, since he's not wearing a helmet, but there's no sign of a batting practice cage anywhere, and a catcher's glove in the corner.  Anyways, this beats out The Thrill's card, a strangely centered card of him doing his job at first base.
NL - 1 / AL - 2

Second Base: Ryne Sandberg v. Roberto Alomar
Here's the second card of the post to be featured from the Update set.  Alomar is in the base set as a Padre, but, as we all know, was sent to Toronto in a deal that saw Fred McGriff, Tony Fernandez, and Joe Carter trade uniforms.  Seeing the Wrigley bricks in a Sandberg card is not at all uncommon, but seeing him sans-helmet and the disembodied glove indicates that this was also a shot from the '90 Home Run Derby, one that he won.  You're a winner again, Ryne.
NL - 2 / AL - 2

Third Base: Wade Boggs v. Chris Sabo
What are these two players known most for?  For Sabo, it's definitely the Rec-Specs.  For Boggs, I'm not so sure.  Is it the 3,000 hits?  Always eating chicken before a game?  Ending his career in those slick Devil Rays uniforms?  Either way, the facts here are simple: Sabo swings and misses, Boggs gets a hit, and a tie-breaking one at that.
AL - 3 / NL - 2

Short Stops: Cal Ripken Jr. v. Ozzie Smith
This one is a tough call.  The Ripken card is an "action" shot, with Cal showing the kids how to use two hands for a ground ball.  Not really exciting, but still nicely framed.  The Wizard of Oz is just kinda standing with a bat in his hands.  Sorrie Ozzie.
AL - 4 / NL - 2

Left Field: Rickey Henderson v. Ivan Calderon
Our last matchup featuring an Update card.  Calderon is featured as a White Sock in the base set, but is sporting the powder blue Expos uniform here.  Wonder if he got a boost in voting since the ASG was in Canada?  Anyways, since neither of these photos is particularly intriguing, the matchup comes down to color.  As much as I love the baby blue, I'm not loving it on Calderon, whilst Rickey's green and yellow matches the '91 Fleer color scheme... perfectly?  Advantage Rickey.
AL - 5 / NL - 2

Center Field: Ken Griffey Jr. v. Tony Gwynn 
Gwynn in centerfield?  Since the three outfielders are chosen by the fans, it doesn't always work out that you get a right, left, and center fielder.  Gwynn was moved over to center to start the game.  If that wasn't enough of a change, he also batted leadoff.  Not sure how many times that happened as a Padre, but I can bet that it wasn't many.  Anyways, two awesome players here, but no clear winner.  Griffey looks like he just popped out and his about to toss his bat away, while Gwynn seems to be questioning an umpire's call.  Call it a draw.
AL - 5 / NL - 2

Right Field - Dave Henderson v. Andre Dawson
I can't help but think that the Awesome Dawson card would be better if taken from a different angle, while the "other" Henderson's card is taken at precisely the right moment.  It's also aided by the aforementioned color combination.  The AL is piling it on.
AL - 6 / NL - 2

Designated Hitter: Bobby Bonilla v. Danny Tartabull
I guess the moral of this story is that if you want to win, you either need to be wearing a uniform with some yellow in it, or be hitting in the Home Run Derby.  It seem like Bobby Bo might be doing both in this shot, though the helmet makes it seem like this Wrigley Field shot is from a regular season game.  The grimacing Tartabull continues to grimace as the NL keeps it from being a blowout and adds a "pride" run.
Final Score: AL - 6 / NL - 3

Thanks for playing again, but it seems like the American League has got this one on lockdown.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Big Inning

Welcome to the 1991 Fleer set blog!  I can't believe that nobody has done this before.  It seems like most of the set blogs I've come across have been based on Topps sets.  And none of them even have yellow borders!  What's up with that?

Anyways, this is the first post.  Unlike most (or maybe all?) set blogs, this one won't start with #1 and go all the way to the end of the checklist.  For one thing, that'd be over seven hundred posts just to cover the base set, then include the Update set, plus some of the other inserts, and this might take years. Some people can do it that way (and do it well), but I'm not one of those people.

For another thing, when I see those posts, if it's not somebody I've heard of/am interested in, I just skip it.  The way that I'll be doing this set blog is... well, it'll be different.  I guess you'll just have to read it to see what it's like.

This won't be an everyday post-type of blog, but hopefully a couple of times a week, at the least.

Well, the first post is dedicated to my very first baseball card.  You may have read a similar post on my other blog All The Way To The Backstop..., wherein I mentioned that the very first pack of cards that I ever ripped was 1991 Fleer.  Of course, there were many cards in that pack, but the only one that I remember (and the one that I held onto the longest) was the card you see below:

Looks like the ball is hitting him in the gut.  Probably just a foul ball, though.  Not the greatest action shot in the world, although the disembodied glove is kinda cool.  Also, lots of fans watching the action (though a lot of them appear to not be paying a whole lot of attention.

I think the back of the card is what I remembered the most as a kid.  Something about Henry's sweet mustache really spoke to me.  The amount of stats on lots of Fleer cards from the late 80s/early 90s is pretty amusing to me.  Why would I ever want to know Cotto's stats from the 1980 season in Sarasota when he did't even make it to the majors until four years later?  Still, who am I to question the geniuses at Fleer?

Anyways, as far as the 1991 Fleer set goes, I love it.  I already have the base set completed, though there are still a few of the inserts that I need to track down.  As far as this particular card goes, I'd like to acquire as many of them as I can.  Can't you just imagine a binder full of Cotto's?  Sounds pretty awesome to me.  This is one of my all-time favorite cards, pretty much due to nostalgia, as I still couldn't really tell you a lot about Cotto's career off the top of my head.

Hope to be able to able to spread the love for 1991 Fleer all around the blogosphere.

1991 Fleer: the set so cool, you have to wear shades to look at it.