CODNP Day 102: The Cardboard Lives of Ozzie Smith, Part III

All right, in Part I we looked at Donruss, Fleer, and Score, while in Part II we looked at Topps and Upper Deck.  Now let’s take a look at some of Ozzie Smith‘s more eclectic cards.  Some of these are made by the main companies, but they aren’t the main sets so I tossed them in here.  I’ll try to go in some sort of chronological order, though it’s sometimes hard to tell when a card was made.

Honestly, maybe some of you can help me out with this one.  I have no idea where I got it from.  It’s not really a card, because it looks like it was cut/torn out of a bigger page.  On the flip side is Willie McGee.  It’s got French on it, which would tend to lead me to think it was made by Leaf, but I don’t expect that was the case.  Anyway, kinda cool, kinda unique.

For a couple of years, Donruss made pop-up cards of all the starting All-Stars from the prior year.  Both of these (and Whitey Herzog‘s from the ’86 game) reside on my Cardinal desk shelves to my left here at home.

All this says on the back is “photographed by Scott Cunningham” and that it could be purchased in a 5″x7″.  My guess, because I know in our discussions that fellow Ozzie Smith card connoisseur Alex Crisafulli had some, is that they were available around Busch Stadium and I got one during one of my family vacations to the game in 1988 or 1989.  Alex may be able to shed some more light on this, so bug him @alexcards79.

If you are a child of the ’80s, you have some real fond memories of Starting Lineup.  I would get almost any player, though obviously I hunted for the Cardinals and Ozzie in particular.  I have the first year Ozzie in front of me and the second year to my right.  I remember being disappointed in the third year of SL because they went back to the original look–it was exactly the same except it had a blue stripe on the arm, IIRC.  Really unimaginative.  Still, Starting Lineup were awesome and I should look around eBay for some more.

This was a 1988 Topps special set and while this was cool enough, I remember that they also made some oversized ones as well.  I think they did it for this year, but I know they did it a few years later because I got a supersized Mark McGwire.  Though, of course, you couldn’t store them in sleeves or in a binder, so I’m not sure really why I thought they were so neat.

Cards that seemed to move as you shifted them were big for a bit.  We talked about how Score had those small little baseball history cards that had the same sort of motion.  This was a 1987 card from Sportsflics.  Of course, as you can see when it is stationary, it’s kind of a mess.  Neat as a gimmick, but there’s probably a reason there aren’t many like this around now.

Do they do baseball sticker books anymore?  I can’t imagine they do but they’d be a pretty effective way for getting younger kids into at least knowing the players, I would think.  The top (with, I believe, Eric Davis) is from the “Baseball ’88” sticker set while the next year, they put players on the back of the stickers, so you could still have a card if you peeled them off.

Baseball cards were so popular in the late ’80s that certain stores would put out their own sets.  Unlike normal sets, these were smaller in number and came all together in a box of about 25-50.  KayBee Toys–remember when there were toy stores–and K-Mart got licenses and jumped on the trend.  Given Ozzie’s national popularity, he was always going to be in those sets.

In a similar vein were the Collect-A-Books.  They came about 10 to a box, three different boxes.  The difference with these versus regular cards were that they actually were a small book.  Inside would have a few facts, some stats, and the back had a drawing of the player.  Only 2-3 pages, but something a little beyond a regular card.

Bowman was an older label that Topps bought and brought back starting in 1989.  That year, the size of the cards was the same as the old Bowman cards from years ago, which made them about an inch or so taller than the standard at the time.  Which meant you had to be careful sticking a Bowman into sleeves or a binder, because they’d stick out over the top.  It did give them an old feel, though, which was neat.  And the back had the stats against each team, which wasn’t something you saw much of back then.

Topps got creative in other ways as well.  They put out a set of coin-like cards in 1989 (and perhaps other years, I’m not sure).  They were metallic and the scan isn’t very good but the back had the name and some info about the ’89 season for that player.

For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you how I got this card.  I don’t remember ever having a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids, because I think I would have been a bit old for that when it started in 1989.  Maybe I picked up an issue when I saw it was baseball cards.  Maybe my parents did get me one and I don’t remember it.  Whatever the case, there were some perforated cards you could tear out and I still have the Ozzie.

When I started collecting, Leaf and Donruss were basically the same thing.  The only difference was that Leaf was Canadian and would have some French on it.  After a while, they started doing their own thing.  I like this one–crisp day shot, white border, home whites.  So often the Cards were in their grays on cards.

After Upper Deck was such a hit, Topps started coming out with their own premium product.  The Stadium Club cards were on thicker cardboard, had better photography, and even had a picture of the player’s rookie card on the back with the stats.  Of course, these packs had fewer cards and cost more than your regular packs, a trend that continues today and, honestly, paved the way for the card bubble to burst.

Donruss had this set of cards in 1991 to also try to give a different product on the market.  There were 264 of them (you can get the full set for $35 plus shipping over at Amazon) and they were unique, artistic looks at the players.  I mean, how many other Ozzie cards would have covered up that big smile with a glove?

As much as I’ve talked about liking the white borders, this black background is pretty sweet as well.  Though I will say that the front of the card catches Ozzie in sort of a goofy look.  Also have to appreciate the back talking about him maybe not being too old and basically suggesting he should be just about done.  He’d play five more years.

By ’93 I was pretty much out of collecting cards.  I’d say around the beginning of the 1991 season, I started spending money on the preseason magazines that came out and started running MLB prediction contests with my friends at school.  (Given how often I’m trying to do things like that on this blog, gathering data and the like, you are probably not surprised.)  In ’93, I graduated high school and I don’t remember buying packs after that, save the occasional one here and there.  Honestly, they are harder to find these days, it seems like.

Anyway, this Triple Play card was put out by Leaf/Donruss and, again, the black makes for a striking card.  Plus, like the Pinnacle, you get to see a full color back that gives you another good look at The Wizard.

This last card has no value to anyone but me.  Growing up, there was a family at the small church we went to.  Their daughter was a year younger than me, their son a year older than my brother, so we all did a lot of things together.  Scott got into baseball cards when I did and we spent a lot of time going through our collections, swapping cards, and the like.  I remember him coming to my house to watch the 1990 All-Star Game, which was the one at Wrigley that had so many rain delays.  We didn’t get to watch all of the game, but we had our cards to pass the time.  He made me this card when we were kids and it went in the binder or on the wall with the other Ozzies.

Tragically and inexplicably, about a decade ago Scott took his own life.  It was a devastating blow to everyone that knew him and one that his parents never truly recovered from.  A few years after that they decided to move away, but as they were going through his things they asked me if I wanted his baseball card collection.  I was honored to take possession of it.  He had a binder dedicated to Ozzie Smith cards, with artwork on the front and everything.  I probably should dug into there and posted some throughout this series.  (The binder had a few loose pages in the front of Mark McGwire cards, including his USA Baseball one.)  I wanted to take the time to honor a friend and that card seemed the best way to do it.

Anyway, that’s some of the highlights of my collection.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the trip down memory lane!

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