I am a man of my favorites. That’s why it’s easy for me to appreciate the manager cards from 1981 Donruss: the stark simplicity of what is, in essence, a headshot or a blurry medium shot of an old man is rendered both wonderful and painfully boring. The other years when Donruss put out manager cards, the company thought it necessary to include them within the scope of ‘regular’ cards: posed shots in the dugout to simulate a game setting or else an actual in-game photo. But by doing so, the company stripped the managers subset of the very thing that made the original subset so appealing: the fact that these guys could actually pass for your grandfather, portrayed in ways not far removed from those in which you’d seen your grandfather photographed. Sure, you’re grandfather probably didn’t dress up in a Cleveland Indians uniform, but like Dave Garcia, he probably used a cane, and he did have an honest look about him (that is a cane that Garcia is resting his hands on, right?).
And if not your grandfather, then at least one of your no-good good ole boy uncles, like John Goryl. He looks like he just got bailed out of jail, or at least like he just got slapped across the face. And if not a good ole boy uncle, then definitely an unpleasant guy who makes your life unpleasant in some way, whether he’s a traffic cop, a boss or a high school principal. And really, all that’s missing from Dave Bristol’s forehead is ‘Dork’ spelled out in suntan lotion (much like Captain Harris’ misguided day in the sun from the immortal Police Academy 5: Mission Miami Beach). Seriously, where does Bristol’s Giants jersey end and his face begin?
And how can we forget Jim Frey? I bet the Donruss photographer found this photo after rummaging through the trash at Frey’s local post office, because it’s obviously an unused passport photo—the background gives it away.
Overall, the uniform colors are great, the skin tones horrible, and many if not all of the managers are photographed up against some kind of wall. The only exception I can think of is Joe Amalfitano’s card where it looks as though he was photographed leaving the Cubs’ team bus on the highway to take a piss.