February 18, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown:
#38. 1994 Fleer Extra Bases

‘Tall Boy’ is an affectionate term usually reserved for the hallmark oversized Topps basketball issues from the Seventies, or Parkhurst hockey from 1964-65. But what about this mid-Nineties Fleer incarnation? Tall Boy is an accurate description, though there's probably not much affection behind its use here. The name ‘Extra Bases’ was probably meant to imply the collector was getting more bang for the buck (if you count getting a glorified bookmark as a bonus).

It’s not that I didn’t care for this set—I collected enough wrappers to send away for the Pitcher’s Duel mail-order subset—it’s just that I remember buying packs and thinking I was wasting my money. Turns out I was right. I mean, it’s one thing for Topps to unleash a slightly larger Bowman, as they did in 1989. It’s another thing entirely for Fleer to smugly release a gangly rectangular disaster and expect the hobby to cater to it. I don’t remember if Ultra Pro or any of the other archival/display plastics companies responded with a special top loader or pocket page to fit this set, but I sure as hell never found one.

In case you still don’t remember what set I’m talking about, the cards were long, thin, colorful rectangles. Like other Fleer sets at the time, packs included a hearty slew of inserts, some of which were die-cut.

Extra Bases was a set with a regular checklist (big stars, rookies, commons) but cannot in any way, shape or form be considered a mainstream set. It was a disposable, experimental product of the bloated hobby landscape at the time. And frankly, a set like this would not be made today.

I don’t really remember too much about this set (I was pretty strung out on the glorious 1994 Score set at the time), and I haven’t come across too many of these cards when I’ve gone through my collection. I do remember that Fleer carried the oversized theme throughout the four sports (or at least basketball and football) with Jam Session (basketball) and Game Day (football).

I can’t say that I know what they were thinking, unless these sets were their rather late contributions to the ‘let’s make baseball cards fun for kids!’ movement (Topps Kids, Donruss Triple Play, Upper Deck Fun Packs). This hypothesis makes the most sense, as Fleer sort of sat that one out until the release of Extra Bases in 1994.

Yes, I stole this image off eBay. But then I remind myself that stealing images off eBay is not that bad. Heck, The New York Times did this two weeks ago in their obituary for movie poster artist John Alvin (their crack team of photo editors pulled an image of Alvin's 'Blazing Saddles' poster right off the site. You can tell by the little camera watermark in the lower right corner).


Anonymous said...

Yes!..There were sheets made to accomodate these cards. I have several filled with baseball,football and basketball varieties.

Offy said...

Yep, there were definitely pages, penny sleeves and top loaders made for cards in this size. I remember buying a wax box of a basketball set that was this size for a couple of bucks just to have something to open. I've got a set of MLB Bookmarkers in pages. That set made a little more sense at this size since bookmarks are usually that size. I don't think that many people used them for bookmarks though.