April 30, 2008
1990 - 1994 Countdown: #7. 1994 Score
You see, this set is a bad mother--
(Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about 94 Score
(Then we can dig it)
Admit it, you were thinking the same thing… and you’ve seen this set the same way since it came out. 1994 Score is a bad mother: it’s strong in the right places, it makes risky moves and they work, it’s classy and suave and no one understands it but its woman (I guess “its collectors” would be more appropriate). If this were 1994 and you lived in a magical world where baseball cards came alive, you definitely didn’t want to run into Score down a dark alley. Unless your name was Fleer or SP, it would beat your ass every time.
It would do this in a number of ways, least of all with its silent-but-deadly, take-no-prisoners blue border. It’s almost impossible to believe that the same company responsible for 1992 Score created this set only two years later. Where the former was card design in puberty—an experimentation of ugly gradients and bright colors—’94 was understated and mature. Look no further than ’93 Score for the initial design shift towards sophistication, and though it’s not a popular set with collectors, that set did most of the heavy lifting for the brand’s later editions, ’94 included.
Also, where ’92 was bloated (893 base cards), ’94 was lean (660 base cards). Granted, we probably should give 1992’s set a pass on its massive checklist, as it was produced a year or so before it became industry custom to strip subsets from base sets and upgrade them into inserts, a practice Score started in 1993. By 1994, formerly traditional base set highlights like Dream Team and The Franchise (represented in ’94 as Gold Stars) had been sequestered to life as hard-to-find inserts, cutting down on the number of base set subsets. The strategy worked. In 1992 it was fun to get a Dream Teamer in your pack. By 1994, getting one was the best thing to happen all week (and yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s how sad my social life was as a 15-year-old).
But this set didn’t just beat you with a flawless base set or good-looking inserts. It beat you with a classy parallel. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: I do hate parallels. But we’re talking about 1994 here, fool, the year the parallel came of age. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if news came out that 1994 Gold Rush was hand-crafted by dwarves burrowed deep beneath the Misty Mountains. Seriously, I think Heaven is missing a baseball card-related angel: Gold Rush is the most perfect parallel set ever created.
And as if that weren’t enough for you, if by some fluke you were still conscious after this pummeling, Score would send you to the hospital with its version of the right-arm wind-up, left-arm knockout. I’m speaking of course of Rookie/Traded.
Sure, it included the awesome Alex Rodriguez rookie “Call Up” redemption card, but the real scene-stealer here was the R/T base card design. It looked, in a word, terrible (though putrid, ugly, forgettable and shitty also fit the bill). But that wasn’t the point. The point was that the cards didn’t look like the regular set.
Thinking forward once again, Score took the opportunity Rookie/Traded created and not only debuted a new company logo but debuted a new card design, one that would—with a few tweaks here and there—carry over into their 1995 product. It was an ingenious move. The set itself, besides the hard-to-find Rodriguez insert, was weak and forgettable. But the idea that it could be an extension of the regular set and be some kind of live testing ground for future sets, well, that’s pretty powerful.