The non-standard issued sized baseball card always drove me nuts growing up. What am I supposed to do with this giant baseball card? How am I supposed to keep track of this mini-baseball card? These are the things that bothered me when I was nine.
When it came to Don Mattingly, however, baseball cards of varying sizes did not perturb me. In fact, he was so much the non-standard player in terms of his otherworldly ability, I thought the non-standard size card captured that aspect perfectly. That companies made similar cards for other players was the glaring error.
Let us begin with the big:
Don Mattingly, 1985 Donruss oversized
I’m not sure how well this comes across on the Interwebs, but this card is gigantic. When I was in grammar school, I happily boasted a Mattingly ’88 Topps folder, which is exactly what you imagine it to be, and which I used to keep my school papers, which were, by the way, frequently studied and well-graded, as I strived for the excellence consistently achieved by the man on the folder. Anyway, this card is almost as big as that folder, for reference. It is in poor condition because, again—they didn’t make enormous binders or casings for these cards, and it often fell victim to mishandlings and awkward placement among its normal-sized counterparts. I once considered placing this particular card in a picture frame for both protection purposes as well as adoration, but then I couldn’t see the back. :(
Two things of note: 1) I am a sucker for the headshot inset, especially one outlined in a halo of white, in which the look of our hero says, “I don’t know why you’re taking my picture—I’m just doing my job; .343/23/110 in my first full season was really just baseballs finding holes—but I’ll oblige.”
Signed thru 1985
Steinbrenner: Alright, let’s not beat around the bush here, Don. You just had 211 hits—35 of them home runs—and drove in freakin’ 145. Your defense is flawless and you could run for mayor of this city tomorrow and win in a landslide similar to the one that just witnessed you win the AL MVP. You’re 24. I know when I don’t have leverage, so just tell me—what do you want?
Mattingly: Oh geez, Boss. I mean, I really just want the chance to go out there and compete day in and da—
Steinbrenner: For crying out loud, Don, CUT THE CRAP! I got things to do! I’m on Winfield’s trail—Hank, GET YOUR GREASY HANDS OFF THE DESK!—so just give me a number!
Mattingly: Eight billion, 20 years.
Steinbrenner: Fine, whatever. But you gotta cut those sideburns.
Mattingly: It’s a side mullet. And no.
Steinbrenner: Deal. Get out.
Don Mattingly, 1988 Topps-mini
This is a mini card. Isn’t it cute? The dream-sequence nature and glossy texture make it something straight out of mini-heaven.
This “Major League Leaders” card then goes on to list several categories that Don Mattingly did not lead the league in. I am sure they recognized, as do I, that “general awesomeness” should be a concrete statistic, and thus awarded him leader-status and the spoils that go with it, which, in this case, is a mini baseball card. The headshot inset is fantastic. But not as fantastic as …
Don Mattingly, 1988 Topps special
In a word: breathtaking.
This is when Topps started producing—like they would with Bowman—baseball cards that were just slightly bigger than normal, allowing children the all over the world the convenience of having baseball cards that were just slightly bigger than normal, and which stuck out of the ends of binder sleeves and casings and got bent and ruined. In this series, Topps made up for it with cartoons:
I love the notion that when a record is broken, the record book wherein the details of that record are contained is dramatically smashed, via the very means by which that record was achieved. I believe all records should be broken in this manner. Remember the Guinness record of the two fattest identical twins to ride motorcycles? They should have totally run over with their motorcycles the record book containing the information about the previously fattest identical twins to ride motorcycles.
(By the way, in order to provide you the link to that picture, I Googled “guinness record fat twins motorcycles.” I just wanted you to know that. Also, they made a great cameo on “The Simpsons” once, fyi.)
We also discover that Mattingly’s brother Randy played professional football, and that he either scored a touchdown or had a game referee outwardly cheering for him. I can’t really blame the referee—it’s impossible to be objective in the face of Mattingly athletic prowess. To wit: my life.