February 01, 2006

A Note of Appreciation Concerning Mike Schmidt and his Fantastic if Unfortunate 1985 Leaf Card

1985 was a great year for cards. It was one year before I started collecting, which is really too bad, because it was one of the last years that Topps had gimmicky cards in its set in the Eighties (1989 had the Draft Pick cards); 1985 had Father/Son, Draft Picks and the Olympic Team (plus the requisite Record Breakers and All Star cards, but alas no Topps All-Star Rookies and no team cards). But for all the merit of that great Topps set, 1985 was really one of the best years Donruss ever had, in my opinion. In the early Eighties, Donruss was obsessed with reminding the collector that they made baseball cards (1982 featured little baseballs on the fronts; 1983 had little gloves and bats), but by 84 they were over that and began their obsession with lines and jagged edges. In came the Rated Rookie (hello Joe Carter) and Don Mattingly and his awkward close-up sans mustache and that weird turquoise back. Diamond Kings had been around since 82, but by 84 they really hit their stride (well, actually, they were in their stride from the start), and by the time 85 rolled around, they played their cards right, so to speak, and had already featured two other Padres (including Ozzie Smith in 82, I believe), so could feature Tony Gwynn as the Padre Diamond King (one of my favorite cards).

1985 was a great year for Donruss and Leaf. A black border is always cool, and black and red always trumps black (case in point: compare Steve Carlton’s card and Reggie Jackson’s cards from the 1971 set. Carlton is way cooler not because he’s less of a jerk than Jackson (actually, that probably depends on who you ask), but because of the black and red). Anyway, one of the best cards from the black and red Donruss set in Mike Schmidt. He’s in a classic little leaguer pose in the ridiculous Phillies striped jumpsuit uniform, and his skin is definitely not a healthy color. It looks like Mike got called out of the tanning booth to take this photo. Or maybe the Phils weren’t paying him enough in the off-season and he had to drive a pick-up truck out in Wyoming and hustle cattle and couldn’t afford sunscreen.

If you can believe it, this card is even cooler with the green Leaf symbol in the upper left corner (to signify Leaf, the Canadian equivalent of Donruss, much like O Pee Chee to Topps, even though Topps owned O Pee Chee and Leaf owned Donruss), both because it’s from the oddly numbered Leaf set (because where are you going to find packs of Leaf?) and because it’s a tragic circumstance: here’s Mike Schmidt, iconic third baseman for the Phillies, sunburned into retirement with an aloe leaf just out of reach, as if it’s taunting him.

Okay, that’s a stretch, but it’s still a great card.

1 comment:

reedster said...

My favorite Topps "gimmicky" cards were the 1976 and 77 "Turn Back the Clock" cards (especially 76, with the Babe Ruth and Gehrig).

Nice blog...