I just found another reason to like this card, a much more symbolic reason than the others I’d been thinking about. But first, the obvious. It’s fun when you go to a game and a guy on the other team makes an error, especially when it’s a game-defining or momentum-shifting play. Like the photo on this card. Martinez and the Expos are at Wrigley for a series with the Cubs (the telltale ivy gives it away), and unless there’s another Expos outfielder close by (either Larry Walker or Marquis Grissom), Martinez’ gaffe is going to go for extra bases. It’s a cool photo, don’t get me wrong, but how pissed would you be if you were Dave Martinez and you found out that the card they were using of you was of you making an error? And it’s right up at the front of the set, which means more people are going to probably see it, right? And it was a photo taken during a game back in Wrigley, where he played as a member of the Cubs from 1986 to 1988, when he was traded to the Expos. I’d say that would be kind of embarrassing for Mr. Martinez. And yet, wouldn’t you know it, also incredibly symbolic for the Leaf set for the year.
When you look at the buildup to 1991, 1989 belonged to the emergence of Upper Deck and with it the premium card. In 1990 Donruss/Leaf spun off Leaf, away from its traditional format as a Canadian version of Donruss to its own premium set. Card prices went through the roof, and would help lead the hobby on the path to destruction the following year. So like Upper Deck’s inevitable 1990 letdown, Leaf was hit with a letdown of its own in 1991. I have to admit that I’ve always kind of liked the design, with the photo album feel, but then again, it always has seemed a little cheap. Anyway, what better way to announce to the hobby that you’ve committed a creative error than with a picture of a guy committing an error on the field within the first nine cards of the set.