Note: Because I caved at the last minute and re-ranked 1994 Upper Deck SP at #17, I've gone back and ranked this set at #21.
I have some good news and some bad news about Score’s set from 1991. Good news first.
I have many fond memories of this set. It was really the first set of the decade with a proliferation of subsets original enough to migrate outside the base set and into standalone inserts, which is exactly what happened with Score as the Nineties progressed and The Hobby expanded. All Stars, Master Blasters, Dream Team, one-offs like ‘Reds October,’ ‘The Griffeys,’ ‘Bo Breaker’ and ‘Man of the Year’ (by the way, you know what would make a great offbeat collection? Collecting cards of players wearing a tuxedo. You’d have at least one card of Nolan Ryan, the Sandberg from this set, Piazza and Bonds from when you bought a box of Ultra Pro pages—I’m not sure Scott Erickson, Ultra Pro’s other spokesman, was ever shown in tux—and a handful of others, like Darrell Walker’s 1991-92 Skybox basketball card. Maybe this is something I should start collecting…), and those hideous border colors. Seriously, where did the designer get the inspiration to use blue, white, yellow, teal and purple? On a trip to the doctor’s office? Bad bad bad. And yet unexpectedly lovable (at least to me), especially since the set ends on such a high note with that last round of black-bordered cards.
But maybe the best part of this set is the ‘oh shit, we forgot…’ moment at the end of the set. After 30 subset cards (the stellar Franchise subset and award winners), the checklisters squeezed Damon Berryhill’s regular card in before the start of the Dream Team cards. Either they were playing a game with us by swapping out Berryhill from the end of the first series with the Canseco ‘Wild Stallion’ Dream Team card or they experienced collective brain freeze and really almost left Damon snacking in the Green Room for the duration.
Now for the bad news: I never really actively collected this set; I bought the factory set from the drugstore. Sure, I got the Cooperstown Collection factory set inserts, but in hindsight I feel shamed for never having experienced the joy (and pain) of fruitlessly opening hundreds of packs to complete this endless set. Which reminds me: have I used the term ‘bloated mess’ in this countdown before? I have? Well, then it should come as no surprise that more than one set qualifies for that description. It’s not that 1991 Score is so much of a mess—it’s more that it’s bloated beyond belief. I think there were over 7,000 cards in the checklist (actually 900 or so). The reason this set stands out is because of a handful of excellent cards, like Chipper Jones’s and Mike Mussina’s rookies, the aforementioned ‘Wild Stallion’ or ‘Steroid Stallion’ shirtless Jose Canseco Dream Team card, and others like Doug Jones’s Dream Team card (the best of the bunch, and the best card of Sam Elliott, if you ask me), Bob Welch’s shadowed split-finger, the big-headed All Stars (funny how life imitates art, huh?) and a few others.
This set could easily have been 100 or even 200 cards less and would’ve been better. I know that bloat was hip in the early Nineties, but… I had this set in pages for a few years there, but I felt like I was on seek-n-scan to find the cards I liked, or fast forward to the end for The Franchise and Dream Team. You don’t do that with great sets. You do that with bloated, watered-down ones.