April 13, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown: #11. 1991 Studio

It's taken me a while to accept it, but I've decided there's no use beating around the bush anymore: there are just some things that I'll never truly be able to experience, no matter how many hours I spend outfitting my Delorean with time-traveling capabilities.

One such event was a certain brainstorm at Donruss HQ. You know the one I'm talking about. The one where they decided that the time was finally right to take the Glamor Shots phenomenon out of the malls and share it with an audience as yet unaware of its glory. And hell, the hobby was practically a perfect storm; no one would have noticed had it flopped.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm talking about the day Donruss sprung Studio on the world. And despite the fact that you may be able to take Glamor Shots out of the mall, no matter how you dress them up, you can't take 'the mall' out of Glamor Shots. And yet, this set was a hit. Because really, how could it not be? First of all, we're talking about 1991 here. If it was an air of quality that you were trying to exude, black and white photography set against a cross-hatched resume paper backdrop was de rigueur.

A limited checklist helps too. As does a metallic ink border (red copper, anyone?). Oh, and don't forget slapping big-time rookies right into the set instead of quarantining them as inserts. Who can forget Sammy Sosa's hair soufflé (even if they've spent the last 17 years trying)? One more thing helps distance this set from the rest: no inserts. And no bullshit.

Alright, a little bullshit. But in a good, Steve Lake-with-a-cockatoo-on-his-goddamn-shoulder senior superlatives way. That was what this set was known for; it was what separated it from the pack. Nothing wrong with that. Don't try to be more than you are, I say. Never mind that this was the first real, honest to God set that didn't use one color photo in 31 years (1960 Leaf had been the last). And while the return of black and white was somewhat of an accomplishment, the real hero here is the evolution of photographic equipment since 1960. Instead of a set of deer-in-the-headlights major leaguers, Studio could have been stray photos from a hairdresser's idea book: fades, mullets, crewcuts, feathered, layered; practically every style was represented.

It's too bad this set didn't exist in the late Seventies. Professionally-shot Avedon-esque portraits of guys like Oscar Gamble and Sammy Stewart. Can you imagine how great a set like that would be? I guess the closest set to Studio were the SSPC sets from 1975 and 1976, though the photos were taken at the ballpark. What can I say? I'm greedy. And disappointed that I'll never know what Willie Montanez's favorite TV show was.


capewood said...

I always liked the early Studio sets. I don't have too many of the 1991 but I thought I had all the Phillies. I don't think I ever saw that Steve Lake card before.

Jason said...

Methinks Steve was positioning himself for a role in the as-yet-unproduced "Phillies of the Caribbean" movie.

Uglee Card said...

I'm pretty sure that's a Cockatoo card, with Steve Lake guest starring.

Matthew Huha said...

I just had a friend give me a box of 91 Studio. The card distribution was the strangest I've ever seen. 1-5, 11-15, 21-25... seriously the 1st 5 out of every 10 cards the whole way up through the complete set.