Regardless of everything you are about to read, I’m not really into the aesthetics of baseball cards. In fact, as it stands now -- with me posting old cards to the Internet for the enjoyment of no one in particular -– the worse a card looks, the better.
That said, from like 1988 until at least 1991, Topps wasn’t even trying anymore. Just awful, awful sets of cards. I should know because I still have a complete unopened set of 1989 Topps that I received on Christmas of that year which has actually decreased in value since then. When he dropped it off that night even Santa was like “Pfftt. This set has nobody, and these cards are too bland to even generate camp value when you’re in your 30s!” And I was like, “I know dude. Just put it under the tree.”
So I was as delighted as anyone when Upper Deck came along and blew everyone out of the water. It was like going to HD. But it wasn’t until I was recently flipping through some old cards that it really dawned on me just how far ahead of the game Upper Deck was, and how little Topps cared. I would like to illustrate this point using two cards that feature an Oakland A’s pitcher. (I realize these cards are two years apart, however Topps ’89 set was probably the nicest from that era of indifference, and Upper Deck came out in ’89 with this, and Topps responded with this.)
Todd Burns, 1989 Topps
Look at ol’ Burnsie over there. Mullet blowing in the breeze. Doesn’t have a care in the world. I think Topps banged out its entire 1989 set after two days at spring training asking guys like Todd Burns to pretend like they were playing baseball for three seconds. Also, according to Wikipedia:
Burns now runs the Todd Burns School of Baseball in Huntsville, Alabama.
In my head I have an image of ol’ Burnsie standing in front of a crowd of like, seven kids, and speaking to them in an extremely slow southern drawl:
Todd Burns: Alright, kids. Do you want to learn how to play baseball?
Todd Burns: I saaaiiiiid, do you want to learn how to play baseball?
Kids: I guess/yeah?/*cough*
Todd Burns: Okay, then. Well, first thing you do is lift your arms over your head like this…
It should also be mentioned that the first rule of Todd Burns School of Baseball is: don’t talk about Todd Burns School of Baseball. Since I just violated that rule and now fear for my safety, I will move on.
In fact, let’s look at our next installment. I call this one: “Joe Slusarski in Three Parts.”
Joe Slusarski, 1991 Upper Deck
I’m not saying that this is the coolest card ever. Assuredly it would be much cooler if it featured someone other than Joe Slusarski. But for 1991, this was pretty awesome. I mean, ol’ Burnsie probably needed one take for his pose. Meanwhile, Upper Deck is taking their photos back to the lab. If he wanted to Joe Slusarski could analyze his mechanics with this. I mean, not really. But still. Based on these two cards, and given the choice, I would much rather attend The Joe Slusarski Camp of Awesomeness, which takes place every year during the first week of fall at alternating parks in Indianapolis.
I am also finding it quite humorous to envision what “Todd Burns in Three Parts” would look like if it involved just him bringing his glove from his waist to over his head. And now I know what I will be asking for this year for Christmas. I realize that there is something wrong with me.
Did you know?
During my college years I valiantly attempted to make the phrase “getting Slusarski’d” synonymous with getting really, really drunk, but it never seemed to catch on.