Saturday, March 19, 2011

Card back countdown: #11 - 1991 Studio

Ah, the early '90s.

Once, ballplayers were simply ballplayers. They ran, hit and threw. That's all. Once they left the field, a few of them signed autographs before disappearing into nothingness, only to reappear the next day (or night) to run, hit and throw again.

At least that was the world that was painted for us in baseball cards.

Things began to change slowly in the 1980s. Card backs, specifically, introduced collectors to the more personal side of baseball players with blurbs that might reveal a family or a hobby.

The glamorization of ballplayers increased rapidly from there. By the 1990s, they were full-fledged fashion models, thanks to some of those Stadium Club and Bowman abominations featuring players in collared shirts and slacks.

But perhaps no set provided better insight into the ballplayer's "inner self" than Studio.

Everyone remembers the portrait-style photos on the front. Studio captured the Olin Mills feel quite well. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Cheesy background. The complete opposite of cool.

The backs were another matter.

Sure, they're gray and hardly eye-catching. But that's only if you're one of those "I only look at the pictures" types.

The write-up is filled with all kinds of good information. Mike's birthday. His wife's name. His kid's name. But scroll down to the very bottom to "Hobbies & Interests" and "Heroes." This was where Studio made its money.

What other card set told you that Mike Scioscia liked to listen to Motown music? Or that he enjoyed "All in the Family"?

Now this was the best example yet of showing the person inside the ballplayer. It was a vast improvement over putting a player in a printed shirt. Or, God forbid, no shirt at all.

Here, you learn that Mariano Duncan likes shopping. Yuck. He's a better man than I, I guess. Also, from the relatively few Studio cards I have, I've noticed that the players are very old-school in their TV viewing habits. Sanford & Son and The Jeffersons? Those shows had been off the air for more than 10 years before Studio even arrived.

Orel Hershiser watches L.A. Law. Well, that's more like it. I think that show might have still been around in 1991. Also, any card that reveals that the player collects baseball cards is worth keeping.

 I had to look up who Juan Duarte was. He was one of the founders of the Dominican Republic. I suppose I should have known that already, but I don't have to when Studio will do the job for me!

Bob Ojeda's hobby in 1990/91 was collecting phones. This was before cell phones became popular. Was he collecting old-style touch-tone phones or corded rotary phones? I'd like to see that collection.

Today, it's nothing to learn the habits and outside life of ballplayers from baseball cards. From the backs of the 2011 set alone I've learned that:

Andres Torres had an emergency appendectomy last year
Max Scherzer has heterochromia (one blue eye, one brown)
Clayton Kershaw's great-uncle discovered Pluto
Andre Ethier is of Mexican-Hispanic, French-Canadian and Cherokee Indian descent
Clay Buchholz probably has a Nolan Ryan rookie card in his closet

And that's from a set that keeps the write-ups mostly to on-the-field stuff. Many other sets have gotten much more personal in the last two decades.

That's the trail that Studio blazed. For the collector, putting together an entire set of 1991 Studio must have been a blast. Sure, it's an awkward set all-around. But it certainly is entertaining.

Best of the set:

I wish I had more of these cards, but I don't, so no best of the set.

(previous card back countdown selections):

50. 1978 SSPC Yankee Yearbook
49. 1993 Score
48. 1999 Skybox Thunder
47. 2000 Upper Deck
46. 1999 Skybox Premium
45. 1953 Johnston Cookies Braves
44. 1995 Topps
43. 1997 Fleer
42. 1992 Pinnacle
41. 1989 Bowman
40. 1977 Kellogg's
39. 2004 Topps
38. 2004 Topps Total
37. 1992 Topps
36. 1992 Donruss
35. 2008 Upper Deck Documentary
34. 1963 Fleer
33. 1955 Bowman
32. 2006 Topps
31. 1961 Topps
30. 1955 Topps
29. 1967 Topps
28. 1970 Topps

27. 1969 Topps
26. 1966 Topps
25. 1963 Topps
24. 1911 T205
23. 1962 Topps
22. 1981 Topps

21. 1981 Donruss
20. 1958 Topps
19. 1977 Topps
18. 1974 Topps
17. 1957 Topps
16. 1988 Score
15. 1993 Upper Deck
14. 2004 Upper Deck Timeless Teams
13. 1971 Topps
12. 1965 Topps


  1. I'm one of those "I only look at the pictures" types, so to me this is one of the worst card backs off all time. (along with worst fronts of all time too)

  2. Worst of all-time? I couldn't disagree more.

  3. I preferred the 1992 Studio set. It had a picture (usually half the player's face staring a hole into your soul) and the oddball information