Someone posted a card on Twitter yesterday that I couldn't quite place for an instant.
It was a card of a bunch of Expos posed together with the sun setting behind them and a wonderfully descriptive logo in the corner. And then I remembered:
Ah, yes, its from my favorite Upper Deck set of all-time, the '93 set.
There were all kinds of crazy, wild things going on inside the 1993 Upper Deck set -- INSIDE, the set, not outside, like today where interesting stuff is reserved for inserts and short-prints. Yes, '93 UD did have inserts, too, but the regular cards, the subset cards (remember those?) were so funky that you barely cared whether you saw the inserts.
"Teammates/Team Stars" is one of the many subsets within '93 Upper Deck. The theme is simple: get some guys together from the same team for a photo and slap a goofy name and logo on the card to sum them up.
Upper Deck did that for every team and made them as staged and dopey as possible.
But I love that stuff. There's not enough of it on cards today. Every once in awhile you see a couple of players together on a current card, but it's either some celebration thing or it's a happenstance, players captured in a moment.
The collective poses don't seems to happen much these days. They're considered way too corny or cheesy I suppose. Too bad. Love that corn and cheese.
The best part of the '93 Teammates/Team Stars subset is that quite a bit of thought went into it. First they had to get the players together -- sometimes as many as four or five players -- for a shot. Then they had to come up with some sort of pose. Then they had to add a background that summed up the city. Then they had to devise a logo that summed up the team/players, then they had to make it look cool.
The subset even comes with two checklist cards, one for the American League teams and one for the National League teams, although nowhere on either checklist does it say it is an AL or NL checklist. Instead the AL is called "Teammates" and the NL called "Team Stars".
Those are the checklists. The Carter-McGwire card might not seem like a "teammates" card but it's a photo from the 1992 All-Star Game and Carter and McGwire were teammates on the AL team. It's a moment during the home run derby (before it because a pimped-out, hyped-up event) and Carter is presenting a cup of water to McGwire to "cool him off" after McGwire slugged eight consecutive batting practice pitches for home runs.
Now, while almost all of the Teammates/Team Stars cards show teammates together, a few of them have been altered to get the teammates in the same shot. Those cards definitely look hokey and I'd enjoy this set more if the players were actually together. Here are those cards:
I could be wrong on the A's card, I guess, but, man, Sierra looks pasted into that picture.
You'll note those glorious logos on each card. Each one is distinctive in color, design, titles and shape. Lots of dorky word play, too. Love it.
Let's take a look at the rest of the American League ones -- the "Teammates":
I love studying the backgrounds on these cards, whether it's a cityscape inserted behind the players or it's fans in the crowd or just reading the scoreboard. The pictures are endlessly fascinating.
The cards are numbered in order based on the teams' placing in the 1992 standings. For example:
1992 AL East finish:
AL East numbering order in '93 Upper Deck Teammates
Blue Jays (42)
Red Sox (48)
Although, you can see there's a bit of a slip-up as the Tigers and Yankees swapped places.
OK, let's look at the other National League "team stars" cards:
Lots of pairings that didn't turn out -- everyone was forcing David Nied into things -- but that Phillies' Hammers and Nails was dead-on heading into 1993.
Again, UD numbered the cards in order of the team's finishes in 1992. It wedged the two expansion teams, the Marlins and Rockies, between the NL West and NL East. Love that "Inaugural Catch" logo.
If I had to rank my five favorites, the Expos card, as great as it is and as nostalgic-inducing, would probably wind up fifth. In fact, let's go ahead and rank my top five:
5. Card shown for the third time on this post!
4. Three years away from a World Series and household name status.
3. I don't like admitting it but probably the best rotation of my lifetime.
2. Buhner's bubble makes the entire picture.
1. So cool. A great idea that's probably been done before but this is the first time I saw it.
Honorable mention to the Marlins (I can't believe I have nostalgia for those uniforms) and the Tigers (love that garage background).
We're probably far beyond the time when any of this was possible so wishing for it to appear on cards again is likely foolish. Players are far too busy and important these days. Card companies and collectors are far too concerned with rookies in every set to care. Nobody wants to hire photographers or ask for their ideas. Nobody wants to pay an artist.
But, again, it's nice to go back to a time when stuff like this was possible. That's why I have a card collection. So I can remember when cards were corny and cheesy -- and pretty awesome, too.