Monday, August 10, 2009

Cardboard appreciation: 1980 Kellogg's J.R. Richard

(August 10th is officially "Lazy Day." Who doesn't appreciate that? And I can fully appreciate it, because I'm off today. A whole day to devote to baseball cards. This is Cardboard Appreciation. The 43rd in a series):

During times of trouble, when the Dodgers' lead in the NL West is shrinking, the bullpen is getting dirty looks from the starters, and the offense is returning to the Kent-Gonzalez days when the team's ultimate goal was to get runners to second base (but no further!), I turn to my Kellogg's 3-D Super Stars collection.

Kellogg's 3-D cards are the Sportflics of my era. There is a lot of love for Sportflics on the blogs. I understand that. But I was a bit too old for Sportflics. You can't exactly talk about Sportflics when you're in a college bar, on your fifth beer, trying to chat up the girl you spied at the Bengal Burger earlier that day.

To me, the drawback to Sportflics -- aside from it being a chick repellent -- was that there wasn't one dominant image at first glance. If you looked at the card without tilting it, all you saw was a bunch of jumbled pictures. Speaking of being on your fifth beer, it looked like what you might see if you stared at a regular card after having a few.

My tastes gravitate toward a good, old-fashioned, cheap 3-D image Kellogg's card, plucked from a box of Frosted Flakes or Raisin Bran after jamming my hand in the bag, smashing the flakes to bits, in an effort to find the one card in the box.

Actually, my mother forbade us from doing this. And since my brothers and I could never decide how to split one card three ways, nor was my mother going to buy 12 boxes of Frosted Flakes a month, the "one card a box" thing grew stale. We ended up ordering the whole set through an order form on the cereal box. Then we waited for what seemed like decades for the package to arrive.

On that happy day, we would lay all the cards out on the floor in our basement rec room, split up the players according to our favorite team, then pick off the remaining cards until only Pat Zachary or Jeff Newman was left.

We did that for four straight years -- 1977, 78, 79 and 80. I still have those cards, although some of them are cracked (they don't seem to keep well in plastic sheets). It is still cool to read the backs of the cards. One of the best aspects is reading the players' hobbies. Gorman Thomas' hobbies are listed as drag racing and rock music. Awesome.

Also, complete stats on the backs of those babies, Upper Deck.

The funny thing is, we didn't give the 3-D aspect of the cards much thought. It was a little bit cool, I guess. Like Sportflics, you didn't really get the 3-D effect unless you tilted the card from side-to-side and watched the scenery float behind the player.

My favorites were the cloud backgrounds, like on the J.R. Richard card. The bleacher backgrounds were an indistinguishable blur, just like a fastball from Richard.

Richard, by the way, freaked me out. He seemed so unhittable and I was afraid that my Dodgers would get skulled by one of his pitches. But the day the news came out that he had suffered a stroke, I felt nothing but regret. I was a paper boy then, and I remember reading the news at 5:30 in the morning as I sorted the papers before going on my route. How awful, I thought. I barely knew what a stroke was.

Richard never pitched in the majors again. Out of baseball, he eventually ended up homeless before turning his life around, and a movie was made about him a few years ago.

Richard is now one of my favorite players of the 1970s. I'm always happy to pick up a card of his. Especially if it's in 3-D.


  1. He was a dang good pitcher for a few years. Would the Astros have gotten over the hump if he wouldn't have had the stroke? I wonder...

  2. As a kid growing up in the '70s I didn't have but one or two of the Kellog's cards but I knew one thing for sure:

    J.R. Richard was THE MAN!!!

  3. J.R. Richard has a sad story, I cant believe how the mlb just abandoned him like he was worthless.I love 70's baseball players, too bad i wasnt born back then