Sunday, January 23, 2011

Card back countdown: #16 - 1988 Score

I collected next to no cards in 1988. Hopelessly in love with both a girl and bar-hopping, cards were decidedly uncool in '88. No time and no desire.

Rack packs of 1988 Score could have been hanging in an aisle in the drugstore I frequented almost every week. But I'll never know because I never paid attention.

Chances are they were. As I've come to find out, there is an endless supply of 1988 Score.

Still, I find it to be one of my favorite sets of the entire junk wax era, and I should finally be completing it very soon. I like it because it's colorful and the photos, for the most part, are interesting. It's got that cool Reggie Jackson subset, too.

But I admire 1988 Score for the card BACKS. Color mug shot, team logo, yearly stats, vertical orientation. Sure, it has all that. But far and away the most admirable part of the entire set is the write-up on each card back.

Look at that thing. That's like 250 words there. (the word "homers" is misspelled as "homes").

You have to remember the era in which '88 Score appeared. Through the 1970s and 1980s, write-ups on the backs of cards were almost an afterthought. This is often what they consisted of:

  • Went 3-for-5, 2 RBIs vs. Tribe, 8-14.

I don't know about you, but I don't find that very informative.

Score from '88 definitely informed.

How many people remember Tommy Hinzo? I certainly don't. I wasn't even aware of him when he played. But judging from the write-up, there was a lot to remember about Tommy. I mean that's a mini essay.

I often wonder who the people were at Score who toiled over these write-ups. How much more research did they do then the folks at Topps? Did Score have more people working on research and writing or did they really overwork and underpay their copywriters?

This one amuses me. The writer asserts that Horn was known as "Big Sam." He then refers to Horn exclusively as "Big Sam" throughout the write-up. Five times.

Because many of the players in a base set like '88 Score hadn't achieved anything worth 200 words, the writers were forced to break out the extra adjectives. I noticed that "dandy" was used on more than one card.

Score doesn't get into players' off-the-field histories much in this set, although you do find out in this write-up that Casey Candaele's mother played for the All-American Girls Pro Baseball League. You also find out that Candaele's "hustle and enthusiasm is contagious."

The first sentence of this write-up mentions that Robbie Wine "is being groomed as the Astros' catching successor to Alan Ashby." Shhhh! Don't tell him about Craig Biggio!

The majority of the write-ups in the set are 150 words or more. I don't know if the writers were relieved or disappointed when they came across a card for a veteran like Schmidt and couldn't squeeze in gobs of words. Schmidt's card does mention a "champagne season." I don't know what that is.

Meanwhile, this card is both impressive and sad.

It's a good thing that I didn't know what Score was in 1988. I wouldn't have any time to read the backs of the cards anyway. And that's the best part of '88 Score.

Best of the set:

It would literally take me a week to read through all of the card backs. So I'll just pick this one and say it's the best:

Any card back that features the phrases "blithe spirit" AND "calcium deposits" in the same write-up, is completely awesome.

(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


  1. Little known facts:
    - Wally Joyner owned 39 homes in his rookie season.
    - Several teammates rented houses from Wally during the '86 season.
    - Devon White, Mark McLemore, and Urbano Lugo shared a two-bedroom townhouse owned by Joyner in Irvine.
    - McLemore was the sole signee on the lease; both he and Lugo were evicted for illegal subletting.
    - Devon White spent the '87-'90 offseason as property manager at 17 Joyner-owned residences in the Orange County area.
    - It wasn't until after I typed it that I remembered that White was born in Jamaica.
    - I was not trying to make a stereotyped statement about the number of jobs worked by Jamaicans.
    - I guess I did though.
    - The "homes" comment on the back of Joyner's '88 Score baseball card is not an error.
    - Only Phil Bradley and Pat Tabler owned more homes than Joyner in the '86 season.
    - Pat Tabler's nickname around the league was "Slumlord".
    - Phil Bradley's middle name is Poole.
    - None of Bradley's league-leading 49 homes had swimming pools.
    - I deleted my previous comment due to spelling errors, not due to racist comments regarding Phil Bradley's swimming skills.

  2. IIRC, the backs were written by a former sportswriter. I think the man used to write for sports illustrated, but I can't for the life of me remember who it was.

  3. I really like these card backs

  4. Ahh, good old Charlie Kerfeld. He was one of my favorite non-Dodger players in the 1980's due to the story of him ordering a side of BBQ ribs from the Astrodome concession stand and eating them in the Astros bullpen during an actual game.

  5. Never took the time to notice... but damn these card backs sure are nice. Can't believe how colorful they were for an 80's product.

  6. Endless supply of '88 Score? How about '91 Upper Deck. I'm sure there's a printing press somewhere still spittin' em out!

  7. Champagne Season? CLASSIC.

    My wife did not grow up watching sports and has felt a bit left out of conversations when we have friends over, but she has tried to learn sportspeak. She'll learn catch phrases so that she can trade cliches with my dad or other friends we have over. While watching a basketball game one time a player couldn't hang on to a pass and it shot out of bounds. Someone in our group said of the passer "Oops, looks like he put a little too much mustard on that pass."

    My wife stared at him with her mouth open and a look of wonder in her eyes before finally uttering "Teach me how to say that."

    Her reaction to hearing the mustard quote is EXACTLY how I feel about Champagne Season. It's a phrase so bad that it's a show stopper. I MUST learn how to say it in conversation. I GUARANTEE that I'm going to drop that golden chestnut into as many sports discussions as I can this year.