Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The card after

During my teenage years, there were a lot of movies about the devastation of nuclear war. I saw "China Syndrome" in a movie theater. It kind of freaked me out. I saw "Special Bulletin" on TV. It kind of freaked me out. I saw "The Day After" on TV. It absolutely freaked me out.

That's a lot to put on a kid who is just trying to become an adult and wondering if he'll ever make it there.

But I made it there, and the only collateral damage is I watch a lot more sitcoms and funny movies than I did back then. I can take my seriousness only in small quantities, and I probably have nuclear disaster movies to blame.

Also, in my continuing effort to spin something negative into something positive, I've come up with yet another blasted series on this blog (let's see how quickly I forget this one).

It's called "The Card After."

This is a series that celebrates the forgotten cards in our collection. There are a lot of cards that people see over and over again because they are iconic. They are more than just cardboard. These cards "blew up," you could say, which would be appropriate given the whole nuclear thing. The cards are part of the culture, an imprint on the hobby and well-known even outside the hobby.

But what about the card of that player from the following year, the one followed the iconic card?

Does anyone know what it looks like? Does anyone remember it?

That's what this series will try to bring to light. I am also hoping to see if I can determine anything from "the card after." Did the card company try to forget the iconic card with "the card after"? Or did it try to keep the phenomenon going with an attempt at another iconic card?

I will show the iconic card of a certain player and then I will show the card of that player from the following year, "the card after."

So here we go, with the first edition of the series:


Please meet: 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken

Why it's iconic: Some versions of the card (not this one, which is the only one I have) featured an obscenity, the phrase, "fuck face," written on the bat knob. Ripken claims he wrote it on the knob to differentiate it from other bats. Fleer claims they never saw the error until it was too late. A phenomenon was born. Fleer put out about a dozen different versions of the card with various white-outs and scribbles on the bat knob. Collectors reacted to the card with all kinds of crazy behavior. Today you can get some of the versions of the card for 5 bucks. Or find it in a repack, like me.

That "nuclear moment": At the height of the Ripken card hysteria, the "fuck face" version of the card was going for $500.

This card's impact today: Do a Google name search for "Billy Ripken" and the first two items are "Billy Ripken card" and "Billy Ripken 1989 Fleer"

This card's impact today, Part II: The web site celebrating the Ripken '89 Fleer card is still going strong.

Something about this card that I think no one else has ever said: Ripken is biting his lower lip. This is often considered a sign of anxiety, even a sign of stress in the face of lying. It could be that Ripken was anxious about having his picture taken. Or it could be something more ...

On the 1-25 iconic scale (with 25 being the most iconic): It's a 24.


Please meet: 1990 Fleer Bill Ripken

Why it's not iconic: Well, first, 1990 Fleer is totally forgettable as a whole. But otherwise, it's about as harmless of a card that one could make. There isn't a lot that this card has in common with the previous card other than that Ripken is still playing second base for the Orioles. This card shows him with a glove, the previous one showed him with a bat. This card shows him in a dark cap and uniform. The other card showed him in a white cap and uniform. This card shows the ornithological bird on the cap. The other card showed the cartoon bird on the cap.

What Fleer was doing here: Steering as clear of controversy as possible. "Stay away from the bats, Mr. Ripken, sir. We'll catch you in the field."

What Fleer also probably did: Checked to see if Ripken's fly was open.

Something I can say about this card to make it interesting: Well, it looks like Ripken is attempting to catch the Orioles' logo. That's kind of fun.

Does "the card after" deserve to be iconic, too?: No. It's worth 5 cents, as it should be.

On the 1-25 iconic scale: It's a 2.

I don't think I made Ripken's "card after" any more iconic here today, but at least by showing it everyone knows what it looks like.

If I have done that, then "The Card After" is a success.

For that, and getting your mind off of nuclear annihilation.


  1. Great idea for a series of posts, thoroughly enjoyed this and looking forward to reading more of them.

  2. I hadn't read all the way down yet, so I thought "The card after" in this case was going to be Cal Ripken.....

    1. At first I was thinking the same thing that the "card after" would be the next card in the set.

    2. I made a slight edit that should keep readers from thinking that.

  3. oh this is a good idea for a series! i was somewhat traumatized by 'the day after' especially when the people getting married in the church got x-rayed.

  4. That card was the whole reason I never got to open any 89 Fleer in 1989. That stuff got crazy expensive. And I never really understood it. I mean no offense to Billy, but he was no Cal.

  5. On my block the Billy Ripken was over-shadowed by the '89 UD Dale Murphy. In part because most of us had some variation of the Ripken, but no one had the Murphy. We were also all fully infected with Upper Deck hysteria.

  6. I got lucky, because the few '89 Fleer packs I got gave me that 'poker face' card of Bill Ripken.