Sunday, August 10, 2014

Open up, it's the police ... cards!

The Dodgers are one of the few teams -- the Giants, Brewers, Braves and Royals are some others -- who combined with the local police department to issue annual "police sets". The Dodgers did it for a long time, even into the early part of this century, although the cards weren't the same, as the team issued them in ugly perforated sheets during the '90s and early 2000s.

Before that, from 1980 through 1991 (or maybe '92, my reference guide is unclear), with a break for 1985, the Dodgers issued police sets in the same non-standard 2 13/16-by-4 1/8-inch size. In fact, the oddball size and the lectures from the police on the back are what makes the sets stand out. Long before mass-produced cards were advising "Do cards not drugs," Police cards were telling youngsters "Dare to say no".

Since the cards were issued regionally and I live nearly 3,000 miles away from L.A., I never saw a Dodger police card live until I started this blog. In the following years, folks have sent me enough so I have a good idea now why some collectors like them so much.

Sure, the size is a pain -- I still store them in a box of oddballs because I don't feel like worrying whether there's a page that will fit them -- but I like them because they're a good representation of the team that year (often better than what Topps or the other card sets offered). They often include players that were a year or two away from appearing in a Topps set, and they feature players that didn't get a mainstream card that year. Also, you get cards of the coaching staff! How cool is that?

Recently, Tom from The Angels In Order sent me the complete 1984 Dodgers Police set. It's only the second complete Police set that I have -- I am honored to have a complete 1980 set, which is the first Dodger Police set issued.

Tom sending me those cards gave me an opportunity to finally get my Police sets in some sort of order and figure out what I have. This is what I found:


30 of 30 cards

Feature on the back: "Tips from the Dodgers," basic baseball definitions, along with nuggets from the police, such as:

"Our prisons are filled with criminals who started out by stealing candy bars and chewing gum. Make sure you never STEAL anything -- except bases."


30 of 32 cards

I don't have the two cards that were apparently added late to the set, Ken Landreaux and Dave Stewart.

Feature on the back: Advice and information about the LAPD, presented as if the player on the front is saying it, as in:

"Fernando Valenzuela says: 'When you think about your future, here's some good advice from the LAPD. Stay physically fit. Bear down on the books and get a good education. College, too, if you can. Then, some time between 18 and 21, stop by a police station for full information. The pay is good and so are the benefits. Best of all, it's a job filled with personal satisfaction. It's a job, you boys and girls should think about.'"

Keep in mind, in 1981, every story about Fernandomania included how little English Valenzuela knew.


1 of 30 cards

This somewhat mangled Landreaux is the only one I have. It's a shame because this particular year the set included a four-card remembrance of the Dodgers' 1981 World Series title.

Feature on the back: More "Ken Landreaux says."


6 of 30 cards

Feature on the back: Probably the best back of all of the sets, it featured complete stats. Like so:

That's more complete than what you'd find on a Topps card that year.


30 of 30 cards

Feature on the back: A player's bio information like the previous year, but the career stats are replaced with police advice, each ending with DARE TO SAY NO. An example:

"After all, some kids go in for grass or speed and even sherms ... DARE TO SAY NO."

I had to look up what "sherms" are.


11 of 30 cards

There was no Police set in 1985. The kids must have run wild in the streets that year.

Feature on the back: Like the previous two sets, each card back featured a player bio, and then police advice for a different scenario, although most center on avoiding drugs.


7 of 30 cards

Feature on the back: A player bio with a head shot, and then police advice in smaller type at the bottom.


27 of 30 cards

I don't have any of the Police cards from 1988-90. From 1991, I'm missing Juan Samuel, Gary Carter and Darryl Stawberry.

Feature on the back: Same as 1984-87 with a vertical layout (1980-81-82-86 are vertical, 1983-84-87 are horizontal).

Now out of all the cards I have here are some of my favorites:

1980, Ken Brett: There are not a lot of cards with Ken Brett as a Dodger. Here is one of them.

1983, Dave Stewart: There are a few more cards of Dave Stewart as a Dodger, but getting another shot of him in action is terrific.

1981, Tom Lasorda: It's easy to think of Lasorda as a giant stomach managing the Dodgers. But here's proof that he was slimmer in his early days of leading the team.

1980, Davey Lopes: I love the action cards in the Police sets, just because action photos at that time were still something of a premium. How many Lopes-in-action Topps cards are there? Probably less than five.

1981, Jay Johnstone: A sliding-into-third photo was a rarity at the time.

1980, Pedro Guerrero: If you collected cards in 1980, all you knew of Guerrero was his black-and-white mug shot on a three-player prospect card. Here he is in full color!

1981, Steve Yeager: I don't think I've ever enjoyed a belly laugh while kneeling on the rock-hard earth. Good for Yeager.

1981, Bill Russell: This isn't the only Police card to feature an Astro in his glorious rainbow uniform.

1980, Johnny Oates: That's the Astros' Jeff Leonard, I believe, jarring the ball loose from Oates' mitt.

1991, Brett Butler: You had to wait until the Traded set to find a Dodger card of Butler in 1991.

1991, Barry Lyons: Try to find a Dodger card of Barry Lyons anywhere else. Unless you're making your own, I'll bet it's almost impossible.

1984, Richard Rodas: Same with Richard Rodas. Hell, I had no idea who he was until I found this set in the mailbox.

1980, Joe Ferguson: Back then, seeing catchers run was super comical. Let's all point and laugh.

1981, Fernando Valenzuela: When rookie cards of Valenzuela are shown, this one is always ignored. But it was issued in his rookie year.

1986, Bill Madlock: We need more cards of Madlock as a Dodger!

1984, Orel Hershiser: A pre-rookie card of Hershiser! Hershiser would not appear in mainstream sets until 1985, but the Police set had him pegged already in 1984. Among Dodger Police cards from this era, this is probably the most valued card.

I'm glad Angels In Order helped me get these things in order. Who knows if I'll ever go through the trouble of finding the cards and sets that I'm missing. I'd like to think there will be a day when I have so many of my collecting tasks finished that I can go after oddball items like this. But that will probably never happen.

At least I have a hobby that keeps me off the streets.


  1. I believe that the Brewers have continued to release the Police cards. They started in 1982 and used the same non-standard size that the Dodgers did until about 1990. Then, from 1991 on, they have teamed up with various sponsors and issued standard-sized cards.

    The odd thing to me about the Brewer cards is that I do not believe that the Brewers have ever had statistics on their backs.

    As an aside, I asked Ultra Pro on Twitter as to whether they have a sheet for these type cards or anything close. The closest they could recommend are the 3x5 sheets.

  2. This is a great odd ball. I wish I had something like this to chase for the Redsox

  3. I got four of the police cards when I went to California as a six year old in '85. When I got really got into cards two years later, I cut them down to fit a nine pocket page. I think I had Lasorda, Sax, Zachry, and one I can't remember.

  4. Allright, Rabbit! Where's Rocky? Where's he hiding?
    He's not in this stove!
    Oh, ho! He's hiding in the stove, eh?

    Sorry, when you say "Open up, it's the Police!", I think of Bugs Bunny cartoons.

    A couple of years ago I ran across a dealer who had a table covered with "Everything $1", which was mostly junk wax rack packs... but as a "WTF" purchase I picked up two Dodger Police sets (1986 and 1991) and a Brewers police set (1988). And you know what? I've never cracked the seal on the team bags... but looking at some of these cards makes me think I need to move them up on the "to do" list.

  5. How did I miss this until tonite? Nice run down of the sets. I love police issue sets. I wish the Orioles had something in this sort of thing. I have a couple of football police sets that I bought just for one or so cards for my fantasy football collection.

    The guy who is closing his card shop had some Dodger police sets on his tables last weekend, I'm going there Saturday and I'll see if he has anything you lack.