Skip to main content

A stack is a stack no matter how thin the cardboard stock


Well, I butchered that Dr. Seuss quote, didn't I?

That right there is a stack of 135 cards from 1981 Donruss. The No. 1 defining trait of '81 Donruss is its supermodel-thin card stock. And I do wonder whether 135 cards made of much sturdier stock would look more impressive next to this stack. But I've just scanned a bunch of '81 Donruss and have no time for science projects.

Instead, let's list some of the other traits for which '81 Donruss is well-known:

1. It's wafer-thin. But I mentioned that already.
2. It's plagued with errors. Every third card has something wrong with it.
3. Virtually all of the photos were taken in Chicago. That may seem repetitive, but after so many Topps cards in Yankee Stadium it was actually a relief.
4. Full names on the back. Toby Harrah is Colbert Dale Harrah.
5. Multiple cards of star players. Reggie Jackson, I believe, has 74 cards in this set.
6. Miscut cards, diamond cut cards, ragged edges.
7. Blurry photos.
8. The card backs are PINK!

None of the above seems very complimentary. But that just makes me want to collect it even more.

A couple of weeks ago, Kary, who has sent me some early '80s needs in the past, shipped me 135 cards off the 1981 Donruss want list. I now have less than 50 cards to go.

As with any set that comes from my first collecting period (1974-83), these cards were a delight. The set is filled with my most favorite players and my most hated villains.

But don't listen to me, see for yourself:


Look at that. Clockwise from top right, that is my all-time favorite player, a childhood favorite who I later interviewed, a comical figure from my youth who made hot dog commercials, and the guy who gave up Rick Monday's dramatic home run.

We're off that an excellent start.


Here are four more favorites from when I was a wee one. But I can't explain why as succinctly as I did above.



Another trait of 1981 Donruss is how many players are pictured with a bat on their shoulder. When I have the whole set, I will add up the grand total. My guesstimate at this time is 785 cards.



Managers! We appreciated both Donruss and Fleer for this, because manager cards were not a guarantee back in the late '70s/early '80s. I think both upstart companies got Topps off its ass in this regard.

By the way, look at youthful Tony LaRussa, plotting the devious ways he's going to ruin the game.


This card alone would make me collect an entire set. I don't know what state Dave Lemanczyk was in when this photo was taken, but if you told me he was up the previous night doing lines, I couldn't argue with you. Sorry, Dave if it was merely a bout with insomnia.


Please. For the love of God. Look out for the towels.



There are a number of photos in this set that look like they were taken by my grandmother. It's difficult to notice the blurriness on the scans, but, trust me, these photos would have been rejected by the DMV. The Cardinals, in particular, were treated very poorly in this set.



And this card photo looks like it was taken from Earth while Stoddard was on the moon, in black-and-white and then colorized.



More bats on the shoulder. From Stan, Gary, Benigno and Colbert.



The Reds look very good in this set. Sure, the photos are similar, but with all of the posed shots in '81 Donruss, it was great to see some action.



Almost every aspect of Wrigley Field is featured in this set, too. I feel like I toured the stadium after looking at these cards.


THE TOWELS ARE GETTING CLOSER!!!!!



I don't fawn over star players anymore, but at this time I did. Bench was the only guy of these four that I didn't have an issue with, but I guarantee I would have stammered if I had to talk to any one of them at that time.



BATS ON SHOULDERS!!!!!



This is what passed for action back then. It's not all that bad, although I didn't grow up in an era spoiled by Upper Deck and Stadium Club. I particularly like the Madlock card. Very cool.



Three icons of the 1970s -- and card blogs.



I didn't like the Yankees AT ALL then, but I'm glad Berra got a card.



BATS ON SHOULDERS!!!!!



I'm really coming to my senses on '81 Donruss.

The card stock may have been thin, the photos blurry, the cards crooked and the poses unimaginative, but it's really a riot collecting this set.

Anything from this time period are the best cards I will ever know.

Even if 1981 Donruss is the Who of the card world.

Comments

Nachos Grande said…
A set that treated the Reds as winners and the Cardinals poorly? Consider me sold!
Don said…
Don't forget reason number nine. There is a definite pattern to the card numbers.
GOGOSOX60 said…
Old Comiskey stays alive in this set!
Hackenbush said…
And those crazy Bill Veeck softball uniforms.
BobWalkthePlank said…
Stan Papi looks like he is wearing a garbage bag under his uniform.
Anonymous said…
Hmmm... "Virtually all of the photos were taken in Chicago" + "The Cardinals, in particular, were treated very poorly in this set". I smell a Cubs fan behind the camera.
Anonymous said…
very weird there are multiple cards. You scanned 2 cards of Pete Rose, and he has a third in the set. I never knew that.
GCA said…
I have a wantlist website and any other lists I use are meticulously formatted and electronically enhanced, but I still have and use the same third generation xerox copied written list of the 1981 Donruss variations that I started with when they were new. It's the set that kinda started the variation collecting bug for me.
Kevin Papoy said…
There are as many bat on the shoulder poses as empty seats in the stands
Big Tone said…
Those are beautiful cards!
Anonymous said…
During my purging process, I've occasionally turned my attention to 1981 Donruss. "Rational Joe" says that Donruss spent 10 minutes whipping up the card design, the photos are often weak, the card stock even weaker... But "Emotional Attachment Joe" says "Sure it's crap... but it's fun crap!" If anything, I've added more 81D to my collection since the purging started.
Anonymous said…
...And I forgot to mention that, as someone who was actively collecting when our options went from one set to three, it didn't matter what the sets were like... What was important is that they weren't Topps and that made them freaking AWESOME just because it's was someone else's take on what a baseball card should be.

Popular posts from this blog

Stuck in traffic with Series 2

In the whirlwind that has been my life this month, I found myself going absolutely nowhere for a portion of Thursday afternoon. I was in the middle of yet another road trip, the third one this week. This one was for work, and because it was job-related, it became quickly apparent that it would be a waste of time. The only thing that could save it was a side visit to the nearby Walmart to see if I could spot some Topps Series 2. I found it right away, which was shocking as I was pretty much in the middle of the country, where SUVs share the road with tractors and buggies. Who knew that the Amish wanted Series 2, too? The problem was getting back into civilization to open the contents of the 72-card hanger box I bought. The neighboring village is undergoing a summer construction project smack in the middle of downtown. It's not much of a downtown, but the main road happens to be the main artery in the entire county. Everyone -- and by everyone I mean every tractor trailer ha

Heading upstate

  Back in 1999, Sports Illustrated published an edition at the end of the year rating the top 50 athletes of the century for every state.   As a lifelong Upstate New Yorker, I braced for a list of New York State athletes that consisted almost entirely of downstate natives, that is, folks from the greater NYC area and Long Island.   We Upstaters are used to New York City trampling all over the rest of the state. They have the most people, the loudest voices. It happens all the time. It's a phenomenon unique to this state. Heck, there are still people out there who, when you tell them you're from New York, automatically think you're from NYC. They don't think of cows and chickens when they think of New York. But trust me, there are a lot of cows and chickens in New York State. Especially cows.   So, anyway, when I counted up the baseball players that SI listed as the greatest from New York State, six of the nine were from New York City or Long Island. I was surprised all

G.O.A.T, the '80s: 30-21

  I often call this current period of the television sports calendar the black hole of sports programming. The time between the end of the Super Bowl and the beginning of televised Spring Training baseball games is an empty void when I'm looking for something to watch on traditional television. I don't watch the NBA and the NHL on TV holds my interest for maybe a period. College basketball I can't watch until the tournament. This didn't used to be as much of a problem back when I could turn instead to my favorite sitcoms in February. Do you remember when February was "sweeps month"? (Maybe it still is, I don't know). Networks would make sure that every top show aired original episodes that month, no reruns. So you'd always have something to view during the week even when the sports scene was boring. (I know, people have multiple streaming viewing options now. But I find myself going weeks sometimes before I see something I want to view on Netflix or Am