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G.O.A.T., the '80s: 70-61

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the selections for the Class of 2021 tomorrow. The usual Hall watchers are laser-focused on this day, torches and pitchforks prepared.
Personally, I don't care. It was a lot of fun seeing players from the '70s and '80s go into the Hall, but now that most of the players up for election are from the '90s or even '00s, I've lost interest. A lot of these people played when I was barely following baseball. I am not invested.
The first time I paid attention to a Hall class was at the dawn of the 1980s, I don't think I even knew what the Hall of Fame was the first few years I was following baseball. The 1980 class included Duke Snider, which is why I cared. Al Kaline, Tom Yawkey and Chuck Klein also were honored.

The 1982 Class made a big impact on me. Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson in that class. Those '80s classes were epic. Greats from the '50s, from "long ago," were enshrined. That was the hall to me, old dudes who played a black-and-white game on dusty fields. Somebody like Mike Mussina, who didn't even start his MLB career until after the '80s ended, doesn't compute in my brain when it comes to the Hall.

The 100 Greatest Cards of the '80s does include some Hall of Famers, but it's not all about Hall of Famers, or even great players, as you'll see in the latest installment.

Here are cards 70-61, Hall of Famers, Hall of Very Gooders, and Hall of Who The Hell Is Thats?

70. Tom Bolton, 1989 Topps, #269

In 1989, Topps still created boring cards. The '89 set is filled with them. Head shots. Repetitious poses. Stale presentations. Tom Bolton here is no exception. Stand there. Put your hands behind your back. Look serious. Click.

But, look, in the distance, off to the left. Is that ... a Ferris wheel????

It is. And when have you ever seen that on a baseball card?

Was it intentional? My guess is it was or else Topps probably would've cropped it out. But I'm sure many a person has ignored the fascinating background of this card because they were too overwhelmed by Bolton's boring pose.

I've long been curious about why there is a Ferris wheel in the background so I finally did some digging.

The vast majority of baseball card photos from this time were taken in spring training. The Red Sox played their spring games in Winter Haven, Florida. But Bolton is wearing a road uniform.

No problem. There was a place called Baseball City Stadium just up the way from Winter Haven. The Royals played there, in Davenport, Florida, which was just north of Haines City, Florida.

Here is a map from that time:

Note that also just north of Haines City is something called "Boardwalk and Baseball". That was a theme park, which also included the Royals' Baseball City Stadium.

Thanks to some people who weirdly uploaded their late 1980s vacation videos to youtube, I was able to spot the Boardwalk and Baseball Ferris wheel that is on Bolton's card.

The Boardwalk and Baseball venture lasted just three years. It was a financial fiasco. It was sold and then by 1993 the whole thing was torn down.

All that's left are youtube memories and Tom Bolton's 1989 baseball card.

69. Joel Youngblood, Two-Teams-Same Day, Super Star Special, 1983 Fleer, #641

I first learned of Youngblood's feat of playing for two teams on the same day while riding in the car. I remember hearing it on the car radio. I don't know where we were headed, I'm sure my father was driving, or where we had been. But I know I was intrigued by the achievement.

Youngblood was traded by the Mets to the Expos in the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1982. The Mets were in the middle of a day game against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. Youngblood had just driven in two runs with a single off of Fergie Jenkins in the third inning. But in the top of the fourth, he was replaced in center field by Mookie Wilson because Youngblood had been traded to the Expos.

In something I can't picture happening today, Youngblood traveled from Chicago to Philadelphia, where the Expos were playing the Phillies, and was inserted into the Expos lineup, in right field, in the sixth inning of the night game in Philadelphia. The very next inning, he hit a single off of Steve Carlton.

At that point, he became the first major league player to deliver a base hit for two different teams in two different cities on the same day. And he accomplished the feat against two different Hall of Fame pitchers.

Major props to Fleer for creating a card to recognize the feat (shame on Topps for not doing so). In the early '80s, we were still in that period where players appeared on cards for one team only. To see the same player in two different uniforms was definitely amazing.

68. Kent Tekulve, 1988 Fleer, #318

Kent Tekulve in a Phillies uniform will always be strange to me. He was a superstar for the Pirates' 1979 World Series championship and forever cemented in Pittsburgh gold and black.

But his uniform isn't the only thing about this card that makes me take a step back. Is Tekulve mocking someone in this photo? Is this the first case of baseball's well-known cut-your-teammate-down-to-size humor on a baseball card?

Years later, Topps would live it up with cards of players who had been plastered in the face with shaving cream pies from fellow teammates. To think it might have all originated with this card.

67. Kent Tekulve, 1981 Topps, #319

Back-to-back Tekes!

The most interesting baseball aspect of Tekulve (he had plenty of interesting attributes) was his pitching motion.

Tekulve used a submarine style motion and along with Dan Quisenberry, revived that kind of delivery, which had been dormant for a few years. Tekulve was so successful with the delivery that he appeared in 90-or-more games three different years.

He is shown in his side-arm wind-up on several different cards but the vast majority of them are from the side view. This is the only one from the hitter's standpoint. He is not in the middle of his wind-up, he has just released the pitch. But it gives you a unique perspective seldom captured on a baseball card.

The Mets baserunner is too far away for me to figure out who he is. Perhaps a Mets fans can weigh in.

66. Jay Baller, 1988 Topps, #717

I am convinced that if the internet did not live for cards like this, this card would never be famous and therefore never appear on this countdown.

But since we're all living online these days, then it is destined for a list like this.

The anonymous nature of the player -- does anyone remember a Jay Baller playing in a game? -- lets your imagination run wild. Who is this man unashamedly displaying his scruffy chest hair and initial necklace? How did he get in on the ground floor with a name that would become known to future generations as the definition of an excellent basketball player, then a person who was extravagantly successful, usually overflowing in cash and with a woman on each arm. In general, here in the 21st century, "Jay Baller" is someone who started with nothing but has made it to the top.

He does seem pretty satisfied with himself.

Not long after this baseball card photo was taken, Baller was hospitalized in December 1987 with a tremendously high fever and spent three days there in a coma. Many thought it was a drug overdose, but Baller claimed it was "toxic poisoning." Baller would get into some legal trouble in 2007, something to do with cocaine and playing around with a firearm.

But today, the same article says, he is married and has four children. And going from a coma in the hospital where you almost died to four kids and a wife is the definition of "baller."

65. Carl Yastrzemski, 1981 Topps, #110

Hey, it's Yaz again! I told you he'd be appearing a lot!

Yastrzemski appears to be taking great delight in applying pine tar to his bat. I just love cards showing "players at work" and this is the ideal workplace setting for a ball player, in a batting cage, taking care of the tools of your trade.

The back of Yastrzemski's card, of course, demonstrates how long Yaz had been working as it's nothing but a mountain of stats going back to 1961. No room for any bio blurb underneath the stats!

In fact, you know the last time in Yaz's career that Topps put any kind of blurb about him above or below his stats?


That's how long he was working.

64. Orel Hershiser, 59 and Counting, 1989 Donruss, #648

Donruss and Fleer did not have well-defined record breaker or highlights subsets during the 1980s as Topps did.

Fleer addressed milestones in the previous season periodically with its Super Star Specials cards but they also threw highlights cards in the set randomly. That's also how Donruss addressed records when it wanted to -- with a random card such as this.

I'm glad they did. It's a crime that there's no special card of Orel Hershiser's consecutive innings shutout streak with the other card companies. This was a big deal!

Also, credit to Donruss for producing the first card of a baseball player juggling. As you know, it would not be the last. It makes the card more memorable than a mere action shot accompanying mention of Hershiser's feat.

The back of the card is quite detailed about his accomplishment, mentioning that Hershiser celebrated his 30th birthday and the birth of a child while the streak was in process. The streak was also still in process when the card was made although Hershiser didn't add any more innings onto his achievement. In his first start of the 1989 season, he gave up a run-scoring single to the Reds' Todd Benzinger in the first inning and his record stayed at 59.

63. Nolan Ryan, 1981 Topps, #240

You need to place yourself in the time period of when this card was released to appreciate the epic nature of this card.

It also will help if you are my age. I don't remember Nolan Ryan pitching for the Mets. To me, until he signed with the Astros on Nov. 19, 1979 as the first million dollar baseball player, he was a California Angel.

All of his greatest feats, the no-hitters, the mind-bending number of strikeouts each year, came with the Angels. That's where he would spend the rest of his days. He seemed so damn successful there.

I remember reading about Ryan's signing with the Astros as it was the main story on the back page of the Sun-Bulletin, the newspaper I would later deliver just over a year later. The Sun-Bulletin was a tabloid-style paper, much like the New York Daily News with its sports news starting at the back of the section. And, man, that headline for the Ryan signing was HUGE. I don't remember what it said, probably something like "million dollar man." But, believe me, we had never heard of such a thing.

Still, this was before traded sets and we dutifully waited all the way until the 1981 sets came out -- heck by then I was delivering the Sun-Bulletin -- and I pulled this Topps Nolan Ryan card and, wow, was it the most glorious thing I ever saw. Nolan Ryan dressed in orange! So weird!

Yeah, this was no mere head shot.

62. Reggie Jackson, Super Veteran, 1983 Topps, #501

The Super Veteran cards in the 1983 Topps set were great fun, mostly because we youngsters who knew these veteran players so well got to see what those players looked like when they were starting out.

The Reggie Jackson SV card rose above the others, yes, partly because it was Reggie Jackson, but also because of the incredible choice of photos for this card. Each photo is Jackson in his batting stance and the side-by-side not only allows you see how he changed over the years -- from '60s black power Jackson to '80s "must kill the queen" Jackson -- but also how his stance changed.

It is one of the best same-but-different examples on cardboard.

61. Billy Martin, 1981 Donruss, #479

You guys, Billy Martin smiling!

Billy Martin giving a thumbs-up!

You never would have been able to convince me this was possible before 1981 Donruss created this card.


We are now one-fourth of the way through the countdown.

I've reached the stage of my life where I'm more excited about what the Veterans Committees decide than whether Barry Bonds or Curt Schilling gets in. Let people roll around in the mud over steroids and political beliefs, I'd rather see what players from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s still might get in.

So, don't expect any Hall post from me tomorrow!

See you next week for cards 60-51.


Nick Vossbrink said…
I want to say that there's a T206 or Obak card with a ferris wheel in the background but the more important thing is that Topps released a 33-card boxed set for Boardwalk and Baseball in 1987 and it includes some truly horrendous photography (the design isn't too great either). Despite its lousiness it's a great reminder of an age when building an amusement park around baseball and releasing a special set of cards for that park doesn't sound crazy at all.
Love it. The Super Special Stars subsets were awesome and I remember loving the 2 teams same day card. I also love the Billy Martin. I featured a very different Martin card on todays post.
Tony Lehman said…
The wonderfully awful things about that Boardwalk and Baseball set was (a) Topps issued it and (b) they screwed up at least one printing by missing the slash between the Bs on the front of the card. So they couldn't even get that terrible set correct.
Josh D. said…
Billy Martin smiling. Dammit. And I'm about to go to bed. I'll have nightmares tonight for sure. Gah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That Hershiser streak was the best thing; I remember it vividly. Ryan just simply looks like he's about to kick someone's patooty.
NPB Card Guy said…
The home ballpark of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Sendai, Japan has a Ferris wheel in left field. You can see it on this card of Eigoro Mogi.
cardboardhogs said…
someone's gotta start a Taco Meat card blog one of these days, Jay Baller (no relation to Ben Baller) would be the blog banner, becuase of course he would.
carlsonjok said…
This may be a little too blue for your blog, but Jay Baller's name and photograph scream 1970s porn star.
gregory said…
Great selection in this batch!

I always appreciated how Nolan Ryan had that intimidating, laser-focused glare even on his baseball cards. Always loved that '81 Topps example. As for that Youngblood card, I agree that it's a shame Topps didn't create something similar. That's why I created one. (
John Bateman said…
Jay Baller and Tom Bolton's Ferris Wheel - Funny. This Hershiser belongs maybe even higher - I am always a sucker for any card that mimics the 72 Clemente. I thought 1991 Topps Carmelo Martinez was the first but this one predates. The only card I would disagree with is the 81 Ryan. It is kind of boring and when I think of Ryan the first card that comes to mind is the 1990 Topps (but that is for another countdown)
Orel takes this batch for me.
POISON75 said…
Unfortunately Topps did make a card for Youngblood but it wasn't until 2010. Yeah it would be interesting to see it in the 1983 set.
Fuji said…
A. This is the third or fourth time I've seen that Youngblood card in the past year or so... and I'm pretty sure every time I comment I need to grab that card and see if he'll sign it for me.

B. Tekulve has so many great cards from the 80's. I'm gonna guess that he makes at least one more appearance.

C. Can't look at the Jay Baller without thinking he was the premise for the main character in East Bound & Down.

D. Glad to see Billy made the list. Crossing my fingers my favorite 80's card of him will make this list.
Brett Alan said…
It would be SO cool if the baserunner behind Tekulve were Joel Youngblood, but apparently it's Ron Hodges, from June 8, 1980. There's a discussion of it here:

I have most of those Super Veteran cards, in the Topps and/or OPC versions, but I don't have the Reggie. Probably a function of being in Yankee country. Similarly, I have plenty of 1989 Donruss but I don't recall seeing that Hershiser before.

I think the Yaz is my favorite of the page, but the Topps Tekulve and the Youngblood are close.
Matt said…
Thanks for researching that Ferris wheel - I've always wondered about that! I'm a little surprised there was no mention of Carlton Fisk in the background of the Yaz card - another Hall of Fame cameo!

I'm loving this list so far. So many cards I forgot about, and so much greatness that I can't wait to see what comes next.!
Jeremya1um said…
I’ve always wondered if that was a Ferris wheel in the Bolton photo and was wondering if it could’ve been in Winter Haven and perhaps the fair or something for the Strawberry Festival. Makes sense with the photo being from Baseball City and the park in the background. I believe it was still open when we moved to Florida, but I was just a tad too young to be into baseball, and by the time I was, the park was gone. I did go to a game in ‘99 at Baseball City. There was just a bunch of grass around the park even beyond the parking lot. Now all of the area is a shopping center or anything.
Old Cards said…
I keep telling myself that I don't care about 80's cards, but once again you find a way to make them interesting. Great Yaz card. One of the absolute best backgrounds is a batting cage with other players in the distance.
Nick said…
Not sure how I've gone all this time without seeing that '83 Fleer Youngblood before. Into my Card Barrel cart it goes!
EddieK said…
Actually, you're 40% of the way through the countdown! Unless you're increasing the list to 160 (which I'd sign for right now).
DMA said…
Great cards, as always. Teke with either the Pirates or Phillies is good for me. With the Pirates he's classic Teke helping the Pirates win the World Series. With the Phillies he's the guy that my dad and I would see pitch when we went to games at the Vet.
bryan was here said…
I'm loving this countdown. This is my era of collecting right here, so I'm in heaven seeing these old friends!

There actually is an entire photo sequence of Kent Tekulve pitching which includes the featured photo on his '81 Topps card. In that particular picture, he always reminded me of one of the members of Devo. Probably because I was listening to the Freedom Of Choice album fairly often back then.
shoeboxlegends said…
Awesome sleuthing on that '89 Bolton!