I used to think the 1990 Topps was the ultimate “early 90s” baseball card design. The designers at Topps knew exactly what they were doing. After the staid 1988 and 1989 cards, 1990 was going to make a statement. It was “Oh, yeah? Watch this card. We’re going crazy.” It would be remembered.
Donruss 1990 isn’t that card. Donruss 1990 is 1990. Unlike Topps in 1990, Donruss wasn’t making history, it is history. The designers weren’t saying “Watch this.” They were saying “It’s 1990. Let’s make a card. In 1990.”
Ok. I admit it. That’s a lot of fluff. But I mean it. Prior to this project, all I remembered about Donruss 1990 was “red. A lot of red.” But Topps that year lasted as the “death by squares and italicized lettering” design in my head. Topps 1990 doesn’t need a caption in the lineup of its older brothers, above. Donruss 1990 is just another Donruss.
And, all that preface, it’s not a terrible design! Sure, all that red is a BOLD choice. Anything but white along the edge… bold choice. But there are two terrible design features, both responsible for the unmistakable early 90s-ness of the card: The “Night Court” typeface for the player name, and the (completely forgotten to me until now) paint splotch effect down the sides of the card.
What’s that? You want to see what it looks like without the paint splotch detail? OK, sure, here’s a preview with it removed on one side. See? It’s an improvement.
Now, then, after going on and on about this card, I’ll wrap up by saying it’s a good almost action shot from an actual game (no Spring Training shenanigans here). But I need to point out, again, that this was not a game in 1989, as the baseball gods demand for 1990 baseball cards. As previously stated, thigh numbers left the White Sox uniforms after the 1988 season, so this card is telling the wrong lie.
The back showcases black and orange ink on white paper and uses the now-familiar Donruss rear design, and manages lots of trivia with none of it being about the 1975 World Series. Amazing. (note: the back isn’t amazing. But that much trivia without the usual “have you heard about the 1975 World Series?” is amazing.)
UPDATE – After looking at the Best of the AL oddball set, I found something funky with the 1989 Baseball’s Best card. As discussed above, this 1990 card features a 1988 picture. I don’t like that, but it comes with the territory. But it looks familiar…
Let’s look at the 1989 Baseball’s Best card. It’s not the same picture, but what is it? Same game? Same at-bat? Same pitch?
- orange/red railing in the background
- left wrist brace
- batting gloves
- bat (“72” in a typeface similar to the uniforms worn when he joined the White Sox)
- haircut situation at the back of his head/helmet
- hair over his right ear
- bat orientation in his hand (number and where Louisville Slugger logo is shown)
- belt buckle too far to his right
Boom. Same at-bat, perhaps even same pitch during a sequence of pictures. End of story.