Donruss Opening Day 1987 – THE REMIX

Donruss 1987 Opening Day Front

Donruss 1987 Opening Day Back

This is a pretty neat gimmick! Every player in the starting lineup of 1987’s Opening Day gets a card! And it’s an honest-to-God 1987 picture, and the stats include a recap of that player’s opening day performance (0-4! Killing it C$.) Heck, they even capture that our famous catcher was playing Designated Hitter that day! (high quality trivia because our wearer of the Tools of Ignorance started 1986 in Left Field). There’s A LOT to unpack here, people. This is uncharted territory. This card is the lie.

First, the card has its own lie. Every other 1987 Carlton Fisk card uses a picture from 1986 (or perhaps, earlier). This card, celebrating 1987’s Opening Day uses a picture from 1987. How do we know? He’s rocking the aggressively forgotten 1987–90* White Sox uniform (more on this in the 1988 articles). With “OPENING DAY” stats on the back, you might think Donruss acquired photos from all 13 stadiums that day. This would be a lie. And this card proves it.

*The White Sox switched to their current uniform September 28, 1990.

Take a look at the box score from the White Sox Opening Day game in 1987. Anything stick out? Royals and White Sox, a typical American League West showdown. Check it out, here’s the Royals’ George Brett on his card from the same card set.

Donruss Opening Day 1987 George Brett
from The Trading Card DB

Anything fishy? Yes. They’re both wearing their home uniforms despite the game having been played in Kansas City. Nope. Not gonna fly, Donruss.

OK, so the card (and that title). It’s 1987 Donruss with a new (maroon) coat of paint. That’s kind of neat (and shares the terrible cutting/centering of the standard 1987 Donruss), and it shows the same player in two different uniforms in the same (by year) set without one being a throwback (which the White Sox would literally invent in 1990. Really.). Notice that the White Sox kept the previous logo, but nothing of the uniform except the hip-numbering.

The colorblocking behind the nameplate varies as shown below.

1987 opening day colors

More info here. Long story short, it was only sold as a complete set (on-display in the image above), and like everything else from the area, it’s effectively worthless, except for some choice trivia.

Fleer Record Setters 1987 – Begging the Question

Fleer Record Setters 1987 FrontFleer Record Setters 1987 BackI always appreciate design consistency from a company within a year, then among a series of years. While Fleer wasn’t great from a year-by-year perspective, this card showcases a logical throughline from the base 1987 to this set, exclusive to Eckerd Drugs.

Ok, so maybe it has more in common with the awesome 1984 at the far right, but let me have this one. With its blue and red, it also reminds me of the Chicago flag, which, given his team, was just a coincidence.

So, the question being begged… this is a “Record Setters” series. What record was set, exactly? Amazingly, I’m not the first person who’s wondered this! And it turns out that Fleer was playing fast and loose with the concept of “Record Setters,” where it really means “known players, good for inclusion in a 44 card set to be sold at a drug store.”

s-l1600
from https://www.ebay.com/itm/382524419656

Carlton Fisk did hold some notable records, but they weren’t set until 1990 and 1993 (most home runs by a catcher, most games caught, both since surpassed). I don’t want to “well, actually” my friends at the link above, but he did set the Longest Game Caught record in 1984, as memorialized by Topps in 1985. Because of that ludicrously long game, he also is a co-holder of the at-bats and plate appearances in an extra inning game records, according to Baseball Reference, though there are a bunch of co-record holders for those. My gut feeling is that especially as of 1987, he probably had (or maybe still has?) White Sox team records for “[insert offensive feat] as a catcher,” but I think it’s fair to consider those more “things that happened” than actual “records.”

Ok. Next card, please.

 

Classic 1987 – It’s Not Just Fun and Games. Wait. Yes, It Is.

Classic 1987 FrontClassic 1987 Back

This card reeks of “Oddball:” it’s formatted and sized like a baseball card, but it isn’t really baseball card. It’s a delivery device for trivia questions (unrelated to the player on front) for a board game, which makes it baseball card adjacent, like a sticker, stamp, or bottle cap with a player on front and stats on the back. So… oddball? Well, Classic kept making cards (excuse me, “cards”) until 1993. This isn’t some failed marketing experiment; this was a legit brand from the golden years of the junk wax era.

The card itself? Lots of green… alright. That’s not very common at all. Mimicking photo corners like you’d see in a binder? Also, alright. Unfortunately we’re looking at pre-WordArt graphics (think Print Shop and spooled paper) for the player name. In fact, this feature is almost identical to the early 70s Kellogg’s cards. At best, it’s very green. At worse, it kind of looks unfinished to the degree that it never really got started.

The back is one year of stats, career totals, general trivia (uh, “metadata”). There’s a typo/mistake in that it’s “Lockport,” not “Lock Port,” and why use “ILL” when the postal code abbreviation is “IL.” Then we get the weird board game portion of the card. I believe I had one of the Classic board games, but I remember nothing about it other than it came with cards. Quickly inspecting the back, it’s clear there are five questions, each worth more moves on a game board. Four of increasing difficulty, single, double, triple, home run, and lastly, the easiest “rookie” question. That triple question is impossible (I don’t think I could name 2017’s hitter with the most strikeouts, but I could probably do it with multiple choice), and the Hank Aaron question is more “trivia” than “baseball test.” Little detail I like: a dedicated spot for the autograph… on the back. THAT’S NOT WHERE AUTOGRAPHS GO. The graphic designer was so proud of his or her work, that the front couldn’t be sullied with a player’s John Hancock. This is a solution in search of a problem. And no one was on-board, anyway.

Donruss 1987 – Just a Little Off

Donruss 1987 Front1513746805492-c650564a-8937-47dc-b503-1c62f70f76cb

Sure, I said 1985 kicked off a great run for Donruss, so why the iffy title on this one? Well, it’s a pleasant design, but it’s a little off.  Black and yellow? Sure! Nice, bold colors on the front. Yellow and purple player name? Alright, I can do that, too. Resting Dad Face? Ok, it’s not the card design’s fault. The baseball in the “Donruss” wordmark is the same as the baseball in the tessellated baseball pattern. That’s a welcome consistency, though it would be more welcome if they were the same size. So, where’s the iffiness, Dan?

The tessellated baseballs are an odd choice. We’re approaching the Memphis Group era of baseball cards, but we’re not there yet, so thankfully they’re actually baseballs and not weird geometric shapes of multiple colors. The left and right borders are WAY too thick compared to the top and bottom. I went ahead and fixed it for them (YOU’RE WELCOME, DONRUSS)… but, though improved, it didn’t really fix it.

Donruss 1987 Fixed

The picture “frame” radii are so large that you can’t escape the black deadzones of the four corners. The also chose to omit the keyline between the picture and the white border. Yuck, look at the roughness. (honestly, it looks fine on the card in-hand, but this is an especially clear scan, showing off all of the printing warts. Heck, you can even see the texture of the screens). Donruss has a second 1987 Fisk card, and it’s clear that cutting/centering was not one of this set’s finer aspects. Believe it or not, this example card is actually pretty good.

We’ve got standard mid-to-late-80s Donruss on the back in yellow, black, and white. Nothing notable to speak of on the back other than calling out that he began 1986 in left field, as we’ve previously discussed. Unfortunately, the baseball on the top-left of the back doesn’t match the logo or pattern baseballs of the front. Frowny-face.

Fleer 1987 – Appreciated Sequels

Fleer 1987 Front1514759537796-a8a879ac-82e4-4f01-83f5-4e9ae0a4f151_

Continuing the design language of the anomalous Fleer 1984, this card gets the Philadelphia company back on track.

Sure, 1984 is a better design, but by 1987 he got a damn haircut, and many of the 1984 cues survived; strong geometry, sticking to rectangular shapes, subtle and effective user of white space, and (upside-down compliment incoming) not-the-worst typeface selection seen in the 1980s. 1987 adds a cyan footer and top-to-bottom gradient fade. The gradient dates the card to the mid-to-late 80s — 1984 is aged by hairstyles, not card design — but it it allows for a hit of contrasting red for the “FLEER” logo feature. It also includes a subtle cropping to follow his hat onto the background, keeps the visual balance of the card. There would be a lot of uninterrupted cyan up there, otherwise.

We’ve got typical 80s Fleer verticality on the rear, with their classic “good enough for government work” column shading. Notice the three digit “R[uns]” column shading in the “Totals” row where it’s a four digit datapoint. Fleer’s unique rear headshot is again missing, but this time a very SABR-y heat chart which points out he’s a “dead pull hitter” who generally likes the bottom of the strike zone (where the ball is easier to see). Cool!

SportFlics 1987 – Please Try a Little Harder

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It’s a three part action part of a swing. With a red border. Come on! The only somewhat interesting thing is a clear view of the White Sox’s red shoes and socks — by eye, you’d expect this uniform to use navy blue socks and shoes. It also showcases Fisk’s famous white-handed follow through swing. (Which, again, don’t emulate. It’s bad form.)

1987-sportflics-base

Nothing especially notable on the back, other than (say it with me) SportFlics’ super clean printing and what I think is the first we’ve seen of a quote from a scout in the trivia section and a calling out of an “off year” in 1986. And that’s interesting, because that squares the circle with respect why there are so few 1987 Carlton Fisk cards after 16 in 1986, and it makes sense. NEXT CARD, PLEASE.

Topps 1987 – Memorable in the Absolutely Worst Way

Topps 1987 FrontTopps 1987 Back

Finally… 1987.

Everyone knows this set. Every single card collector from the 80s-90s-00s knows this set. It’s not the art deco chic of 1986. It’s not the crushing sameness of 1983, 84, 85. The easiest joke is “like the station wagon you grew up with!” (note: my family did have a Pontiac station wagon for a time with wood paneling); the next easiest is “like the basement you hung out in when you were little” (also true). Those jokes are so easy, that if there were an 80s baseball card drinking game, there’d be a “… and drink” every time an article made those comparisons. It’s just so, so bad. But so memorable. Even the typeface selection for the name is awful. Comic Sans didn’t yet exist, but close enough. We’ve also got lemon face! Lastly, a feature I just noticed for the first time now: the top and right picture borders get black-white-black; The left and bottom get the black keyline only. Weird. I hate it.

topps1987

And the worst part? This card is a throwback to a previous Topps woodgrain card! Yes. Really. Check out this 1962 Topps. Interestingly, it includes the same beveled edge feature of the 1987. It’s still terrible, though.

Topps 1962

The back showcases yellow and blue inks on brown cardboard (and the nasty font from the front). I appreciate the Game Winning RBI stats. Those are more interesting that the fielding stats which some cards include as a bonus due to extra space. But, a closer eye on his 1986 stats starts begging some questions; mainly, why only 125 games played? Let’s dig! Well, for starters, he began the season unhappily at left field. By May 11, he was back catching (or DHing) exclusively. Skimming through the season, it appears he just had a lot of games off in the pursuit of finishing in fifth place in the American League West.

As I’m wont to do, I made a (terrible) mock-up of what the card would look like without the wood. It’s not half-bad… but it’s not half-good, either. Looks like a continuation of the 83–85 murder’s row.

87-no-wood