Bowman 1991 – So He DOES Sign Autographs

Hey! It’s Bowman!

That is what it looks like when a card doesn’t really cause any reaction when it comes up next in my queue. A struggle to find the words.

I didn’t forget this card, but I certainly didn’t remember it, either. Bowman’s 1991 card finally looks, not as much “modern,” but “up-to-date” after two retro designs.

This sequence of cards captures the oddness of the White Sox uniform situation. 1989 shows that the futuristic “SOX” logo from 1976 survived the 1982 redesign which is nowhere else to be seen, then the 1991 features the 1991 redesign, likely taken during one of the September 1990 series where it was worn (it looks cold in the picture, so Spring Training 1991 would be unlikely).

I’m not sure I ever noticed, but the borders on the card are orange and blue. Maybe not expected, but not the craziest thing. BUT, you might think that there were multiple color options, and Carlton Fisk’s card showcases one of them, like Score’s 1991 set. Nope, the whole set, 700+ cards, all has the orange and blue border. Most discussions of the looks of this set mention only “drab,” “uninspired,” or “bland.” What those don’t capture is that Bowman 1990 would almost never be called “bland,” but the 1991 is objectively a better, nicer design. The nameblock extending past the vertical borders is an intentional choice which I’d defend under any circumstances. I like it so much, I remade the card without it just to make sure my head was on straight. As always, you’re welcome.

Really, the name background extension gives the card a much more modern look. While I’m staring at this card, I’ll point out that the lower corners where the keyline meets the orange and blue borders is a mess because there’s no blue border on the bottom edge.


The back shows off brown cardboard, green ink, black ink, and Bowman’s usual uncommon stats, again showing team-by-team offensive splits for his 1990 season. That’s it.

But what about that title? Carlton Fisk was my FAVORITE player. Notice the capital letters. Autographs were a huge deal. There was no real marketplace (at least known to dumb little kid me) for autographs of non-local and non-top 5-biggest-name players. There were never Carlton Fisk autographs, in other words. In other words: there was no internet, and more so, there was no eBay. Cards went into an envelope, a pre-stamped return envelope was also placed in that envelope, cards were mailed away, with no guarantee of return, signed or not. There were “rules” found in Beckett price guides and “baseball cards are fun for kids!” books saying:

  • “Here’s a list of players who sign and return your cards.” (namely Andy Benes. Thank you for autographing my Donruss 1990, Andy.)
  • Send your letter to one and only one player. It’s impossible to deliver one letter to all of Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, and Pat Borders.
  • Only send one card.

Carlton Fisk was never on that list.

He was the only player I liked on the White Sox, so there was no other player to put on the envelope. (I was dumb and broke this rule with the Blue Jays. They were my favorite team, but I didn’t have a favorite player. I sent one envelope with about 6 cards covering 4 players or so. Remembering this included return postage and went to Canada, it wasn’t a cheap shipment. That said, I’m not sure how I pre-stamped return postage for something being sent back from Canada. To their HUGE credit, the Blue Jays fan relations department send me back all of my cards, included a note about multiple cards and ‘just sending a single card doesn’t guarantee an autograph or your card returned,’ and included a copy of the Blue Jays junior fan club’s magazine, which was AMAZING.

I sent Carlton Fisk an 8.5 x 11″ mini poster and three or so cards of which I had doubles. Large padded envelope, return envelope with return postage, cards, poster, and extraordinarily heartfelt note to my favorite baseball player thanking him in advance for his autograph and efforts in shipping it all back to me. No big deal.

Well, Carlton didn’t sign it and he didn’t send it back. Darn. Never (try to) meet your heroes. (In hindsight, that aspect of professional sports could be a real pain in the butt. There’s something to be said for being a hero to little kids; there’s also something to be said about seemingly be expected to open and read all of their letters.) So, yes. It DOES appear he signs autographs. For someone. Just not me.

the (replacement) poster

Am I a little bitter? I’m a little bitter.

(Upon retelling the story of not hearing back from my hero Carlton Fisk to an employee at East Side Sports Cards in Allentown, PA when this was very recent news, I was given a replacement poster for free. That wasn’t my angle at all, but I was very appreciative, as was my mom, being that she was more offended at the non-returned or acknowledged envelope, especially with the hand-written, little kid letter inside.)

Bowman 1990 – The 90s are Here!

If you’ll entertain me, I’m about to be VERY superficial. He looks SUPER old in this card. Is it because he’s wearing his hat in the style of an uncool dad? Perhaps. I mention this because this “dad face” issue comes and goes dramatically, depending on the card. It’s not that bad in the 1989! He also looks sweaty in this Spring Training, anything-but-action shot. Wouldn’t mind knowing the backstory about that.

Second, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the heck the point of this card design is. “I don’t know… but a rainbow around it? But… hmm.. not a full rainbox, just a traffic light. Yeah, that’ll work nicely.” It’s terrible, but thank God for that keyline which separates the photograph from the green of that border. It’s easy to call it a terrible design, but it’s barely a design. It’s a picture with a default border from The Print Shop switched on. That’s it. And, oh yeah, they used a nabla to separate the team name from the player name. Come on. (OK, it’s probably an upside-down triangle… but I wanted a reason to say “nabla.”)

It’s not all-bad, though. As spoiled in the last article, this is a “right-“sized card. None of the over-sized 1989 Bowman nonsense here.

The back showcases low rent cardboard with blue and black ink and those funky team splits for his 1989 season. (and check out that gaudy-for-a-41-year-old .293 batting average. Hubba hubba.)

Like 1989, Bowman 1990 has a Tiffany version which is legitimately limited and moves this… “design” onto white cardstock with gloss clear coat. LIterally polishing a (traffic light-colored) turd.

I don’t have nice things to say about this card, but it is a good spot to make a mental note. 1990 is when card counts for each year EXPLODE. New brands, new sub-brands, variants, you name it. And absolutely batsh*t crazy designs. This isn’t a good-looking card, but it absolutely isn’t batsh*t crazy. 1990 was also the year I bought my first pack of baseball cards. But more on that later.

Bowman 1989 – Truth, Lies, and Baseball Cards

NEW BRAND ALERT!!! Well, kind of. Bowman printed baseball cards from 1939 through 1955 (minus some missed years during World War 2) at which point Topps purchased the company and ceased its baseball card production. And this 1989 release was Topps taking advantage of the baseball card boom of the 80s, allowing an all-new product which didn’t seem like just another Topps set with a “big” or “small” gimmick. (Note: in two short years, Topps would realize the Topps brand name was strong enough to support multiple sets as well as continuing on with Bowman.)

So… what do we have here? We’ve got a weird-sized card here. It’s just a bit taller than a normal card… because the 1953 Bowman set was also just a bit taller than the standard card size. Why do I mention 1953? Because this set is said to be a take-off of the Bowman 1953 set. But it’s not! It’s like someone read a CliffsNotes version of the 1953 set, created their own copy, told everyone (who, of course, weren’t familiar with the actual 1953 set) that it was the same as the original, and that became gospel truth. Well, I’m being dramatic. It’s similar to the 1953 set, but could’ve been even more similar with just a bit more effort.

See? Funky size intact. Simple border. Posed pictures (at Spring Training for the 1989). Simple border. But that’s the end there. The simple border on the 1953 was solid black, while the 1989 is red with black keylines. That would’ve been easy enough to copy, but, oh well. The Bowman logo is new on the 1989 (not crazy to add), and because the originals had no player name on the front, the 1989 fixes that ridiculousness with a sensible compromise of a printed signature. Based on the hooks limiting the design to “similar to 1953,” I’ll say “Good enough. Passing grade.”

Spoiler Alert: Weird Size Bowman 1989 with Normal Size 1990 making an early appearance.

The back showcases brown cardboard with red and black ink with some, well, handsome (?) geometric features, and 1988 offensive splits against every team in the American League. Hey, that’s pretty neat. (though it wouldn’t work anymore with interleague games throughout the season… unless they made the card freakishly tall to fit all 29 other teams) For some trivia, note the copyright shows “Bowman Gum” not “Topps.” I’m not entirely sure of the business arrangement of Topps and Bowman, but any source I can find online says that Bowman was completely owned by Topps and not even a separately run entity. But if I come across more information, I’ll update.

As news to me at this exact moment, I found out that Topps printed “Tiffany” versions of the Bowman sets. If you remember, these are special factory sets made in, for the time, limited quantities (6000 in this instance) with printing on higher quality white paper and glossy clear coat on the front. These don’t scan/photograph much differently than the normal cards, but the additional pop of the colors on the rear is stands out. The Tiffany 1989 goes for $1.00, which is basically the “pay us for the hassle of listing valueless things on eBay” price indicator. (Note that PSA-graded examples of notable rookies do go for actual money with real sales taking place, not just eBay listings with unrealistic prices rotting on the site for years but resulting in “this card is worth how much?” trains of thought for people who don’t realize that if no one is buying it for that price, it’s not worth that price.)

Tiffany (scan found online)