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When a rookie card isn’t a rookie card (and technically isn’t even a card)

Davis 1984

Eric Davis rookie cards were hot ticket items in the Cincinnati area in the mid-1980s. It didn’t matter which 1985 issue you were talking about—Topps, Donruss, or Fleer—if you had a Davis rookie, you were a king on the playground.

But what if you had a 1984 Eric Davis? No, not a minor league card. A 1984 Eric Davis Reds card.

That’s what we have here. Not really a card, but still considered a card by most. Like the Fleer stamps and the Topps stickers, we have here a 1984 Borden sticker of Eric Davis. This regional issue is more difficult to obtain than Topps, Donruss, or Fleer, but it’s not all that much more expensive. It was issued on a perforated sheet with Mario Soto, Dave Parker, and Ron Oester, and featured coupons for Borden dairy products on the reverse.

1984 Reds Borden Davis Parker Oester Soto

Two different sheets were produced, the other displaying Tony Perez, Jeff Russell, Eddie Milner, and Gary Redus.

1984 Reds Borden Perez Russell Milner Redus

I have no idea how these were distributed back in the day. Stadium giveaway? Mail-in offer? Free at checkout with the purchase of a half-gallon of Lady Borden Ice Cream? Now, thirty-five years later, you have to wait until they pop up on eBay for a reasonable price.

The coupons don’t have an expiration date. I wonder if I can still redeem them at Kroger…

Borden coupon

1985 Reds Yearbook (with perforated baseball card pages!)

A few years ago I purchased the 1984 Reds Yearbook which came with a couple of pages of perforated baseball cards. It was relatively inexpensive on eBay, but I held off on the 1985 edition because Eric Davis drove the price up a bit. Earlier this week, I decided to go ahead and grab the 1985 Yearbook as well.

1985 Reds Yearbook

A painting of Pete Rose is featured on the cover, along with Ty Cobb as Rose was chasing the all-time hits record. He officially broke the record on September 11, 1985, at Riverfront Stadium with a single off the Padres’ Eric Show, but we now know that the record was actually broken a few days earlier in Chicago.

As I flipped through the pages, I paused on the ticket prices…

ticket prices 1985

Would someone hurry up and invent a time machine please?

Here’s an idea for the teams that like to overdo the throwback jerseys. For any game in which a throwback is worn, throwback the ticket prices as well. So when the Reds suit up in 1980s duds, let me buy some awesome seats for $8 a pop.

The big reason I bought the yearbook, however, was the baseball cards…

baseball cards

baseball cards

Eighteen perforated cards on two pages. The card backs are similar to what would be released in 1986 with Texas Gold as the sponsor, and 1987 and beyond with Kahn’s. The front have a simple yet attractive design. My two favorite players from this particular team were Eric Davis and Mario Soto

Davis

Soto

I’m glad to finally cross these cards off my wantlist, but they will not be residing in the binder with my other 1985 cards. These cards will forever stay safely inside the yearbook!

1986 Fleer is bland

I tried coming up with a witty title, but I just couldn’t do it. 1986 Fleer is so bland it caused my brain to freeze up when I tried to be creative. So there you have it. 1986 Fleer is bland. That’s not to say it isn’t without its charm.

McGaffigan bunting

Look at that. A pitcher at the plate. Bunting. How quaint. Andy McGaffigan spent time with the Yankees, Giants, and Expos before coming to the Reds in 1984. By the time this card was released, he was back in Montreal.

Want to see another charming card?

Rose and Gooden

How about a fella nearing the end of his amazing career, and another just starting what many thought would be equally amazing? Pete Rose eclipsed Ty Cobb‘s hits record in 1985, and Dwight Gooden became the youngest pitcher ever to win twenty games in a season. If you didn’t know those two facts, you can just flip the card over…

Rose and Gooden

…and BOOM! Knowledge. Ironically, I don’t think Fleer used the word ironically correctly.

Fleer was very busy in 1986. In addition to the regular base set, there were at least six boxed sets that included Reds. The bland brand released their third Update set at the end of the year, which included rookies Kurt Stillwell and Tracy Jones and veterans Bill Gullickson and John Denny. They also released a 120-card mini set which was not a parallel of base set cards but featured different photos. What a novel idea.

Then there was the 132-card Star Sticker set. I actually bought a wax box of these a few years ago and had a blast ripping the packs, but fell 32 cards short on completing the entire set.

Browning

Tom Browning popped up in a lot of 1986 sets, and for good reason. His 1985 rookie campaign was overshadowed by the St. Louis speedster Vince Coleman, but Browning was the first rookie since the 1960s to win 20 games in a season. Not Dwight Gooden. Tom Browning. And no rookie pitcher has done it since. I realize wins are not really in vogue when talking about pitcher stats, but 20 wins is still a big deal in my mind. Coleman captured all 24 first-place votes for 1985 Rookie of the Year, and I have to admit that I’m a little perturbed at the Cincinnati BBWAA voters for that.

Fleer also released a handful of smaller box sets. I do not have any of the 1986 Fleer League Leaders cards, and I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen one in person. There are two Reds in the set, Dave Parker and Pete Rose. The relatively new List of Fisk blog breaks down Carlton Fisk‘s card in the set.

Another box set was called “Limited Edition.”

Limited Edition

How limited, you ask? Probably not very. It was 1986 after all and this set is not terribly difficult to track down 32 years later. Again, there are two Reds in the set and again, it’s Parker and Rose. I haven’t gone to the trouble of finding the Rose card yet and I have no idea how long Parker has been in my collection.

Another box set was Fleer’s “Baseball’s Best” (but usually listed in price guides as “Sluggers/Pitchers”). Again, 44 cards.

Soto

Parker didn’t make the cut for this set, but Rose did, even though he could hardly be called a “Slugger.” Browning and Mario Soto were included among the pitchers. I like this particular set because of the consistency of it. Fleer released this set from 1986 through 1988 with the border being the only major change in the design.

Two other 1986 Fleer Reds cards I don’t have were inserts into packs: “Future Hall of Famers” (Rose) and “All-Stars” (Parker). Both of these inserts are more attractive than the base set design. Which isn’t saying a whole lot, because, you know, 1986 Fleer is bland.

1986 Topps oddballs

When I dove into collecting baseball cards at about ten years old, I collected everything I could get my hands on. There were nearly as many oddball sets as there are parallel sets today, and I grabbed as much as I could. Here are a few of the offerings that bore the Topps name.

Glossy Send-Ins

Cobra 1986 Topps glossy

These cards did not come in packs. You had to collect a certain number of “offer cards” from regular packs, then send them in along with postage to receive them. I never did order them directly from Topps but picked up a few in trades.

Mini League Leaders

1986 Topps Mini League Leaders

Before baseball-reference.com, we relied on baseball cards stats to know who the best players were. In 1986, Topps issued a set of mini “League Leaders.” The back of this card reveals that Mario Soto finished the 1985 season second in the National League with 214 strikeouts, tied for 6th in games started, tied for 6th in complete games, and 7th in innings pitched.

Quaker Chewy Granola Bars

1986 Topps Quaker Chewy Granola Parker

Baseball card companies partnered with food products often in the olden days. Post Cereal, Kellogg’s, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese were just a handful of the food products that featured cards in products. Quaker Chewy Granola bars was another, and Dave Parker was one of the more common Reds players to show up in these sets from 1985-1988. These cards are usually found in very good condition, so I assume they were available through mail-order rather than included in the box itself.

Topps Tattoos

1986 Topps Tattoos

Topps Tattoos were sold in packs, but I don’t recall ever seeing them in stores. I picked up a few featuring Reds players through trades. The full sheets featured several players; this particular sheet included not only Tony Perez, but fellow Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and a player with one of the greatest nicknames in the history of baseball: Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd. Right next to Perez is the late Donnie Moore, who tragically took his own life in 1989.

Let’s flip the image to see what it would look like if you applied it to your skin:

1986 Topps Tattoos

I’m so used to seeing them reversed, flipping it just looks weird.

O-Pee-Chee

O-Pee-Chee

Are O-Pee-Chee cards oddballs? Sold in packs in Canada, but singles always traveled south and into the hands of American kids. I loved cards like this Bill Gullickson, showing the original Topps photo but new team designation.

Fun Cards: 2013 Topps Mario Soto

Four times Mario Soto finished in the top ten voting for the Cy Young Award. In 1983, he came in second behind Philadelphia’s John Denny. He was named to the NL All-Star team three times and started the game in 1983. In the early 1980s, Soto was probably the best thing the Reds had going for them. In 1982, his record was 14-13, but had the second highest WAR for pitchers in the National League (behind Steve Rogers of the Expos), and tied (with Rogers) for the third best WAR in the NL behind Montreal’s Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really understand WAR, but I’ll use it when it supports one of my favorite players!

As far as I can tell, Soto has never been included in any officially licensed released since 1989, when Score issued a card showing him wearing the Dodger blue (though he never pitched a regular season game for them). He was included in a deck of playing cards released by Hero Decks a few years ago; other than that the Soto well is dry. How about it, Topps? How about some love for one of the best pitchers in the early 1980s?

Small purchase from sportlots.com

Internet commerce sure has come a long way, hasn’t it? I’ve used eBay for years, but when it comes to trading cards and lower-end product, there are other options that are more cost effective than eBay. Last week I purchased cards from three different sellers on sportlots.com, and the first package arrived today.

It started out as a mission to buy as many different Kurt Stillwell cards as I could find from the fewest sellers in order to save on shipping. After finding about 20 cards, I branched out to Reds that were missing from my collection. In today’s package, I got six of those Stillwells and four Reds…

Cincinnati Reds baseball cards

Dave Concepcion, Dave Parker, Mario Soto, Pete Rose. Four names that Reds fans revered in the 1980s. The Concepcion and Parker are 1987 Red Foley stickers. I have never seen these before, so wasn’t really sure what to expect. Kinda boring, and really too small if you ask me.

The Soto is a 1986 Fleer Mini. I swear I’ve seen it before, and if it is stuck behind another card in the binder I might be a little upset that I wasted eighteen cents on it.

The Rose is from the 1986 O-Pee-Chee set, card #1 in the issue. I am now only one card away from owning all the Reds cards from ’86 OPC, I think, and that should be arriving in one of the other packages.

I can’t wait to see the cards in the other two packages when they arrive this week!

Gypsy Queen – Mario Soto

In 1983, back when pitchers were pitchers, Mario Soto started and finished 18 games, all by himself. *I will not turn this into a rant against relief pitching…I will not turn this into a rant against relief pitching…I will not turn this into a rant against relief pitching…*

Trade with The Phillies Room

Jim over at The Phillies Room makes some awesome custom cards, and has for several years now. He calls them “Chachi” sets, and I always look forward to seeing new customs on his site.

We recently agreed to a Phillies-for-Reds trade, and his package arrived in the mail today. My jaw almost hit the floor when I saw the goodies he picked out for me!

My collection of 1971 Topps Reds has increased a lot over the past few weeks, with great cards coming in from thoughtful bloggers. Pat Corrales is now the seventh Reds card I have from the 1971 set.

This 1979 Topps card commemorates Pete Rose‘s 44-game hitting streak, still a National League record.

Jim totally hooked me up with a ton of early 80s sweetness. Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, and Mario Soto were a few of the best Reds, or at least most popular, in the early 80s. Jim looked at my wantlists when he picked these cards out, because there was not a single double in the stack. Here’s the breakdown:

1981 Donruss: 3 cards
1981 Fleer: 10
1981 Topps: 2
1982 Donruss: 9
1982 Fleer: 8
1983 Donruss: 20!!!

But he also sent along a few modern cards also…

I don’t recall ever seeing a 1995 Topps Embossed card, so this Bret Boone was a very cool addition to my collection.

From the 2011 Topps set, I got both Johnny Cueto and Frank Robinson 60YOT backs, and a base card of Aaron Harang.

Thanks for the trade Jim. Awesome stuff!

Re-evaluating my player collections

When I started collecting baseball cards again a few years ago, I was very unfocused. I bought a little of this, a little of that.

Over the past couple of years, I started refining my habits. I wanted Reds cards in general, and a few players in particular: Mario Soto, Kurt Stillwell, Chris Sabo, Shawon Dunston, Rob Dibble, Ken Griffey (both Sr. & Jr.), Pete Rose, and Eric Davis.

I got to thinking yesterday…why in the world do I need two of every Mario Soto card, except 1989 Score? Why do I need doubles of every Eric Davis Cincinnati card?

I think I’m going to discontinue my player collections of players who spent a majority of their careers with the Reds. I will still gladly accept Sabo Orioles cards, Dibble Brewers cards (of which I have none), Griffey Mariners cards, and Rose Phillies cards. Add to that Geronimo Royals, Foster Mets, Morgan Astros, Rijo A’s, Esasky Red Sox, Kluszewski White Sox, Parker Pirates…you get the point. I won’t turn them away.

I am going to continue (and maybe put a little more effort into) my pages for Stillwell, since he left the Reds early in his career, and Dunston, who never played for my hometown team.

If you are interested in the checklists that I have posted for Davis, Soto, Sabo, Senior Griffey, or Dibble, copy and paste them into your own text document now as they will be deleted in the coming days. I am going to absorb to Reds cards into my Reds collection and start a new binder of Reds wearing other teams’ uniforms.

It took less than a week

Last Saturday, I posted my “Most Wanted!” list at the behest of Night Owl. And in less than a week, one of those cards needs to be replaced, as I received in the mail today…

John of Johngy’s Beat said he would like to see a “virtual” 2009 Topps card of Bill Plummer, former backup catcher for the Redlegs. I made two, and as payment for services (?) rendered, he sent me the 1985 Donruss Mario Soto Diamond Kings card.

Thank you, Night Owl for the suggestion. Thank you, Johngy’s Beat for the card!

Now to figure out what to replace that “Most Wanted!” slot with…

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