Here we find Carl Everett on his 1998 Fleer Ultra card, saddled with the horns.
Everett underachieved in his time with the Mets, but went on to put together some strong years with the Astros and the Red Sox. He wrapped up his career back in ’06, having amassed 202 HRs for eight different clubs.
But the main thing this piece of pasteboard has me considering is goofy, gimmicky pictures on baseball cards.
I’m not talking about the unintentionally goofy shots of sunglasses, unibrows, open zippers, or afros. I’m talking goofy by design.
So, I present for your consideration a Brief History of the Universe of Goofy, Gimmicky Baseball Card Pictures.
Back in 1951, Bowman produced a beautiful set that utilized the flexichrome process, wherein a black-and-white image was painted over to create a color picture. The results were consistently striking.
However, Bowman chose to represent a single subject in the set in caricature form, leaving us with this gloriously goofy picture of swan-necked, jug-eared White Sox skipper Paul Richards.
Topps joined the baseball-card fray the following year, creating their first full-fledged set to compete with Bowman.
Topps bought out Bowman after the 1955 season, and entered into a 25-year monopoly of the baseball-card market. This lack of competition seems to have fostered a sense of fairly rigid orthodoxy at the company, and the vast majority of their single-player cards throughout this period relied on portraits, posed action shots, or in-game action photos.
It is this orthodoxy that makes a fairly unremarkable card like the 1970 Bud Harrelson stand out, in that he is depicted signing autographs for the fans at Shea, rather than feigning a bunt in foul territory or smiling like a high-school senior.
The Topps monopoly was finally broken in 1981, as Fleer and Donruss released sets during that strike-scarred season.
By 1984, Fleer was producing cards such as the notorious Glenn Hubbard, which featured the Braves infielder with a 20-lb boa constrictor wrapped around his shoulders.
Now, to lend the picture on this card some context, it should be pointed out that it was taken at Veterans Stadium during a birthday party for the Phillie Phanatic, who can be seen over Glenn’s left shoulder. And apparently, the Phanatic invited Barney Rubble to the party, since he can be seen over Glenn’s right shoulder. Yabba dabba, we accept you, one of us, one of us…
This same set also included a shot of jokester Jay Johnstone wearing a Budweiser Brock-a-brella.
More new companies entered the market in the late ’80s, with offerings such as the 1989 Upper Deck card of Nolan Ryan warming up with a football, and the 1990 Score black-and-white beefcake shot of multisport dynamo Bo Jackson.
By this point, the chocks had been removed from the wheels, and you’d need an encyclopedia to catalog all the gimmicky pictures that appeared in the ’90s. I grabbed a random box of that era’s commons from my closet and pulled out a 1998 Stadium Club Ron Gant/Bruce Banner, a 1998 Fleer Ultra card of the late Ken Caminiti and his heavy-metal thunder, a 1998 Topps Chrome photo of Brian Jordan hitting the football that Nolan Ryan had thrown nine years prior, and a 1996 Pinnacle card showing Ryan Klesko getting ready to hit the waves. In his uniform.
In rummaging through my memory, I’m sure I’ve missed many key goofy gimmicks, so feel free to share yours in the comments below…