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.

That 1952 set contained the notorious sticky-ball picture of Gus Zernial, with six baseballs affixed to his bat to commemorate the fact that he had hit six homers over a three-game stretch in 1951.

In 1954, Topps was seeing double, with a single card for the O’Brien twins (Ed and John), who both roamed the infield for the Pirates.

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…

4 comments on “Mets Card of the Week: 1998 Carl Everett

  • Dan Stack

    I don’t know if it could be counted as gimmicky, but I would, considering Billy Ripken knew what he was doing but that error card of him with F**K Face on the bottom of the barrel on his bat is classic.

  • Doug

    People have long suspected that Fleer let the “Rick Face” card through intentionally, which would make it a gimmick in my book. It ranks up there with Billy Martin flipping the bird on his 1972 Topps in the annals of card obscenities…

  • Brian Joura

    I’ve always really liked the Harrelson card, as I’m sure you would have guessed from its inclusion in our header image. The autograph signing is definitely a nice thing in the card but what makes this card so interesting to me is the hypnotic, cloudless sky and the stark black lettering for Mets. The whole card always seemed surreal to me.

  • Doug

    I agree regarding the design of the Harrelson. It’s the only Mets’ card in the set to use the black lettering, which makes it even more anomalously badass and cool…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: