I remember being an 18 year-old just about to leave the hobby for a decade long break in 1998 when my friend Craig asked me if I wanted to go to the card shop one Saturday afternoon. I knew for a fact that I couldn’t afford all those new high-end products like Pinnacle Totally Certified & Donruss Signature so I passed up and instead chose to go out with my non-collecting friends. The next morning I got a frantic call from Craig asking me to check out his card pulls from the previous evening. When I get there he shows me the stack of SPx he pulled (what a bad design that year), and asked me to go through the stack of Donruss he purchased. While going through the pack I saw all the stars of 1998; Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., etc. Towards the end of the pack a bright yellow and green card popped out at me. It was the most beautiful card I have ever seen in my life and it was called ‘Donruss Crusade’. It didn’t even matter that the player was Mike Cameron, I wanted that card!
To really appreciate the elegance that Crusade brought to the hobby you must remember that this is before the days of 3 game-used, 2 autographs per box. In the 90’s if you wanted to stand out from the rest you had to put out the brightest, shiniest cards known to mankind. Sometimes I’d open a pack of Ultra and Pinnacle and would not know the difference between baseball cards and Pokemon cards. Crusade was a different beast, though. First of all, the cards were #’d, a practice that was still somewhat rare in 1998. The Green Crusade cards were #’d to 250, the purple to 100, and the mythical red to just 25. Today you can pull cards numbered way lower than that but they usually look like this or this. Tell me you’d rather have one of those instead of a Crusade. Just tell me!
Sadly, we may never see Crusade inserts again because the company that produced them, Donruss, lost their baseball license but we will never forget these beauties. Everytime you get a game-used jersey of a player hitting below .250 or an autograph of a 28 year-old “rookie”, remember Donruss Crusade. I have none in my collection at the moment but you can bet when one pops up on eBay I will take part in the bidding war these cards usually provoke each and every time they show up.