Reading through some of the comments left about Classic Baseball cards in the last few days I am somewhat surprised by how little respect certain “oddball” brands receive in the Hobby. Sure, the greatest 1989 Oddball Ken Griffey Jr. will never replace his Upper Deck debut but how often is that the case?
Today while surfing through eBay I came across a 1991 Ballstreet Don Mattingly. The card features a beautiful, sharp photograph of “Donnie Baseball” following through on what is most likely one of his five home runs he hit in 1990. The card’s design is not overbearing and is actually somewhat classy by early-90’s standards.
What if we could have the ultimate “Cardboard War” of 1991? Who would come out on top? Corporate or the little guy producing trading cards from his home? Considering it’s one against nine we most likely already know the answer but what if…?
Here is the challenger: 1991 Ballstreet Don Mattingly. You have a beautiful photograph, clean design, and an easy to read name. What else could you want from a baseball card today, let alone in 1991?
This is the Bowman brand one year before it takes over the Hobby and several years before it becomes the “Home of the Rookie Card”. While I do have lots of love for this year’s release, the photograph leaves a lot to be desired. Today, these cards come cheap but make great TTM autograph material.
I have always been a sucker for Donruss, especially their 1990 “red” year but the ’91 release did nothing for me. The photograph is nice but it’s nothing special and the design has not exactly aged well. Ironically, what saves this card is the Yankees logo on the bottom left corner.
In 1991, Fleer was my “product of the year”. Some hate the yellow borders but the amazing inserts in this product made up for it. Does anyone remember how amazing Pro-Visions were? If you were a young collector and your favorite player was included, it was the centerpiece of your collection. God bless 1991 Fleer!
1991 Fleer Ultra
There was not much about 1991 Fleer Ultra that made sense. It had a higher sticker price than regular Fleer but nothing else. I remember busting a few packs of this at a show and being flat out disappointed. As the years go by I have learned to better appreciate this release but in 1991 they simply struck out.
I guess Grey was a popular color in 1991 because both Ultra and Leaf based their entire design around it that year. I believe the term “Sophomore Slump” was created after 1991 Leaf was released. Talk about a huge downgrade in a product. 1990 Leaf was epic in the Hobby, 1991 barely made a splash.
They lose points on the horrible picture as well, which blocks most of Mattingly’s face.
There is a very special place in my collecting heart for 1991 Score as it was the very first complete box of wax I have ever opened. I remember busting this on my 11th birthday and pulling the infamous Jose Canseco “Dream Team” insert featuring the Annie Leibovitz shirtless photograph. I was only eleven but it left me somewhat confused. Thank goodness for my stepfather’s stash of Playboy.
In 1991 Topps could do no wrong, first with the amazing photography in their flagship release and later with their Stadium Club debut. If 1989 belonged to Upper Deck, 1991 was the year that Topps ruled the Hobby world once more. I have never seen a more perfect baseball card of Don Mattingly. This is proof you don’t need a “1 of 1” sticker, an autograph, or a chunk of game-used bat to make a great card.
1991 Stadium Club
Here you have it, the debut of Stadium Club. This was easily the most popular product of the year and surprisingly still sells extremely well thanks to a top notch product put together by Topps Company. I never really understood the hype behind this release but more than likely it is because I could not afford it to save my life. Despite all this, I still cherish my ’91 Stadium Club Jose Canseco.
1991 Upper Deck
At the time, this was my favorite Don Mattingly card of 1991. The photo looked so clear and despite being a young man, Don looked old and tired as he made his way to first base. Donnie would go on to play five more seasons of baseball, falling way short of anything close to his 1985 M.V.P. year.
So there you have it. Every single 1991 Don Mattingly base card released, along with the challenger. How many of the main releases are truly better than the Ballstreet? To me, the only ones are the Upper Deck, Topps, & Stadium Club. The Bowman & Leaf didn’t even try and the others were just mediocre.
What do you guys think?