(Check out our other posts about oddball baseball cards here.)

In 1986, after five full years of producing (mostly) progressively better baseball card sets, Fleer was ready to press the issue.

For one thing, there were the card borders.

Fleer had experimented with their borders in both 1983 and 1985, opting for gray or gray-brown those years. But the success Donruss had with their black-bordered beauties in 1985 must have fired Fleer’s daring synapse, because they went with a darkish blue for their borders in 1986 — groundbreaking!

They also ramped up their offerings to include a mini set, a Star Stickers set that doubled as full-sized cards, and box-bottom cards. And that’s not to mention the three or four boxed sets they produced for distribution at various retail outlets.

 

1986 Fleer Rack Pack

 

But maybe the most forward-thinking aspect of Fleer’s 1986 offerings were the premium random inserts they included in their various packages that summer.

In particular, the Fleer All Star Team cards were the near-term predecessors of the more modern chase cards that have dominated the hobby for 20 years or more, and they were a revelation for collectors. (You can read about this set here.)

At the same time we were drooling over those then-current stars (plus Gorman Thomas), Fleer also gave us something to chase in their rack packs — a set of six Future Hall of Famers.

Like the all-stars, the HOF cards were printed on premium stock and featured a cutout photo of each player against a solid (with stripes, in this case) background, along with other vintage design elements. Card backs provided a narrative of the player’s career.

While the fortunes of the six players have waxed and waned over the years, the cards remain desirable collectibles and a nod to early forces that shaped the hobby into what it is today.

Here is a rundown of the six legends and their chase-worthy cardboard.

 

Pete Rose (#1)

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Pete Rose 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Pete Rose (back)

 

Pete Rose was a hot hobby commodity when these cards hit store shelves. Not only was he at the helm — and playing for — a Cincinnati Reds team that looked like it might be gearing up for a long run of greatness (or at least really goodness), but Rose had just passed Ty Cobb on the all-time hits list in 1985.

The 1963 Topps Rose rookie was the new Mantle rookie, on the wishlist of every serious collector and jumping in price every week.

There was no stopping Rose and his Cooperstown-bound train, so Fleer rightly jumped on for the ride. This first card was arguably the most popular of the superstars on this list until Rose blowtorched through his own track.

As Rose’s popularity has stabilized in the last 10 years or so, this card has also bounced back with a bit more prominence.

Steve Carlton (#2)

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton (back)

 

In 1985, Steve Carlton went 1-8 for the Philadelphia Phillies, but that didn’t matter when it came time for hometown Fleer to hand out their Future Hall of Famer awards.

By that time, Carlton had 314 wins under his fit belt and had recorded nearly 4000 strikeouts, which would have been a record if not for another gent on this list.

And because Carlton had yet to begin his late career bouncing-ball act collectors were treated to one more look at him in his maroon-pinstriped Phillies uniform.

Life was good, and so was Lefty.

Tom Seaver (#3)

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver (back)

 

Tom Seaver, on the other hand, conspired with Fleer to create a burst of cardboard dissonance so great it nearly ripped his Future Hall of Famer card to shreds even as it was rolling off the printing press.

Yes, Seaver had pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 1984, which meant we’d already seen him in the jarring SOX outfits of the era (though Donruss couldn’t really bear the idea the first time around in 1985).

And, yes, Seaver posted a nifty 16-11 record for the ChiSox in 1985 at age 40.

But, good gosh … this Fleer card made maybe the greatest pitcher of his generation look like he was waiting to┬álube your car down at the Jiffy Fix!

We still loved it, of course, but it hurt to look at, every time.

Rod Carew (#4)

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Rod Carew 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Rod Carew (back)

 

Late-career Rod Carew sort of got lost in the glare of the other glitzy stories of the day.

He recorded his 3000th hit in 1985, the same year Rose dominated old-guy news with his assault on Cobb’s record.

That was also the same year Dwight Gooden won 162 games singlehandedly and the same year that Don Mattingly hit .513 with 81 home runs an 112 doubles. Two New York performances like that were hard to compete with, from a headline perspective.

But Rod Carew was a class act throughout his 19-year career, and when he hung up his spikes after that 1985 campaign, there was no doubt Cooperstown was in his near future.

Fleer rightly included the Twins and Angels legend in their Future HOFer set, flouting every rule we knew about not issuing cards of players who were not going to be active in the season the cards were issued.

Bless them and their transgression.

Nolan Ryan (#5)

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan (back)

 

Nolan Ryan fooled Fleer here.

Although at 39, he was a bit younger than most of the guys on this list, he was pretty much in the same boat — he was putting the finishing touches on a very long and excellent career that would probably land him in the Hall of Fame.

Truth be told, Fleer likely felt obligated to include Ryan, since Carlton made the cut and The Express had more strikeouts. Couldn’t really have one in the set without the other, even if Nolan fell short in wins.

And there were plenty around the game who thought Ryan would fall short of Cooperstown election, too.

Well, the joke was on all of us, because Ryan pitched for another eight seasons and became a bona fide legend.

Knowing what we know now, Ryan looks like a kid in this set, and his inclusion seems almost silly given the rest of the geriatrics on the checklist.

Still, Ryan’s is easily the most popular card among the six today.

Reggie Jackson (#6)

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson (back)

 

This may come as a surprise owing to his demure disposition, but Reggie Jackson was the guy who brought fireworks to this set.

I mean, without Reggie, we’d be stuck with a bunch of singles hitters and pitchers — how boring, right?

But Reggie was anything but boring — ever!

By the time these cards found their way into rack packs in the spring of 1986, Reggie had hit 530 career bombs and long since cemented his status as Mr. October. He didn’t have much left in the tank but did make a return trip to the Oakland A’s, with whom his career began, and fans and collectors embraced Reggie during that final run.

Whether you loved him or hated him during his prime, Reggie gained a more universal following as the years passed, and his cards are always popular adds.

This Future Hall of Famer pasteboard is no exception, and Reggie looks like he could step off the card and pop one right now, don’t you think?

(Check out our other posts about oddball baseball cards here.)

 

 

 

1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famers #1 Pete Rose

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Tom Seaver 1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer Insert - #3

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1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famers #4 Rod Carew ANGELS NM-MT *5711

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1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer #6 Reggie Jackson Los Angeles Angels Card

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1986 Fleer Future Hall of Famer #5 Nolan Ryan Houston Astros Baseball Card

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