Every card company has their *thing* …
Topps is “The Real One” — they have the history, the massive catalog of cardboard diamond history, the market leverage to help shape the market. And, back in the dark ages of the 1980s, they had bubble gum — the only manufacturer who could make that claim.
Donruss had the puzzle pieces and the Rated Rookies and the Diamond Kings, and that chemically Donruss smell.
And Fleer? Well, they were the monopoly-busters, sure, but they also had the big error cards — C. Nettles, All Hrabosky, Backwards Littlefield, FF Ripken.
In between dissing a great third baseman (Nettles) and playing into the error card mania (FF), though, Fleer had a couple of other things.
Those dratted logo stickers, for one.
More, endearing (or off-putting, depending on your propensities), though, Fleer became the home of “fun” cards in their base sets.
Jay Johnstone with his beer-logo umbrella hat …
Glenn Hubbard with his snake …
And all those Super Star Specials!
Beginning way back in 1982 with their second set of the post-Topps-monopoly era, Fleer began celebrating stars on cards, together.
Or, sometimes, dudes who weren’t really both stars, not like that (Pete & Re-Pete, for example).
Or even individual players (Don Mattingly and Dwight Gooden, individually, in 1986, etc.).
But it was those multiplayer mashups who really got you (or me, at least) thinking as a young collector.
That 1982 Voltron concoction of “Steve and Carlton” and “Carlton and Fisk” had me running in mental circles for hours, let me tell you!
And then, in 1983, Fleer upped the ante by issuing the same sorts of multi-player cards, but doing it across two consecutive pasteboard.
So, not only did we get a tribute to Bud Black and Vida Blue, we got them side-by-side on two individual cards with Black’s righthand border missing, and Blue’s left-hand side an infinity pool of photo.
That way, when you brought the cards of the Royals teammates together — #s 643 and 644 — the dudes formed one big mural of Royals blue.
And they were … yes … “Black & Blue.”
By the time the 1985 Fleer cards debuted, the entire hobby waited anxiously (or with dread — again, depending) to discover that year’s devilish wordplay, and the Philadelphia gum maker didn’t disappoint.
There, in the far reaches of the checklist, we found goodies like …
- AL and NL Pitcher’s Nightmares (#s 629 and 630)
- Toronto’s Big Guns (#s 635 and 636)
- Cal Ripken and Cal Ripken (Jr. and Sr.; #641_
But the grandest entry of all belonged to a pair of pitchers whose records look pretty pedestrian today but whose names were perfect for Fleer’s purposes.
Yes, Al Holland and Lee Tunnell begat the famed “Holland Tunnell”:
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And, though Fleer’s claim (on the back of the Holland piece) that the duo were “two of the more intimidating pitchers in the National League” was specious even then, they’re marriage here on cards #637 and #638 seems like destiny in retrospect.
It was dad joke splendor before we even knew what that meant, and when you actually thought your dad was funny.
But this card concoction was something else, too — a seer. Or, perhaps, an impetus.
Because, in April of 1985, just as the hobby was beginning to come to the grips with the masterpiece of the Holland Tunnell, the Phillies traded their closer (Holland, that is) … to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Holland’s run with the Bucs was short-lived, as they shipped the lefty — along with George Hendrick and John Candelaria — to the California Angels in August, in exchange for Mike Brown, Pat Clements, and Bob Kipper.
During that four-month overlap, the Pirates didn’t just have both halves of Fleer’s masterpiece on the roster together.
Nope, the Holland Tunnell took the mound four times that spring and summer — Al and Lee pitching in the same game, for the same team.
You have to wonder if anyone even recognized the magnitude of those moments, given the dire condition of Pittsburgh’s diamond hopes that season.
But you know, somewhere in Philly, there was a card-making dude just eating it up.
And somewhere in the heartland, a dad was telling his kids about it, sure he was the first one to figure out the joke.
What a punderful world it was.
Did you know that Lionel Richie also made an appearance in the 1985 Fleer set? True story.
Hear all about it over on YouTube …
That 1985 Pirates team was pretty rough to watch, finishing 57-104 and giving up 140 more runs than they scored. Still, there are some pretty cool artifacts from that team running around out there, like …
That’s a team-signed ball, including Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, who had retired a few years before but remained a Bucs legend.
Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).
1985 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 401-600) Nm-Mint
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1985 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 1-200) Nm-Mint
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