Life sure has a funny way of not doing the things you think it’s going to, huh?

Take the 1985 Fleer “N.L. All-Stars” card, for example:

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Here you had four of the biggest names in the game, all lined up for your collecting pleasure.

And, if you had pulled this gem from a wax pack that long-ago summer with an eye toward eventual Hall of Fame worthiness, you very well might have arranged the featured gents just about like Fleer did.

Carter and, especially, Garvey were the sure bets for Cooperstown, having stood near the top of their positions for nearly a decade (The Kid) — or even longer (Mr. Clean).

They rightfully stood at the center of attention here.

And Strawberry was the young batting savior for the moribund Mets and their long-suffering fans, a long, lean lefty who could do just about anything he wanted on the diamond … and who had done just that in his first two seasons in Flushing.

Yes, the 1983 Rookie of the Year was already great, and he was destined for immortality.

Of the lot, then, it was Ozzie Smith who might have felt like an outlier.

It surely sounds like blasphemy now, but there was plenty of argument over just how valuable The Wizard was, overall, during the first half or more of his playing career.

He could seemingly do anything with the glove, sure, and he had the Gold Gloves to prove it. But, with a .238 career batting average and just about zero power (7 home runs, .298 slugging percentage) entering the 1985 season, Smith was viewed by many as a one-dimensional player who would never cut the Cooperstown mustard.

The card back sort of echoed those prevailing sentiments, too.

To wit, Fleer gave us some 1984(ish) context to help us enjoy these guys, and this card …

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Carter, the “best catcher in baseball.”

Garvey, a “hero” with another fine season.

Strawberry, he of the gaudy batting lines.

And Ozzie, who gets praise for his glove prowess and what he can do “in the field,” but who also has special attention called to his “106 hits in 1984.”

That’s not a lot, and without the benefit of toys like WAR or even a broad appreciation for stolen base efficiency or on-base abilities, Smith’s overall profile suffered.

Among a lot of fans, certainly, and especially in the card market, where even the pasteboards themselves highlighted his lack of firepower without an accordingly large portion of praise (especially of the statistical variety) for his glovework.

But, even as this card still sat on store shelves waiting to be chased, Smith set about changing perceptions.

In 1985, he hit .276 with a career-high six homers while helping the Cardinals to another World Series appearance.

The batting average climbed the next two summers, culminating with a personal-best .303 in 1987, a season that also saw him smack 40 doubles, steal 43 bases, drive in 75 runs (with zero homers!), and get the Cards to yet another Fall Classic.

That amounted to 6.4 WAR and a second-place, finish behind Andre Dawson, in National League MVP voting.

And Ozzie wasn’t even done ascending, as his seasonal WAR kept rising through is age-34 season (1989), and he continued to post 3-5 WAR per season through 1993 (when he was 38).

Meanwhile, Garvey faded and retired.

Strawberry struggled in about every way you could imagine and lost prime years because of it.

Carter joined Straw with the Mets even before this card was issued and helped them to the 1986 World Series title, joining Garvey in the “hero” category. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his sixth ballot.

And Smith?

He successfully erased the “one-dimensional” tag that followed him into his 30s (even if that one dimension was otherworldly) to storm Cooperstown on his first ballot in 2002, leapfrogging holdovers Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice … and Garvey.

And Carter.

And fellow-first-year ballot man Andre Dawson.

So, in the end, Ozzie effectively turned this exquisite baseball card on its head.

Which seems wholly appropriate given The Wizard’s reputation for acrobatics … don’t you think?

1985 Fleer Kirby Puckett #286 NM+ Rookie Card

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1985 Fleer #34 Tony Gwynn San Diego Padres

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1985 Fleer Dale Murphy #335 Atlanta Braves

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1985 Fleer #187 Cal Ripken, Jr. Baltimore Orioles

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1985 Fleer #550 Pete Rose

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