The 1989 Score Graig Nettles card was sort of a big deal, especially considering all the hurdles it had to overcome, like …

  • Hailing from a bland, overproduced set
  • Competing for attention in said set with the Jeff Bittiger rookie card
  • An image that swallowed Nettles in contrast and background problems
  • A funky position listing
  • A “wrong” player-team association

Here, you can see most of those deficiencies just by glancing at the card …

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So, with all this stacked against it, just what was it that made the 1989 Score Graig Nettles so special?

Well, partially it was that funky player-position-team association we see there on the front: “EXPOS IF GRAIG NETTLES.”

First off, everybody knows Nettles was a third baseman, and one of the greatest at the hot corner, at that.

And for another thing … Graig Nettles with the Montreal Expos?

That just doesn’t seem right … Indians, Yankees, Padres — yes.

All of those resonate with memories of Nettles, at least to some degree for most old-time fans. Maybe even the Twins, with whom Puff broke into the majors in 1967.

Truth is, though, Nettles caught on with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent for the 1987 season after the Padres released him late in 1986. And then, after an uninspiring campaign, the Braves sold his rights for 1988 to … the Expos.

And so the six-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner reported to Canada for his age-43 season. Eight games played yielded just 104 plate appearances, though, and a .172 batting average with one home run and 14 RBI yielded a release and, finally, Nettles’ retirement at age 44.

The two-time World Series champion walked away with 390 home runs, 1314 RBI, 2200+ hits, and at least an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

That Cooperstown call hasn’t come, at least not yet (the Eras Committees may yet have something to say here), but you can still marvel at Nettles’ career accomplishments on the back of his baseball cards.

Well, baseball card.

Because just one company saw fit to issue a final pasteboard of the superstar as he moved over to the Senior League in 1989 … yeah, it was Score.

So if you’re looking for a Nettles career-capper, you have one choice — an overproduced, aesthetically challenged, dissonance-inducing hunk of forgotten hobby history that you can almost always pick up for a dollar or less.

Because, sometimes, importance is more than skin-deep.

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