(This is the 15th in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

Sometimes, a baseball card is just so perfect that it falls outside the jurisdiction of all man-imposed rules.

Consider the 1985 Fleer Pete Rose, for example.

When I set out to choose the best card from every base set of the 1980s, I planned to adhere to these basic principles:

  • Limit the number of Cincinnati Reds featured (non-homer rule)
  • Don’t write about cards I’ve covered before (duplicate content rule)
  • Don’t repeat players (keep-it-fresh rule)
  • Guard against selection patterns (catchers-rule-but-don’t-let-them-dominate rule)

So far, I’ve done a pretty good job.

But a few Reds have sneaked into the fold, and catchers always pull at my heartstrings and sense of aesthetics.


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As I flip through the 1985 Fleer set, though, I’m left with cold truth that my homerism must be served — I have to pick the Pete Rose card.

Here is why …

Aside from, maybe, the unbelievable ending to the 1985 World Series, the biggest story of that eventful season was Rose’s pursuit of Ty Cobb‘s all-time hit record.

When Rose laced number 4192 against Eric Show in Riverfront Stadium on September 11, he was the hottest player in the hobby — if not over the whole summer, then at least in that one moment.

And I’d wager (ouch!) that tens of thousands of boys watched that occasion play out surrounded by their Rose cards, including the 1985 Fleer that they might have just pulled from a fresh wax pack.

Though Rose has appeared on hundreds, thousands of cards in the last 55 years, maybe no other swatch of cardboard captures his essence like that ’85 Fleer issue.

Here is Rose, well into his 40s but still a thickly-muscled fireplug, hustling out of the batter’s box while watching the flight of yet another ball he has put in play.

The sun shines on him at Jack Murphy Stadium while the host San Diego Padres look on from the dugout in the background.

Is it a moment of prescience on Fleer’s part, knowing Rose will set the record against the Pads? Or just a happy coincidence?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because it just is — a golden moment captured in time, a moment that helped us celebrate the big Charlie Hustle moment that fall.

1985 Fleer Pete Rose (back)

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And all of this Hit King goodness is wrapped in a red border that perfectly complements Rose’s uniform accents and makes the card as visually appealing as it is historically significant.

Sometimes, you just have to say to hell with the rules and do what you know is right.

That’s why, despite his warts and the other contenders, no one can hold a candle to Pete Rose when it comes to picking the best 985 Fleer baseball card.

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(This is the 15th in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)





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George Brett Lot (9) 1985 Fleer #199 (4) and 1986 #5 (5)

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