When you hear (read) “1984” and “Wheaties” together, what do you think of? It’s Tom Waddell … right?
Yeah, me, too.
Now, I know that some folks think about the Los Angeles Olympics and those amazing athletes who adorned Wheaties cereal boxes that summer — Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis, Leslie Deniz.
They were all great, awesome, and those games made me love the Olympics forever.
But, c’mon … baseball is my thing.
So, when I hear 1984 Wheaties, my mind goes right to the 1984 Wheaties Cleveland Indians baseball card set. Those cards were big (2-3/4” x 3-1/2”) and bright, with a large color player photo gracing the card front with plenty of white space surrounding the image. Underneath was the Chief Wahoo head logo, the player’s name and position in big block letters, and the Wheaties logo.
Find 1984 Wheaties Indians cards on eBay (affiliate link)
Find 1984 Wheaties Indians cards on Amazon (affiliate link)
The cards were issued as giveaways at home games in Cleveland Stadium (I think) in 1984 while the Tribe was running up another dismal showing — 75-87, sixth place in the old American League East.
As with most bad teams, though, losing games didn’t mean the Indians were bereft of stars, and the 29-card set reflected that reality. Among the big or soon-to-be-big names on the checklist were Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, future World Series hero Joe Carter, future big league manager Mike Hargrove, and slugger Andre Thornton.
All of the cards were numbered according to the player’s uniform number, except for a coaches card and a mascot card, both unnumbered.
But during that summer of 1984, collectors were suddenly awash in collecting choices. So, it mattered not a whit to me that I had no access to these Wheaties cards. Heck, I probably didn’t even know they existed.
What I did know existed were the hard beige rectangles known as Fleer Star Stickers. Unlike the Topps stickers of the day, these were more like actual cards, stiff and on thick white card stock, mimicking the full-size 1981 Flee Star Stickers. The 1984 Fleer entry did fall in line with Topps by presenting a diminutive sticker size (1-15/16″ by 2-1/2″).
Fleer Star Stickers, though, came in actual wax packs, with their own wax pack box, and I managed to score several packs of six (I think) players each. And, while there were 126 different stickers in the set, I seemed to always … always … pull Neal Heaton (#113).
Now, Heaton was nothing like a star, but this was a rookie “card,” and he was sort of OK for the Indians, going 12-15 with a 5.21 ERA.
OK, so maybe “OK” is a strong word here … but he was durable, making 34 starts, four relief appearances, and piling up almost 200 innings of work.
And you know who else was durable for those Indians?
Yeah, Tom Waddell.
As a rookie, Waddell made 58 appearances, all of them in relief, and ran up 97 innings of work.
A complete dinosaur by today’s standards, and a performance that was worth 2.6 WAR to the Indians.
Waddell started appearing on my baseball cards — the ones I got from wax packs — in 1985, and it seems like those were always headshots, and always featured a big grin.
(When I go back and look at those now, I realize the “big grin” card was actually his 1987 Topps card, and the grin isn’t as big as I remember. But still.)
So it’s nice to be able to go back to this big old Wheaties card and see a young(ish) Waddell working his 1984 magic (7-4, 3.06 ERA) in an actual action shot.
And it’s what I always think of when I hear “1984 Wheaties,” because …
1984 Fleer Star Stickers —> Neal Heaton —> Tom Waddell —> big grin —> action shot —> 1984 Wheaties Tom Waddell
It’s a long way to go, but it always comes to the same landing spot, every time.
Wow! Wax of the Day
And speaking of 1984 Fleer Star Stickers wax packs, like I was up there, you can still find these babies on eBay. This lot is up for grabs right now and features a full box of 100 wax packs.
No big-time, long-term investment, for sure, but also sure to be tons of fun for nostalgic busting, especially if you can wrangle up some of the sticker albums to put them in.
Check out the full eBay listing right here. (affiliate link)