When Tony Fernandez passed away early in 2020, it took fans and collectors from the 1980s by surprise and sent us scrambling to find his baseball cards in the nooks and crannies of our collections.
After all, Fernandez’s death was sudden — most of us didn’t know or had forgotten he’d had health problems in recent years. And he was still relatively young at 57.
Fernandez was right there in our wax packs as the hobby really heated up in the mid-1980s, starting with that Rated Rookie card of his in the 1984 Donruss set, the first time Big D rolled out what would become a baseball card institution. (Fernandez also landed a 1984 Fleer rookie card).
He was there in Toronto in 1985 as the Blue Jays won their first American League East title, and he was part of that blockbuster trade in December of 1990 that sent Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the Padres in exchange for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.
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All along the way, Fernandez was building his resume as a Gold Glove, All-Star shortstop with batting title potential. And, all along the way, he showed up in all the usual cardboard spots —1987 Topps, 1989 Upper Deck, 1988 Score, 1986 Sportflics.
You could put together a pretty good type-set survey of the entire mid-to-late-1980s baseball card landscape by just focusing on Tony Fernandez cards.
And, thanks to his star-to-superstar status, Fernandez also hit some of the more obscure issues.
One of those issues, and one that’s out of mind for most of us today so many years later and amid the absolute explosion of card choices in the last 30 years, are the repli-cards included in issues of the now-defunct Baseball Cards Magazine back in those days. The gist of the thing was, Baseball Cards would pick an old-time card design, then put together something like 72 cards of then-current players and issue them in two panels of three cards (six cards total) as inserts in each monthly magazine for the year.
It was sort of a precursor to today’s Topps Archives/Heritage deals.
In 1989, BBCM picked the peephole 1959 Topps design and went to town. One of the dudes they took with them to town was Tony Fernandez, at #18.
The photo shows Fernandez leaning against a piece of chain link fence, with his face largely hidden in shadow. But, hey, it’s another card of a great player, and a card you don’t see all that often.
And that card back is stellar, with the sort of old-school cartoon fun that belongs on every baseball card.
All in all …
What’s a little shadow among friends like these?