Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1987 Donruss Diamond Kings #4

It's the end of a decade at Darryl Strawberry Fields. I suppose there may be a few oddball issues from '87 left, but they're at the back of album and I don't feel like taking them out to check.

Let's say goodbye to 1987 with a bang. I can't think of any better way to go out than with 1987 Donruss Diamond Kings, perhaps Donruss's most recognizable subset ever. What set them apart was that they were paintings (this one done by Perez-Steele Galleries) instead of the usual blurry action or candid shots. I'm not sure what they're exact criteria was for dubbing someone a Diamond King, but they were all damn good ball players, so I'm assuming it was more or less an "All-Star" type distinction.

Darryl was rightly named a King.

This painting, though better than anything I could ever draw, was a disaster. Straw's cap looks like it was run through the washer a few too many times. His right ear (card left) looks like an elf's ear while his left ear is non-existent. His upper lift is swollen. There are four different shades of blue on his jersey.

Gotta give them credit for the "action" painting in the lower right corner, though - they thought of all the details right down to the stirrups.

The back:

It's strange that Donruss referred to the 1986 home run "race" as a home run derby. I looked up the actual home run derby from '86, the one before the All-Star game, just to make sure that's not what they were talking about. Turns out that Strawberry finished the All-Star derby tied for with the most home runs with Wally Joyner... with four home runs!!

Ha! Four. Oh how times have changed.

It's also neat to see a number higher than a million on a card. Strawberry's 1,619,511 All-Star votes led all of the major leagues.

Donruss ending things with prediction - that Strawberry would emerge as a dominating presence for years to come. How right they were.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Like what you've seen so far? Check out my new site!

I'm only at the beginning of my Strawberry collection, and I've had a blast sharing the memories I have of all of these cards. Judging by the comments and emails I've received along the way, I can tell that Strawberry was a wildly popular player in his heyday.

Given that I was so young when I began collecting his cards, it's been fun interacting with other fans of his.

While sorting through the boxes of cards I've got stashed and stacked all over my home I've come across literally thousands of other cards I've got stories and memories of. I thought briefly of sharing them here, but convinced myself that the blog should remain Strawberry exclusive.

But if you like what you've seen, please check out the other site I've started, "Priceless Pursuit" - it features everything else I've acquired over the past 20 plus years of collecting. The cards are priceless to me, worthless to most anyone else!

Check it out, tell your friends, bookmark it, and visit it regularly! And don't worry - Darryl Strawberry Fields will continue to be updated regularly as well.

Join me in my Priceless Pursuit.

1987 Donruss #118

Time for the "serious" 1987 Donruss issue, and to demonstrate that this set was no "Opening Day" they went with one of Strawberry's more serious pictures featured so far.

No cheesy grin. No look of admiration at a ball blasted in to the bleachers. Straw is warming up, and he's not messing around.

I don't know how I've kept this card in such good condition through the years. Older black borders tend to show wear and tear more than any other border type. The black border is the only thing differentiating this card from it's Opening Day cousin. The baseball "stripes" are the same and it still has that hideous purple behind the player's name.

The back:

Hardly anything we haven't read before. We knew he was a number one pick and we knew he led the Mets at some point in homers. Not sure how Donruss thought Strawberry's torn thumb ligaments in in '85 were a career highlight, especially considering he was out for six weeks because of the injury, but at least it's a new piece of information.

Only one '87 main stream issue left... what could it be? Hint: it's Donruss's most important contribution to the industry. Well, maybe it'll bring the memories rushing back! Stay tuned.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chat with Straw

Well, I didn't chat with him personally, but ESPN.com let users submit questions to Darryl on Friday morning. See the transcript here.

It wasn't for lack of effort - I submitted multiple compliments, but couldn't think of anything relevant or hard hitting enough to ask. ESPN has these chats almost daily, though they're usually only with their reporters and analysts. When they do give us a player, the only questions answered tend to be soft balls that we can easily predict the answers to.

Oh well - still a useful way to pass the remaining hours until the weekend.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1987 Donruss Opening Day #128

Moving right along, 1987 Donruss Opening Day #128:

To be perfectly honest, I wasn't aware that Donruss Opening Day even existed until I looked up the exact set this particular card came from. It's a different color than the "regular" Donruss issue (which you'll see soon enough), so I automatically assumed it was from the Leaf set. Except there's no Leaf logo and no French writing on the back. A quick internet search revealed that Donruss released a 272 card set under the name "Opening Day" in 1987. So there ya go.

I really like the brick red border around the card; it's very clean. The baseball "stripes", if you will, look nice on the sides, just above the card's center. The crisp action shot depicts Strawberry taking off down the first base line just moments after putting the ball in play. You get a good closeup of his helmet, batting glove, jersey, dual undershirts (one orange, the other long sleeve blue), his belt, and even a little bit of striping on the pants. This card has it all!

Quick side note: The Mets blue and orange uniforms are sharp. The five striped sleeves are a bit much, but the colors go together nicely. The blue and orange caps have held up well through the years.

Speaking of holding up through the years, this card looks and feels exceptionally high quality given when it was released. The color hasn't faded at all, and the glossy coating is nowhere near as cheap feeling as the Topps All-Star sets featured earlier in this blog's life. In fact, the only thing I don't care for on the front of the card is the purple coloring behind Strawberry's name on the bottom. It doesn't fit with the rest of the card at all.

On to the back:

You sure that font is big enough, Donruss? Geez...

The typical biographical information is there at the top: name, birth date, etc. The career averages at the bottom are a little strange, as is the overall grammar on the card. Why are some stats plural (Games, Hits, Runs) while others are left singular (At Bat, Steal, Walk)? Makes no sense - the room is clearly there for an extra "S" or two. The blurb about Darryl's opening day heroics go from complete sentence form in the beginning to choppy and incomplete in the end. Sloppy.

And can Donruss use any smaller of a sample size to declare that Strawberry has answered ALL of his critics who doubted his determination? His first inning home run in the first game of the season silenced ALL of his doubters? That was easy.

It's unfortunate that Donruss didn't put half the effort in to the back of the card as it did on the front.

This is the only Donruss Opening Day card I own.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

1987 Fleer #629

For as little as I like the blue borders, I'll admit that Fleer outdid Topps' "Team Leaders" subset with their "SuperStar Specials" cards.

Take a look at #629:

Pictured left to right are Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and of course, Darryl Strawberry.

THAT is a stacked team.

I wonder if everyone is looking to his left on purpose or if more than one photographer was trying to get a picture at the same time? Is there a baseball card out there with these same five guys looking directly at the camera?

I'll let you read most of the back of the card yourself, but the last paragraph is my favorite "nugget" of info from any card in my entire collection:

"Manager Davey Johnson made extensive use of the computer to chart the offensive and defensive tendencies of the opposition, as well as his own team. He made all the right moves with this information to pull off such a great season for his team."

Bombshell!!! Scandal!!! The Mets were cheaters!!!!!!! Davey Johnson used a computer?!?!

What tendencies, exactly, did he chart? Computers were so primitive in '86 that using one couldn't possibly have been advantageous over good ol' pen and paper. And how did Johnson track tendencies and make "all the right moves" on the road? Actual, reasonably portable computers were 10 years away from existing and almost 20 years away from being commonplace.

Other oddities on the card: Bob Ojeda is mentioned on the back but not pictured on the front, and Darryl Strawberry's cap looks to be poorly cropped. This was long before the days when a cap fit snugly on a player's head, so I'm 99% sure this was a rush job. Notice also that Gooden, Hernandez, and Strawberry line up in numerical order: 16, 17, 18. Coincidence? We'll never know.

"Magic Mets", as Fleer dubbed them, is corny, but who am I to make fun of that team? Their 108 wins in '86 almost seems like an under-achievement.