A nice thing about baseball cards is that they strive for conformity and are mostly the same size. Upwards of 500,000 commons won’t even take up much space in a closet if you have them properly stored away. But one odd-shaped card could screw up an organized shoebox; and there was often more than one.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Bowman Gum Company was a player in the baseball card industry until bought by Topps in 1956 for $200,000. The Bowman name was essentially done until 1989 when Topps reintroduced the brand for one of their subsidiary sets. They were pretty good cards but for the fact that they were 12% bigger in length than your typical baseball card. Putting a 1989 Bowman in your book with all of your other cards meant the very top would stick out unprotected and likely to be creased.
You had to buy specialized pages for your book to accommodate these cards and no one really wanted to do that. I went through a phase where I decided to put a lot of my cards in plastic cases and a 1989 Bowman wasn’t at all compatible with that system either. Basically, I couldn’t do much with them so I didn’t buy them. The 1989 Bowman cards did have one thing going for them: They segregated a player’s 1988 stats versus every team.
Was this cool? I really don’t know. I loved it at the time because I was at a 1988 game when Ozzie Smith hit a home run vs. the Giants. Ozzie didn’t hit home runs very often so to have proof of this event memorialized on the back of a card – to line up the “HR” column with the “GIANTS” column and see that “1” staring back at me – felt special.
Topps/Bowman corrected the size problem with the 1990 Bowman set and embraced the conformity.
I liked this issue so much I made a valiant effort to try and collect the entire set. Turns out, putting cards out to pasture against a rolled up piece of toilet paper in a box for nearly 25 years will take its toll. They’re now all slightly arched.
I’ll assume this Barry Larkin card taken from the set is no longer gem mint.
So why did Topps issue its 1989 Bowman set on a larger scale? I’m not sure. They may have been drawing inspiration from their own successful Topps “Big” series, which they manufactured between 1988 and 1990 and which were the same size.
I didn’t have too many of these cards because they obviously had the same impracticalities as 1989 Bowman. As you can see, my 1988 Topps Big Ozzie Smith card is not doing too well at the top right corner. Even Ozzie sliding into the base is staring back at the corner suspiciously.
They were also a bit weird. The back of each card was like a scene from a comic strip. And no matter what, the player was depicted as white.
IS ONE OF USA’S BEST CASUALLY DRESSED MEN. What does that mean? Who decided that? And the last frame…HAD A MOVIE PRODUCED ABOUT HIM IN 1987. It’s okay if you didn’t know that. Try to find proof of this movie’s existence on the Internet and you’re more likely to stumble across a film about a cuddly koala. Luckily for us, I own the true Ozzie the Movie on VHS because I’m insane.
When I think about Ozzie the Movie I laugh because it is quite possibly the most hilarious and poorly produced “movie” I have ever seen. I could talk about this film with someone for hours. Unfortunately, I’ve never met another living soul who has actually seen it except for two friends who I made watch it in college and one of them walked out after five minutes.
The setting of Ozzie the Movie is as follows: Two kids are bouncing a ball against a wall and lamenting how there aren’t any “good guys” left. One of the kids says, “What about Ozzie Smith? He seems like a good guy.” Other kid shrugs and replies, “I don’t know. I just wish there was a way to find out.” Then, Ozzie Smith appears(!), winks to us, the viewer, at home, and we’re immediately whisked away into this trippy land of animation where cartoon Ozzie does some back flips and snags some hard-hit grounders all to the score of some god-awful music. When we all come to and real-life returns, Ozzie, while fielding grounders, talks glowingly and pointlessly about the now-sort-of-defunct Vess Cola, who must have bankrolled the film. Ah man, Vess! What a drink [throws ball to first].
There are also numerous interviews with Whitey Herzog, Willie McGee, George Brett, Eric Davis, a still-in-diapers OJ “Nikko” Smith, the late Mickey Carroll – who played a munchkin in the actual 1939 film the Wizard of Oz (I’m not kidding) – and many more. One interview features some Cardinals super-fan who is dressed in a three-piece suit and bright red Cardinals hat and insists Ozzie is worth all of the “bread” that he gets. He catches himself, and then worried that he’s confused the audience, spends an inordinate amount of time explaining that when he says “bread” he means “money.” If you ever want to see a film with no editing whatsoever – this is your movie. It’s a complete mess. And let me tell you, it’s so much better for it.
To be fair, it’s not all laughs. There’s also a long and excellent highlight reel of Ozzie’s finest plays, including a complete dissection of one of the greatest fielding plays ever when he, while still a Padre, robbed Jeff Burroughs of a hit with his bare hand.
Some cards weren’t intended to be cards at all but pieces of art. I have no clue whether this is still part of the baseball card industry, but you used to be able to purchase large replicas of old Topps cards. Pictured here is my big 5×7 1986 Topps autographed Ozzie Smith card.
Obviously, these weren’t fitting in sleeves or shoeboxes and needed a frame. Well, I never got this card properly framed but I put it in this thing, which I got from my 1997 Senior Prom “swag bag.” This frame was meant for the non-wallet sized, big prom picture of my date and I. She and I were dating at the time and we got the pictures taken before the festivities. Had a nice dinner with friends, too. All was going accordingly until she ditched me that night AT THE DANCE. It was horrible. I put the Wizard in the frame a few days later and he has resided there ever since.
Also, I burned my prom pictures with a lighter while crying.Next post: Was Clay Buchholz Ever Any Good?
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