Tagged: Keith Olbermann

1981 Donruss: From Hall of Famer Tim Raines to “Dwayne Kuiper”

Don’t be confused by its drab, almost amateur appearance.  Simplicity, quirkiness, and historic value make 1981 Donruss Baseball one of the most significant and fascinating sports card sets ever produced.

 The 1981 Donruss Baseball Card set was the first complete set since the early 1950s not to bear the name Topps.  For the first time since 1955, more than one company was producing extensive sets representing major league players.  A legal decision in the fall of 1980 gave both Fleer and Donruss the legal right to produce cards. The verdict cleared the path for Upper Deck to enter the fray and revolutionize the hobby with its premiere baseball card set in 1989.

Raines81Donruss

Fleer and Donruss finalized their deals with the Major League Baseball Players Association in September 1980, leaving just five months to produce and deliver cards to stores by the last week of January 1981 to compete directly with Topps.  Gathering

photos, matching players with photos, writing informational blurbs, and proofreading statistics, proved to be a daunting task for companies producing baseball cards on a grand scale for the first time.

There were more than 30 error cards in the 1981 Donruss Set.  Houston Astros pitcher Vern Ruhle’s card actually pictures teammate Frank Lacorte.  Cleveland Indians infielder Duane Kuiper was listed as “Dwayne” Kuiper.  In a strange but true tale, Donruss listed Cardinals’ outfielder Bobby Bonds – father of current “Home Run King” Barry Bonds – with 986 homers, 231 more than Hank Aaron, the all-time home run leader at the time.  

There has been interest in both the error and corrected versions for nearly three decades because both versions are more limited than the other cards in the set.  The 1981 Donruss series has also kept the growing number of baseball historians and “oddball” card collectors entertained over the years.

Tim Raines’ induction into the Hall of Fame has given the 1981 Donruss Set a recent spark.  Although Donruss somehow skipped over National League Rookie of the Year Fernando Valenzuela that year, it was the only company to picture Raines by himself on a rookie baseball card. Topps featured Raines with two other rookies on a prospect subset card, while Fleer swung and missed altogether.  The series also includes rookie cards of Jeff Reardon, Mookie Wilson, and Toronto Blue Jays infielder Danny Ainge before he became a three-time championship winning guard and executive with the Boston Celtics.

 

Rushing into the production of the 605-card 1981 Donruss Set also caused collation and printing issues.  Factory sets were not produced.  Instead, hobby dealers had to buy wholesale from TCMA, Donruss’ exclusive hobby distributor.  Cards of each player were shipped to dealers in 100-card lots secured by rubber bands. The cards then needed to be hand collated. The collation of wax packs caused further problems for collectors.  Several of the same card were often found in a single wax pack, which was great news if the card featured Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski or Johnny Bench.  Not such good news if the Leo Sutherland card was the featured player.  

The cards bend easily and show tremendous wear over time due to flimsy paper stock.  The lackluster design consists of predominantly blurry portrait or posed photos against mostly empty stadium backdrops.  Time constraints prevented Donruss from airbrushing uniforms or caps. Players changing teams during the offseason appeared in their former uniforms with the name of their current team displayed across the bottom of the card.

Donruss also had considerable trouble securing player photographs. Ray Burris was traded by the Cubs to the Yankees who later sold him to the Mets during the 1979 season.  Although he hadn’t played for the Cubs in nearly two years, Burris sports a Cubs uniform on his 1981 Donruss card. Many of the pictures were taken in Wrigley Stadium or Comiskey Park by amateur photographers as Donruss scrambled to put together a set.  A handful of photos were taken by political and sports commentator Keith Olbermann, then a 21-year-old photographer with a passion for baseball.

Although limited in value, the 1981 Donruss Set has its own charm with an array of hard-to-believe mishaps and a unique history.

Long Lost Reggie Jackson Baseball Card

Remember Reggie Jackson’s only uneventful season from the 1970s, the year he he played for the Baltimore Orioles? A lost season for Jackson, completely ignored by Topps … almost!?! Say what?  First some background information …

On this dRegJacksOriolesay 40 years ago (April 2, 1976), Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley shocked the baseball world by trading Jackson to the Orioles. Knowing he did not have the money re-sign the pending free agent after the season, Finley sent Jackson and left-handed starter Ken Holtzman to the Orioles for outfielder Don Baylor and right-handed pitchers Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell. Shocked by the transaction and not thrilled with his salary situation, Jackson refused to report to Baltimore until the Orioles increased his salary from $165,000 to $200,000. As a result of the dispute, Jackson missed the first 16 games of the season.

Seeking the limelight, Jackson did not enjoy his brief time in Baltimore. From 1971-1982, Jackson’s teams made the playoffs 10 of 12 times with one of the exceptions being the year he spent wearing an Orioles uniform and batted .277-27-91.

If you’re using your old baseball card sets to chronicle baseball history, you might think that 1976 was a lost season for Jackson; that his time in Baltimore never actually happened. As soon as Jackson signed with the Yankees prior to the 1977 season, Topps quickly airbrushed the original photo, covering the Orioles home uniform and multi-colored hat with Yankee pinstripes and traditional cap. If you look closely, you will see that the colors are rather dull, not the traditional Yankees colors. The card also pictures the green and gold sleeve of a former A’s teammate over Jackson’s shoulder. Jackson’s first official Yankees card (#10) became a key part of the 1977 Topps set and currently sells for $8 in mint condition.

Jackson never “officially” appeared on an Orioles card, however a few original blank-backed proof cards escaped the Topps shredders and found their way into the markRegJacksYanksetplace. Because of its scarcity and Jackson’s October heroics, this proof card has become one of hobby’s most sought-after commodities. The proof card does not have a facsimile autograph commonly featured on ’77 Topps cards.

According to published reports, television commentator,/baseball historian/hobbyist Keith Olbermann owns two versions of this almost singular collectible. One is an actual card, the other is part of an uncut proof sheet that he purchased at a 1989 Topps/Guernsey’s auction for an undisclosed price.

Although Jackson played the 1976 season with the Orioles, he is pictured in an Oakland A’s uniform because Topps did not have time to doctor the photo before the series was released. Later that season, Star Co. finally released a card with Jackson wearing an Orioles uniform. Nearly a decade later Upper Deck released the first memorabilia cards sporting Jackson in an Orioles uniform.