Raznor's Rants

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Great '89 Fleer Billy Ripken Error Card
Today's non-daily Pic of the Day!

Posted by Ross

Imagine being 13 years-old and finding this kick-ass cuss word in a pack of Fleer! Posted by Hello

1989 was an exciting year to be a baseball card collector. For most of the 80s, there were only three major card companies, Fleer, Donruss and Topps. Score came onto the scene in '88, with glossy fronts and backs, instead of the usual cardboard backs from the Big Three. In '89, Topps brought back its old-school oversized Bowman series, but it was Upper Deck that reinvented the hobby that year, and its most sought-after card was Ken Griffey Jr's rookie card.
People were starting to notice baseball cards. Even non-fans started collecting them. And a new phenomenon also burst upon the scene that year: the error card as collectible. Dale Murphy's reverse negative in that Upper Deck set was legendary. But none was more famous than Billy Ripken's "fuck face" card, which, if I recall correctly, was worth upwards of $20 that summer.
For a time, many in the baseball world considered Billy among the best defensive second baseman in the game, but he was always overshadowed by big brother, future Hall of Famer, and double-playmate Cal. And there was even a time in the 80s when the Ripken brothers were in the Orioles starting lineup and father Cal Sr. was the manager.
As far as the story behind the card is concerned, from what I read at the time, as a prank, big bro Cal wrote the offending words on the bottom of Billy's bat before the photo shoot, and Fleer didn't notice the error until after the card had been published.
In subsequent printings, the curse words had been covered with a black box or later whited out. I actually had a copy of the "Fuck Face" card for a time. Ended up trading it for Mark McGwire's beloved '85 Topps Olympic card. A better transaction, as it would turn out, than my '89 Griffey Upper Deck, which I traded for an '89 Donruss Kansas City Royals team set. Jeff Montgomery anyone?


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