Wednesday, March 6, 2013

1991 Fleer Ultra: 85.71% Awesome

In my collection: 8 regular, 8 Ultra (Gold) Team
Griffey looks: twisted
Is this a good Griffey card?  Yes.  The very first year of Fleer Ultra plus a pretty great insert for so early in the insert game, plus a nice photo on the front and four pictures total on the base card – nice.
The set: This is Fleer’s foray into premium territory; and while I tend to like Ultra designs a lot, the ’91 base set is a bit of a head-scratcher.  The picture is great, but the design is pretty bland.  Where’s the pop?  Where’s the sizzle?
The design dwells in that limbo that exists between bordered and full-bleed, and for some reason, they went with gray.  I mean, gray?  Gray!?!   ‘89 Fleer got away with it by dressing it up with angles and pinstripes and dirty words and colorful team logos, but these cards have the look of an oddball set: a lot of straight lines, plain colors, and is that Times New Roman font?  Man…..premium this does not feel.
The backs are pretty solid on the other hand, featuring what printers call a split-fountain effect in the background plus a portrait and two action shots.  There’s no blurb (it’s OK, a lot of nice cards are blurbless) -  just vitals and truncated stats.  No complaints.
Let’s boogie:
Griffey looks awesomely twisted, having just put everything into another perfect swing.  Looks like he just blasted one to left field (empty catcher’s glove, catcher looking a bit left).  And from the expression on his face, the Kid is all business today.
I’ve mentioned this before, but one thing that I like in baseball photography is a shot from behind the batter.  Normally you see batting photos shot from the side opposite the batter (the 2013 Topps Adam Greenberg comes to mind) so you get the whole front-side perspective, but from behind you get to see a whole other angle of the player’s motion. 
In this photo, it’s almost like Griffey is twisting to pose his body facing the camera without even moving his head.  Look at the after-effects of this man’s swing - the massive, full-body follow-through; the every-damn-muscle-I-own-went-into-this-one-graceful-and-perfect-motion finishing posture. 
This picture makes me pity the poor guy in charge of putting the laces on the ball.  You just know he had to put a little extra time into the ones getting shipped to the Kingdome.  A freakin’ ball-crushing beast machine plays there.  See ’91 Ultra #336 for details, bro!
This is the lone insert from the set: Ultra Team, aka Gold Team.  It was seeded one per 4.5 packs.  We get a very nice gold fade on the front and plenty of excellent blurbage on the back.   It’s simple, classy, an overall joy to behold.  Even the logo is pretty well-done.
This insert has three pictures and the base card has four.  That makes seven pictures on just two cards.  At 3.5:1, that may be the highest Griffey photo quantity to quantity of different Griffey cards in the same set ratio in history.  There are sets with triple-exposure shots of other players that can’t beat that. Alright, Ultra, you have my attention.   
A normal baseball card front has 8.75 square inches of surface area.  The bit of ugly gray amounts to about 1 ¼  square inches - the other 7 ½ inches is rather excellent.  Therefore, I can prove mathematically that this card is awesome.

First we subtract the surface area that sucks from the part that rules:

8.75 - 1.25 = 7.5

Next we divide the part that rules by the total surface area and express the result as a percentage:

7.5/8.75 = 85.71% awesome

See?  The vast majority of this card is awesome.  We can’t let that small bit spoil what amounts to a great card.  That would be like not watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air because you don’t like Carlton. 

That gray bar is Carlton.  Griffey is Cousin Will, Lou Piniella is Uncle Phil, Tino Martinez is Aunt Bev, Jay Buhner is Jazz, and Randy Johnson is the smartass butler.  This got out of hand.

Edit: Apparently this set was supposed to be called Elite, but they changed the name due to a conflict with Donruss.  You can read about it here.

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