Friday, December 14, 2012

1989 Donruss #33 Rated Rookie

1989 Donruss #33 Rated Rookie

In my collection: 22

Griffey looks: far away

Is this a good Griffey card?: Yes.  I chose this as the first card in my blog because this is the card that got me collecting.  To this day there’s a big soft spot in my heart for this set, and this card in particular.  

The set: Like the Fleer set of the same year, ‘89 Donruss was printed on white cardboard rather than brown.  This made for brighter colors in general and cleaner whites in the stat boxes on the back.  Topps and Bowman used white cardboard only in their hoity-toity Tiffany sets (and the Topps Traded set), so their regular-issue sets had lovely skidmark-brown backs that killed ink color.  The overwhelming orangeness of the back accentuates the white cardboard in the gaudiest fashion possible, but also allows for excellent readability of the Career Highlights.  The fronts are all full-bleed with split-fountain color fades on every card.  Overall, a sharp-looking set with a cool pulsating rainbow effect when the complete set is stacked together.  

The packs were red and blue, unmistakable in their bright yellow box that featured the word Baseball, also in rainbow, and Kirby Puckett winking at you from his MVP card.  These packs were pretty cheap even in the mid-90s when I was buying them, and you were practically guaranteed a Griffey in every box.  I bought so many packs I was able to assemble 5 Warren Spahn Puzzles, all but one of which are long gone.  

Here are some other notable cards from this set: 

When I was 11 I wore my reading glasses in my elementary school photo.  They made me look like a nearsighted beaver, so my parents didn’t like it.  Pictures from that year all seem to have disappeared, which I assume is a strategic move by my Dad or sisters, though I’m sure Mom has one or two hidden away somewhere.  Anyway, here’s Donruss Diamond King Chris Sabo painted in his Rec Specs.  Oh, Perez....

Also, Tony Pena good-naturedly being swallowed alive by his gigantic turtleneck.

And one pissed-off looking Big Unit rookie.  Hey, Randy!  I heard your sister’s going out with SQUEAK!

Just playing.  Lighten up, bro.  You’re in Canada.

So, apparently all these rookies have been “Rated.”  How, sir?  And by whom?  What is their rating?  Is it out of 10?  A Billion?  This remains one of the great mysteries of the card collecting world - or I’m just too lazy to look it up.  Also, this is a fun read.

On a personal note regarding this set: I wish they made Shazam for smells because I want my whole house (and wife) to smell like ’89 Donruss.  There is a wonderful smell that these cards emanate, especially fresh from the pack, that I don’t know how to describe.  The closest I can get is “1980’s Elementary School Library.”  I have a box of ’89 Donruss in the mail as I write this, and I am practically beside myself with excitement over the smell, the new Griffey, and the possibility of completing another set.  Mostly the smell.  I know it’s weird, but I write a baseball card blog, and that’s pretty weird, too.

(Update: that box did not contain a Griffey.  First box I've bought with no hit.  I did get a lot of cards, at least 2 more puzzles, and one frown)

Many pictures in the ’89 Donruss set appear staged with players posing.  There are many close-up camera shots, and some solid action shots.  Nothing wrong with that.  Photographers likely showed up at each team’s spring training, pulled players aside one-by-one and had them pose.  Still camera, close-up, plenty of light, reasonable focus.  The pictures turned out great:

Seems logical, and I’d do the same thing if I were a lazy late-80’s photographer.  Even the action shots that appear in the set are decent enough despite the empty stadiums.  Batters batting, pitchers pitching, Ron Kittle kittling.  I have no complaints. 

Let's get to the Griffey:

It’s hard for me to admit any picture of the Kid is not a good one, but dude.  It looks like they held a disposable camera up to a telescope in a fog bank from the moon.  The picture is blurry.  The blurriest Griffey picture I have ever seen and it’s on his rookie card.  Weak sauce, Donruss.  

When it comes to Griffey’s expression, well, obviously, they caught him working.  This is the face you make when you realize that someone is currently taking your photograph.  Not about to take it, but already snapping.  Brow slightly furrowed with the transition from confusion to understanding, mouth muscles just beginning to turn a smile but not yet recognizably there.  Half a second later, I guarantee you this man was full-on smiling like the 1st round, straight-out-of-high-school draft pick that he was.  Maybe not Gregg Jefferies smiling, but close.

Don't get me wrong - this is my favorite Griffey rookie.  And Griffey seems happy with the card - here's proof from the groundbreaking 1992 Scholastic docu-novel Sports Shots Collector's Book 3, Ken Griffey, Jr.: One Hot Card:

The Kid signing an '89 Donruss #33, bending it up and totally destroying the corners.  Ouch.

So, what is a more meaningful rookie card?  Is it the “This guy is going to be a huge star, so pull out all the stops, drop some cool gold foil and holograms on there, short-print that shizz, maybe even focus the camera for this one” card, or the “This is just another pee-pants rookie so we didn’t even try and you can suck it” card? 

In closing, one of my all-time collecting goals is to acquire this Griffey in a BGS 10.  There’s one on eBay right now for $1500.  The BGS 9.5 is $40.  You know, that picture keeps looking blurrier and blurrier….

No comments:

Post a Comment