Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Box of 1992 Studio. Oh, and a Samurai Sword.

This sophomoric effort from the Studio team is arguably their best. Lessons were learned and improvements made after the hokey-but-amazing 1991 release.  Let’s be honest - it could be argued by some not quite as enamored with that inaugural design as I am that it was maybe a little “dry,” even by early-90’s standards. The good news is that all the characteristics that changed for the 1992 design were very much for the better.

The obvious changes this year are the border and the backdrop. The strange mauve-ish hue that defined the ’91 set was replaced by a dark gold that wouldn't conflict with any team colors, a fact that would have been more relevant had they kept the logos in the design. Still, it does look better.

The backdrop was also changed from generic photography studio drop cloth to black-and-white action shots shown in a grainy filter. I’m certain these backgrounds would have looked better sans-filter, but they also would have taken attention away from the portraits in the foreground which, after all, are the intended focus of the set.

The original set was released under the Donruss banner, but as indicated on the '92 box and pack wrappers, Studio was now touted as a Leaf product. This was the same year Donruss was actively trying to boost the perceived quality of their flagship set. It seems the marketeers were trying to lend Studio a certain level of sophistication that the Leaf brand already had and Donruss decidedly didn't (especially after that 1990 set – yeesh).

A few other tweaks include full-color portraits, the color Studio logo (remember how big teal was in the early 90’s?), and the classy Times New Roman font and italics in the nameplate lettering. It’s a very grown-up set. I even flipped through these cards with my pinky up.

Now, let’s look at 27 guys who put the “stud” in Studio (did I really just type that?):

Does Cal Ripken even know how to take a bad picture? Somebody send me a Cal card with a bad picture. Seriously – I want to hold it in my hands; otherwise it didn’t happen.

Speaking of Cal:

A welcome addition to Studio this year was the Heritage insert which features notable players in throwback uniforms. The box gave five of these (two Strawberries), including the Ripken which is arguably the best of them all. One of my favorite inserts of the 90’s.

Luckily a lot of my PC's played in '92, and three Griffeys came out of the box which far outpaced the single Griffey I got from the '91 box a few months back.  Fantastic.

Studio brought back using the checklists to honor non-active players.  Last year it was coaches, but this year we got Hall of Famers. Great shots, though Billy looks like he's hitting on me.

This title card was inserted into packs for '92 while in '91 it was only available with preview cards from factory sets of '91 Donruss. All things being equal I'd rather have an extra player card, but at least it's one less card I have to chase.

Okay, now that the business is done, we can get down to the pleasure – the real fun of early-90’s Studio cards: those zany, awkward, spooky, nerdy, towel-rocking, perfectly-coiffed, not-so-perfectly coiffed, bespectacled, frightening, sword-wielding, eye-killing, face-melting portraits!

One of my favorite cards in the set, period.  Mitch rocks the headband the same way every other white guy rocks the headband - poorly.  The mushroom of hair on top makes his head resemble a cupcake or a way-too-full plate of manure.  Leave the headbands to Ralph Macchio, Mitch.

I love Mike LaValliere almost as much as I love pictures of Mike LaValliere.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the strip club after a road win with that guy.  You just know he raged like a juggernaut.

Jose's bicep is fun, but this card would have been a lot more fun had he not been smiling a la Ricky Bottalico's infamous "check out my huge guns" Collector's Choice card.  At least Jose is cool about it.

I threw Finley's card in here to show that he can, indeed, look human,  He won scariest card in my post about the '91 set, but here he just looks like a regular dude.  Skinny, but regular, and definitely not a zombie.

Neither of these is a studio shot.  I assuming Deion couldn't make it to the shoot that day because he was playing another sport professionally.  And Clemens was probably somewhere lying under oath. 

A pair of photography errors which are rare for Studio.  Lee Smith is cropped way too high and Ron Gant is horribly-lit.  I'm thinking there's a good explanation for both of these.  Maybe Gant had a  pimple, and Smith wore a Topps shirt.

I included this card here because of that goofy pose, but upon closer inspection the joke becomes clear.  Possibly my favorite Rex Hudler card ever.

So the purpose of that shirt on Plantier is that you don't see it under the uniform, right?  It's kind of a function-over-fashion thing?  He looks like a '60's scifi future guy. And I can just imagine Royce Clayton on the phone with the Studio people asking, "Hey, cool if I wear my Jam top?"  It's the only instance of airbrushed Beefy-T I've found in Studio so far.

You've got to hand it to Sabo - he's really sticking with those rec specs.  From Dick Perez paintings to these Studio portraits, he doesn't take them off.  You've got to respect it.

Dibble on the other hand is Dibbling all over the damn place.  Frickin' Dibble, man.

Okay, time to hand out some awards.

Best Hair:

Helmets, flat-tops, and Mickey Morandini sporting the messy look years before its time.

This was a tough call. What am I talking about? No it wasn’t - Reardon takes it by a mile. Hirsute and Prell-commercial-clean, Jeff’s entire head exudes unquestionable manliness and an almost indescribable masculine beauty. Behold him, standing like a majestic wild mare, silent and strong, gleaming with the sweat of an afternoon meadow frolic. It is said not even light can escape the grasp of his man-follicles.

Scariest Card: 

This card straight scared the bejeezus out of me. I was flipping through the stack, haphazardly checking out each portrait when those eyes caught me like a flaming hawk in the night. After a quick change into clean underwear, I set this card aside with averted gaze and moved on, a humbler man. Thank you, Pete, for teaching me what it is to fear.

Best Card:

This beautifully-framed shot of Jose in his Pirates cap and team jacket is warm and inviting. His expression is friendly and shows character. It says, “Hey, I’m just a regular guy. Let’s go grab a beer sometime.” Oh, and let’s not forget the GIANT SWORD THAT CAN BARELY EVEN FIT ON THE CARD BECAUSE IT’S SO LONG AND GIANT AND WTF IS IT EVEN DOING HERE WHY WHY WHY????!!!!!1!!??1

When I came across this beauty while breaking packs I honestly laughed out loud. Jose with that sword is just the silliest damn thing – I couldn’t even type that just now without laughing. Think about it: “Jose Lind with that huge-ass sword.” Ridiculous.

Sorry to go off like that. Plenty of great cards in this set, but nothing touches Mr. Lind and his katana. There – I laughed again.

Here’s the Griffey:

1992 Studio #232

I think someone told Griffey he looked a little severe on his ’91 card, so they lightened things up with a fun bubblegum shot. Silly as this card is at first glance, it’s among my favorite Griffey cards of 1992 which is saying something.

And something tells me he's gotten to meet Danny Glover by now.

1992 Studio is unfortunately a one-Griffey set. I say unfortunately because the lone insert, Heritage, does not have a Griffey in it. I would love to have seen Junior in a Pilots or old-school M’s trident uni, but I suppose such designs weren't vintage enough at the time.

There is also a set of 22 preview cards the combined value of which is twenty times the value of a completed base set. These were issued directly to card shops and are pretty hard to come by. Also there is no Griffey in the Preview set, so nuts to them.

The box produced the vast majority of the set, somewhere around 80%.  I will have a want list up on my set building needs page soon enough.  The good news is there's a lot of great trade bait for you guys.  Look out for that in the coming weeks.

I would like to reiterate here that I miss Studio and want it to come back not just in name but in theme. There are a lot of us who collected in the 80’s and 90’s that stopped when we discovered girls and alcohol and had to go to school and get a job and such. We are the ones currently rediscovering the hobby, and many of us have no idea who some of those guys out on the field these days even are. A Studio set is just what we need to reacquaint ourselves with the game as it relates to the hobby.

One last thing: I am on the fence about starting the ’93 set. It’s not that I don’t like it – I love it – but it can’t match the kitschy magic of those first two sets.

Also, '93 Studio doesn't have enough swords. SWORDS. He brought his sword, folks. I still can’t believe it…


  1. Oh Man. I didnt know Carew was on the back of that checklist! I'll need to get one for the team set now.

    1. And did you happen to get an extra Chili Davis, last cards I need for the set.

    2. Holy Cow, I'm losing it. I have the Carew and the Davis I need is from 1993. This is what I do need if you have extras to trade.
      144 Gary DiSarcina
      145 Chuck Finley
      146 Bryan Harvey
      148 Mark Langston
      149 Lance Parrish

  2. I was literally about to type exactly what Tom typed. Except substituting player collection for team set.

  3. I've got you all covered. Lots of duplicates...

  4. What the hell is the deal with Reardon's helmet head? Erickson has nice feathering going, but Reardon. Man - what the hell?

  5. Mike LaValliere was called Spanky so your strip club theory could be true. Put Jose Lind and LaValliere in the same strip club and you have stories.

    1. He looks like a "Spanky." I mean that in the most respectful way possible. I would honestly take that guy out to Bourbon Street for the night of his life. He pays.

  6. Well, that sure was entertaining and a fun read, thanks TJ ! Made me go look at the 20 or so cards I have from that set to make sure I didn't have the Lind card.

  7. Still looking for that Heritage Strawberry ...

    1. It's already in your trade stack Greg. I pulled two of them!

  8. If you do decide to go after '93 Studio, I can get you off to a great start. Got any spare Astros from '92? I'll even take a Hair-Raisin' Harnisch.