If you are a collector in my age range (40), you no doubt remember when you could find cards everywhere you turned. I bought cards at the curb store, old country stores, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Flea Markets, bait and tackle stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and there was even a video store in Fort Gaines, GA that carried some at one point. The positive was that I knew I would likely run into some cards no matter where I was going with my parents. The negative (as we found out years later) was that they were found everywhere because the companies were printing literally billions of them. We were swimming in cardboard and every business wanted to be a part of it.
Not only could you find mainstream cards like Topps, Donruss and Fleer in every store in town; you could also find cards that were made specifically for the stores themselves. I remember sets from Rite Aid, Drakes, 7Eleven, Eckerd, Kmart and many, many more. They were typically manufactured by one of the main card companies but they had Big Box logos and could only be found in their stores unless you bought them on the secondary market. This made them feel like they were somehow rarer than flagship sets and I tried to buy them up every time I saw them. In fact, I still have many of the sets still boxed up in my closet. Unfortunately, in 2017, they don’t appear to be as scarce as I had hoped.
Just because they aren’t scarce, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fun to look back on. I’ve mentioned here before that I am an old school guy. I enjoy the shiny new cards and still collect the hot rookies of today. But when I sit down at my kitchen table, a/k/a “The Card Spot”, I love to pull out old sets and go back and look through the cards; studying the designs, the card backs and the player poses. It’s too easy to get lost in the parallels, short prints and autographs of today when you go through new packs and boxes. I find that I don’t really stop and study the cards as much as I did when I was a kid. But when you are sorting a set of 1990 Fleer, there aren’t many flashy inserts to distract you from actually learning about a player. And that is where collecting really started for me.
With that, I decided to pull one of the old sets out of the closet and go back through it. This is a Kmart set called “Baseball Memorable Moments.” The set is from 1988 and contains “33 Super Gloss Photo Cards with Bubble Gum.” I don’t have the gum anymore because I’m sure I chewed it when I got this set but I still have the box and full card set. The memorable moments covered the 80’s up until the point of release. The cards were manufactured by Topps and did not resemble the ’88 flagship set at all. The back of the box contained the checklist so you could review it before you actually bought the product to know who you were getting.
The card was definitely glossy but Topps stuck with the plain white exterior border for this set. The inset photo had a red border with a blue banner at the top that read “Memorable Moments”. Just below that blue banner was the player name in a yellow box. I’m not sure where the yellow came from but the red and blue was very close to the colors used in the Kmart logo found at the bottom right of the card. The back of the card was also red and blue and had the look and feel of normal card stock as opposed to the glossy front. There were no stats on the back, only text that described the memorable moment that led to the selection of the player for the checklist.
Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites from the set!
Card #2 – Wade Boggs
Wade Boggs achieved 200 hits for a fifth consecutive season by October 4th, 1987. He would then set his sights on Wee Willie Keeler, who did it 8 times. Alas, his streak was broken in 1990 with 187 hits. He would end up with 7 consecutive 200 hit seasons.
Card #4 – Jose Canseco
Canseco was my favorite player in baseball until Ken Griffey Jr. came along. His memorable moment was being selected as the 1986 AL Rookie of the year. He hit 33 home runs and collected 117 RBI in that rookie season.
Card #7 – Roger Clemens
The Rocket became the 1st pitcher to ever record 20 strikeouts in a 9-inning game. He had at least one K in each inning and struck out the side 3 times! His fastball was clocked at 98! Many of today’s baseball fans only see Clemens for what his career became at the end and forget, or don’t know, just how dominant he was in the late 80’s.
Card #10 – Dwight Gooden
Doc Gooden was another mid 80’s flamethrower. He became the youngest 20 game winner in modern history. He was 20 years, 9 months and 9 days old when he won #20, breaking the record held by Bob Feller.
Card #16 – Mark McGwire
Big Mac was Canseco’s teammate and while Jose won ROY in 1986, McGwire broke the rookie home run record in 1987 with 49 home runs. That record stood until this year when Aaron Judge hit 52.
Card #21 – Cal Ripken
While Ripken is known as the Iron Man for consecutive starts, this memorable moment was when his consecutive innings streak was snapped at 8,243. He was benched in the bottom of the 8th inning by his father!
Card #23 – Nolan Ryan
In 1987, Nolan Ryan finished the season with 270 strikeouts. He broke the current record for pitchers aged 40+ that was held by Phil Niekro at 208. At the time, Ryan had 4,547 K’s in 4,327 innings pitched.
Card #29 – Darryl Strawberry
Darryl Strawberry entered the 30/30 club in 1987 with 39 home runs and 36 stolen bases. He actually wasn’t very far off of the 40/40 club that Jose Canseco would create in 1980.
There are others in this set that are fun like the Ozzie Smith playoff home run, Mike Schmidt becoming the all-time HR leader at 3B and Benito Santiago with a 34 game hit streak as a rookie. This is a great little cheap set that can be found as low as $2 on eBay if you are interested in these oddball cards. They don’t carry much monetary value but they have more than enough nostalgic value to justify a purchase with that small price tag. They are also small sets and thus easy to store. I continue to buy these sets when I see them because they a lot of fun.
What was your favorite oddball set?