Retro Review – A Christmas Morning Score

It’s officially December and the family got the Christmas Tree up in the Living Room last night. Thus begins the greatest month of the year for a nostalgic fellow such as myself. Most of the stuff I write about can be traced back through Christmas gifts, family and holiday times when I was out of school. If you’ve read my work, you know about the infamous Nintendo Christmas, the year I got Tecmo Super Bowl, the first complete set of baseball cards I received, 1990 Topps, and the glory days of the holiday gridiron. No matter how old I get, I will forever remember Christmas from when I was a kid. My goal now is to give those same memories to my kids.

I grew up in a much simpler time than my kids are and our Christmas gifts wouldn’t really make much of an impact on them. They aren’t really interested in a Teddy Ruxpin doll that reads a story when they can sit down with a Leap Pad and write their own. The graphics from my Tandy Computer the morning I got Downland would probably look like cave drawings to them. And in a world with Hover Boards, iPhones and Netflix, the good ole days of the VHS tapes, Big Wheels and Gameboy are as outdated as ever. But for me, and probably most of you, I wouldn’t trade any of the toys I had as a kid.

Donkey Kong Mini Arcade
This is really the first Christmas present I vividly remember. I was 5 years old and I received a miniature arcade game that I could play in my own room. I remember it vividly though because of the circumstances of that Christmas. I had chicken pox on Christmas Day and was unable to go to any of the family functions so Christmas presents were brought back to me where I would open them in a rather uneventful quarantined environment. But while I had to stay in my room that day, I had this Donkey Kong Mini Arcade to keep me company. I’ve thought about buying one of these just for the nostalgic significance it holds for me at Christmas time.

He-Man
Fast forward a year of two and Santa Claus came through yet again with the Castle of Greyskull! I remember having He-Man, Battle Cat, Man-At-Arms, Man-E-Faces, Skeletor, Panthor and Beast Man. I watch my youngest daughter sometimes and am amazed at how she can play with little character toys and pretend that they are really doing the things she is telling them to do. Then I remember back to when Skeletor tried to take the Castle and He-Man had to fend him off. It was all too real to me in my mind back in those days so I can totally understand what she’s doing. What I don’t understand now is how a hero like He-Man had such a horrendous haircut.

Tyco Challenge Race Track
I actually got a few of these over the years and me, my dad and my brother would set them up in the dining room floor to race each other. We never got the track set up quite as cool as they did in the commercials but we had a blast with them. I was always able to beat my little brother when we got them because I was old enough to know that you had to let off the controller in the corners or the cars would catapult into the curtains. Those little needles under those cars couldn’t take tight turns!

Wise Cracking Alf
This was a classic! Alf is a legendary pop culture figure from the 80’s and this Alf doll was hilarious for a kid. When you pressed his stomach, he spouted off some of his catch phrases like, “Ha, I Kill Me!” and “Hey Gimme Four!” The alien from Melmac was actually kind of creepy in retrospect as he spent so much of his time searching the house for the cat because he ate them. As a matter of fact, according to YouTube, Alf actually did eat 152 cats. I miss the times when everyone wasn’t so sensitive about everything!

MadBalls
I must have had 10 or more of these at one time as a kid. They were “gross” for adults but they fit right in with my Garbage Pail Cards. Plus, they were balls that you could actually throw and bounce and they were useful. I think these have made a bit of a comeback but as we all know, things are always the most fun the first time around. I actually may try to find some of these to get Bailey for Christmas though because she would probably like them!

The Dingo
This was my first “grownup” sort of Christmas present and it was legendary. I wheeled this bad boy all over my yard and often took it to an area behind our house that had some ditches and hills to jump. You could actually fit two kids in the seat and we would fight over who got to drive. I was lucky that I never had any real accidents in this contraption because we didn’t care anything about helmets and seat belts in 1987. I spent a lot of my youth around go carts because of how much my dad and uncles enjoyed them and The Dingo is a big part of the memories of those fun times.

Sony Walkman
Here is one of the gifts from my youth that would go over like a lead balloon with my kids. First of all, they have no idea what a cassette is. They also don’t know anything about having to listen to a full song or fast forwarding to the end of it if you want to hear the next one. That’s right, damnit! If we wanted to cherry pick songs, we had to work at it. We didn’t have it easy like kids today. As was evident when we had to be the remote control for our Dad when he was watching TV, technology was still pretty far from where it is today. But, I also remember black and white TV’s, Asteroids and beta players so the Walkman was a Marty McFly type innovation.

NBA Live ’95 SNES
I received a lot of great games at Christmas time, as I have discussed here before. But one that I really loved was NBA Live ’95 on the SNES. To me, it represented one of the bigger advancements in basketball gaming that we had seen to that point. It was a very slick TV style presentation with full season and teams and the ability to make trades. NBA Live ’95 perfected the basketball game for me much like Tecmo Super Bowl did football. The Magic was stacked with Shaq, Penny, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott; The Rockets had Hakeem, Horry and Drexler; The Knicks had Ewing, Mason, Starks and Oakley. But the Golden State Warriors were absolutely loaded with a squad that suited up Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Latrell Sprewell, Chris Webber and Billy Owens!

Fruiters
I would be remiss if I didn’t list this one as a staple of Christmas past. The running joke for us kids at my Granny’s house was that we were always going to get some fruiters from her. Sometimes it was socks, sometimes plain white t-shirts. But sometimes, it was tighty whities! Yes, my Granny made it her mission every Christmas to get us underwear. It didn’t stop when we got older and started bringing girlfriends with us to the family function either. Even today, at 40, someone is going to yell, “FRUITERS” at my Granny’s Christmas function. I guess it’s more evidence that we never really grew up.

Sports cards became a highly sought after gift when I turned 12 and I have been receiving them without fail for the last 27 years. My mother asked me last week what I needed for Christmas and I told her sports cards. Let’s face it, I still need them! I mentioned that the first complete set I got for Christmas was 1990 Topps but there was another set that year that was pretty prevalent. My stocking was loaded with them, my grandmother got me several packs and I used some of the money I got that year to buy more at Wal-Mart when the stores reopened after the holidays. That was when I was turned on to Score and the great rookie class of 1990. Score had some up and down years but I would submit that 1990 was their best effort.

Junk Wax Score can never be accused of being bland, that’s for sure. The box for 1990 was a bold yellow and the wrappers were the same. The wrappers were those little plastic baggies that I have mentioned here before. You could see straight through the pack to the front and back card but that wasn’t highly unusual for the time. And the box is the standard behemoth for 1990 with 36 packs of 16 cards each.

The Base Cards were broken up into three basic colors; Blue, Red and Green. These were broken up by sections of the checklist. First group was Green, mid was Red and the end of the checklist was Blue. Each section had the highlighter yellow trim.

As was typical for Score in the late 80’s-early 90’s, their pack inserts were “Magic Motion” Cards with ’90 focused on MVP’s.

The infielders were highlighted by some of the usual suspects; Sheffield, The Wizard, Boggs and McGwire. Of course, I had to include Sabo and Dunston as well.

The outfield is well represented by Bo, Puckett, The Hawk and Tim Raines. Unfortunately, no Griffey or Canseco.

The pitchers were slim in this box but Ryan, Doc and Maddux are definitely welcome.

There were several “Draft Picks” included in the set and these three were some of the hottest. I missed out on the biggest hit in the set, Frank Thomas. Mo Vaughn looked svelte here!

Here is where this set stands out! Look at some of the rookies included here; Sosa, Deion, Olerud, Alou, Tino, Bernie, Larry Walker and Juan-Gone! There were also three strong prospects here that could land in my “Dated Rookies” Autograph project; Eric Anthony, Dean Palmer and Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens.

The “Highlight” Cards we’re in all sorts of designs. They were blue, white, landscape, portrait and had multiple fonts used. All over the map!

The Dream Team became one of my favorite inserts but not in 1990. These were ok because they had a sketch look but I think they were just airbrushed to some degree. Aside from Sandberg and Boggs, the pulls here were pedestrian.

There are things to like and dislike about 90 Score. As for dislike, the “Draft Pick” Class didn’t pan out besides Thomas, Knoblauch and Mo to an extent. There are also a ton of mediocre players who were included in the full checklist. This also wasn’t my favorite Dream Team Set. However, I do personally have the bright design as one of my favorite Score efforts. It was similar to ’88 but I like it because it’s a little bolder. You would also be hard pressed to beat this rookie class from a depth standpoint. The rip is very affordable and that makes it even more appealing when trying to pull those rookies. I’d give the set a shaky “4” because of the colors and the rookie class. It could easily be a “3” if the rookie class weren’t so deep. It may have been a solid “4” if I had pulled a Big Hurt. Regardless of the final mark, it certainly belongs on my list of favorite all time Christmas gifts!

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?