Not So Classic Anymore

The year was 1991 and I had in my head that I could play any sport out there. I wasn’t elite at anything but I was competent at all of it. I could throw, hit, shoot, dribble, tackle….you name it. Again, not unstoppable by any means but I was never nervous about stepping on to a field with strangers because I knew I could compete. We even had a volleyball league at our rec department when I was a little older and I enjoyed that. Full disclosure; one thing I have never been able to do is run fast, which is contradictory for the poster athlete of this set. And before your mind goes there, I haven’t always been fat so that’s not the primary reason I’m slow! At 14, I hadn’t quite figured out which sport I was going to try as my main sport. While I knew it wasn’t Track & Field, I was playing little league baseball, youth football and church league basketball at that time with varying degrees of success.You see, while I was able to play all of these sports, I had some deficiency in each of them as well (besides being slow). In baseball, I was very good with the glove and was an accurate, but not overpowering hurler. I could also make contact with the best of them. What I couldn’t do was hit for power or throw 70 mph. In football, I could be elusive for a slow guy; I could catch a football and could even read blocks at that level. However, I couldn’t overcome my lack of size and was flattened on occasion. I was always one of the smaller kids among my peers. In basketball, I have always been a good ball handler, accurate shooter and deceptive passer. But the one thing I couldn’t do, now or then, was jump very high. That takes me out of the basketball equation altogether. I was barely touching the rim in high school and was in the best shape of my life! Again, size may have played in to that. You may be muttering in your head something about hockey. Well, South Georgia is not known for ice staying frozen for more than about 5 minutes, so there’s that.I watched all of these sports on TV and would emulate my favorite athletes to the best of my ability. In 1991, it was a lot easier to take in sporting events because they were on less often. That sound’s like an antithetical statement but its true. It doesn’t mean I was watching MORE sports, it just means I was watching games closer. I had 2 teams that I could watch play baseball regularly and that was the Cubs and Braves. As a youngster, I gravitated toward Shawon Dunston because he was smooth. Basketball was on TV even less often but did hit NBC on Sundays. I loved Bird and Magic and would try to shoot and pass like them. Football was one game on Sunday afternoon (Falcons) and Monday Night Football. Scott Case was my guy with the Falcons. I remember recording some games and watching them make plays over and over. If there is one thing that size couldn’t stop me from doing, it was me trying to be the smartest player on the field.The point of all of this is that I was a multi sport guy at heart. I’m just not a multi sport guy from a physiological standpoint. So as a card collector who got his full time start in 1989, imagine my initial reaction to the release of 1991 Classic Draft Picks. For me, it was my first experience with multi sport. It may be the first set of its kind but I don’t know that for sure. I know it was the first classic multi sport set, although they continued through the better part of the 90’s. When this set released, I had to get my hands on these cards. I wanted all of these different athletes available in one single pack. But not only was it multi sport, it also featured many athletes that weren’t showing up in regular sets yet. It was really a cool concept and was pulled off well in ’91. Unfortunately, 26 years later, the cards didn’t age well.The set was 230 cards and featured draft picks from each of the four major sports that year. However, there was one glaring omission from the hockey portion of the set which I’ll cover shortly. The box came with 36 packs and 12 cards per, giving you the perfect opportunity to build the base set with one box, which I did with this one. The card design was pretty basic with a gray marble border and centered, but often poorly lit, photos. The backs of the cards were very plain with a lot of blank space. And then there was the UV coating. Why did card companies do this?? You will not pull any 9’s or 10’s out of this box but even if you did, I don’t think you’d have a card worthy of the fireproof.There were also a small amount of inserts featuring some of the top prospects in each sport. The set also featured unique Raghib “Rocket” Ismail cards due to his popularity. He was actually drafted #100 overall in the NFL but don’t let that fool you. There is a reason this set focused on him to a large degree. A box also gave collectors a shot at 1 of 50,000 autographed cards. That may seem like a lot of autographs to be floating around but remember production in the early 90’s is projected at a bazillion. I would guess that it’s the equivalent of pulling an auto numbered to 99 today but maybe I’m off. Did that stop me from crossing my fingers? You better believe it didn’t!I latched on to this set for one major player, Larry Johnson. Unless you were around in the early 90’s, you may not realize just how big Larry Johnson was in the sport of basketball. He was definitely talented on the court but he also made waves in commercials and cartoons. Surely you remember “Grand ma-ma”! The Running Rebels of UNLV were well represented in this set with Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony and George Ackles also present. The Rebels were amazing to watch! Johnson had a series within the base numbered cards that detailed a one on one matchup that he had with Billy Owens, the other big NBA prospect in the set. Owens was drafted 3rd overall and had a fairly productive career averaging double figures in scoring his first 9 seasons and for his overall career. He didn’t match the superstar status of LJ though.A few other names from basketball that were featured were Dikembe Mutombo, Rick Fox, Dale Davis and Stanley Roberts. Roberts was a 7’0, 285 lb. center at LSU that was actually the starter when Shaq was a freshman. There is a report that Stanley took Shaq to school while he was there too. They would later team up at Orlando with Shaq being the big guy on campus this time around. I always liked Stanley Roberts so I had to include him in this photo.In football, the set had a heavy Rocket Ismail feel, as mentioned above. The Rocket was a wide receiver and return man at Notre Dame. He was a highlight waiting to happen in college and almost won the 1991 National Championship with a 91 yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back for clipping. They lost 10-9 to Colorado. He finished 2nd in the Heisman voting and was widely considered the automatic #1 draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the ’91 Draft. Instead of heading to the NFL, he chose to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. He was still drafted by the LA Raiders at pick 100 but did not play for them until 1993. He signed a record $18.2 million for four years to play in the CFL. That’s 1991 money folks! Doug Flutie was considered a marquee player and made $1 million per season. In his rookie season, the Argonauts won the Grey Cup and he was named MVP of the game, returning a kickoff 87 yards for a TD. The next year, the Argonauts struggled; Rocket became disenfranchised and signed with the Raiders. It took him six seasons before he had a 1,000 yard receiving season and he only had two in total. He was an electrifying player but took an odd career track which likely hurt his legacy as a football player. Imagine if Rocket in his prime joined up with Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin!Instead, the Cowboys chose Russell Maryland from Miami as the #1 pick. He is listed here with other standouts from the football portion of the set. One of the underrated draft picks found here is none other than Brett Favre. Ricky Watters, Ed McCaffrey and Ricky Ervins had solid NFL careers but McGwire, Marinovich and Ismail received more publicity. For those of you who were not born yet or were living under a rock, Dan McGwire was the football playing brother of Mark. Ervins had a very decent but short 5 year career in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with Washington his rookie season.Baseball was loaded with players who went on to have good careers but one name was above all else that year. That name was Brien Taylor. Scott Boras said in 2006, “Brien Taylor, still to this day, is the best high school pitcher I’ve seen in my life. In high school, he amassed a 29-6 record with a 1.25 ERA and 213 K’s in 88 IP. He was throwing 99 mph in high school! Unfortunately for Yankee fans, and collectors worldwide, it didn’t translate to the majors. After a few years of struggling with mechanics, Taylor declined an invite to an instructional league and went home during the offseason. While home, he got in a fight and injured his throwing shoulder. He would then have surgery, miss a full season and come back the following year throwing almost 10 mph slower. He never appeared in a major league game. A few players who did appear in games and played pretty well are also pictured. Cliff Floyd spent some time here in Albany playing for our local minor league squad, The Albany Polecats.Finally, we have the hockey highlights. As you can see from Card #1 in the set, Eric Lindros is pictured. But strangely, he is not in the base set. He was in the Hockey Classics base set that year but was left out here for some reason. I thought initially it may have been some sort of contract issue but he was card #1 in the all hockey set. I openly admit that I am not a hockey guy. But I do know the names pictured. Peter Forsberg was a bonafide star and was elected into the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame. And who could forget Ziggy Palffy? There were other names that were vaguely familiar but I just don’t know enough about the sport to talk about it. I will try to get better gang.

The set as a whole had a ton of names that were familiar and many of the players were highly touted and never made it. Harvey Williams, and RB from LSU and Scott Stahoviak come to mind. There is a ton of nostalgia to sift through if you collected these cards at one time. The price point is nostalgia friendly too as I had this box purchased and shipped for $9. There are some issues though. This was printed as a “premium” set and used a similar UV coating to Topps Stadium Club and the cards were all stuck together. They did not come apart as easily as TSC either so a stack of the cards were damaged. Also, they have that bad aroma that comes with UV coating that has been hermetically sealed for a quarter century. The cards don’t carry much value but it was fun to remember the players and the design from that set. I had a lot of these cards floating around my collection back then but don’t ever remember having a Favre.

If you are a young collector that likes hits, this is probably not a set I would recommend you try. There are just too many issues with the cards and return on investment is non-existent. But if you are a 40 year old dweeb like me that likes to harken back to the days of his youth, I wouldn’t stop you from springing the $9 to take the ride. But be warned; it did get old at about pack 24.  The set gets an unfortunate score on the Dub-O-Meter of 2.  I almost gave it a 3 just for nostalgia reasons but I couldn’t justify it.


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?

5 thoughts on “Not So Classic Anymore”

  1. The Rocket … ugh, that guy personally killed Michigan in the 1990 game vs the Irish.

    Those were some weird cards, but I remember getting a few.

    Another good post… p.s… I was a slow guy as well…much slower now.

    1. Ismail was a sensation in Toronto! Those baseball guys weren’t all that hyped in 91 but maybe it’s because they were overshadowed by Taylor.

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