Fellow Twitter Collector, Frank King, submitted the following to me for publishing on the Dub Mentality Blog. Give Frank a follow on Twitter (link at the end) and let him know your thoughts on the article. Thanks ~~ Dub
The year of 1991 was a precarious time. That was the year the Cold War ended with the dissolution of the USSR. It was also the greatest year in cinematic history as both Terminator 2 and Point Break premiered. For me, this was the year when I moved from 8th to 9th grade, the differentiation between Jr. High and High School in my small town Texas ISD. In 8th Grade, you couldn’t have a care in the world. At age 14, I couldn’t drive unaccompanied yet but I really had nowhere to go. That summer I had my first job but it was nothing serious, just teaching rifle and shotgun classes to kids younger than myself. Life was pretty awesome, for about the first 8 months of that year.
August and everything after was kind of a beating. August meant starting my freshman year, which in Texas, meant Football. And freshman football at my High School meant getting your brain kicked in twice a day by someone who outweighed you by 80 pounds. Our high school was too tiny to have a huge varsity squad. If the varsity squad didn’t brutalize the freshmen and sophomores as tackling dummies in practice, who then would they brutalize? As an 8th grade athlete, nothing mattered: it was all for fun. The differences are huge moving up just one level.
1991 was also my golden year of collecting cards. The 1990 Upper Deck pack I had bought at a 7-11, which I had pulled a sprinting Bo Jackson from, had hooked me. Cards were in every store in 1991 and I sampled every set I could find. One set I was aware of but couldn’t find was the Line Drive Minor League set. I was only aware of this set because a card dealer at a tiny card show in a local town hall had sold me a signed Keith Miller, Buffalo Bisons Line Drive card for $1. I remember thinking, “Cool, didn’t even know anyone made Minor League cards”. Then I moved on buying Upper Deck, Topps, way too much Fleer and Score; never giving a second thought to the minor league sets. Twenty five years later, I traded @collectiblesall for 3 boxes of unopened Line Drive AAA and AA.The cards come wrapped like only one other set I have ever seen, the 1992 Legends of Indy set. They aren’t in wax packs or cello or sealed foil like the Upper Deck sets of that era. For the lack of a better term, they are wrapped in little trash bag wrappers. Those wrappers stretch and pull and and fight you as you try to rip the cards from their grasp. The term “rip” doesn’t even apply.The cards are clean with minimal graphics over a better than expected quality photo. The placement of the photo on the card initially hits me as a miscut, but it’s not. There’s a little too much white at the top. Truth be told, I dig white card stock; Always have. Maybe that’s another call back to that first 1990 UD pack. And white card stock is great for autographs, which I am all about.The checklist is huge considering what you are getting; the roster and coaches of all 26 AAA affiliates at the time. Line drive grouped the teams within the checklist. For example, all the Tulsa Drillers are consecutively numbered. Honestly, I wish EVERY set did this. I know Topps is doing bits within their checklists but I’m over that.On to the hits! And I use that term as loosely as possible.There are no inserts in this set. No sparkle. No chrome. Just pure, uncut base. There are rookies on their way up in the AAA set.There are guys you knew, guys you’d heard of and guys you may never hear of until 25 years later. This Jeff Bannister card is what made the AAA box a win for me. For anybody who does not know the story of Banister, he’s a man worth knowing. He almost lost his leg to cancer in high school. After being told he’d never walk again, much less play again, he fought his way to a september call up with the 1991 Pirates. Yes, those Bucs. He got one infield hit and that was it for him in the Majors. Three years later, he was managing a low A team of his own. Twenty years after that, he’s the manager of my Texas Rangers. In 2 years, he’s won 2 AL West division titles and AL manager of the year. When I pulled this card I gasped audibly because there is only one Banister Topps issue and that’s in the 91 Traded set. I can’t find any of that set and if I did, hell if I’m splitting it up. I really cannot do Banister’s backstory justice so here’s a link to a 2014 Article on him by the Great Jamey Newberg.There are also guys on their way out. I never knew Cecil Espy played after he left the Rangers. And getting quite a few more of the OKC 89’ers wasn’t too shabby.
The thing I also see in these cards is a place and time in baseball. The ill fitting uniforms, almost as if they were wearing a hand me down uni just like I was in 1991. Younger versions of the stars we knew. But I also see guys who were about to take a step up that were unprepared. The point about guys you’ve never heard of is that if you get these boxes, you are going to end up with 90% or more of the cards being players that peaked at AAA. This is why baseball is the most difficult sport. Not the ‘toughest’, but the most difficult. There are 4 levels of minor league ball and only the top 5% of any of the players in those leagues are going to ascend to the next level. And still, all of them are 1000 times better than most of us ever were at playing the game. Opening their packs 25 years later gives them a bit of the respect they are due.
Frank King – @TLFrankKing