Retro Review: The ’90 Fleer Graveyard

Fall is upon us! This is the beginning of my favorite time of year and October may be my favorite month. December is right there with it but October has a special place in my heart. I have always been a horror movie fan and enjoy “scary stories.” Scary movies and TV shows are a constant during October and this year, two of my current favorites return. First, The Walking Dead makes its return on October 22nd. Then, Season 2 of Stranger Things releases on NetFlix on October 27th. You can bet that Friday the 13th and Halloween marathons will precede those two releases here at Hustle Headquarters. Add the Georgia/Florida game and fantasy football to an already awesome month and you can see why October is near the top of my list of favorites.I don’t really know where my love for “being scared” came from but I have certain memories from when I was a kid that might play a part. When I was 3, I split my head open and had a near death experience because of it. I’ll talk a little more about that one day but the correlation to this post is what happened after the accident. For several months, I had horrible nightmares and night terrors either because of the event itself or the massive head trauma I experienced. My mom says that I would get up in the middle of the night and scream bloody murder. She would hold me to try and calm me down and I would stare at “something” behind her which totally creeped her out. I don’t remember any particular dreams but I can remember some of those nights.Then as I got a little older, I saw a couple of movies that I probably shouldn’t have seen. I’ve mentioned here in the past about seeing “The Shining” before any human being should have been subjected to it. I was under 10 years old. I also remember seeing the end of Friday the 13th at a very young age. I wasn’t supposed to be watching it and my parents had gone to bed. I remember we had a “channel box” on top of the TV and you had to press the channel down that you wanted to watch. I hit HBO or something like it and I saw this woman laying in a canoe in a small lake on a peaceful morning. I decided to hold for a moment and see what it was. It only took that moment to find out because if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the peaceful morning takes an abrupt turn as “Jason” leaps out of the water to pull the woman under. Also under 10 years of age.Around that time, I also remember being horrified by “The Incredible Hulk.” If you remember the original television show, David Banner’s transformation into the Hulk was quite horrifying to watch. He got really angry, turned green and ripped his shirt off in a fit of rage. It was not unlike the transformation into a werewolf in 80’s horror movies. I never latched on to the Hulk because of that. So even while I enjoyed scary movies and sought them out, I was still terrified from time to time and often regretted watching them. Another such instance was the first time I saw the movie “House.” Looking back, it has to be one of the corniest movies ever made but it scared the hell out of me the night I watched it. I remember vomiting from a nervous stomach ache and my dad pulling the plug on my horror movies for a while.

A couple of years later, my horror movie privileges returned and I hit the ground running. I started working at a Video Store and I checked out almost every horror movie on the shelf during that time. Me and my friends were drawn to corny movies more than serious “Exorcist” type films and we enjoyed quoting them and trying to come up with better endings. I’ve gone through my list of Favorite Horror Movies before so I won’t rehash that whole breakdown but you can believe that I will be watching those movies this month. It won’t be long before Bailey is watching them with me but she hasn’t quite reached the age I am comfortable with yet. She’s not ready for The Shining!

Besides movies, my friends and I always liked to try and scare each other often. I remember a specific incident when my friend, Brewer, and I were hanging out with an older friend and he took us to a graveyard in Pelham. It was late at night, dark and we were always a little on edge because we knew that there was usually something up this guy’s sleeve. When we rode around that graveyard, he told us a story of a girl who was buried there, named Annabelle. And the name is just a coincidence because this story is from the early 90’s and the movie just came out in the last couple of years.

Anyway, he told us this gruesome story about how she died unexpectedly and her soul was not at peace. She wandered the graveyard and looked for people to help her free herself, whatever that meant. The “legend” was that if you said her name three times out loud, she would visit you. I’m not sure what it is about saying someone’s name three times that evokes horror but Bloody Mary and Beetlejuice seem to have the same requirement. Candyman was even more of a badass as you had to say his name five times. Back to Annabelle (trust me, I know I’ve typed it twice), Brewer and I laughed it off in the moment but as we headed home, we were both silent. We were no doubt thinking the same thing because we watched all of those scary movies together.

When we got home, he walked to his house across the street and I went inside to try and get ready for bed. A few minutes later, my phone rang and he wanted to come back over and talk to me. You see, just like in the movies, we couldn’t talk about it with our parents because they wouldn’t believe us. Parents never believe their kids when they are being haunted! He came over and we stood in my front yard talking and we decided to just say her name three times and prove that it was just a story. We said it twice pretty quickly but it took about thirty minutes of arguing about who was going to say it that third time to complete the process. I really don’t remember who said it that third time but I can promise you that neither of us slept that entire night. I know because Brewer wound up spending the night with me so we could “protect” each other.

As if that weren’t enough to teach us a lesson, I found myself with this same group of friends on a dirt road late one night riding around and telling stories again. We are riding down this dark road when this big white building appears in the woods. I don’t mean it “appeared”; I just mean we had no idea that there was anything out in these woods. It was an old church that was clearly abandoned because the weeds were overgrown and windows were busted out. We walked around trying to scare each other and just checking things out when one of my friends said that the front door was halfway open. Any normal 16 year old would have said, “ok, that’s enough, we can go home now.” But we weren’t normal 16 year olds. We were more like “Stand By Me” type of teens.The three of us gathered at the front door with a flashlight and only wanted to peek inside to say we did it. We slowly opened the door and the first thing our light hit was one of those hard plastic decorations that usually are found in the yard as part of a nativity scene. This one was sitting in the front pew facing the pulpit and our minds just automatically registered it as a person sitting in the old abandoned church. We moved faster than I thought was humanly possible to get back in the car and get down the road. When we were far enough away, we agreed that we would never try that again. Then we started imagining things like, “what if the man turned around and looked at us?” I’m 40 years old and I can still vividly see that yard decoration sitting in that pew. I always get a little nervous when I see them in the yard at Christmas time too. I always feel like they are looking at me and “they know!”Around 17 years old, I bought a pretty realistic Michael Myers mask and incorporated that into my scare tactics. I scared more people with that mask than I can count. My aunt was deathly afraid of it and the mere mention of the mask would make her go get in her car. I liked to hide in the bushes and in people’s backseat with the mask on and wait for them to find me. I would wait upwards of 30 minutes sometimes and be in a full-on sweat, thanks to the costume. But it was always worth it. Just like the times we would hide under tables or in trees and scare trick or treaters in our neighborhood. Those were different times back then though. There’s no way I would try that today with the craziness in the world.

My best scare ever was not even set up by me. I still sort of regret how bad I scared this girl but it was her boyfriend’s idea and I’m sticking with that as my alibi all these years later. I went to visit a friend of mine over at Valdosta State University and we were at his girlfriend’s apartment. She wasn’t home from class yet and we were just watching TV. He asked me if I had the Myers mask even though he knew I had it with me at all times back in those days. I went out to my truck and grabbed it and hid in her food pantry. When she got home, he asked if she would make some popcorn and I heard her coming. I immediately started having internal regret but I was committed at that point. She opened that pantry door, saw me and ran into the refrigerator as she tried to get away. As I was pulling my mask off and laughing, she was treating him like a punching bag.

That Michael Myers mask was always good for a classic scare. I had it well into adulthood and was storing it in my closet. I had basically forgotten about it when I found it one night and realize that it had melted or disintegrated over time. That was a sad day as I had to throw out something that had been with me for many years, even if it was a dumb old plastic mask. In the mid 90’s, our eyes had become accustomed to bright, neon, fancy colors and designs and something about this plain, white, emotionless mask that I still liked. The same can be said about a baseball card set from 1990. You see what I did there?A year after having a gray striped border and a year before going off the rails with a mustard yellow border, 1990 Fleer was just a basic white border design like Topps had been for a few years. The plain border was accented by team colors around the photo and in the banner with the player name and position. The team logo was in the top right corner and “Fleer 90” was in the top left. The backs of the cards had a red and pink backdrop for the navy blue stats and biographical information. These cards were really pretty plain but there is something about them that I still like today.You may be wondering how 1990 Fleer and October tie in. If you’ve read my work before, you know by now that I am going to connect the dots. Back when I was a kid, I wanted cards for all occasions. I wanted the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus to all bring baseball cards. If I had a good report card (rare), I wanted cards as my reward. When Halloween rolled around, my grandmother would always come by our house to see our costume and bring some candy. However, in 1990, she brought me a few packs of 1990 Fleer and I was as happy as I had ever been on that great night. I sat in the living room floor opening my baseball cards while my brother ate his candy. That candy was about to be gone but my cards would go in my binder and stay with me forever!I don’t know why I remember this but one card I got that night was a Mark McGwire. When I think of McGwire, I always see this card. He is warming up and has a strained look on his face as he is throwing the ball. That card is burned in my mind and I finback to it whenever I think about trick or treating and getting cards. So when my buddy, Shane Salmonson, messaged me that his card shop had a ton of old junk wax boxes, and 1990 Fleer was included, I had to get a box. Not only did he get me a full box, it was a rack pack box and was HUGE! My goal with this box was to pull that Mark McGwire again. So even though I got this box a couple of months ago, I’ve waited until October so I could do it the right way.

Each rack pack has 45 cards and 3 stickers. With 24 packs, that’s a total of 1,080 cards so my odds are pretty good that I’ll pull the McGwire. But I can’t remember everything else the set has to offer so we’ll start at the beginning.Fleer was known for their sticker inserts during the junk wax era. The stickers in 1990 were both full card logos and cards with four mini logos. The backs of the stickers had trivia questions related to the teams on the front.

“League Standouts” were random inserts that included the league’s best players. The photo on the front had a 3D’esque type of design that simulated the players movement. The borders were a light yellow and should have been a sign of what was to come the following year.

“Players of the Decade” was another insert in ’90 Fleer that highlighted the best players over the previous 10 years. The 1990 Fleer set was their 10th Anniversary so this played well at the time. There were some big time players in this checklist.

As with previous years, Fleer included dual prospect cards at the end of the checklist. And as with previous years, there were a lot of swings and misses in the prospect set. However, the inclusion of Moises Alou, Delino DeShields and the GREAT Kevin Maas made a few of these cards collectible.

“Super Star Specials” was another returning insert in 1990 that was found in previous years. These cards depicted multiple players with something in common; Boston Igniters, Starter & Stopper, League’s Best Shortstops, you get the picture. My favorite was the “Human Dynamos” with Kirby Puckett and Bo Jackson.

The “Rookies” or first full year players were actually pretty strong in the set. Some of them fizzled but there are several here that had nice careers. Everybody wanted Jerome Walton, Ben McDonald, Eric Anthony and Todd Ziele back in the day. But Juan Gonzalez, Larry Walker, Omar Vizquel and Edgar Martinez had the best careers among these players. Of course, Sammy Sosa had an excellent career but it was a bit tainted by the end.

The “Young Guys” in the set are a “who’s who” of superstars. I had to include Gregg Jefferies for obvious reasons but there is also the inclusion of Bo Jackson, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Gary Sheffield, Tom Glavine and the incomparable Ron Gant. I know production was an issue in the 90’s but this is a damn good checklist!

The “Veterans” (from ’85 or earlier) stand out even more than the young guns. Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs, Nolan Ryan and the list goes on and on and on. The league was really on fire during this time period.

And of course, the big card in the set (for me at least) is this beautiful Mark McGwire. I can remember sitting in that living room floor and just staring at this McGwire. I really don’t know why it caught my eye so much at the time other than I loved the A’s because of Canseco and RBI 3. It is just as I remember it and may be the only 1990 Fleer that I have in a toploader. Mission accomplished!Overall, 1990 Fleer is nothing special. It doesn’t have any glaring flaws either though like ’90 Donruss and ’91 Fleer. The plain design didn’t fit in well for the time but now as I look back on the cards, they have a classier feel to them than other designs from that year, aside from Leaf and Upper Deck. I would choose this design all day long over ’91 and ’92 Fleer but I understand that everyone doesn’t see cards the same way. Even with the design being one that I look back on fondly now, I can’t really give the set more than a “3” on the Dub-O-Meter. I like it and I pick up packs when I find them dirt cheap but I’m not scouring eBay regularly to find more hobby boxes to open. It’s one of those middle of the road sets for me that is kept alive mainly because of my memories from those packs on Halloween. What say you about 1990 Fleer?

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?

6 thoughts on “Retro Review: The ’90 Fleer Graveyard”

  1. Love the scary movies, can watch them any time of the year, but this time of year makes them even better.

    As for the cards, I am a little partial to the 89 Fleer, its the first set I ever collected and completed, but there is a certain nostalgia to these cards. Fleer was always a solid product.

    1. Fleer went kind of nuts with the side products in the 90’s but I liked most of the products up until then.

  2. This is yet another set I’m working on.. Though I also have the added bonus of working on the Canadian Issue as well.. lol
    Basically, the Canadian version is exactly the same aside from the production line on the bottom.

  3. I had a similar set-top cable box moment when I was young, but the movie that scarred me was “Cujo.” Took me a while to like dogs after that. I also had a nature book I couldn’t read through because I was scared to turn the page that had bees on it.

    Man, I remember the Delino Deshields and Eric Anthony rookies being good pulls.
    Also remember getting two factory sets for Christmas from different people, then going to Kay-Bee toys to spend my Christmas money afterwards to find out all they had left for cards were columns and columns of 90 Fleer factory sets.

    1. I remember Cujo vividly as well. That was a badass dog! I saw that one pretty early too and I had the same dog phobia for a while.

      My Wal-Mart always had stacks and stacks of Donruss so whenever I went to other stores, I would not even look at that product.

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