Across the wide spectrum of baseball card collecting, 1989 Fleer has been roundly and justifiably panned. Like all late Eighties cards, the set was so mass-produced that it's used as legal tender on some island nations. Many of the photos have terrible lighting, with players alternately washed out by blinding sunlight or cloaked in shadows. Plus, the design is butt-ugly. When have gray borders ever worked, and what is the deal with the white pinstripes? It looks like a bad suit or a set of vertical blinds. If it weren't for Billy Ripken's unspeakable bat knob, the set would be completely ignored twenty years later.
But as I was flipping through my 1989 Orioles box the other night, I took a closer look at one of Fleer's notorious bombs and found some eye-raising photos. This Dave Schmidt card is the best of the bunch in my humble opinion. It's a crummy shot of the featured player, of course. He's not looking at the camera, he's not pitching or even warming up, and we can't begin to guess what has grabbed his attention. But we can also see a blurry fan in a bright red jacket sitting a few rows back who appears to be clutching his head in pain, probably because he just spent his hard-earned money to see the home team play against the dreadful 1988 Orioles. Tomorrow night Frank Viola and the defending champion Twins come to town...why didn't you double-check the paper before you left the house, pal? Your loss.
But even Mr. Red Jacket pales in comparison to the horror that lurks over Schmidt's right shoulder. Outfitted in sinister black and glowering malevolently, Mike Morgan swears oaths at his teammate and plots the coming moment in which he will strike out at his fellow righthanded journeyman starter, because there can be only one. Sure, they all say Morgan is mad when he tells them that he will pitch across the decades, straight on into the 21st Century. But he'll do it, all right. He'll show them all, even if he has to drain Dave Schmidt of his life force to make it happen. Poor Dave doesn't suspect a thing. They never do.