Many things in life are fleeting in nature. Take Andy Van Slyke's Orioles career; he signed with the Birds prior to the 1995 season but played only 17 games with the club. The 34-year-old outfielder, who had been an All-Star just two seasons prior, battled injuries and hit .159 (10-for-63) with three home runs before being traded to the Phillies in mid-June. He played marginally better in Philly (.243 AVG/.684 OPS), but it would prove to be the last season of his career. Sometimes the end comes suddenly.
That looks to be the case for hobby giant Upper Deck, who burst onto the scene in 1989 with glossy cards with high-quality (and often inventive) photos both front and back. They changed baseball cards as we knew them, and after the downturn in the hobby at the turn of the century, only Topps and Upper Deck were left standing. But this past offseason, Major League Baseball dealt a crushing blow to the latter by signing an exclusive licensing deal with Topps. Everyone waited with great curiosity to see how Upper Deck (still holding a license with the Players' Association) would respond.
The answer was another tepid, forgettable card design in a series of them, and a half-hearted approach to the display of team logos and insignia. Many cards featured player's backs facing the camera, or profile shots that obscured a portion of the jersey and cap logos. Yet a significant number of cards blatantly showed head-on shots of logos. The end result was baffling. If Upper Deck was going to make some effort to hide those trademarked images, why not do it for every photo? If they wanted to lift a couple choice fingers in the direction of Topps and MLB by showing logos, again, why not do it 100% and go out with guns blazing? In the end, they still got sued and had to reach a hasty settlement that makes them look bad and costs them millions of dollars. The outlook is gloomy for the boys from Carlsbad, CA.
In going with the rule of threes, I intended to write about my former elementary school, St. Clare School in Essex, MD. This week the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced that the PreK-8 Catholic school, the place where I made some very good friends and spent ten years of my life, will be closed at the end of the academic year. I'm furious, disappointed, and sad, but I'm still not ready to put it all into words. This entry will be a two-parter; check back tomorrow.