I love baseball cards. Not just for the thrill of pulling a card worth the cost of the pack or box or even better but because I love getting lost in cards. Always have. The photography, the stats, the colors. Back in the late 80s, early 90s, there wasn’t a lot of product so cards with iconic photographs and great players became instantly memorable. Today, if you like a popular player, let’s say Mike Trout … there are 932 cards to track down and that’s just from 2014. To give you an idea of what it was like back then, let’s go with Jose Canseco. In 1988, the year he would go on to win MVP award, there were just 67 total cards released and that includes oddballs/unlicensed cards,
One thing I really enjoy doing is finding photographs that were used for baseball cards. What’s really fun is when I see a photograph and years later it is used in a baseball card. The photo below was taken way back in 1997 after an aging, frequent disabled list member, and former star, Jose Canseco rejoined the Oakland Athletics. By this time, Jose’s star had all but burnt out (he’d make up for it in 1998) and in a cruel twist of fate he found himself playing second fiddle to Mark McGwire before ending the season injured. His final stats were weak: 23 home runs, 74 RBI, and an abysmal .235 batting average. Again, he would make up for it a year later but would end his career bouncing from team to team and begging for playing opportunities.
In 2011, Upper Deck would go on to use the image above in their 2011 Goodwin Champions brand, a knock-off of Allen & Ginter if I ever saw one. I have to give credit to Upper Deck, however. In 2011, no card company wanted Canseco in their products despite the insane value he still held among many collectors. At that time, his cards were on fire in the secondary market, mainly eBay, but new, licensed cards were still a long time away. As for the photographer who took this unintentionally cheese-tastic photograph of Jose Canseco? His name is Michael Zagaris and he’s kind of a big deal in the photography community. Check him out HERE.
As for 1997, despite his bloated face, carrot-colored tan, and awful hair in the photo shoot by Zagaris … Jose’s cards from 1997 and 1998, which featured him in an A’s uniform again, are some of the best-looking of his career and coolest of my collection. I don’t know what it was (IT WAS STEROIDS) but after an awful season with Oakland, Jose had a career year with the Toronto Blue Jays. He must of had a great batting coach (STEROIDS) and/or one hell of a training schedule (AGAIN, STEROIDS) because he went on to hit a career-high 46 home runs and almost stole 30 bases (29) while driving in over 100.
Steroids are one hell of a drug.