Through a glass, darkly

Last year, I purchased the 1981 and 1982 Fleer sets for essentially the shipping cost.  Both sets were in binders, but the pocket pages were the old PVC type with the cards inserted two to a pocket.  I “freed” the 1981 set last year and finally did the same for 1982 recently.  This re-paging task allowed me to closely examine the 1982 cards-which left me astonished at the poor quality of photos, bad lighting and odd poses.  There are a few positive aspects, but one must dig deeply.

Since 1982 was Fleer’s second go-round, one would assume that they would strive to produce a quality product to make up for the mistake-laden inaugural 1981 set.  Instead, consistently murky images make season two a step back in quality.

1982 National League MVP Dale Murphy is an example of badly blurred image.  You would think that an in focus shot of a player posing with a bat could be executed properly.  Of course, the fuzzy images may have been the result printing issues.  But if this were the case, why didn’t Fleer fix the issue once they saw the proofs?

Both Cal Ripken and teammate Lynn Sakata are typical examples of the “Fleer fuzz,” and Jack Clark shows blurred action.

“Big Daddy” Rick Reuschel is viewed through a camera darkly.  Most of his card is black.  The low light for Gary Allenson is a typical shot of a stationary figure in the daytime that still comes out dark and out of focus.

If poor photo quality wasn’t enough, many of poses are head scratchers.  Brian Kingman is a good example of the fixation on photographing left-handed pitchers from behind.  There are way too many shots of players’ backs.

Another overused pose is to have players seated alone in the dugout. It was as if Fleer was anticipating social distancing requirements 38 years ago.

Photos taken around the batting cage were common for decades.  But Fleer takes it to a new level by photographing players in the cage.  A few players taking batting practice might work as a fresh angle, but they took this idea and ran it into the ground.

And, what is with the pose used for Jack Morris?  He is barely in the frame. Also, there may be a UFO in the background.

Now that I have ranted and raved, let’s look at some of the good aspects of the set. I like the Fernando Valenzuela shot showing him looking to the sky.  Also, you must appreciate Manny Trillo’s World Champions jacket. Steve Stone in front of the helmet rack is another excellent shot.

Two players with same name are found in this set: former Seattle Pilot Mike Marshall and the Dodger outfielder with the identical moniker.  I didn’t include this in a previous post on players with the same name, since I only looked at Topps. 

Speaking of ex-Seattle Pilots, you will find Fred “Chicken” Stanley on the A’s.  He is the last Pilot to be in a base set as a player (1983).

There are several great “hair” cards.  John Lowenstein sheds his cap to show off an impressive perm.  Danny Darwin offers up an excellent example of “helmet” hair.

Finally, Fleer provides Carlton Fisk fans with three different cards.  He is shown with the Red Sox on Rich Dauer’s card, with the White Sox on his regular card and with his namesake, Steve Carlton, on a multi-player card.

Fleer saw through a glass, darkly. The result was a most ungodly, photographic apocalypse.

Author: Tim Jenkins

Sports memorablilia collector with Seattle teams emphasis. HOF autographs, baseball cards and much more. Teacher for over 30 years. Attended games at 35 different MLB parks.

12 thoughts on “Through a glass, darkly”

  1. Have to be honest, I kind of love the Jack Clark. Many of the photos are both blurry and bad. Clark’s is blurry but interesting with not just action but interaction as he turns to glare at the umpire in the midst of calling a strike.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We all got excited in the early ’80s about all the new companies and card sets, but, let’s face it, they were all pretty ugly. And that includes Topps, which was going through a malaise of its own with one humdrum design after another (and I say that realizing that there are likely many children of the ’80s who remember those sets fondly). But at least most of Topps’ photography was fairly sharp . . . the early Fleer and Donruss sets were rush jobs, and they looked like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I must admit their is a strange intrigue to these cards. Hopefully, in the near future, I will have an opportunity to retrieve this set from my garage. Thanks for lighting the fuse on this Fleer set. By that, I mean sparking interest, not setting the cards ablaze!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This set caused some angst in my young psyche as the 1982 season wore on. I went to some card shows where there was already buzz about Ripken being a hot rookie that might be valuable someday (I know some folks say Mattingly was the start of the rookie craze, but at least in L.A. it went back at least to Fernand0 and certainly included Cal). Well, his Topps card was of course 2/3 other guys, but his Fleer card was not only not Topps but also an eyesore. Naturally I bought enough packs to complete both sets, but I just couldn’t decide which Cal to hoard. I think I eventually went with Donruss!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A truly awful set, in fact, an embarrassing eyesore. Even the printing on the backs is a little fuzzy. Makes the ’73 Topps, discussed earlier, look like gold.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have to agree with Nick on the Jack Clark card. It may be blurry, but I find it to be a fascinating and unique action shot! I’d never seen it before, but Clark is one of my favorite players from my youth, so this care is definitely going on my want list.


  7. I enjoyed this post and I totally agree with you. I don’t have any of ’82 cards in my collection, but from the images that you selected it does look like it is a step backwards in quality from the ’81 set.


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