I probably spent more on packs in 1985 than any other year, and the reason was simple: Dr. K.
Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Leaf, O-Pee-Chee, Donruss Action All-Stars…if Doc was in it I was buying it, and I wasn’t just after one of each card. I was an absolute hoarder that year. In the case of Donruss, it meant I could put together the Lou Gehrig puzzle many times over, and in the case of Fleer it meant I had a ridiculous number of these.
The Fleer team sticker insert had been a fixture in packs since 1982 and even pre-dated Fleer’s (modern) re-entry into the baseball card market, serving as a standalone product in 1980 and on and off years prior to that. Team stickers were even a part of Fleer’s 1960 and 1961 Baseball Greats sets.
What made the 1985 inserts unique was not just that they featured fairly authentic looking team jerseys but also that some of the jerseys bore the uniform numbers of star players, for example Frank Robinson and Johnny Bench.
Here are two others you can quickly identify.
And two others unlikely to give you any trouble.
In all, fourteen team jerseys had uniform numbers, the other twelve being blank like the Red Sox one that opened this post. That five of the jerseys would belong to Hall of Famers, three being the face of the franchise, and another would belong to presumed top shelf Hall of Famer Pete Rose suggests at least some intentionality in selecting these numbers.
One might even add to these “chosen six” this more recent Hall of Fame inductee from the Cardinals and the only MVP (to that point) in Texas Rangers history.
After that, the number assignments become more perplexing. How I would have loaded up on Mets stickers had they featured Doc’s 16 or even Darryl’s 18. Instead, Fleer packs gave us either Joe Torre or Little League me!
Where I would have loved to see Rod Carew and Dave Parker, Fleer delivered Dan Ford and John Candelaria.
In place of Alvin Davis and Andre Dawson, we got Jerry Narron (or A-Rod pre-rookie!) and Doug Flynn.
By far the strangest jersey belonged to my hometown Dodgers, where I would have killed for a 6, 34, or 42. Instead Fleer threw the ultimate curve ball and went with…
Apart from Spring Training, this is a number no Dodger has ever worn. To date, it’s a number that’s only appeared twice in MLB, once with the Twins and once with the Pirates. Current Dodger stars Kenley Jansen (74) and Dustin May (85) are somewhat nearby, though neither was even born when the sticker came out. Curiously, Hall of Famer Ducky Medwick wore 77 with Brooklyn in 1940 and 1941.
So why 80?
To this day I still have no idea how the Dodger sticker ended up with such a strange number. Even if Fleer had someone choosing numbers at random, I imagine the range would have been 1-50 or so. Could it be a nod to the ’80 All-Star Game hosted at Dodger Stadium? Could it be a tribute to the final year of Fleer’s sticker-only packs?
Both theories seem extremely unlikely. At this point, I have to wonder if someone at Philly-based Fleer carried a grudge from the 1977 and 1978 NLCS all the way to the sticker factory.
“Take that, Dodger fans, no Garvey jersey for you! You get an 80 LOL. Oh, and who won the World Series that year? We did, that’s who! We did!”
It’s a paranoid theory, but what else you got? Philly sports fans…God bless ‘em!
Author’s note: If you don’t already know the story of Upper Deck hating the Dodgers, check which team got card 666 in their first five sets!