It has been a week. I am doing a whole lot of nothing this weekend and it feels great. Writing a blog post about the 1988 Donruss set seemed like a really huge time waster, so here I am. Maybe I just hang out with the wrong people and follow the wrong accounts on social media, but the 1988 Donruss set seems wildly unpopular. Is it just me, or does it often get lumped in with sets like 1991 Fleer?
I am going to hold my opinion to the end of the post, but I will probably give away it's ranking somewhere around the top of the post.
Special guest appearance by Aaron Boone via screen shots. I learned this week that I attended his Major League debut. He was ejected after being tagged out at home on a throw from right-fielder Brian Jordan.
Actual screen shot of Aaron Boone after getting run from the game. Deion Sanders homered off of Matt Morris. The Reds won. The Cardinals fans booed Deion Sanders and none of them could tell you why they booed him.
Many of the cards in the post were actually opened by the 10 and 11 year old me. Pack fresh. You're going to find this hard to believe, but I have never gone back and worked on improving my 1988 Donruss set. The first base card in the set is Mackey Sasser. Actually, the first two dozen cards in Donruss sets were always the Diamond Kings cards. I will get to those in a few minutes.
The Rated Rookie cards were always great. That little logo in the corner of the card is always a bonus in my book. One of the great things that came out of 1980s baseball cards.
Shall we talk about the border design?
I never quite understood what was going on with the blue, red, and black lines. I have looked at these cards from time to time over the last 33 years and I have no idea how this design was picked for a large baseball card set. If this was the best design option at the time, what did it beat out?
The back of the card.
There were always pros and cons to the card backs in the Donruss set. The con was when you got a card of some player who had been around forever, but they only put five years worth of stats on the back of the card. I like the highlight section better than Topps and I also like that they put down how the player was acquired. You could find some really bad trades on the back of these cards.
I wanted to pick a Cardinals card for this spot, but the 1988 Donruss set had Jack Clark with a pink background. I like the pink background, but 1988 was not a great year to be a Cardinals fan and see Jack Clark in a pack of cards.
I am going to slip in a screen shot of Mike Bush from NewsChannel 5. I think Mike is a news anchor now, or somebody serious. Hopefully Zip Rzeppa is still doing sports in St. Louis.
It also started the Bob Horner era in St. Louis.
I decided to pick this Mark McGwire card instead. Big Mac was coming off setting the Major League rookie home run record. If you didn't know the year of the card, you can tell it's early in his career, because he looks to be a normal size in the picture. I like the colored bars in the background too, very 1980s.
Aaron Boone screen shot.
There are probably better Diamond Kings cards in this set, but I am sticking with McGwire. Solid design and he actually had a really good 1987.
Cool Card of 1988
I never got the whole idea of spending a ton of money on players with very little Major League experience. Yes, it's been really bad the past two decades with Bowman, but it's not like that was the start of the trend. Bowman just made it worse. The 1988 Donruss set had one of those "hot" rookie cards way back in 1988.
The 1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies card was a really big deal back in the late 1980s. People were pretty sure that he was going to be the next great hitter in the Majors, win a few batting titles, and be in the Hall of Very Good or the Hall of Fame.
A lot of people spent a lot of money on this card.
Other people just pulled the card from a $0.35 pack of cards from Ben Franklin.
While we are here. It really bothers me when people label Gregg Jefferies as a "flop" or a "bust". He was a really good player who just happened not to live up to very lofty expectations. I saw him play for the Cardinals for two years in the 1990s, excellent player. Great hitter.
Best Non-Cardinal Card
I am a sucker for flip-down sunglasses.
Why don't players wear these types of sunglasses anymore?
I don't wear glasses.
I don't wear sunglasses.
If I did wear glasses, they would be flip downs.
Thank you, Aaron Boone. Yes, Eric Davis is also a really good hitter.
Best Cardinals Card
Wrigley makes a good backdrop for baseball cards. The Ozzie Smith card is a Spring Training picture. The Vince Coleman card was also taken in Wrigley, but he is bunting. Easy choice here.
Best Durham Bulls Card
Let's wrap up this post. I thought about going Brad Komminsk on the Brewers, but I am going to fly under the radar a bit here and go with Milt Thompson. Really, there were not that many great choices. The Bulls produced a lot of Braves players during the 1980s, but none of them have great cards in this set.
Milt Thompson, if you did not watch baseball in the 1980s or 1990s. Good player for the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, and back to the Phillies for a second time. I think there might have been a few years with the Astros at the very end of his career. Good hitter, good defender. I like the portrait style photo, just wish the photographer had backed up a little bit. Milt had a really unique batting stance, but I cannot find a good picture of it. His bat is actually too high in this photo. Normally it was behind his back shoulder, he stood deep in the box, but stuck his front leg out straight in front of him.
How Does It Compare?
You're probably thinking that this set is going to end up being in the last spot, but that's not going to happen. I have no problem putting the 1988 Donruss set ahead of the bottom 3 sets. It's not better than the 2017 Topps Heritage Minors set, so I am really trying to decide whether to put it above or below the Emotion XL set.
The major flaw with 1988 is its design. If Aaron Boone had been a design manager at Donruss during the late 1980s, this might be a conversation he had with his team.
Aaron Boone was in high school in 1988.
Emotion XL has a good design, but some of it's cards are really dumb. Let's remember that Dante Bichette's "emotion" was "The Heat". Still think that the Emotion cards are better overall set than Donruss, especially when the quality of the cards is taken into consideration.
I am going to go ahead and put the 1988 Donruss set in 9th place in my Set Appreciation rankings.
Sorry, I am out of Aaron Boone screenshots.