Name: Jay Baller
Team: Omaha Royals
Value of card: If you cut out that imperfection smudge on the left side of this card and offered it to someone on the street for a dollar, this card is worth the spit that would wind up on your face.
Key 1989 stat: 77 strikes (not strikeouts; just strikes)
Royals' scouting report on minor league prospect Jay Baller: "Says here this guy is a Baller. We have no indications of that. ... Might want to bring him to Kansas City if Omaha throws in a couple of steaks. ... Pitching skills aside, he has a real chance to make the Name Hall of Fame. ... Mustache? Baller. Mullet? Baller. Baseball skills? Not baller. ... Baller? I barely knew her! Ha! Wait, we're supposed to be evaluating this guy?"
Card submitted by Al Filipczak
Name: Golden Richards
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Position: Wide receiver
Value of card: It's worth its weight in gold, divided by zero
Key 1977 stat: Punched anyone who called him by his given name, John
A real golden boy: Mr. Richards here preferred to go by his middle name, Golden. Here are a few other nicknames bestowed upon him by his teammates.
- The Towheaded Towel Boy
- The Blond Benchwarmer
Name: Vicente Romo
Value of card: Three soggy cardboard boxes
Key 1973 stat: Spilled mustard on his jersey 142 times without anyone noticing
Jumping the gun: In 1974, it appeared that the San Diego Padres were about to be sold and moved to Washington, D.C. Topps, with its high standards of quality (*cough*) decided it would print its set on the assumption the sale would go through, replacing the city and team name, even though the latter wasn't yet known (hence the ever-so-helpful "Nat'l Lea."). However, McDonald's owner Ray Kroc stepped in at the last minute and purchased the Padres, keeping them in town with no changes
And now, a quiz: How can we tell Vicente Romo is expecting to relocate, based on his above photo?
(A) He's pointing up toward the air, either at a plane or the home run ball he just surrendered.
(B) His sideburns distinctly resemble an aircraft's landing gear.
(C) His uncut hair appears to be flying away from his body.
(D) He's wearing a parachute as an undershirt.
(E) All of the above
Name: Greg Gross
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Value of card: 11 dead frogs being eaten by maggots
Key 1988 stat: 9 straight hours locked in a construction site portable toilet
Let's see what Greg Gross stands for:
Elephant Man: also gross
Repugnant uniform color
Sickening resemblance to another Gross
Name: Reggie Jackson
Team: Oakland A's
Value of card: It's clear it's worth nothing
Key 1972 stat: 2,216 photos of Jackson in 1972 better than this one
It's time for The Caption, which we know didn't run in the Oakland Tribune in the early 1970s: "Reggie Jackson, center, might be throwing a ball from the outfield at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in a game against the Chicago White Sox, but because the photo is so blurry we're not even sure this was against the White Sox, or even that it was taken during a baseball game, or, for that matter, whether it's really Jackson, on Tuesday in Oakland, maybe."
Name: Rich Batchelor
Team: Fort Lauderdale Yankees
Value of card: 6 square inches of tarp
Key 1990 stat: Zero runs allowed during rain delays
Yankees' scouting report on pitching prospect Rich Batchelor: "From our research, he does well in an empty stadium with no other players on the field. ... Despite being a Batchelor, we don't need to worry about him getting sidetracked with the ladies. ... If he doesn't work out, we could deal him to the 'Revenge of the Nerds' production team. ... We can foresee a future on the New York Yankees, as the assistant to the traveling secretary. ... Rich Batchelor, poor pitcher."
Card submitted by Al Filipczak
Name: Earnest Byner
Team: Washington Redskins
Position: Running back
Value of card: Earnestly ... nothing
Key 1990 stat: 761,964 stretches
Some of the sounds and words Earnest Byner uttered during this stretching session:
- Feel it. Feel it. Feel it.
- Oooooh, yeah.
- Thigh power. Thigh power, baby.
- Hey, who are you and why are you taking my picture?
- I've been really trying, baby. Trying to hold back these feelings for so long. And if you feel, like I feel baby. Come on, oh come on. Let's get it on.
- Ya-ouch! Groin pull!
Name: Rusty Kuntz
Team: Chicago White Sox
Value of card: One Rusty Kuntz autograph with the last name misspelled
Key 1981 stat: 162 unusually long autograph lines after games
It's autograph time with Bust favorite Rusty Kuntz:
- "Dear Charlie, yes, that's my real name. Ha ha, you're pretty funny."
- "To Sean: No, I've never met Dick Pole. Why do you ask?"
- "For Nick: Yep, it's my real name, honest. Thanks for asking."
- "To Chris: No, I don't have any sisters. But if I did, yes, I'm sure they'd be real Kuntzes."
- "Dear Isaac, yes, my name is really Rusty Kuntz. You people are so original."
- "Richie, this is a pretty nice glove. Maybe I'll just keep it."
- "For Gordon: Yep, that's my real name. Is that your real face, jerkwad?"
Name: Sterling Sharpe
Team: Green Bay Packers
Position: Wide receiver
Value of card: 7 shards of glass
Key 1994 stat: 116 cuts
Some explanations for this high-concept (cough, cough) illustration:
- Sharpe is breaking through the glass ceiling after men named Sterling had been held back for decades by people with normal names.
- Sharpe is jumping from space and shattering the sky because, you know, that makes sense.
- Sharpe is on a wicked-awesome trip after mistakenly eating the wrong kind of brownies at a music festival.
- Sharpe is a pawn of an unimaginative artist playing off his last name as an illustrated pun that really doesn't make sense (kind of like the Bust).
Name: Mark Clear
Team: Los Angeles Angels
Value of card: 7 shards of broken, cloudy glass
Key 1980 stat: 114 times heckled with the name "Crystal"
A translucent view: We've seen awful, out-of-focus, early 1980s baseball cards before, but we've never seen one quite this good. Yes, this card is awesome because the subject is wearing an umpire's shirt with an Angels logo ironed on. And, yes, his boiler is folded over his cummerbund. But as ridiculous as the mustache and mullet look, there's no getting past that name — that seemingly impossibly perfect name — that's emblazoned at the bottom of a card featuring an awful, out-of-focus, early 1980s baseball card. Is this one of Donruss' worst cards ever? Clearly, it is.
Name: John Jaha
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Position: First base
Value of card: 4 dirty diapers
Key 1997 stat: 4 dirty diapers changed
It's time for a baby-vs.-baseball player edition of The Matchup:
Round 1: Often threw up when burped (Winner: Tie)
Round 2: Sometimes dressed by others in ridiculous outfits (Winner: Tie)
Round 3: Usually spoke in unintelligible sounds (Winner: Tie)
Round 4: Known to fill a diaper with something nauseating (Winner: Tie)
Round 5: Had adorable, pinchable thighs (Winner: Tie)
Round 6: Failure to field his position (Winner: Tie)
Round 7: A fan favorite (Winner: Baby)
Score: Baby 1, Jaha 0, Ties 6
Synopsis: In a contest between baby and beer-bellied baseball player, the pudgy, cooing, often stinky entrant couldn't pull out the victory.
Name: Mike Laga
Team: Detroit Tigers
Position: First base
Value of card: One busted cinder block
Key 1985 stat: 14 dog turds picked up before taking this photo
Here's what Mike Laga stands for:
Made his name in the Detroit backyard baseball circuit
Isn't actually wearing Tigers team gear, just a hat and jacket he bought at Kmart
Knifed by the homeowner whose property he trespassed on for this photo
Exposed pipes and broken cinder blocks
Lifetime .199 batting average might help explain this photo
After hitting a ball over that fence, Laga made the photographer go and ask for it back
Garbage: Describes both what's on that lawn and Laga's major-league career
At least he's not wearing pink. Yet.
Name: Tommy John
Team: New York Yankees
Position: Old pitcher
Value of card: An ounce of Vitalis hair tonic
Key 1988 stat: 82 kids yelled at for being on lawn
Here's a Caption that, as far as we know, ran in the New York Daily News circa 1988: "Yankees pitcher Tommy John, left, and fellow Alhambra Senior Apartments resident and pitching coach Art Fowler discuss removing John from his start against the Baltimore Orioles so that both can still make the early-bird special at Furr's and be back at the team hotel in time to watch 'Matlock' on Tuesday at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Md."
Name: Anthony Munoz
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Position: Offensive tackle
Value of card: See that elastic waistline twist tie? Yeah, that.
Key 1990 stat: 416 pancakes (not blocks; the breakfast food)
Transcript from Cincinnati-area TV commercial for NFL-brand Zubaz: "Howdy, Bengals fans. I'm Anthony Munoz and I'm here to tell you about NFL-brand Zubaz. If you're like me, you've always wanted to wear an understated pair of pants that look good without being outrageous. Well, your search is over, because NFL-brand Zubaz is being sold at a store near you. These are pants that put substance over style. They aren't meant to scare your elderly relatives or blind the children in your neighborhood. Oh no. They're made to match with just about any clothing combination you have in your closet. Need trousers for a formal occasion? Grab a pair of NFL-brand Zubaz. Need something plain to go with a trendy striped shirt at the club? Grab a pair of NFL-brand Zubaz. Need pants that absolutely, positively don't have giant tiger heads on them? Get your hands on a pair of NFL-brand Zubaz. With NFL-brand Zubaz, you'll earn your stripes without ever selling out to a ridiculous fad."
Name: Fernando Valenzuela
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Value of card: 6 pesos
Key 1988 stat: 2,197 instances of "Fernandomania" (in his own home)
"Fernandomania" spiced up L.A. in the mid-1980s; here are examples of "Fernandomania" in the late 1980s:
- A chicken-legged pitcher performed a one-man line dance on a baseball field.
- The one pair of blue cleats in Los Angeles sold out.
- Nearly eight people in the United States and Mexico started wearing headbands and old-man glasses.
- The Latino Elvis Impersonators gained a member — and two fans.
- A man in a blue jacket and tight white pants was arrested for leering at women at Dodger Stadium.