8.11.2009

Justin Thompson, 1992 Bowman

Name: Starring Justin Thompson as A.C. Slater
Teams: Detroit Tigers, Bayside Tigers
Positions: Ace, state wrestling champion
Value of card: Two burgers at The Max
Key 1991 stat: Three dates with Kelly Kapowski
Watch yourself, Preppy: During the famed Saturday Morning Teen Series Actors Guild strike of 1991, Mario Lopez took a union-forced hiatus from his role as A.C. Slater, beefy high school heartthrob with a penchant for tomfoolery and slightly homoerotic exchanges with his nemesis and best friend, Zack Morris. With "Saved by the Bell's" ratings nearly at "Hey Dude" viewer numbers, the producers knew they had to come up with a contingent plan. A nationwide talent search was held, but no one could match Lopez's boyish good looks and bulging biceps. Then, producer Doug Belding, a Detroit native, attended a Tigers game. Justin Thompson was on the mound. In an instant, Belding knew he had his star. Thompson was called in for a photo session, and the crew got him dressed up in the hottest striped, long-sleeve polo shirt and white jeans they could find. They made plans to add Soul Glo to his locks and altered scripts so Slater was the state baseball champ instead of the state wrestling champ, though they still planned to dress him in tights as much as possible. For two episodes, Thompson was a Saturday morning star — until the strike ended, baseball beckoned and his acting career halted with a screech.

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