4.10.2010

Billy Ripken, 1992 Upper Deck

Name: Billy Ripken
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Positions: Second base, Camera No. 2
Value of card: Payback is priceless
Key 1991 stat: 4.3 megapixels
Turnabout is foul play: Billy Ripken had been planning his revenge for two years. In 1989, he was the butt of the most renowned practical joke in sports card history, infuriating him and his legendary baseball family. Fans of all stripes had spent two years calling him a name that rhymes with "Thuck Face" after a mischievous Fleer photographer wrote the words on the knob of his bat and the card made it into thousands of homes and the collections of countless gleeful children. Ripken channeled his anger into a plan meant to embarrass all sports card photographers to the extent of humiliation he had felt when his Fleer card debuted in 1990. Ripken spent months working on a powerful camera with a lens the size of a watermelon and a zoom that could pierce thin walls and textiles. With the help of a forklift, he brought his giant camera, which he dubbed the "(Expletive) Face 3,000," to early season games in 1991 when sports cards photographers were sure to be shooting. Instead of taking batting practice or fielding ground balls, Ripken aimed his massive lens at the photographers, hoping to catch them unawares in compromising situations. Alas, Ripken wasn't much of a photographer, and because he couldn't lift the camera without the help of a crane he was immobile and unable to follow the shutterbugs. He spent hours focused, one eye closed, the other scanning for his shot, but he never snapped a photo he could use as payback. But his focus and immobility did give his nemesis, the Fleer photographer, the last laugh: After hours behind the camera, Ripken played a game in 1991 with a sign taped to his back that read, "It says (expletive) face on my knob."

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