What is there to be said about 1989 Upper Deck that hasn't already been said? I mean, this set literally defined premium cards. Spectacular photography, the holograms, tamper proof packs, front and back colour photos. All of these things alone would have been enough for them to make an impression. But the decision to make Ken Griffey Jr the face of the set was a stroke of genius (and luck?). Twenty-five years after the initial release, people are still busting packs in search of Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards. And as awesome as that card is, it's not the whole story. There's so much more to the set. I guess that's what makes it so awesome. And I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I break away from only collecting Blue Jays cards to pursue the full set.
In the mean time, let's talk some about the Blue Jays in this set, starting with Cecil Fielder. Fielder appears with the Blue Jays in this set but didn't actually play for the Blue Jays in 1989. After 4 seasons with Toronto, Cecil Fielder's contract was purchased by the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Central League. Of course, Fielder would return to the Majors a year later and club 51 homers with the Tigers, becoming the 18th player to hit that milestone. The feat was so significant that Upper Deck issued a card commemorating it in their 1991 set. It's crazy to think that from 1920-1990, a player hit 50 home runs in a season 18 times. In the 24 seasons since, it's happened 25 times. Included in that list, by the way, is the aforementioned Ken Griffey Jr. who executed the feat in 1997 and 1998.
On the topic of home runs, let's shift the conversation to Junior Felix. Remember this guy? Like Cecil Fielder, he had a pretty short tenure with the Blue Jays, but he did some memorable things. Consider these three events:
May 4, 1989: Hits the first pitch of his major league career for a homerun; the second Blue Jays rookie to hit a homer in their first MLB at-bat.
June 2, 1989: Playing the Red Sox at Fenway, he hit an inside-the-park grand slam off of pitcher Bob Stanley. The Jays would go on to win 7-2.
June 4, 1989: Down 10-0 in the 7th inning, the Jays would come back scoring 2 in the 7th, 4 in the 8th and 5 in the 9th. Boston would score one in the home half of the 9th. Junior hit a 2-run homer in the 11th to go ahead for good, completing the comeback. This was, and may still be, the greatest single game comeback of all time.
So there you go. Just a small glimpse into what will likely continue to be seen an an epic set. One that some day I just might build.
Thanks for reading!