After issuing his "Baseball Legends" set in 1980 through 1983 and putting them in packs for sale in 1986, Mike Cramer started issuing minor league card sets again. With the heightened interest in minor league cards -- the so-called "pre-rookie" cards that became something of a fad in the early part of the 1980s -- Cramer decided to start using the backs of his cards to promote his card shop, Pacific Trading Cards.
As early as 1984, while his sets for teams such as the Vancouver Canadians (then the Triple-A team of the Milwaukee Brewers) were copyrighted as the intellectual property of Cramer Sports Promotions, a full quarter of the back of the card featured a cartoony advertisement for Pacific:
As the 1980s saw baseball card fever heating up and MLB issued licenses to any number of new card companies, Pacific started positioning itself to get a full license for itself. Starting with multiple non-sports products -- including a Leave It to Beaver set and the occasionally-appearing-in-repacks set for the movie Eight Men Out -- Pacific was establishing itself as a company that could create, market, and produce a set for a national audience.
The next step for Pacific was its Legends sets. For the growing company, it represented a leap toward color processing equipment and printing. It also helped vault Pacific toward obtaining a full license from the NFL Players Association and NFL Properties -- a license certainly helped by Cramer's own photographic skills in the NFL.
After that, Pacific received a limited license from MLB so it could produce its Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver player sets. Those limited license sets proved to MLB, it seems, that Pacific could produce sets that looked good. It was about that time -- mid-1992 -- that Pacific decided to stop selling other companies' products through its mail-order business and focus solely on selling its own products. Then, in 1993, Pacific first obtained a limited MLB/MLBPA license to allow it to make Spanish language cards and, then, in November of 1993, Pacific became a licensed MLB card company. Then, in 1998, it received the license to overprint as many sets as it chose.
In 2001, the company filed for protection from its creditors in bankruptcy. Eventually, the company was liquidated. From that bankruptcy, Donruss Leaf Playoff purchased the brand name and its rights in 2004. Then, when Panini decided to get into the American sports card market again in 2009 by buying Donruss/Playoff, Panini also bought the rights to Pacific's name, card brands, and image rights. This explains why Panini had a "Prizm" brand line for a couple of years.
The 1988 and 1989 versions are numbered consecutively as part of the same set, while the 1990 set has its own numbering. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind the continuing numbering in 1989 was, or, for that matter, why the numbering started over in 1990.
If I am guessing, I would guess that the idea was to create a similar series of sets as the cards from the early 1980s. But, once 1990 came around, they decided to change up the card design somewhat. At first, I thought it was because they wanted to repeat players from the 1988-1989 set, but that happened in 1989 already.
Each one of the sets is comprised of 110 cards. 1988 and 1990 were both numbered 1 through 110 while 1989 was numbered 111 through 220. Each card includes a notation about where the former player resided at that time or, if they had passed away, their date of death. That was not an issue for the 1990 set, though, as all of the players depicted were still listed as living.
As you can see from the exemplars, each year's set had its own different coloration -- even the cards from the "same" set in 1988 and 1989 had different colors. The same was true for their packaging; the photos below were taken from eBay auctions linked in the captions.
In addition, in 1989, Pacific made the full set of 220 cards available to retailers to sell as well. This eBay auction is for a sales sheet from Pacific for exactly that; a photo of the sheet is below:
In terms of set composition, all three sets included between 63 and 68 non-Hall of Famers -- giving cards to players whose careers either qualified them for the Hall of the Very Good (Steve Garvey, Gene Woodling, Clete Boyer) or were known for reasons other than their playing career (Jim Bouton, Dave Dravecky, Marv Throneberry). Here are the links to the checklists on the Trading Card Database:
HALL OF FAMERS
If your math is okay, you might have figured out that the sets have anywhere from 42 to 47 Hall of Famers.
1988 (47): Hank Aaron, Red Schoendienst, Brooks Robinson, Luke Appling, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Richie Ashburn, Ralph Kiner, Phil Rizzuto, Robin Roberts, Catfish Hunter, Pee Wee Reese, Willie Mays, Leo Durocher, Bob Lemon, Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Fergie Jenkins, Sparky Anderson, Roy Campanella, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, Juan Marichal, Duke Snider, Nellie Fox, Bill Mazeroski, Johnny Mize, George Kell, Bobby Doerr, Hoyt Wilhelm, Monte Irvin, Enos Slaughter, Harmon Killebrew, Billy Williams, Luis Aparicio, Jim Bunning, Orlando Cepeda, Early Wynn, Ron Santo, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Rollie Fingers, Al Kaline, Lou Boudreau, Warren Spahn, Johnny Bench
1989 (42): Reggie Jackson, Frankie Frisch, Eddie Mathews, Ty Cobb, Joe Sewell, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, B. Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Enos Slaughter, Tony LaRussa, Frank Baker, Rogers Hornsby, Bobby Doerr, Mickey Cochrane, Gaylord Perry, T. Williams, Feller, Joe Medwick, Killebrew, Boudreau, Joe Cronin, Wilhelm, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Earl Weaver, Mize, B. Williams, Lefty Grove, Mel Ott, Walter Johnson, Hunter, Hank Greenberg, Al Lopez, Arky Vaughn, Earl Averill, Jesse Haines, Whitey Ford, Honus Wagner, Phil Niekro, Edd Roush, Casey Stengel
1990 (43): Aaron, Appling, Banks, Berra, Boudreau, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton, Rod Carew, Doby, Doerr, Rick Ferrell, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Billy Herman, Irvin, Killebrew, Kiner, Mazeroski, Perry, R. Roberts, Santo, Slaughter, Spahn, Wilhelm, B. Williams, T. Williams, Tom Seaver, Carl Yastrzemski, Orlando Cepeda, Mathews, Sewell, Hunter, Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Charlie Gehringer, Feller, Kell, LaRussa, Niekro, Rizzuto, B. Robinson, Joe Torre, Weaver
Pacific started out a bit roughly in 1988 and got better as time went on.
In 1988, there were several issues. The ones that were uncorrected: misspelling Red Schoendienst's name (missed the c), having a wrong date in the copy on Minnie Minoso's card, saying Jim Lonborg played for the Braves rather than the Brewers, and saying that Sal Maglie's career started in 1945 and ended in 1917. The corrected errors: fixing a reversed photo on Elston Howard's card, misspelling Mel Stottlemyre's name as Stottlemyer, misspelling Don Larsen's name as Larson, and misspelling Jim Lonborg's name as Longborg. Makes me wonder why Red Schoendienst's card never got corrected.
In 1989, there were just two errors and neither were corrected -- misspelling Thornton Lee's name as Thornton and saying that Shoeless Joe Jackson hit 41 homers in 1911; he actually stole 41 bases and hit 7 homers.
In 1990, there was just one error: Don Newcombe's name lost its second "e" on the front of the card; the back of the card got it correct.
Either I did not have much of an appreciation for sets like this one back in the 1980s, or I simply did not ever hear of these sets when it was released. In any case, I did not have any of these cards in my collection until my return to collecting in 2014.
Now, though, I sort of like these for having cards of players who in many respects have been lost to time in terms of baseball cards. I mean, we almost never see Smoky Burgess, Ron Hunt, Dave Kingman, Jerry Koosman, Tom Paciorek, Moe Drabowsky, or Gary Bell on baseball cards today unless it is one of those stamped buyback cards that Topps keeps sticking into its packs.
These cards are readily available today, whether on eBay or occasionally in those repacks of loose cards. Some of the more interesting ones: an unopened box of 1988 cards for $23.64 shipped, a complete factory set of the 1988-1989 cards for $29.45 shipped, a 4-box lot of unopened 1989 cards for $74.90, and an unopened wax pack box of the 1990 cards for $33.60 shipped. Singles of these cards are readily available on eBay and through COMC, and there are a number of graded and autographed versions as well.
What do you think? Is this a set you like? Why or why not?