After a long and unintended hiatus, the "Back Packs" series has returned here on the blog. If you're not familiar with this series, it's where I rip open an old pack of something and reveal what's inside, and this time I've decided to rip into a back of 1995 Fleer baseball. Oh joy.
If you're not familiar with 1995 Fleer then prepare to have your eyeballs assaulted and possibly every color in the color spectrum violated. With 1995 being the second year of three-division play in each league, Fleer had the bright idea to have different designs for each division. Some of the designs weren't bad, others were just completely outlandish. The other strange thing about this set is that all the players vital stats (height, weight, etc) that are normally on the back of a card are on the front of the card. That's a tad strange if you ask me.
As typical, I'll show the cards in the order I pull them out of the pack. I could just show off the cards but where's the fun in that. So, along with showing off the cards, I'll give a brief synopsis of each players career. Enough rambling, we've got an 18-card card pack to tear into!
#105 Dave Stewart
#48 John Doherty
#30 Tony Fossas
Dave Stewart was on the last legs of his career by 1995, pitching with Oakland. Here he's pictured though as a member of the Blue Jays for whom he had his last good seasons, 1993 and 1994, and won a World Series ring in 1993. Doherty only pitched four years in the majors, mostly for the Tigers, and had a pretty unremarkable run, ending his career with a record just one game above .500 and an ERA over 5.00. Tony Fossas was a journeyman reliever, pitching for seven teams in 12 seasons, however he has one of my favorite baseball cards ever in the 1994 Topps set.
#25 Wes Chamberlain
#71 Steve Howe
#93 Alex Gonzalez
Chamberlain closed out a five year career with Boston in 1995, so I guess you could consider this a sunset card of sorts. Steve Howe was a notorious player who constantly struggled with substance abuse during his career. Despite winning the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers and making the All-Star team in 1982, he was suspended seven times over a 17-year career, including a ban in 1992. He managed to get the ban overturned and pulled off one more good season in 1994 for the Yankees. He was out of baseball entirely by 1996 and sadly passed away in 2006. Alex Gonzalez (the other one), carved out a successful 13-year career, mostly with Toronto and the Cubs as a decent hitting shortstop.
The design on these first six cards is the design for the AL East. I like it because it's a pretty simple and clean looking design. The color bar on the left makes the cards pop, and the players name, uniform number, position, and team go vertically along the edge of the color bad. I'm not a big fan of having the vitals on the front of the card but it works well with this design. To be honest, if the whole set was designed like this, I wouldn't complain one bit.
#344 Moises Alou
#365 Bobby Bonilla
#386 Toby Borland
Two big stars of the 90s in this batch. Alou was a centerpiece on Montreal teams through the early and mid-90s, made six All-Star teams and played on the 2003 Cubs team that just nearly made the World Series. Bobby Bonilla started the 1995 season with the Mets but was traded off to the Orioles near the trade deadline. Interesting note here is that both Bonilla and Alou won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997. The next year, Bonilla was a part of the trade that sent Mike Piazza to the Marlins (who then shipped him to the Mets 10 days later) and Bonilla was traded back to the Mets during the offseason. Currently, Bonilla is still getting paid $1 million and change per year by the Mets until 2035. Toby Borland had a decent little career as a journeyman reliever racking up a 4.17 ERA in 207 games over 9 seasons.
#309 Mark Lemke
#333 Chris Hammond
#355 Mike Lansing
Mark Lemke anchored second base for the Braves during their glory years in the 90s. I have fond memories of watching the Braves on TBS when I came home from school and I can hear Chip Caray in my head right now saying Mark Lemke's name. Chris Hammond pitched in the majors longer than I thought he did. He hung around for nearly 16 years (despite a four year layoff), played primarily with the Reds and Marlins during his early years then bounced around a bit before closing up shop in 2006 with the Reds. Lansing, much like Moises Alou I mentioned earlier, is perhaps best known for his time with the Expos as a solid infielder during the 90s.
As far as the NL East design goes, it's a little crazy. The discoloration of the backgrounds I'm sure was all the rage back then but now, it just comes off as a bad idea. I liked the secondary logos they used though as only a handful of sets (91 Topps, 92 Upper Deck) used logos like that.
Fleer All-Stars #3 Roberto Alomar/Mariano Duncan
#185 Matt Mieske
#163 Wally Joyner
On the back of the Roberto Alomar card is Mariano Duncan but unfortunately I didn't scan it in. It was the lone insert card I got in the pack. Matt Mieske isn't exactly a household name but somehow this is the second copy of this card in my collection. Originally drafted by the Padres, he was traded to the Brewers along with Ricky Bones and Jose Valentin for Gary Sheffield. While he wasn't exactly a power hitter, he had a few decent seasons for the Brewers in 1995 and 1996. Afterwards, he bounced around a bit before wrapping up his career in 2000 with an 11-game stint with Arizona. Wally Joyner hung around baseball for 16 years, patrolling first base for the Angels, Royals, Padres, and Braves, even appearing in the 1998 World Series with the Padres. Unfortunately, that was the team that just got steamrolled by the Yankees.
#141 Eddie Murray
#120 Darrin Jackson
#197 Rich Becker
Eddie Murray enjoyed a very solid season for the Tribe in 1995 with a .323 average, 21 HRs, and 82 RBIs for a team that made is all the way to the World Series. It's really cool to get a card of a Hall of Famer, especially someone like Murray who was productive all the way up until the bitter end of his career. Darrin Jackson is someone I remember from catching Sox games on WGN in the 90s and also playing for the Padres in 1991 and 92. Rich Becker hung around the league for seven years doing his best work for the Twins from 1995-97. After the 1997 season, he never played a whole season with the same team ever again due to being traded, getting claimed off waivers, or what-have-you.
As you can tell, this design is completely nuts. The players name is really hard to read in the foil print, despite their last name being written behind them at the top of the card. The stats are all over the place on each card and if you look closely, there's even a quick note about the player. It's like the graphic designers said "let's try to make this as busy and unreadable as possible". If that's what they were going for, they succeeded. Luckily, this was the only year of the experiment for different designs for each division. Fleer would regain their senses the next year and release a really fun set.