Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baseball Card Mystery: The 1984 Bench, Yaz (and Perry) tribute cards

Back in 1984, Topps, Fleer and Donruss were competing against each other for the baseball card market. Each of the manufacturers were trying to differentiate themselves from each other. In 1981, Topps added a traded set. In 1982, Donruss add the diamond king subset. In 1983, Fleer went with nonwhite borders and firmly established it superstar special  subset cards.

Then in 1984, all three manufacturers did the same thing. They created tribute cards to Carl Yazstremski and Johnny Bench (and Gaylord Perry) who retired after the 1983. Was this a coincidence. I dont think so.

Here is what I think happened. Fleer which had been taking its superstar specials cards at the All Star game, got one of Yaz and Bench. I think Topps got wind of that Fleer had a shot of Yaz and Bench from the game. Topps could not issue thier own superstar special cards because that would be stealing the idea from Fleer (of course Fleer stole the idea of the superstar special cards from Topps  cards in the 1950s and 1960s). Topps came up with the idea of highlight cards to get  a card of Yaz and Bench (and Perry) together.

I think Donruss was late to the game on this type of tribute card. I think they got wind too late of Fleer and Topps plan to include a tribute card as part of their regular set. So Donruss came up with the first limited edition insert cards of Bench and Yaz (and Fingers and Perry). Though it is questionable how limited the living legends cards were to the regular set.
I defininetly believe that Donruss produced the living legends cards after they found out about the tribute cards of Bench, Yaz (and Perry) that would appear in the Fleer and Topps sets.  It was very odd that never again would all three manufactures produce tribute cards of the same retiring player.


  1. Love those Living Legend inserts from the '84 set. I pulled the Perry/Fingers card 28 years ago and still have it in my collection. Last year, I added the Bench/Yaz to my collection. Awesome cards!

  2. Didn't get them with the set I bought back then, but picked them both up for a buck (total or each?) at the National this year...