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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Lost Box of Total Awesomeness - Ultrariffic

Dang, it's been a while since I brought the awesome. I haven't even gotten to the really super duper fantastic awesome yet. I'm sure not going to get there today, instead I have some Fleer Ultra in store for you. Ultra's kind of awesome, right? Well, not the weak 1991 set with the silver borders. The only awesome there was the logo stickers. 1992 Ultra was hella awesome though. You know it's true. After getting spanked by 1991 Stadium club, Fleer shot back with their own full-bleed bordered cards with some marble accents and just a touch of foil stamping. I am not ashamed to admit that when I first saw '92 Ultra I completely flipped over it and completelty forgot about Stadium Club. '92 started an extremely consistent 16 year run of solid photography and minimalist design on full-bleed fronts. Too bad Upper Deck bumped off the brand in order to crap out something called Upper Deck X. At any rate, there were a few Ultra cards in my box and I'll share a few of the more awesomer ones here.

27 1992 Fleer Ultra Cards

The 1992 set really set a standard that all subsequent Ultra sets had to live up to. Every card had an action photo on the front that was only augmented by the Ultra logo on one of the top corners and the player and team names in a small colored bar atop a marblized background on the bottom. These cards were head and shoulders above the '92 Leaf, Stadium Club and Upper Deck sets. ('92 pinnacle were fantastic in their own right, but in a different way) Check out this picture of Nolan Ryan and tell me that's not one of the sweetest cards of the year.

Not every photo could be as cool as Nolan's. This card of Ray Sanchez has him fielding a grounder, possibly off a fungo. It's a unique pose at least. Note the 'rookie' banner hanging off the Ultra logo like it's a field day medal or something. They only used this for two years which is a shame. I thought it could be as big as the Rated Rookie logo or Topps' Rookie Cup. Who wouldn't want a gold foil rookie banner on their first card?

Here's Deion Sanders doing what he did best in baseball. Slapping a bunt and running like hell. I wish he would have stuck around Atlanta longer. The Falcons that is, Deion could have been a good baseball player if he stuck to it full time, but the man was a Hall of Fame cornerback.

The backs were definitly not as elegant as the front, but they had their charms. The marble motif continues, as dons the colores stripes with the name and stats. There's a weird futuristic grig thing in the background behind a portrait and another action photo of the player. Three photos on one card! Holy crap! True to form, Albert Belle is about to wipe the smile off Chief Wahoo's face on this card.

Usually Fleer used the best photo on the front. This left some interesting choices for the back. On this not-quite-a-rookie card of Jeff Bagwell, they apparently couldn't get a portrait of Jeff, so they got the banjo kid from Deliverance to fill in.

Of course a lack of decent photographs sometime meant cardboard gold. Here Delino DeShields is horrified by the tiny version of himself about to hop up on his shoulder.

6 1993 Fleer Ultra Cards

There are only 6 '93 Ultra cards in the box, but that's ok because they were nearly carbon copies of the '92 set. The main difference on the front were a flamind baseball behind the Ultra logo, a different color marble and the player and team names are also marbleized. A bad trend of pringing the names in gold foil was introduced however, this innovation wouldn't die easily. Here's Marlins expansion draft flop Nigel Wilson.

The main difference on the back is the futuristic grid is now replaced with a pretty blah looking drawing of a baseball field. No one looks at the backs of cards anyway.

25 1994 Fleer Ultra Cards

This set has aged pretty well, but I hated it when it first came out. The packs were expensive, and Fleer replaced the marble with a ton of gold foil. I really hated the foil stripe at the bottom. They always got dinged and I thought they were pretty ugly. Compared to some other foil disasters of the '90s, in retrospect they are positively understated. The huge diamond Ultra logo on the other hand still looks awful. It doesn't hurt this photo of the Big Unit though.

Ultra's photography seemed to use closer and closer shots of the players each year. The '92 edition showed mostly full shots of the players. 1993 included a few photos where they were cropped at the knees. Here the shot gets tighter still as Kirk gets cut off just below the hips.

This here is what I really hated about the '94 set. I thought the horizontal cards looked really awkward next to the rest of the set, especially with the stripe now on the side. The ROOKIE designation curved over the logo just added more foil to a set that had too much of it already in my opinion.

Other than adding even more foil, the backs weren't too terrible. A colorful border surrounding one big actions shot, which was flanked by one or two smaller action poses. This photo of Bulldog is just as good as the picture on the front. The same stats box is back, just as well as it conveyed the maximum amount of information while keeping a low profile and letting the photos take over.

This back of Benito Santigo is neat as it shows him batting running and fielding. I'm a suctker for cards with catchers in full gear. The one thing I absolutely hated most about this set was the card numbers. It's bad enough trying to read a player name stamped in foil. A foil card number is just torture. This set is murder to sort.

Ok, so this installment wasn't crazy awesome, but you'll like what's up next. Donruss, anyone?


madding said...

Nice post. I think the 93 Ultra might have been among the very last packs I ever bought before I lost interest in collecting for something like 13 years. Can't say I care for the 94 set much from the looks of it. By the way, you have some weird edit link in the middle of your post.

dayf said...

Whoops... thanks, I just fixed the post.