Ideally we try to relate what’s going on in the world of sports to something that crops up in our childhood memories, but sometimes we just get something in our minds and have to write about it. Consider this a “No Apparent Reason” entry.
Most kids – at least in the 1980s – collected baseball cards and there were fewer prized cards than Bill Ripken’s 1989 Fleer card. In fact, it’s still worth more than his Hall of Fame brother’s card and at one point was selling for $500 a pop. We are talking, of course, about the infamous “Fuck Face” card.
No one here at Throwback Attack owns one, but we’d like to. In fact, some of us spent a lot of our lawn mowing money that summer on 1989 Fleer packs only to come up empty.
For years Ripken denied that he knew anything about the card until about three years ago he came clean to reporter Darren Rovell. Then, his story just forms into hilarity.
“… There were five big grocery carts full of bats in there and if I wrote my number 3, it could be too confusing. So I wrote ‘F–k’ Face on it.”
Problem 1 in this scenario is Ripken not taking the blame. He told Tim Kurkjian, then a writer for the Baltimore Sun that “It appears I was targeted (by teammates). I know I’m kind of a jerk at times. I know I’m a little off. But this is going too far.” We can forgive him a little for dodging the responsibility because he was from a famous family and no one wants to admit to writing “Fuck Face” on the knob of their bat.
Problem 2 is the fact that writing the number “3” on a bat would be confusing? How many people on a team wear the number 3? OK. How many bats would solely have the number 3 on them? Right. And, the number 3 looks the same upside down as right side up. Even when titled to the side it looks like a 3. So, how is that confusing? Either way, Ripken didn’t write his number.
Problem 3 is that he says “The truth is that there’s a lot of words like that that are thrown around in the clubhouse. They just don’t get out there.” So because in the confines of a clubhouse it’s OK to say those things we should stop feeling bad for him?
Then, Problem 4 is he drops this dandy on the Fleer people:
“I can’t believe the people at Fleer couldn’t catch that. I mean, they certainly have to have enough proofreaders to see it. I think not only did they see it, they enhanced it. That writing on that bat is way too clear. I don’t write that neat. I think they knew that once they saw it, they could use the card to create an awful lot of stir.”
Either way, Ripken’s little miscue has become a part of baseball history. He went from “Cal Ripken Sr.’s son,” to “pretty good fielding infielder” to “Cal Ripken Jr.’s brother” to “Hey, aren’t you the ‘Fuck Face’ guy?” That’s not bad for a player baseballreference.com lists as being similar to Dave Chalk. Who? Exactly.
Ripken’s card error has become such a part of baseball lore that it has its own website: http://billripken.com/ and there have been copycats. And The Simpsons even got in on the joke in one of their card packs. In fact you can buy a T-shirt (below) if you are that big of a fan of having curse words on your chest.
Unfortunately we have not seen a post from the great Josh Wilker, who runs the website http://cardboardgods.net/ and wrote a great book by the same name. We aren’t trying to steal your thunder, Josh, but we think you should try and relate to this card since it’s one of the most famous of all time.
Off the top of our heads, it might be the third most famous – right after the Honus Wagner card and the Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.