Steelhead Hall of Fame: 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken

Back in the 80’s, “error” trading cards were a highly sought after item.  Every once in a while, Topps and company would switch the card backs of two players, print a reverse negative, or misspell a name.  These innocent blunders pale in comparison to Fleer’s 1989 baseball installment of Baltimore Oriole second basemen Billy Ripken.  This card not only educates us that Billy is the third Ripken to play for the O’s, but also that his nickname is “Fuck Face.”  I present you, in all it’s nostalgic glory, THE best sports card of all-time: 1989 Fleer #616


How this got by censors is beyond me, but thank God it did.  Ripken’s career would be all but forgotten if he didn’t proudly display his incredible sense of humor, and outstanding nickname on this card.  Here’s what I love about it:

1. Notice Ripken’s smug, yet mischevious grin.  During the backlash that followed, he swore nobody knew that was written on the end of the BP bat.  I call shenanigans, his face screams “Screw this Fleer geek.”

2. Notice how Billy is holding the bat in a PERFECT position to capture the inscription.  He’s even lifting his index fingers to draw attention to that area. 

3. The picture, even without “Fuck Face,” is hilarious.  Ripken’s pose with the bat resembles a little league glamour shot. 

4. There is a giant L written on Ripken’s left batting glove.  Does he honestly not know left from right, or is he the greatest deadpan comedic genius in the history of the universe?  I can hear Cal Sr. screaming, “Dammit Fuck Face!  The hat goes on your HEAD!” as Billy giggles and winks at Cal Jr. 

The world may never know what Billy Ripken was really up to on this glorious day, but who cares.  He has earned a spot in the Steelhead Hall of Fame, and that’s much more than his brother can ever say.  I’ll take “Fuck Face” over the “Ironman” 365 days a year.

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