December 09, 2008
Your required baseball reading of the day comes in the form of Darren Rovell's fantastic catching up with Billy Ripken, a man who somehow became more known for a profane phrase written on his bat handle in an '89 Fleer card than having a famous brother.
Think about that for a minute. Is there anyone else in the world whose notoriety arose from two completely separate, yet equally random, circumstances? I've always felt a little bit bad for Billy Ripken, even though I light up like a Duraflame any time that card is brought up in conversation. From that era, only the Ken Griffey rookie in the inaugural Upper Deck set holds more weight.
At any rate, Rovell's interview is worth your time. Ripken reveals how the phrase ended up on the bat, how he suspects Fleer might have enhanced his handwriting to create a "stir" and how he even gave cards to friends and family when they were worth upward of $500 apiece. (It now goes for about $5.)
"Fleer sent me some of the cards out of the goodness of their heart. I autographed them and used them for my gifts to my groomsman in my wedding (which took place that offseason). I figured, at the time, it was better than giving them a set of cufflinks. I think I devalued the cards by signing them though."
One final memory about that card. The little card shop in my town had one behind the counter and it was more or less treated like the Holy Grail with kids from all over pouring into the store to see it. Good ol' Mrs. McMahon, though, had a price tag placed over the words and wouldn't let any of us see it — or buy it, for that matter — unless we were with our parents. Same thing went for the Simpsons card a few years later where Bart Simpson was giving the finger to Saddam Hussein. (Ah, the early '90s.)