April 28, 2008
Back in my pack-collecting heyday, one of the most coveted cards was the '89 Billy Ripken Fleer. If you're in your late 20s or early 30s, I suspect you know exactly what I'm talking about. On that card, Ripken was holding a bat that had an alliterative obscenity printed (F.F.) on its handle, thus vaulting his reputation among us 11-year-olds from "Billy Ripken, young brother of Cal" to "Billy Ripken, subject of the only card that will stop us from buying $1 Upper Deck packs in hopes of pulling a Ken Griffey, Jr., or a Jerome Walton or a Gregg Jeffries rookie."
Ripken's card was a curiosity of mythical proportions, even more so because the owner of our local shop placed a price sticker over the bat handle and would only show what was underneath if our parents came in the store and gave verbal permission. Without the power of the Internet and blogs like this one, it remained like the pages of a Playboy — discussed by many, but seen by few*.
So why am I rambling about a card that's almost 20 years old and hardly worth a few copies of Beckett? Well, the Pirates had a giveaway of Tom Gorzelanny bobbleheads on Saturday and the figurine featured his middle finger sticking out of the glove on his right hand. (You can sort of see it in the image above, but click here for a better view. A Pirates official said the doll was not done in bad taste.)
Anyway, it struck me while reading that item that today's kids finally have the bobblehead version of that Billy Ripken error card. And although Gorzelanny's middle digit may seem tame compared to some of the things they're subjected to these days, they should at least appreciate that such a figure would have had most of us forgoing recess tetherball to discuss exactly how we'd be trying to trick our parents into securing us one.
*Few, as defined by those children who received little to zero adult supervision and/or were allowed to eat sugared cereal like Urkel-O's and listen to Guns N' Roses long before I was.