John Olerud 1991 Cards #1

Well, time to finally get into the 1991 Oleruds. I admit I’ve dragged my heels a little with this, mostly because I knew the scanning process was going to be laborious. I also think most of the 91 issues are butt-ugly. There was something about that year that just meant ugly cards. But here we go…

1991 Bowman

I’ve read some people think this is a nice-looking set. Those people are crazy. I never, ever cared for this set, and it was kind of the apex of the fugly Bowman issues. I mean, how could anyone love a set that has those ugly MVP cards? This card sure doesn’t do anything to break the ugly trend, either, with a poor generic shot. Not much to say about this one, other than there’s a reason I don’t have any doubles of it.

In 1991, John finally took over at first for Fred McGriff. He would eventually go on to win three gold gloves at the position, and while gold gloves generally don’t count for much, Olerud was a damn solid first baseman, one whom I tried to emulate in my playing days.

1991 Classic Blue

Okay, I have to admit this is a marked improvement from 1990 Classic. I’m not crazy about the ’91 logo, as it reminds me a bit too much of the zubaz from 1990, but beggars can’t be choosers and all that. On this particular card, however, the blue is a bit too much with the Toronto uniform’s clashing colors. The shot itself is one we’ll see over and over in my Olerud collection, rendering the overall card boring.

Of course, John was one of those players who jumped straight to the majors from college, but unfortunately did not stay that way. In 2005, in the twilight of his career, he played three games for Pawtucket, torching a 1.017 OPS and earning a call-up back to the big club, where he did a solid job. Does anyone know if he got a minor league issue for that year? I kind of doubt it, but it would be neat to have.

1991 Classic Purple

I wasn’t aware of the existence of this card until very recently, and was thrilled to get it from checkoutmycards.com. I think the 91 design looks much better in this purple color, and the shot of Olerud is not only interesting, but the colors fit better with the border. I definitely wouldn’t mind having a few more copies in my collection.

Did you know John was a 2007 College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee? Pretty cool. He also has an award named after him for college players who both pitch and hit well. At Washington State University he set single-season records with a .462 average and 23 homers, as well as a 15-0 record as a pitcher. He was also 1987 and 1988’s college player of the year, so you can see why he came with some hype.

1991 Classic Red Four Player

This was another card I wasn’t aware of. Does that single red card exist? I haven’t seen it anywhere, but I sure would want it. Regardless, I love this card, even if I’m not crazy about the color of the borders. Who wouldn’t want a card with these players on it back in 1991? Although I don’t understand Olerud’s inclusion with some proven stars of the late 80s (and all confirmed drug users), I’m not going to complain about getting to add those guys to my player collection.

In the context of these other players, who once all appeared destined for the Hall of Fame but fell short, I had to wonder, is Olerud a Hall-of-Famer? As much as I’d like to think so, probably not. Even as a fan, I wouldn’t vote him in. But Fangraphs has an interesting case for his candidacy. It’s at least worth a read.

1991 Donruss

And now on to the more general releases, ones of which I have a dozen or more. You know, objectively I shouldn’t like this card. It’s the junkest of the junk, it’s the messy, godwaful 1991 Donruss design (albeit the slightly more palatable second series), and it’s a damn generic shot, but for some reason the whole thing works for me in a way that I can’t quite explain. Maybe it’s the blues and greens working together. I’m not sure. But this is one of my favorite regular-issue 1991 Olerud cards.

Reading that Fangraphs article, I never realized Olerud had a 97 total zone score over his career. That puts him in some elite categories, and just below Albert Pujols who currently sits at 101 and whom I’d consider to be the best-fielding first baseman I’ve ever seen. Sure, the position may not be premium defensively, but having played it, I know that good first baseman really can make a difference that isn’t appreciated until you see someone like Pujols or Olerud play it.

We’ll continue our journey through 1991 very soon…

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