Thursday, June 18, 2020

Back to Base - DonRuss 1987-1993

I did a Back to Base post about Tony's Topps base cards recently, and thought it would be time to showcase his DonRuss base cards from the late 80s through to the early 90s, traversing the UD boundary when the card world was rocked by the Upper Deck meteorite. (It's all explained in the previous Back to Base post.)

Card Number 111: DonRuss, 1987; #64
DonRuss cards are really helpful because they almost always have the year on the front of the card rather than tucked away in microscopic fine print on the back.

If I was going to give this card border design a nickname, I'd call it the "tyre track" card. It's a decent photo of Tony, helmet on, ready to go and bat.

The back had his full name on. DonRuss went in for that on their cardbacks.

I love that career highlight of Tony stealing five bases in one game. You'd think by the fourth attempt the Astros fielders would be watching him like hawks. "Bothered by a wrist injury" is the kind of description you don't see on cards these days.

Card Number 112: DonRuss, 1988; #164
Not my favourite DonRuss card design and not a very exciting photo. That guy leaning in the dug-out behind him looks a bit portly.

The back is very similar to the previous year.

That five stolen bases in a single game against the Astros factoid is included again. The cardback also highlights Tony's .370 batting average, which was the highest in the National League since 1948, and that he was the first National Leagues player ever to steal 50 bases and bat .370. He was a hitter and a runner in the early part of his career.

1987 was a stellar season for Tony. He set four Padres season records, and his 1987 record for triples is still the Padres season record. He surpassed the Padres season records for hits in 1997, and, of course, batting average in 1994, and those records still stand. He doesn't hold the season record for runs any more though. Steve Finley clocked 7 more than Tony's 1987 total of 119 runs in 1996. Tony is second (and also seventh) in the list of top run-scorers in a season.

Card Number 113: DonRuss, 1989; #128
In 1989 DonRuss went green for the card front. This is less busy than the 1988 borders, but does make it look a bit like a Score design. Tony is poised to strike in the photo.

DonRuss decided to make Tony's name on the cardback even longer by putting Tony in brackets. In case you thought it was a shortened version of Keith instead of Anthony.

Another year, another injury. Tony didn't have a particularly good 1988 season, so the cardback recounts all his records of the 87 season and tells us again about those 5 stolen bases in one game and how he had two five hit games in the 1987 season.

I put Tony's 1990 DonRuss base card in a previous post. But for the sake of completeness, here it is again. It's bright red!

Careful readers will see that his contract had been extended by one year with an option for an extra year, to take him through to 1992. Tony was having a tough time at the Padres at this point in his career. He'd fallen out with some team-mates, to the point where someone hung an effigy of him in the home dug-out in September 1990. He also missed the final 19 game of the seasons with an injury.

Card Number 114: DonRuss, 1991; #243
This is the last card in this DonRuss template. The asteroid was on its way!

Although the colours are much more "90s", I always find the 1991 and the 1988 cards look very samey.

The back still has Tony in brackets.

A few new stats amid the recycled ones that we are oh-so-familiar with by now. There's also a mention of his brother Chris, who was playing for the Dodgers.

[Wait, what's that in the sky? Is that asteroid heading for baseball card world? Why does it have UD written on the front?]

Card Number 115: DonRuss, 1992; #441
And boom!

The is the post-Upper Deck look for cards - white border, good photo that wasn't taken with a telephoto lens from the other side of the ballpark. And because it's 1992, a turquoise tint at the top and bottom. Honestly, I think you can date cards to 1992 and 1993 just by the appearance of turquoise.

Photo on the back. Full name, but no bracketed 'Tony'. His contract has been extended until 1996. The career highlights rehash a lot of what we already know. The DonRuss blurb writers weren't giving up on that stat about 5 stolen bases in one game!

Card Number 116: DonRuss, 1993; #126
This is a very dark card because of the background. Tony's shades are cool and you can get a good look at his bat.

The back has a bigger photo than in 1992, and includes some of the catcher and an umpire's arm (with very prominent vein). The catcher is Carlos Hernandez who played for the Dodgers in 1992 and wore the number 41 (conveniently on display on his helmet in this picture.) A few years later (97 and 98) he played alongside Tony for the Padres.

The 'career highlights' blurb has finally bitten the dust, replaced by the photo. The contract status is still extant though and his draft details. I've also noticed how the card number is now in a little home plate icon, similar to the hologram shape Upper Deck used on their cards.

I hope you enjoyed seeing Tony's DonRuss base cards during the peak junk wax era and over the UD boundary.

Total: 116/394


  1. I recently discovered that there is a border variation for the 1991 Donruss card. If you're interested:

    1. Ooh. I'm going to have to go check my doubles now