30 August 2014

Inconsequential Variations (Part the Second): 1989 ProCards AAA team set vs pack-issue


    Flying well under the radar is this variation of the 1989 ProCards AAA set, or sets.  It is that last bit that is significant for in 1989, ProCards issued it's blue Triple-A cards in two different formats.  The primary method of distribution, as they had been using since 1986, was to issue team sets to be sold or given away at minor league ballparks.  This version of the cards was made available sometime in mid-1989, and as such featured the players' statistics through the end of the 1988 season.  This version of the card sometimes featured local sponsors logos on the back.


1989 ProCards Portland Beavers team set
1989 ProCards Tacoma Tigers team set
    1989 marked the beginning of a partnership between ProCards and Progressive Sports Images to offer the AAA cards in packs for the first time.  These were sold in boxes of 48 packs containing 10 cards each and marketed as "Future Stars AAA Baseball".   The copyright notice on the box actually reads "1990 Progressive Sports Images", so it's possible these actually didn't surface until early the following year.  (I'll try to pin this down more precisely when I can track down the late 1989, early 1990 issues of Baseball Cards, I'm missing).

     Due to the flimsy cardboard used, and a very slippery style of pack that just did not stack very well, most boxes are found somewhat crushed.  This typically didn't affect the cards inside, but did result in a very shabby looking box.  The plastic used for the wrappers was fairly translucent, so you could easily read the cards on the back, and at least see part of the image of the card on top, but these cards were so over-produced, and their release so oddly timed, that no one was likely to bother searching them.


     While there were a lot of good names in there, most of the highly touted prospects didn't really pan out (though they would all go on to decent careers), so he investment potential of the set was very weak beyond about 1995.  The highlights of the set player-wise (including both those who were hot at the time, and those who actually went on to stardom later) were Ramon Martinez; Sandy Alomar, Jr,; Carlos Baerga; David Justice; Curt Schilling; Kenny Lofton; Bernie Williams; Todd Zeile; Omar Vizquel; Jay Buhner; Larry Walker; Dwight Smith; Hal Morris; Kevin Maas; Jack McDowell; Greg Vaughn and Matt Williams.  There were even cards of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Walt Weiss for Tacoma, I suppose acknowledging Oakland's three consecutive Rookie of the Year winners from 1986-1988.

     This version of the cards featured identical photography and design as the team set versions of the cards, but omitting the sponsor logos was able to include more complete historical statistics, including a full 1989 stat line:

1989 ProCards AAA pack-issued set
     I'm not clear on the actual set total for the pack-issued cards, but based on the box's touting of "Nearly 100 of America's prospects" and "Covers all 26 AAA teams" that puts it at around 26 cards per team.  In addition to the differences in the card backs, some of the team sets also included unnumbered cards covering team executives, grounds crews and announcers.

The unnumbered cards I was able to find in my own collection are listed below.  Neither Beckett, nor the Standard Catalog have documented these unnumbered cards.

Buffalo Bisons
Mike Billoni - Vice President/General Manager
Ron Krauza - Clubouse Supervisor
Kevin & Michael Lester - Batboys

 

 

 

Columbus Clippers
Ken Schnacke - Assistant General Manager

Oklahoma 89ers
Jim Abbott - Ticket Manager
Andrew Putnam - Director of Operations



Omaha Royals
Bill Gorman - Vice President/General Manager


    These two versions of the 1989 ProCards AAA cards are not documented by either the Standard Catalog or Beckett, so if you think your player collection is complete, and your player has a 1989 ProCards AAA card, you may have one more card to chase.  To be clear, this variation only exists for the blue AAA cards.  The orange A and red AA cards were only issued in team sets.

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