For Fans, By Fans

Retro Jays Cards: The John Olerud Experience


Ok, this one is just weird.

Baseball cards have a long history of using portraiture and artwork for imagery. The earliest cards found in packs of tobacco were, obviously, artist renderings of players and even as photography took over as the dominant imagery on cards, there were often art card inserts and special series’ featuring many well-known sports artists like Dick Perez and Vernon Wells Sr. Typically the artwork was fairly standard portraits and action images.

But sometimes card companies got a little too creative and the artists came up with some truly bizarre ideas, like Fleer in 1994. This is John Olerud’s trippy entry in the Pro-Visions insert series, which featured artwork by Wayne Still and was designed to meld fantasy art and baseball.

Essentially, baseball on an acid trip.

Here, apparently, John Olerud is roaming the countryside, haunted by the surreal manifestations of random stat lines of years past. Falling into a Hitchcockian world of floating numbers where a terrified Olerud is forced to do battle with his own statistics, with only a bat to protect him.

Olerud’s card is not even the weirdest in the series. That honour may go to Darren Daulton being carved out of stone, or Carlos Baerga in space, or maybe the dark wizardry of Jack McDowell. You can see all nine here, including the full sized image that was created when you combine the cards.

I wish I could say the series was a disastrous flop, but it was the end of the “junk card era” and so many different companies were producing multiple series every year that barely anyone noticed just how weird this insert set was.

The text on the back nicely lays out the groundwork for the upcoming battle between Olerud and Cito Gaston as the manager (in his infinite wisdom) decided that the most balanced hitter the team had ever seen, needed to develop more pull power. Because when you have a .453 wOBA it is obvious that your approach is flawed. Sigh.

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