The Original Card
(corrected over a dozen different ways)

1989 Fleer #616: Fleer created a 660 baseball card set for 1989 and began production in late 1988. One card in particular slipped past the quality control and ended up in packs shipped all over the country. It took only a couple of weeks to turn a 5 cent common of Cal Ripken Jr's brother into a $50+ collectible. 'Someone' had written a bad word on the knob of a bat pictured on a card.

Once Fleer found out, the corrections began - airbrushes, black scribbles, white scribbles, boxes. Once the final black box correction was approved, all previous #616 cards were cut - to be identified and removed from distribution. Of course, many of those found their way into packs as well.

Card photo was taken at Fenway Park (Boston) sometime between June 24th and June 26th, 1988. Baltimore made two trips to Boston during the season - the other being in September '88. During that second trip to Boston, the team had the letters 'EBW' in large font on the left sleeve to honor the passing of owner Edward B. Williams. Billy wore the #7 jersey only during the 1988 season.

The card isn't rare. Thousands and thousands exist. I've heard 100,000 may have been produced! Probably more. A great collectible non the less. A 'must-have' for most collections. The fun begins with collecting the dozens of corrections and variations.

* My Opinion Only: After seeing a 2010 blog about 'Peeling the Onion' 'who wrote the F-Face words' - HERE - I decided to give my opinion. Having seen several autographs from Billy over the years, it appears we have a match. He even signed an 8x10 for me saying 'Good LUCK'. The last 3 letters in LUCK look familiar? Other personalized items show many of the different letters used in F-Face. They all match. I don't know who 'Jake Howard' is, but look at the letters 'A' and 'E' in his name - a match again. Billy wrote it - case closed.

Was it intentional for baseball cards? Maybe only Billy knows. Looking at previous cards of his, the Louisville Slugger logo is tilted about the same. He knew how he'd grip the bat and pose in advance.

Did Fleer know? Was it enhanced? Hard to say. Professional photograher Steve Babineau (who snapped the picture) claims he didn't notice it - HERE -. I tend to believe that. Babineau was likely given a 66 card (half sheet) to examine. These were 'blue-line' proof sheets. Thin wax-like paper without any color. The FF card was located on the bottom row and likely went by undetected by editors and the photographer.

* Ripken: To me, what makes this card so special are two things: 1) So many versions exist. Over the years, so many variations have been unearthed. Not just print offsets and odd marks, but real variations. 2) The Ripken name. If this card had been someone else - just about anyone else - it wouldn't be quite so special. The Ripken name was/is Baseball Royalty. Cal Jr was a future hall-of-famer and their dad was the manager. It took little brother Billy to make it perfect.