Thursday, January 14, 2016

1988 St. Louis Cardinals Smokey Bear

The United States Forest Service has sponsored many sharp-looking sports themed oddball sets over the years. One particularly striking design was used for several sets in the late 1980s, of which one is the 1988 St. Louis Cardinals Smokey Bear set.

The majority of Smokey sets issued during this time were larger in size than standard cards, with the '88 Cardinals cards measuring 5 inches tall by three inches wide. Most of these card fronts feature player action photos which lack traditional heavy borders; a white pinstripe is found near the card edges and frames the photo subject quite nicely. The player's name and position is located at the bottom right of each card front, along with small Cardinals and Smokey logos.

Card backs are printed in black and give a few additional player facts along the tops. The middle of card backs feature safety tips and now-classic Smokey artwork. The U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters logos appear at the bottom left.

A complete set consists of 25 cards, which is roughly the same amount of Cardinals cards found in each of the nationally distributed sets from 1988 (Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Score). One advantage the Smokey set has over the other issues is the addition of newly-acquired players; names like Tom Brunansky, Bob Horner and Luis Alicea were not pictured as Cardinals in the national sets. In addition, the beauty of the Smokey set's photos cannot be understated, and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith's best-looking card of the 1980s is arguably found here (Smith is pictured attempting to put a midair tag on a sliding Gary Gaetti at second). Newcomer Score entered the baseball card ring in 1988 and quickly provided the best looking national set of the year, but I'd still give this '88 Cardinals Smokey set the edge, both in photo quality and design.

These cards were distributed as complete sets at the home game versus the Dodgers on July 19, 1988. Even though 34,606 fans attended the game, a Cardinals representative at the time estimated that between 8,000 to 9,000 sets were given away (to fans 15 years of age and younger). The same team rep went on to say that any remaining cards were slated to be given to the players for use when answering fan mail.  Regarding the current value, my estimate for a complete set is in the $6 to $10 range. These cards aren't everywhere, but can certainly be found online with minimal effort.

Random Fact: Three catchers are included in the set. Veteran Tony Pena was the starter, appearing in 149 games (142 games at catcher) with 546 plate appearances. Rookie Tom Pagnozzi followed second, with 81 games (28 games at catcher) and 209 plate appearances. Rounding out the trio is Steve Lake, who took part in 36 games and had 59 plate appearances.

Click here to hunt for Cardinals Smokey Bear cards on eBay

1. Whitey Herzog, Manager
2. Danny Cox, Pitcher
3. Ken Dayley, Pitcher
4. Jose DeLeon, Pitcher
5. Bob Forsch, Pitcher
6. Joe Magrane, Pitcher
7. Greg Mathews, Pitcher
 8. Scott Terry, Pitcher
9. John Tudor, Pitcher
10. Todd Worrell, Pitcher
11. Steve Lake, Catcher
12. Tom Pagnozzi, Catcher
13. Tony Pena, Catcher
14. Bob Horner, Infielder
15. Tom Lawless, Infielder
16. Jose Oquendo, Infielder
17. Terry Pendleton, Infielder
18. Ozzie Smith, Infielder
19. Vince Coleman, Outfielder
20. Curt Ford, Outfielder
21. Willie McGee, Outfielder
22. Larry McWilliams, Pitcher
23. Steve Peters, Pitcher
24. Luis Alicea, Infielder
25. Tom Brunansky, Outfielder


  1. I grew up in the St. Louis area and these sets were distributed in one of two ways. 1) They were given out at the stadium on card set night 2) They are what you may have heard of before called "Police" cards. Which means they were given out by local PDs at various functions and community events.

    I know they still were making these up until the mid 2000s. I have a lot of these personally from 1999 to 2000ish when I was still involved in law enforcement for my career. You still to this day can find them at random flea markets and antique malls in the STL area.

    If you are interested in trading for some give me ring at

  2. Thanks for the additional insights!