Thursday, April 13, 2017
1986 Leaf Baseball
Donruss, everyone's favorite card company during the mid-1980s, licensed the release of four baseball card sets to the Canadian market from 1985 through 1988. Cards measure the standard size of 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches.
Falling under the "Leaf" brand, the cards from all four sets look just like their Donruss counterparts at first glance. The 1986 Leaf cards, which we are focusing on in this post, feature just one minor difference on the fronts - a small red box near the top that reads "LEAF '86" instead of "Donruss '86". Card backs are also generally similar, with the biggest difference on the Leafs being the inclusion of two languages - English and French Canadian (we're not sure if this strange jibber-jabber is a real language, so we're trusting Google's opinion on this one).
The four Leaf sets are complete at 264 cards each, while the Donruss sets of the day each featured 660. The theory behind the smaller Leaf sets was to include the star and starting players from each team, while trimming the reserve players and unproven rookies. Unfortunately for Leaf, unproven rookies were the hobby darlings of 1986. Speculators bought Donruss cards by the case hoping to find the likes of young prospects such as Jose Canseco, Kal Daniels, Cory Snyder, Paul O'Neill, Harold Reynolds and Lenny Dykstra... None of which were included in the Leaf set.
While the Donruss set featured a twenty-card "Rated Rookies" subset, the Leaf set featured just three. Two of Leaf's three Rated Rookies were from Canadian teams, and both went on to become bona-fide Major League stars... Fred McGriff of the Blue Jays retired as a five-time All-Star with 493 career dingers, while Expo Andres Galarraga also collected five All-Star appearances and a couple Gold Glove awards. The third and final Rated Rookie to be included in the '86 Leaf set, for reasons that cannot be explained, was Phillies relief pitcher Dave Shipanoff. The back of Shipanoff's card found it difficult to be excited, stating he "...figures strongly in Phillies' bullpen plans for '86." Even though we know today that Shipanoff would never pitch in the Majors again, it still boggles the mind that Leaf chose to include a relief pitcher over one of the hot prospects mentioned above. In addition to McGriff and Galarraga, Leaf did manage to snag a few notable rookies in their 1986 issue, to include Ozzie Guillen, Vince Coleman and Mariano Duncan.
Leaf added two unique cards that were not a part of the Donruss set at all. Titled "Canadian Greats", and featuring portraits painted by artist Dick Perez, the two cardboard bonuses featured Expos pitcher Jeff Reardon and Blue Jays outfielder Jesse Barfield. Perez is also the artist who painted the 26 "Diamond Kings" portraits, a Pete Rose "King of Kings" card and Hank Aaron Hall of Fame card, all of which are included in both the '86 Donruss and Leaf sets.
I love all four Leaf sets released during the 1980s, and would recommend them to anyone looking to add star-filled, inexpensive sets to their collection. Though the Leaf cards were printed in smaller quantities than their Donruss equivalents, there's no monetary premium attached these days. Expect to pay ten to fifteen dollars for a set in nice condition.
Random Fact: Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek participates in a yearly Northern Minnesota snowmobiling excursion called the "Black Woods Blizzard Tour."