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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Five Real Baseball Cards for Major Leaguers That Don't Exist"

I was watching my local Milwaukee Brewers play baseball on television the other day, when an interesting idea struck me. In the history of cinema, there have been many great baseball stories. And each of these stories have fascinating players. Some of these players are real, like Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. And some are not. They're fictional; completely made-up.

Real-life ballplayers are immortalized on baseball cards. It's a million-dollar business. Cards get printed every year, and collectors pass them around with glee. But what about the the fictional players? Has anyone ever printed baseball cards for them?

It was an interesting thought, so I decided to do a little exploring and see what I could come up with. I wanted to find baseball cards representing fictitious ballplayers. And I don't mean mere graphics created by fans in Photoshop. No, I wanted to see if I could find real, tangible, legitimate baseball cards. Cards printed by baseball card producers, publications, or film companies as props or promotional items.

I set some limitations on my search too. First of all, these cards had to represent fictional MLB players. No minor leaguers like those in the movie "Bull Durham". Second, the players had to be adults. No kids like in "Little Big League" or "Bad News Bears". Kids make for great storytelling, but not within the scope of this project. And finally, it had to look like a baseball card, not just a promotional photo. Player photo on the front, and, if possible, statistics on the back.

After a great deal of searching, I was able to put together a collection of five fictional Major League Baseball players who have real, tangible baseball cards. I've listed them below, along with photos showing the front and back of each card. Take a peek, and enjoy!

Stan Ross -- ("Mr. 3000")



Stan Ross, played by the late Bernie Mac, made his appearance in the 2004 film, "Mr. 3000". He was an arrogant ballplayer. One of the best in the MLB, but only interested in himself, his quest for 3000 hits, and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

To promote the film, Touchstone Pictures printed this card, and designed it to look like a Stan Ross baseball card. The back features Stan's story and fictional career statistics.


Kenny Powers -- ("Eastbound & Down")



Kenny Powers, played by actor Danny McBride, made his appearance in the current-running HBO comedy series, "Eastbound & Down". He's a burned-out former Major League ballplayer who returns to his old hometown to teach physical education at his old middle school. The series is produced by Will Ferrell's production company, Gary Sanchez Productions.

In a bold marketing move by HBO, a sheet of Kenny Powers baseball cards were printed in a 2009 issue of The Sporting News. I've read that they were also released in a pack with a stick of bubble gum. And, for those that want a digital copy, they're also available for download on the Kenny Powers website. There are five different cards. I picked my favorite for the purpose of this article.


Jack Elliot -- ("Mr. Baseball")



Jack Elliot, played by actor Tom Selleck, made his appearance in the 1992 film, "Mr. Baseball". He was an aging American League first baseman who was put on the trading block by the New York Yankees in favor of a younger replacement. The only team interested in him, however, was a Japanese team -- the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons. Thus, Jack Elliot heads to Japan to play baseball.

To promote the movie, this card was released in the 1992 Upper Deck baseball card set. It features Tom Selleck, and then-baseball-slugger Frank Thomas, in New York Yankee's uniforms. Frank Thomas played the ballplayer that replaced Selleck on the Yankees at the beginning of the movie.


Roy Hobbs -- ("The Natural")



Roy Hobbs, played by veteran actor Robert Redford, made his appearance in the 1984 baseball film, "The Natural". Here, Redford plays a baseball prodigy whose career is sidetracked by a gunshot wound. Years later, Roy Hobbs makes a comeback, returns to baseball and plays for the New York Knights with his legendary bat, "Wonderboy".

Unlike the previously featured baseball cards, this Roy Hobbs card was actually used as a prop in the movie. In fact, there's a scene in which entire sheets of his baseball card are being printed. As a prop, though, the backs were left blank -- since they were never seen on screen.


Buck Bokai -- ("Star Trek: Deep Space Nine")



Buck Bokai, played by actor Keone Young, made his appearance on an episode of the television series, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". He was a historic superstar in the early 21st century, with a career spanning from 2015 to the end of Major League Baseball in 2042. He was portrayed in the episode as a recreation of the famous ballplayer.

In terms of the baseball card above, this too was a prop printed and used on screen throughout the run of the series. It was featured prominently on the desk of station commander Benjamin Sisko. Originally, when the prop card was conceived, series modeler Greg Jein came up with the statistics on the back, and used his photo on the front of the card. After Keone Young appeared in the episode, the card was reprinted with Keone on the front (seen above).

The photo below is of the original card with the image of Greg Jein as Buck Bokai.



So there you have it... five REAL baseball cards, featuring five FICTIONAL Major League ballplayers. It's a fascinating look into the blending of fiction, American culture, and sports history.

How many of these cards have you heard of?

BONUS:
And, as an addition to the cards featured in this article, I also came across a few surprisingly well-done fan-created baseball cards featuring characters from the 1989 movie, "Major League". They don't fit the requirements of this article, but they're too good not to mention. So I will... just because. Enjoy!

LINK: Photoshopped "Major League" Baseball cards.

-Jon

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