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1982 Fleer Baseball

By Patrick Mondout

Fleer produced its second set of 660 baseball cards in 1982. Due to an appeals court decision in late 1981 that at first seemed like a death sentence, Fleer was unable to distribute these cards with their bubblegum, and instead included team logo stickers for the first time. This was a blessing in disguise for us collectors as it potentially meant one less card in the package damaged by "gum stains" and their gum wasn't that tasty anyway.

The set itself has long been criticized for its sometimes out-of-focus photography, but the blame lies not with the photographers. It is hard to imagine a baseball card company knowingly using soft-focus pictures and these were essentially the same guys who shot the photos for the '81 set. And even if one photographer on the east coast had a problem with his equipment that he unbelievable did not notice, what are the odds that there west coast photographer would have the same problem?

So what happened? Long time Fleer photographer Lou Sauritch explained it to me:

"Printing is a four color process. You lay the four colors on top of each other. It's precise. If you're off a little bit, it going to look fuzzy. And that's what happened - (Fleer) went to a bad printing place. (The photographers) didn't change anything. That kind of bothered me when people would say, "Oh, you're from Fleer" and you could say, "well, I can explain to you what happened..."

As someone who owns a number of the Lou's 1981 "outtake" slides, I can assure you there was not a problem with the photography. I took one of these slides - one of Dan Driessen of the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium - and made a "Faux Fleer" card showing what the set could have looked like (see below). Note that this is not one of my best "Sauritch" slides (the lighting was hardly ideal) and yet it turns out sharper than 90% of the real '82 Fleer cards.

'82 FauxFleer!

The 1982 Fleer set would be remembered quite differently if the cards had been printed properly.


It is really unfortunate that Fleer never bothered to "correct" the color separation problems in a second printing. This set was actually more attractive than its predecessor and the simple design was effective. Even with a rookie card of Cal Ripken, this set has been largely ignored by collectors. Other rookie cards included Dave Righetti, Tim Wallach, Steve Sax, Dave Stewart, Johnny Ray, George Bell, and Lee Smith.

More errors!

The two most valuable error cards are the John Littlefield reversed negative (shot during the 1981 spring training in Palm Springs) and the "All" Hrabosky card.


Another factor working against this set at the time which cannot be ignored is that the controversy surrounding the errors in the inaugural Donruss and Fleer. That mere controversy turned to outright cynicism when valuable error cards again turned up in their 1982 sets. Instead of a Tim Flannery of the San Diego Padres reversed negative, we had a John Littlefield of the Padres reversed negative. Instead of Graig Nettles name misspelled on the back, we had "All" Hrabosky (instead of Al, but you knew that). This led some to actually boycott the sets.

The Hrabosky error card actually comes in three flavors. The first misspells his first name and also lists his height at a misleading 5'1" (Ted Turner may have been a wacky owner - once making himself manager for a day - but he was no Bill Veeck).1 The second version corrects the misspelling but still shortchanges "Al." They finally got both his name and height right in the third printing.

Fleer had an excuse for so many errors in their 1981 set, which was rushed into production after the court decision, but it was harder to excuse all the errors in this set and the color separation issue should have been spotted/corrected when the proofs came back. All totaled, it was a missed opportunity for a company that came out of 1981 with the most momentum of the Big Three.

A checklist for all 660 cards is available here.


1982 Fleer at a Glance
Back Yankee Powerhouse Wax Pack
All-Stars Pete and Re-Pete Most Hits, Most Runs

1. St. Louis Browns' owner Bill Veeck, as you may recall, inserted 3'7" Eddie Gaedel as a pinch hitter in a 1951 game as a publicity stunt.



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Year: 1982

Manufacturer: Fleer

# of Cards: 660 (Checklist)

Value/Price: Check eBay (see links below)

Size: 2 x 3

Image courtesy of Fleer

'82 Fleer Sets!
'82 Fleer Singles!
'82 Fleer Unopened Packs!
'82 Fleer Lots!
'82 Fleer Cases!

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