Many moons ago, AdamE over at Thoughts and Sox did a group break of 1987 OPC. I’d never taken part in a group break before, but when the call came out for folks to partake, there was no way I could turn it down. First off, it’s OPC and I am, as I often mention, a shameless homer. Second, it’s 1987 OPC. Of all the baseball sets I ever bought from wax, 1987 is my favourite. I bought tons of it. I even bought it in Topps. Yes, it was massively overproduced. Yes, I often receive it as packing material used to protect other purchases. Yes, one would hesitate to put it in bike spokes for fear of damaging the spokes. I don’t care. I loved it.
Besides, the Blue Jays were available. And 1987 to a Blue Jays fan was, er, let’s call it memorable.
What I found sad about the exercise is that I don’t think others enjoyed it quite to the same extent I did. I guess I sort of forgot the whole bit about getting eight miscut Bob Stanleys and Rob Deers (each) in every box. That was just part of the charm at the time, I guess. Maybe I never bought an OPC box outright (which would be odd, because I did that in hockey all the time and I know I did for 1987 Topps).
I don’t think people realized just how OPC baseball worked, either. In the ’80s, OPC sets were half the size of Topps sets. They tended to do full teams of Montreal and Toronto and half teams of everyone else. They were good in the sense that the sets tended to be weighted towards star players, but bad in the sense that they generally missed rookies that Topps probably had. The key rookies in 1987 Topps are not present in 1987 OPC. That’s just OPC.
At any rate, the cards arrived in record speed, beating the postal strike. They fleshed out the OPC cards with a bunch of 1987 Leaf, which I also scanned and will talk about later. I don’t remember 1987 Leaf at all. It appears to be a Canadian Donruss, but I can’t say that my local convenience store ever had it. When OPC advertised itself as “the REAL one/le VRAI,” presumably they looked at Leaf as the imposters. Can’t say for sure.
The package came with a wrapper that I didn’t scan (though others did) and a piece of 1987 gum. The gum was more grey than pink, had long since shattered into about 20 shards, all of which would either draw blood, shatter further on contact (or potentially both) and had the appearance of something that would do serious internal damage if consumed. In other words, it looked pretty much like it always did. I threw it away. I’m not as brave as I once was.
As to the cards, though, they were a little time capsule. I was kind of sad to see that the Garth Iorg wasn’t there. I loved Garth and this was his best card. 1987 wasn’t his year, though, as he hit less than .200 for most of the season, lost his spot in the third-base platoon and played a lot of time at second. He was also the last at-bat in the great collapse. He had a card in 1988, but didn’t play a game.
It’s kind of fitting that I finally get around to the 1987 Blue Jays on the heels of a frustrating loss to the Tigers. If anything defined 1987, frustrating losses to the Tigers have to be tops (not Topps) on the list. The collapse of 1987 is seared into the brain of any Jays fan that watched it. A first-place team for much of the season, the Jays went into the final seven games of the season 3 1/2 games up on the Tigers. They were 96-59 on Sept. 26, then lost every remaining game that they played. There were key injuries, one unforgivable dirty play, a Buckneresque error and one stupid wind-blown home run leading up to Garth Iorg weakly grounding out to end the season. It was injustice.
I’ll save the story for the Leaf cards, though. They include the key players.
The OPC cards, by contrast, are sushine and roses. Tom Henke, shown at top, went 0-6, but saved 34 games, struck out 128 in just 94 innings for a staggering 12.3 K’s per 9 innings. THIS was a closer. The Jays need one like him, and bad.
Diamond Jim Clancy was an original Blue Jay and an innings eater. He won 15 games in 1987 – the second-best total of his career. Jim was one of those guys who you had to get to early or you wouldn’t get to him at all.
Jesse Barfield and Lloyd Moseby were 2/3 of what was often called the best outfield in baseball. Jesse led the AL in homers in 1986 and had a cannon of an arm in right. “Shaker” Moseby played centre, hitting 28 homers and driving in 96. Missing is 1987 AL MVP George Bell, who would hit 47 home runs, a mark that stood until Bautista’s 54 last season.
Kelly Gruber emerged in 1987, pushing Iorg out of the Iorg/Mulliniks platoon at third (Grance Mullinorg!). He’d be an all-star in ’88 and ’89 before getting into injury trouble. He completed a triple play in the 1992 World Series (the play that began with the Devon White catch), but the umpire missed the call.
And then there was Caudill. *Sigh.* Called “the Inspector,” Bill was brought in to close in ’85, but never really inspired the confidence that was needed As a result, the call went out to the farm for a kid named Henke. In that sense, maybe this isn’t so bad after all. Bill did not pitch for the Jays in 1987.
For me, I really enjoyed getting these. Thanks muchly to Thoughts and Sox. I will get to the Leaf cards (and the unhealed scars of 1987) in a subsequent post. There is a Manny Lee card in there. If I close my eyes, I can still see that grounder to short….