1990 Score Rookie & Traded Baseball card #100T – Eric Lindros
I am not a big fan of baseball, but here in Chicago we are doubly-blessed with two teams: the Cubs and the White Sox. All the talk on the news lately, about spring training, pitchers, catchers, batters free-agent signings, roster cuts and so forth got me thinking about this baseball card. Released in the 1990 Score Baseball Rookie & Traded set, it is a card of Eric Lindros, dressed in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform as he swings at a pitch.
Back in 1990, Score – who had for many years made baseball cards – entered the hockey card market. Their ticket to credibility was to sign hockey’s hottest prospect at the time, Eric Lindros, as their official spokesperson. Until Lindros played in an NHL game, only Score could put his picture on NHL hockey cards.* The inaugural Score Hockey set featured six cards of Lindros – one of them emblazoned “Future Superstar” at the top. Lindros was going to be the first overall pick in the 1991 NHL entry draft, and he was a sure thing to make it big in the NHL. Trying to ride out the hype as much as possible, Score also put a Lindros card in their 1990 Baseball Rookie &Traded set. Lindros joined the Blue Jays for batting practice one day, but Score tried to make it sound like it was more than that, as stated on the back of this card:
Eric is another in a growing list of multi-talented athletes who are cropping up in the sports world with increasing frequency. Unlike Bo, Deion and D.J., however, his two sports are hockey and baseball. This makes him quite similar to a current major leaguer who excelled in both sports – pitcher Kirk McCaskill of the Angels. McCaskill was chosen in the ’81 NHL entry draft by the Winnipeg Jets, and totaled 22 points in the AHL.
Eric, a big, 17-year old power hitter, batted over.400 in high school and will be given a tryout by the Blue Jays. “He’s an unknown quantity right now because he’s so inexperienced,” says one scout. “But he has all the tools to make it big.”
In hockey, Eric is a very known quantity; at 17 he is being touted as the next Mario Lemieux. After playing on Canada’s gold-medal team at the ’90 World Junior Championships, he led Oshawa to the OHL regular-season title, playoff championships and Memorial Cup. He had 17 goals and 19 assists in 25 regular season games and 18 goals and 18 assists in 17 playoff games. Eric’s dominant size and skill make him a favorite to be the first pick in the 1991 NHL entry draft.
After reading this card, I’m not sure if Score’s intention was to make hockey collectors buy a set of baseball cards, or if it was a way to cross-promote their hockey cards to baseball fans. Either way, let the record state that Lindros never played baseball for the Blue Jays – or any Major League Baseball team, despite the fact that the front of the card states that he’s a third baseman – his position on his high school team, perhaps? Though I am forced to ask, when did Lindros have time to play high school baseball, between major junior hockey and international competitions?
When this card was released, I had a hard time believing the hype machine that was Eric Lindros. Sure, he was going to be in the NHL, and probably good too…but I was hard pressed to believe that he’d be a pro baseball player as well. So, when this card came out, I was not one of the many hockey card collectors who paid $5 for this card (or $10 or so for the complete Rookie & Traded set). If I was going to spend $5-10 back then, it was going to be on hockey cards, damn it, and not baseball.
Recently, I picked up this card for a quarter – the magic price of most common cards these days. In retrospect, this card is cheesy – and you got to love that strained look on “Big E.’s” face as he takes a swing – but it is still a neat card nonetheless. Now I think of other potential “crossover” photo opportunities. Imagine someone tall, like Mario Lemieux or Zdeno Chara, dunking a basketball. Or someone tough, like Joe Thornton, a football under his arm, as he plows through defenders on the gridiron. Heck, Ed Belfour used to compete in triathlons. I’m sure one of those lame “Be A Player” sets from the mid-1990s had to have at least one hockey player engaged in some other sport…besides golf, of course.
Lindros retired after last season, and works for the NHL Players’ Association. I hear he is quite nice about signing autographs through the mail. I wonder if he’d sign his baseball card.
* – That is not to say that Lindros was not featured on other hockey cards in 1990. He had a card in the Oshawa Generals team-issued set, and was also “somewhat” featured on an Upper Deck card, despite Score’s exclusive contract with Lindros – but that subject is best left for another day.