Thursday, December 16, 2010

Significant Cards - 1996 Ultra Diamond Dust Cal Ripken Jr.

Despite the magnitude of Brett Favre's consecutive games started streak, it is not the most impressive consecutive game streak in professional sports. After all, as I previously mentioned, another arguably better quarterback is already within shouting distance of breaking this newly minted record. Of course I'm speaking of Cal Ripken Jr. and his 2,632 consecutive games played streak that lasted 18 seasons. Most people will agree that Ripken's MLB streak will never be touched, partly because of the improbability of another player being able to play through several seasons of baseball where there are rarely more than one day in between any scheduled game, but also because today's baseball manager actually prefer to rest their players once in awhile. In fact, there have only been been two players in the history of the MLB that have played more than 10 seasons worth of consecutive games: Cal Ripken and the player who's record he surpassed, Lou Gehrig.

When Ripken surpassed Gehrig's consecutive games played streak in 1995, there were many MLB licensees that saw fit to commemorate the event with all sorts of memorabilia. As a precursor to actual game-used memorabilia cards, Fleer became the first and (to my knowledge) only card company to intentionally include dirt in a card with a specially issued 1996 Ultra Diamond Dust card. This isn't just any dirt, however, it is dirt from Oriole Park at Camden Yards where Ripken broke the Gehrig's record. There are two versions of this card. They are identical except in the lower right corner on the back of the cards. One is hand-numbered to 2131, whereas the other just states "Commemorative Card." The hand-numbered version was made available through dealers (although with what criteria I am not sure) and the other was offered through a wrapper redemption program. Collectors could mail in 10 wrappers from 1996 Fleer Ultra Series 2 along with a check or money order for $24.99 to receive their unique collectible. Of note, the cards came within a corrugated booklet with an insert that has the obligatory "Congratulations for owning this card" statement. This is definitely one of the more unique baseball cards in existence and will never lose its place in the history of the hobby.

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