Card of the Day: 1988 Donruss Leaf Mackey Sasser

Today’s Card of the Day comes from the Canadian cousin of the 1988 Donruss set. Just like Topps did with O-Pee-Chee for so many years, Donruss released cards in Canada under the name Leaf. The cards look just like the Donruss cards as far as design, with a small difference on the front, and a rather large difference on the back. If you were just looking through some random cards and passed a 1988 Donruss, then a 1988 Leaf a short time later, you might not even notice the difference. If you started looking at the back of the cards, you would really have to be looking through them quickly not to see the difference.

Today’s Card of the Day features catcher Mackey Sasser. He had two stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates, one in 1987, then another in 1995. His time with the Pirates amounted to 49 at-bats. He also had 49 plate appearances, as he failed to draw a walk, HBP, sacrifice hit or sacrifice fly during that time. He didn’t debut in the majors with the Pirates, but this is considered to be one of his rookie cards. We looked at another one of his rookies when we checked out his 1988 Score Rookie Prospect card. That article was posted two years ago today, which is the 35th anniversary of his trade from the Pirates to the New York Mets.

Here’s the front of the card:

Even though the front design in the borders here has nothing to do with baseball, nor does it match up to the specific teams, I do like the look of this set. You get a very rare game shot of Sasser here, especially if you factor in the road jersey. He was with the Pirates for a month in 1987, and he batted just 23 times during that stretch. He debuted in the majors in July of 1987 with the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates acquired him in a trade for Don Robinson.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the cards showing prospects always stand out to me. If I got this card in a pack, I have no doubt I would have put it off to the side as a special card, even though history shows that a small percentage of these prospect type cards actually featured a future superstar. Donruss/Leaf called them a “Rated Rookie”, and they are considered to be a small subset of this set, just like the Diamond Kings cards.

The small difference between this card and the regular Donruss card on front is the company logo. Where it says “Leaf 88” here, it says “Donruss 88” on the regular Donruss card. Both logos are about the same size, and they are in the same place, so you have to be looking for it to really notice.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this here before, but the Donruss products in 1988 were really thin cards, which damaged easily. I noticed on the scans I looked through today that there were a lot of corner dings and small marks on the sides of the cards. If they didn’t massively overproduce these products, that would make a difference in the prices of cards with no damage.

Here’s the back of the card:

This is the design of the 1988 Donruss back, but side-by-side you can see a ton of differences. The most obvious one has to be the French translation of the entire career highlights section. Donruss never included more stats than they had to include, and this is a clear case. Sasser had plenty of minor league stats to include, but they never did that. They could have split up the 1987 season to show his Giants and Pirates time separate, but they said no thanks.

The subtle differences here are the translations of the words “career highlights” and “recent major league performance”. One other even more subtle is the year on the back, which is found near the top right. Donruss actually put the year they printed the cards. Leaf came out later, so they say 1988. Donruss wanted their regular cards available before Christmas, so the printing was done in 1987.

The Leaf cards are much more rare than the Donruss cards, but not enough that it affects supply and demand. More people want the regular Donruss cards, so the prices are the same. Don’t pay more than $2 delivered for this card (or the Donruss one) unless it is autographed or graded a PSA 10. There are currently no cards on Ebay that fit either of those two excuses to pay more.