The 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken error card is worthy of the Terribly Awesome Baseball Card Mount Rushmore. On a fateful day in 1988, a Fleer photographer asked Ripken to pose for his annual card shortly after batting practice. Billy assumed the common bat-on-shoulder pose revealing the words “FUCK FACE” clearly printed on the bottom of his bat. The photo made its way past the Fleer editors and into card packs across the country, birthing a baseball card phenomenon. The obscenity spawned over ten versions of the card with varying methods of censorship and varying rarity. The value of both the original and the error correction cards skyrocketed. To this day, collectors wonder if Fleer intentionally allowed the photograph to be printed as a means of generating publicity.
When asked about the card, Billy consistently implied it was a prank that had been played on him. At first glance, this seemed plausible. If true, it would be one of the best clubhouse pranks ever. But how would the pranksters know what pose the photographer would choose? Was the photographer in cahoots with another party? And why on Earth would anyone think it would slip past the proofreaders and make it onto a card? Twenty years after the controversy, Billy Ripken finally came clean in an interview with CNBC. He admitted to writing the words on the bat himself, not as a prank, but as a means of identifying it as his batting practice bat.
Cal Ripken Jr. will always be remembered as Major League Baseball’s “Iron Man”, having played 2,632 consecutive games. His brother Billy, on the other hand, will always be remembered as Major League Baseball’s “FUCK FACE.”[related-posts]