A prime example of what this list is all about….Mr. Glenallen Hill
This is installment #1 in an ongoing series of posts that will feature the “Best Worst of…” various things, mainly from my memories of growing up in the 80s and 90s. It will generally feature items, movies, people, etc. that are near and dear to me and were in some way an integral part of helping to form who I am, my opinions, and the like ( oh yes, I DID just use the phrases “etc.” and “…and the like” in the same sentence).
That being said, lets hit it…..
I own roughly 10-15 Kenner Starting Lineup figures, and they are mostly ones that I received as a gift from someone else when I was a child, or that I bought myself at that time. The ones I own are of the standard, good player, well-known variety….Magic, Bird, Kirby Puckett, Daryl Strawberry, Lawrence Taylor sacking Ken O’Brien, among others. They are all out of the box, and the packaging is long-gone, rendering them generally worthless except to the owner in most cases. The Bird and Magic figures in particular are originals and could get me almost a full tank of gas right now if they were in their original wrappings. I have two favorites in my small collection though….the first is of my favorite player growing up, Eric Davis from the Cincinnati Reds (mostly). Dont ask me why I chose a guy with a 24 inch waist and more torque in his swing than Soda Popinski who played for a team 1000 miles away, I just did. He was like Barry Bonds lite, when Barry Bonds himself was Barry Bonds lite.
My other favorite figure that I own is of Tim Brown from the Raiders. He wasnt a favorite player, although I definitely enjoyed watching him at Notre Dame and then with L.A./Oakland….no the reason I enjoy owning this figure is because its a bit odd due to an apparent mistake. His number while playing was #81, however the figure has #85. It’s definitely Tim Brown’s representation because his name is on the back of the jersey. So yeah, that’s why its appealing to me. But then again I also own an Andy Katzenmoyer jersey from the short, injury-riddled career he had on the New England Patriots….I’m weird like that.
The other factor that has contributed to the enjoyment of these figures is that my buddy Mike also finds the humor in the not-quite-right versions that have been made over the years. It’s always more fun when you can share these types of experiences. The year the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl, he was touting them as the champions because he lives in Baltimore (but is a huge Pats fan) and saw how dominant they were on defense every week. I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) believe him, so we made a bet. If the Ravens won it all, I would buy and send him a Trent Dilfer Kenner Starting Lineup figure. The trouble was that, after he won the bet, I had to pay up and now find such a rare commodity. This was NOT easy. I did manage to find one though, but it was of Dilfer as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer….which was actually even better! And to top it off, he was cloaked in the creamsicle uniform….CLASSIC! An added bonus was he was shown in the position of throwing a pass, which was odd for him, especially on the Ravens. My guess would be if they made a Ravens figure of Dilfer, it would have to either A) show him handing off to Jamal Lewis B) show him in an arms-folded stance watching a FG attempt by Ravens kicker Matt Stover or C) show him fist-pumping after another Ray Lewis-defensive-inspired turnover.
So on to the list. I had to dig through a lot, and came up with a Top 10 of my personal all-time oddball depictions of athletes in 5″ figure form. For various reasons which will be explained alongside each selection (and ranked on a scale of one to ten, ten being highest), these are ones I think are superbly sublime or just awful decisions, but in a good way. Since an outstanding list of hockey figures has already been published on Yahoo’s “Puck Daddy” blog I am leaving that sport out of my list….well except for one. Anyhow, lets start with the honorable mentions:
1995 MARK PRICE
Thankfully we have this 90s Cavaliers uniform preserved in this fashion (or lack thereof). How great would Lebron have looked on “1995 Throwback Night” sporting THIS outfit? That alone would have justified his decision to leave
BILL WALTON ’97 TIMELESS LEGENDS
Portland still being disrespected….couldnt even show him in his Blazers gear (warmup suit at least?) to match the attached card.
’95 ERIC MONTROSS (rookie)
HA! Has there ever been a more appropriate jersey number for a guy? They didn’t do him any favors putting him in the home whites either. Not too much tint differential between his flesh tone and the uni. (btw….$26????)
’93 CHIP LOHMILLER A KICKER! Didnt make the list, which was a tough decision, but don’t worry, his ilk will be well-represented. (Is he about to kick his helmet, or the ball? And is this him practicing on the sidelines, otherwise where is Theismann to hold the snap?)
’97 HIDEO NOMO Hey Kenner….how do you NOT pose him in the middle of his epic windup?? If I want follow-thru I’ll grab a Ricky Bones figure! Work with me here.
’98 and ’00 SHERYL SWOOPES From what I saw, this is the only figure of a female hoops player….and she has TWO devoted to her! Both are focused on her college career than professional.
#10) 1993 Grant Fuhr
PRESENTATION: 6STAR QUALITY: THEN: 8 NOW: Underrated eh.QUIRKINESS: 4The moustache on this thing is incredible in figure form, WTF was it like in PERSON?! As far as the overall figure, they utilized the generic “hockey-goalie” pose which was standard-issue for 1993, so its pretty bland other than the moustache and the fact that Fuhr is in a SWEET Buffalo Sabres uni instead of an Edmonton Oilers jersey, which is the main way I remember him (and granted, I’m not a fervent hockey fan).
#9) 1988 Dennis Hopson
STAR QUALITY: THEN: 2 NOW: non-existent
Ok, so who is Dennis Hopson?? I remember him on New Jersey playing for the Nets, I remember him being hurt a lot, but he could definitely score, especially in college. Why is he on this list? Well, why NOT?? He’s perfect…hardly anyone recognizes or remembers him, he was a marginal player at best during his career, why the heck would Kenner give him his own figure?? Because they had to pick ONE of the Nets (allegedly) to appeal to the New Jersey fans out there (allegedly).
STAR QUALITY: THEN: 4 NOW: 0
Unbelievable scorer in the NBA for Detroit and Charlotte, which many people forget. He’s one of only 7 white players in the last 30 years to average over 25ppg (Bird, Vandeweghe, McHale, Mullin, Chambers, and Nowitzki are the others FYI). Mainly the two things that people remember about him are 1) his neatly groomed Baba-Booey moustache, seen in all its glory here
and 2) this clip.
#7) 1999 Fred Taylor
STAR QUALITY: THEN: 7 NOW: 3
During his career, members of my fantasy football league referred to him as Fraud Taylor, as I’m sure many, many fantasy GMs did if they owned him for the first few years he was in the league. I can think of no more accurate figure than this one of Taylor when it comes to positioning. Oh sure, they mean for you to stick him on the stand to depict him diving into the end zone, but really now….I can only imagine the fun that was had every year and from week to week in fantasy leagues in the early aughts when the guy that had Taylor on his team came into work only to see this figure, minus the stand of course, laying in his cubicle somewhere to remind of the injury to Fred’s (insert name of normally durable body part) the previous Sunday.
STAR QUALITY: THEN: 10 NOW: 8
Have you EVER seen Griffey bunt?? EVER?? And how fast would that decision earn the manager a ticket out of town? I would take the under on an O/U of 20min after the game ended.
PRESENTATION: 7.5 (McGwire)/7.5 (Sosa)
STAR QUALITY: THEN: 10/10 NOW: -3 (combined)
Similar to this piece of artwork
from that era, this “Classic Doubles” now seems a bit…shall we say….ambitious in its attempt to qualify these two as “classic”, especially considering they were still playing and the events involving their HR chase was current. Could they achieve “classic” status? Well sure, but it takes a few years. And it allll became classic status soon enough. It seems a bit ominous that the figures are packaged as though they are in front of a locker (jerseys hanging, equipment stashed on top) given the way the entire PED controversy began with McGwire ignoring questions about a strange substance in HIS locker that reporters saw. The figure of Sosa is amusing….his body language is giving off the vibe of “Ok, so I corked my bat….its right here, see? Feel free to check it yourself….NOTHING illegal anymore, nope…I’m clean as a whistle! Just keep focusing on the bat….”
STAR QUALITY: THEN: 7 NOW: 2
It is a testament to the worthiness of the top 3 on this list that this one is only #4. LOOK AT THIS THING. I know I mentioned Fuhr’s splendid moustache on #10, but LOOK AT THIS THING….and the moustache is only the third best attribute! He’s wearing practice shorts, with the popular lycra/spandex underneath, yet protruding out and in a different team color with a half-shirt? WOW! Who is the design team at Kenner that decided to go this route, and then who drew the short straw to approach George with the figure once it was done? I can’t even fathom the pounding that person endured. June Jones only pulled George from a game one time and got the treatment, what consequences were there for the intern who had to deliver this to the qb? Here is the best part though….its immensely accurate to the best of my knowledge, and here’s why: Around the same time this figure emerged, I read a fantasy football magazine that offered their analysis of George, referring to him (I swear) as a “lemon-ass”. THIS WAS IN PRINT IN A MAJOR MAGAZINE BOUGHT AT A BOOKSTORE IN THE LATE 90s! My friends and I were floored to see that and remains a running joke still.
#3) 1998 MARC NEWFIELD
STAR QUALITY: NEVER EXISTED
ACCURACY: WHO KNOWS
“WHY” FACTOR: 5
The “Why” factor listed here is defined as, “Why in the bloody hell would they make a figure for this guy, and why is it sought after?” Newfield was the typical “rookie card” player of the 90s….if you got his rookie card before or during his first year in the majors, you were banking it into your special vault of cards for safekeeping, so that when he was inducted into the HOF you could simply whip it out, take a trip to your local card store (this was ’98, before EBay) and sell that puppy for a cool couple grand. (Other players on this list include Griffey Jr. and his Upper Deck #1 card, Gary Sheffield, Raul Mondesi, Kevin Maas, Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens, Ray Lankford, Bernard Gilkey, Delino Deshields, Marquis Grissom…its a lengthy list). And now you know a portion of why the card business imploded in the 2000s. Anyway, Newfield was a hot shot prospect drafted 6th overall by Seattle (ahead of Carl Everett, Mike Mussina, & Rondell White) and played in 355 games over 6 seasons before exiting the league. His main claim to fame is that he was involved (and possibly the centerpiece) in two of the biggest big trade-deadline deals of the 90s, and in consecutive years. In ’95 he was traded for Andy Benes, and the following summer was traded so the Padres could acquire power slugger Greg Vaughn.
STAR QUALITY: MINIMAL
“WHY” FACTOR: 9
One player we know for certain that wasnt using steroids or PEDs (or even Bowflex) was Scott Fletcher. He was all of 5’11” and 168lbs, and never hit more than 5 HR in a season, despite playing in over 1600 games in the 80s and 90s. He was a stellar fielder who played all over the infield, so the pose he is in is definitely very accurate, plus its a little different from the norm. However, the reason he’s so high on my list is because A) maybe 1 out of 10 baseball fans has heard his name ever in their life, which leads to the inexplicable “B” which is….B) THIS FIGURE IS APPARENTLY WORTH ANYWHERE FROM $70-$90 ANYTIME I HAVE SEEN IT, HENCE THE “WHY” FACTOR BEING SO HIGH. I know things from players rookie seasons tend to have more value, but this is ridiculous, especially considering he started playing in the majors in 1981 and NOT in 1989!
STAR QUALITY: BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
“WHY” FACTOR: OFF THE CHARTS
Just take that sucker in for a second, but don’t gaze too long or you could go blind. A PUNTER….THEY MADE A FIGURE FOR A BENGALS PUNTER. And here’s the best part….this is a tribute to a former player, he wasnt even in the league in ’97! This means that, when Kenner was figuring out what classic Bengals player they could honor in this way, they put their heads together and decided to go with a guy that was a combination wide receiver/punter….AMAZING. But alas, this wasnt the true reason McInally has his own figure. See, he graduated from Harvard, and seems that he’s more of an idea man, and is the person who CREATED the idea for Starting Lineup figures in the first place. This figure is a special production he had made of himself (ballsy to say the least, but I would have done it too) that was distributed only at Kenner conventions on one May weekend in 1997.
I would venture to say that it’s the most obscure figure out there in this line, and I want it.