Did you know that the great Lee Smith was once ambidextrous?


You say you only remember Smith as a towering, intimidating righthander, regularly mowing down more than a batter an inning over his 18-year career?

And you say his record doesn’t indicate any sort of side-switching tendencies during his time in the majors split among the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos?

Well … yeah, I guess the stats back you up on that one.

But what about the cardboard story? Maybe …

No, again? You only remember that big right arm on your Smith baseball cards? Mixed in among the various posed and candid shots, I mean?

Yeah, I guess you’re right.

That’s pretty much how I remember it, too.

But if you go aaaalllllllll the way back to 1982, Smith’s rookie card season, you’ll find remnants of a hobby just getting its feet under it, just ramping up for the madness to come.

And, with the growth that included adding two new companies to the mix in 1981, came growing pains. Most evident among the ouchies for individual companies was the litany of error cards that Donruss and Fleer unleashed on the hobby in both ‘81 and ‘82 … with no boundaries.

Heck, if it could happen to an All-Star like Graig Nettles, it could happen to anybody.

It could certainly happen to a baseball card rookie who had done little to nothing in the bigs, and who toiled for the lowly Cubbies.

Now, at first glance, the 1982 Fleer Lee Smith rookie card looked fine:

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Just your average unknown righty pitching on the road in his blue striped Cubs pajamas.

Not much to see on the card back, either:

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The most striking feature was all that wide open yellow real estate, the blank slate of Smith’s career work yet to come.

But this was the happy ending of Fleer’s Lee Smith rookie card, after all the plot twists and turns had been smoothed out and blotted out of the CliffsNotes.

Real life was messier, even if it was rendered in cardboard.

Because, between gazing at the front of Smith’s RC and turning it over to find that pristine, wide-open reverse where anything was possible, there was a misstep.

A cosmic dissonance that had to be reckoned with:

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If your brain didn’t throw up its blue screen of death yet, look at that card back again.

And again.

And again.

And then come back here.

Did you see it? In the Cubs logo? Or .. in the Cnbz (about as close as I could get with a standard keyboard) logo?

Yeah, the last three letters are upside down, which isn’t exactly backwards.

Which means I sort of lied about the whole “Lee Smith was ambidextrous thing,” but the spirit of the thing is the same.



Today, the PSA Population Report shows there have been about two-and-a-half times more corrected versions of this card graded than there have been the error version.

Value-wise? Doesn’t seem to make much difference, as both versions of the HOFer’s rookie card check in at $20-25 in PSA 9 condition.

So, whichever way you go, Lee Smith is a legend, and his Fleer RC is affordable.

Whichever way.

See, I told you — ambidextrous.

1982 Fleer Baseball Pack- Excellent (Ripken Rookie?)

End Date: Thursday 05/23/2024 15:10:10 EDT
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