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(This is the 11th in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

Art is a funny thing.

Your favorite painting may look like toddler mess to me, and my favorite symphony might make your ears bleed.

DON-russ, don-RUSS, I always say.

I say that to say this — you’re probably going to hate my choice for the best card in the 1984 Donruss set. You may even have a strong dislike for me after it’s all said and done, if you don’t already.

After all, this set is a legend of the hobby, the birthplace of the Don Mattingly rookie card that changed everything.

And if you can somehow bring yourself to overlook Donnie Baseball, you have to go with Darryl Strawberry or Joe Carter as the best of the bunch, right?

Or at least one of the other Rated Rookies, the first time Donruss rolled those babies out (at least with card-front designations).

1984 Donruss Steve Sax

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If rookies aren’t your thing, you have plenty of other choices, because this set was basically a reboot of the 1957 Topps set, except with Donruss-purple images and whiter card stock. Just about everyone looks good in 1984 Donruss.

So go ahead and take your Nolan Ryan or George Brett or Pete Rose or Rickey Henderson or Steve Kemp.

Every one of them is a tremendous baseball card.

But my Steve Sax will take them down, every time. He’ll sweep the leg.

Now, if you don’t get that reference, you and I could probably never be friends in real life. (Not that you’d want that, anyway.)

See, on June 22, 1984, Columbia Pictures released a little film called The Karate Kid.

That’s the movie where Arnold from Happy Days transforms whimpy Ralph Macchio into a fly-catching, fence-painting, bully-fighting machine and also renames him Danielsan. The denouement involves a karate tournament and, naturally, Danielsan works his way all the way to the final match where he faces off against a linebacker dude who trains a local dojo called Cobra Kai.

Cobra Kai is a violent, ruthless place that trains its boys to be just as violent and ruthless, and Daniel’s ultimate foe also just so happens to be the leader of a band of thugs who bullied Daniel on the beach early in the movie and drove him to Arnold’s tutelage in the first place.

Oh, Daniel and Meathead also want the same girl. #NoFormulaHereAtAll

Anyway, it’s well known that Daniel has a bum knee and, when he gets the better of the bully during that championship match, the dojo leader — Sensei Hole — instructs Mr. Linebacker to “sweep the leg.”


1984 Donruss Steve Sax (back)

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I’ll leave it to you to either recall the ending or go redeem yourself and watch the movie if you haven’t done so, or if you haven’t done so in the last 10 years.

What’s important here is that the sensei of Cobra Kai and his underlings always greet everyone with flexed traps, a swaggering lean to one side, and an unamused, slightly threatening glare.

If they could throw a propped-up leg into the mix, all the better.

And that’s where the 1984 Donruss Steve Sax comes back into play.

Based on this photographic evidence, I’m pretty sure Sax was one of the Cobra Kai guys between games with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Or maybe between innings.

Or maybe it was the other way around and he graced the Dodgers with his presence between beatdowns at Cobra Kai.

Whatever the case, young Sax is one tough-looking son of a gun, and his card is drop-dead gorgeous — plenty of sunshine, chainlink fence, fans in the background — even the Donruss-purple can’t bring this one down.

And if you think my theory is inane, that Sax couldn’t possibly have been part of The Karate Kid, have you forgotten where the movie is set? That would be Reseda, in LA.


The 1984 Donruss Steve Sax card is a perfect marriage of a young player in his prime, a beautiful visual presentation, and a direct reference to pop culture, whether anyone realized it at the time or not.

For my money, that makes it the best in the set.

(This is the 11th in our series of posts about the best baseball cards from the 1980s. Check out the rest of those posts here.)

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Steve Sax

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Steve Sax Sketch Card Limited 23/50 Edward Vela Signed

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