If there was any knock against Kirby Puckett in 1986, it was that he wasn’t a rookie.

That was the summer, after all, when Wally Joyner and Jose Canseco waged an assault on the rookie home run record — an assault that ultimately fell short — and lit up the hobby in the process.

It was tough for a breakout artist to get much press in that setting … you know, unless you were streaking to a 24-4 record, like Roger Clemens did.

But setting aside those shortcomings — not being a rookie and not being a towering flamethrower — Puckett was nothing short of a revelation for a 1986 Minnesota Twins club that finished 71-91 and in sixth place in the old American League West division.

After all, with nearly two full seasons of MLB action under his belt, the Twinkies centerfielder looked like he’d be a good-average, low-power guy with a modicum of speed, as evidence by his batting line: .292, 4 home runs, 105 RBI, 18 triples, and 35 stolen bases over the span of 1327 plate appearances.

Puckett was also 26 years old, so his prospect days were behind him.

And then, well, dude went out and hit .328 with 31 homers, 96 RBI, 20 stolen bases, and 119 runs scored.

That performance garnered Puck his first All-Star nod and sent collectors scrambling for his cards. His rookie issues were chief among the targets, of course, but the hobby also embraced his then-current-year cards, like the nifty blue-bordered 1986 Fleer card showing a coiled and youthful Twin:

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That card was an instant hit and has become something of a classic.

Every once in awhile, though, that other 1986 Fleer Puckett shows up:

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Looks funny, huh? To see that unfamiliar photo in that familiar frame?

Especially at that size, seeing as how the card hails from the 1986 Fleer Mini set … or, formally, the 1996 Fleer Classic Miniatures set.

Issued as a 120-card box set, the Fleer Minis were just that, with each piece measuring just 1 13/16″ x 2 9/16″.

The design is identical to the base Fleer set, as is the progression of cards-by-team, beginning with George Brett of the 1985 World Series champion Kansas City Royals and ending with R.J. Reynolds of the bottom-dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates.

In between, each club was represented by four or five cards each — Puckett was the last of the Twins, joining teammates Bert Blyleven, Tom Brunanski, and Kent Hrbek.

And — obviously — the photos were different.

All these years later, though, it seems fitting to see the diminutive sparkplug of two championship Twins teams featured on a diminutive card from his breakout season, don’t you think?

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