Lee Smith in a Cardinals' uniform just seems right to me. The 1990 Topps sets is a bit of a mess. I only recently learned that the design is supposed to be inspired by comic books, which, ok I guess is obvious? The borders and (if you look reeeal close) the photos have the iconic Ben-Day dots, which was the printing process for comic books for decades, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Again, sure seems obvious, but I was almost as big of a comic book fan in 1990 as I was a baseball fan, and these just don't make me think comics, and the printing process frankly doesn't make me think baseball, either. But enough whining, let's check out the rest of the Hall of Famers!
Dave Winfield was back in SoCal after a contentious stay in the Bronx, Gary Carter was spending a little time by the Bay, Bobby Cox was Managing again after spending time as the team's General Manager, and it turns out he helped himself to a roster that would be pretty good. Red Schoendienst was making another run at managing the Cardinals, he'd last 24 games in 1990, his 3rd and final stint at the helm.
Rookies! I think I'll do an Olerud post at some point in the not to distant future, he was one of may favorite players in the 90s. Dave Justice certainly put his stamp on the decade as well, and was such a big part of Atlanta's success. Carlos Baerga was the silent partner in the Cleveland lineup, with Belle, Thome, Alomar and Lofton getting more attention. I really thought Fryman was going to be an All-Time great back in the early 90s.
1990 was a big off-season for the Reds, adding Hal Morris, World Series MVP Billy Hatcher, and the crazy Randy Myers. The biggest change was probably the addition new skipper Lou Pinella, who was able to take this big group of conflicting personalities (including team owner Marge Schott) and lead them to a 4 game sweep on the 1990 World Series.
I call this color "Fleer" yellow.
So, funny thing - there was a Topps Traded Factory set, but Topps also shipped hobby boxes of packs of Traded Set cards for the first time. The Factory Set has the bright yellow backs, and the wax packs had backs closer to the flagship set backs.
Phenoms! These guys were going to be amazing. Nokes had already had a huge season in Detroit, and was going to challenge Hundley every year for King of New York Catchers - It was like Berra and Campanella all over again! Ben McDonald was about as hyped as you could get for a young starting pitcher. Kevin Maas was going to be chasing down records of all the great Yankee sluggers... Well, you can't always get what you want.
The Minnesota Twins would finish in last place in 1990. They'd do a little better the next year. Scott Erickson would emerge as a top of the rotation starter, Terry Leach became a reliable sidearm/submarine righty in the Twins bullpen. The Candy Man would be out on the road again for the 1991 season, but in 1990 he would be the right guy to bring the Twins Pedro Muñoz and Nelson Liriano in a July deadline deal.
The biggest addition to the Twins in 1990 was Shane Mack. In his 5 years with the Twins, Mack hit .309 with a 130 OPS+. Only two players in Twins history have had more seasons with a 130 OPS+ - Kirby Puckett and Tony Oliva. He stole 71 bases and hit 67 homers. In the 1991 season, Mack led the Twins with 5 Wins Above Replacement.
Some guys were way off base in the 1990 set - Keith Hernandez doesn't want to talk about it.
On the other hand, some guys seemed like they were right where they belonged. I don't know if it was because I was in the Midwest, but Jack McDowell was one of the most popular non-Twins players in the early 90s in my neighborhood.
(I think the person that did this airbrush job was a little Knackert.)