Card of the Day: 1991 Upper Deck Nolan Ryan / Rickey Henderson SP

There are so many things to love about Upper Deck of the early 90s. The company invigorated the hobby with a new type of product that appealed to more than just your average kid saving his lunch money. UD was the first to insert autographs into packs, the first to use holograms, and the first to introduce the seeded special cards that we’ve come to know as SP.

The initials SP could mean many things, and to this day I am still unsure if Upper Deck meant for it to mean special or short printed, such as the letters are used in Beckett. Regardless of what they mean, they were affixed to certain cards that hobbyists chased with their hard-earned dollars.

The first to my knowledge was the 1991 Upper Deck Michael Jordan SP1 baseball card, the infamous one of him taking batting practice with the Chicago White Sox. Jordan’s power during batting practice, and in part this card that chronicled it, seemingly was the cause of his first basketball retirement. But the Jordan was the first of many SPs. Upper Deck began using them in all of it’s sports. And the second of the baseball series was this Nolan Ryan / Rickey Henderson card.

Numbered SP2, this card was randomly seeded into hi-series packs of Upper Deck. It commemorates the date of May 1, 1991, the day that Nolan Ryan threw his seventh career no hitter and Rickey Henderson stole his 939 base, a record he would continue to pad for more than a decade.

But subject matter of this card is not what got my attention today. Instead it is the artist who who drew these baseball legends, one V. Wells.

A few days back while sorting a box, I stumbled upon a stack of Upper Deck team checklist cards, many of which I hadn’t thought much about in 10 years. I decided to look at the card as a piece of art (they are paintings) to see if the depiction was even close to the player’s actual likeness. And to my surprise, there was a striking resemblance, something not often said about baseball cards featuring drawings. I then looked for the artist’s name and read “V. Wells.”

The only “V. Wells” I know is Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays. For a second I wondered if a relative of his was an artist, a long shot for sure, as Wells is a pretty common name. But sure enough, It turns out that Vernon Wells of the Blue Jays is in fact Vernon Wells III, son of former college football player and famed sports artist Vernon Wells Jr.

Vernon Wells Jr., according to his Web site, is not just an artist, former football player and father of a Major Leaguer, but also an accomplished baseball player! Even at age 53, Vernon Jr. is still playing baseball and apparently has 11championship rings. Now there is something you don’t read about every day. It’s a shame it took me all these years to realize who painted one of my favorite cards, this Ryan / Henderson SP.

9 Responses to “Card of the Day: 1991 Upper Deck Nolan Ryan / Rickey Henderson SP”

  1. PunkRockPaint Says:

    Wow!!! I would have NEVER made that connection! Well Done!

  2. This is one of my favorite cards as well! Great post.

  3. Hey, The Jon has that Jordan card and the one of his alter ego Johnny Kilroy

  4. God, don’t remind me of the Johnny Kilroy. When I actually cared about basketball cards that was a big one to have. And of course it turned out to be lame. I did have 7 Larry Johnson rookies in 1991, when they were big sellers at $15 each. Ballin’, son.

  5. what as compared to The Jon’s Shawn Kemp cards … what awaste. All of those basketball cards aren’t worth squat.

  6. Kemp was one of the reasons why I soured on basketball cards. Everytime I pulled one I got pissed, eventhough they were worth money at the time. It’s like ripping open a pack of baseball cards these days and pulled a gang of Sammy Sosa. Ugh.

  7. I’M JUST CURIOUS, I’M 28 AND SINCE I WAS 6 I WAS COLLECTING BASEBALL CARDS. I HAVE THE NOLAN RYAN 7TH NO HITTER VS. RICKEY HENDERSEN 939 STOLEN BASES CARD AMONG OTHERS.
    DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT THIS CARD IS WORTH?
    I WON’T SELL IT. I LOVE THE CARD SINCE THE 7TH NO HITTER WAS AGAINST THE BLUE JAYS (MY HOME TEAM).
    ALSO THE VERNON WELLS STATEMENT WAS EXTRODINARY!
    I’M JUSTCURIOUS…

  8. […] In case you forgot, Vernon Wells’ father is a well-renowned sports artist. […]

  9. Karl Freudenburg Says:

    I have two Nolan Ryan cards,from California angels to Texas Rangers1991. Mother’s Cookies and Pacific Trading Cards. I lived in his hometown and now he’s passed away.

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