Twenty years ago no card was more sought after than Bill Ripken's infamous 1989 Fleer emblazoned with that famous filthy phrase on the knob of the second baseman's bat.
A year later another card marred by a much less offensive term garnered far less attention.
Jim Nettles' 1990 Pacific Senior League card has flown under the radar all these years, much like Nettles himself during his major league career. The younger brother of six-time all star Graig Nettles, Jim spent all or part of six seasons in the majors with four different teams between 1970-81. His career includes a stop in Japan with the Nankai Hawks in 1975 and a stint in the Mexican League in 1976. When his playing days were done, he spent 13 years as a manager in the minor leagues.
The well-traveled outfielder also spent time in the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association where a date with baseball card infamy awaited in 1989.
The Florida-based league consisted of eight teams in two divisions and a 72-game schedule. New professional leagues have a long history of failure, but the SPBA gained instant credibility when Hall of Famers like Rollie Fingers and Ferguson Jenkins signed up. The league also boasted former all stars such as Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, Mickey Rivers, Bill Madlock and Luis Tiant among others. Although credibility and profitability are two different things and the league designed for players 35 and older folded halfway through its second season.
"It was a good idea, but with a bunch of older guys it was like slow-pitch softball after a while," Jim Nettles said in a phone interview from his Tacoma home.
Nettles patrolled the outfield for the St. Lucie Legends in 1989. He said he was approached by a photographer from Pacific Trading Cards during a morning workout. The photographer wanted a photo of Nettles holding a bat and supplied one - although the lumber did not belong to Nettles, but to one of his teammates. Which teammate you ask?
"I'm not going to say whose it was, but that word describes his personality," he said.
Nettles posed for the pic and went about his business. It wasn't until about a month later when the topic of the 220-card set came up that he found out about the offending term.
"We were talking about the cards and a teammate said something like, ‘Well your card is going to be worth a lot more than anybody else's.' I had no idea what he was talking about," Nettles said.
The card with the offending term is actually pretty common; the corrected version without the profanity is more valuable and much tougher to locate. Ridiculous asking prices for the vulgar version are common place on eBay. Don't be fooled. The entire Pacific set, which includes the profane card, sells for about $10.
Unlike the fervor that surrounded the Ripken card, there wasn't much blow back from the incident. Mike Cramer, president of Pacific, pled ignorance and blamed hurried photo editing for the gaffe.
Nettles is not a fan of the card. In fact when he receives requests to sign it, he makes sure his signature obscures the vulgarity.
"I don't think it's funny, but I don't let it bother me," he said. "I just hope some kid doesn't pick up the card and think I wrote it on there."
Nettles moved to Tacoma after a stint with the Tacoma Twins. He and his wife intended to live there for a couple of years, but 36 years later they are still in Tacoma and in the same house. Nettles spends much of his time operating his hitting academy in Gig Harbor and attends many Mariner games with his son-in-law, Mariner designated hitter Mike Sweeney.