10 Cards that Prove 1997 Metal Universe Is the Most Insane Set of Baseball Cards Ever

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With the number of baseball card sets released over the years, there are bound to be some that are a little bit strange.

And then there’s 1997 Metal Universe Baseball.

From cosmic warfare to tornado hands to bionic limbs, the set makes Adventure Time and Aqua Teen Hunger Force seem tame. It’s one of those sets that, for better or worse, is a relic of its time.

On top of that, their weirdness is done entirely in etched foil, making an already loud set booming.

Produced by Fleer, the card maker was owned by Marvel at the time. It’s almost as though the artists who put the players in peril as they might with a sketch book. Many cards have the sense that the player image was put down and then creativity ran amok with comic-inspired doodles.

The cards themselves give no context. Some seem like they should fit together to tell a story of major leaguers saving the world from aliens and monsters. But that’s not the case. Backs have basic stats and that’s pretty much it.

All 250 of the 1997 Metal Universe base cards have some sort of strangeness going on. However, here are ten that prove its absurdity.

10 Weirdest 1997 Metal Universe Baseball Cards

7. Cal Ripken Jr, Baltimore Orioles

And you thought everybody loved the Iron Man! I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a dinosaur, monster or Gollum on whatever Mark McGwire is alleged to have been using at the time but it’s ready to snatch up one of the era’s baseball greats.

1997 Metal Universe 7 Cal Ripken

14. Ryne Sandberg, Chicago Cubs

Making Sandberg into some sort rhinoceros would have made some sense. But tornado hands? Wouldn’t the power make transferring the ball to his throwing hand difficult? Oh, well, this set throws all logic out the window.

1997 Metal Universe 14 Ryne Sandberg

32 Ryan Klesko, Atlanta Braves

Let’s tie a beehive to a bat. What could go wrong?

1997 Metal Universe 32 Ryan Klesko

90. Kevin Appier, Kansas City Royals

Ever been to the ballpark and had to dodge flying metal spikes? Me neither. The look on Appier’s face shows a guy who’s happy about a near miss.

1997 Metal Universe 90 Kevin Appier

91. Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals

Beware the giant squid because mutant octopi and baseball go hand-in hand. One thing that I’m wondering is why all every player is running away from monsters rather than fighting back. Maybe I should just enjoy the absurdity and not try to make sense of it.

1997 Metal Universe 91 Johnny Damon

109. Travis Fryman, Detroit Tigers

Oh, yeah! Have you ever Travis Fryman and the Kool-Aid Man in the same place at the same time? Neither have I.

1997 Metal Universe 109 Travis Fryman

158. Pedro Martinez, Montreal Expos

Finally, ball players on the offense. I’m not sure if Martinez is throwing asteroids or Madballs. I don’t think it matters. The manga-inspired background further proves how much of a boss Martinez was on the mound.

1997 Metal Universe 158 Pedro Martinez

194. Todd Hundley, New York Mets

Laser scope? Check. Wired mike? Check. Metal toy house for a glove? Absolutely. It’s like someone turned Hundley into a dollar store version of Robocop.

1997 Metal Universe 194 Todd Hundley

242. Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants

Forget mysterious creams. The 1997 Metal Universe Barry Bonds gives baseball’s Home Run King of record cyborg limbs. Insert your own robotic personality joke of choice here.

1997 Metal Universe 242 Barry Bonds

244. Mark Gardner, San Francisco Giants

In Bizzaro Land, two catching arms might make sense. But two throwing arms? I guess one could argue it looks cool.

1997 Metal Universe 244 Mark Gardner

If the insanity of 1997 Metal Universe Baseball intrigues you, the Beckett Marketplace has a wide selection of singles available.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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7 comments

  1. Kerry Orton 25 September, 2015 at 18:35

    I actually have this set and enjoy the crazy antics for each unique card. The only negative? I feel like it should be owned by a much younger person!

  2. David D 26 September, 2015 at 11:22

    I have the complete set. It is one of my all-time favorites and another-of the many reasons-that I miss Fleer trading cards!

  3. Zeprock 27 September, 2015 at 07:26

    Absolutely weird set, but I like it. It was the strangest set to come along since the foretelling fronts of the pre-PED 1992 Topps Kids set.

  4. Ron J. 1 October, 2015 at 12:45

    I too put together the entire set. I always liked the foil and this set took it to the max.

  5. Dawn Riefstahl 28 June, 2016 at 16:07

    Anyone ever notice the the Manny Ramirez card actually has a picture of Alex Ramirez on the back and the inset, or is it just my copy?

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