The 1998 Fleer Sports Illustrated Baseball set contains 200 base cards plus three insert sets and two parallel sets. There are also six autograph redemption cards in the set (though at this point if you pull one of those redemptions you've basically got a worthless piece of cardboard). I guess that means I'm happy I didn't pull an autograph redemption card in my box!
As in 1997, the Fleer SI base set is broken down into multiple subsets. The first 128 cards are what I would consider the regular base cards but Fleer called them "Scouting Report" cards.
The Scouting Report cards feature a nice photo of the player on the front (along with a fancy nameplate consisting of team logo, player name, team name, and position). Personally, I found this design to be one of my favorite base card designs of all sets - especially sets of this era!
The Scouting Report cards get their name from the reverse side - in addition to career statistics (with annoying lines running across the card for some reason), you get a line of 1998 Projected Statistics. If I had more free time (with nothing better to do), I'd compare the player's actual numbers with those that Fleer projected. It would be interesting to see just how well (or poorly) Fleer's projections are. Alas, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do that so consider it homework for you!
Cards numbered 129 through 148 make up the second subset called "Baseball's Best." These are basically made up awards that Fleer decided to give certain players. Examples from my box included "Best Hair" for Mike Piazza and "Best Circus Catches" for Jim Edmonds.
As you can see from the J.T. Snow card, each "Baseball's Best" card has a blue ribbon logo (that takes up way too much room) along with a small player photo and their made-up award. The back of the card gives a brief write-up stating why that player is baseball's best for the topic at hand.
Beginning with card 149 and continuing through 176, the "Ones to Watch" make up a large subset full of up and coming players. As usual with subsets like this, some names ended up being quite good (Todd Helton, Magglio Ordonez) and others have been forgotten in the sands of time (Mike Gulan anyone?). Unfortunately for this set, almost all of the names in the "Ones to Watch" are forgettable. Adding more misery to this subset is the fact that it is freaking ugly.
The green and red (with yellow) trippy design does not work for me at all. The back of the card features a second photo (basically a headshot) along with a small bio. It's a decent idea - and had the design been a bit more subdued, it could have been a nice little subset.
The final subset begins with card 177 and runs through the final card in the set (#200). This is the '97 in Review subset and it basically is exactly what you'd expect. A bunch of cards highlighting various things that happened the previous year (examples include Interleague Play and Florida winning the World Series).
As for me, I love the design of this set - the calendar in the background is perfect and it instantly lets you know what type of card it is that you are looking at.
In my box (which was a retail box from Target), I ended up with 60 different Scouting Report cards (out of 128), 10 Baseball's Best (out of 20), 11 Ones to Watch (out of 28), and 15 Year in Review (out of 24). That means I pulled 96 out of the 200 base cards in my box - less than half the set! I also (unfortunately) pulled 20 duplicates of base cards (split among the various subsets). The number of duplicate base cards was a big disappointment to me - especially since I have hopes of completing the entire base set.
As you can see from the above checklist, the set is fairly comprehensive in terms of old players, young players, stars and scrubs. It's a good little base set set!
Moving on to the insert sets (again looking at the above complete checklist), you see that there are only three different sets. The Opening Day set is actually a set of posters which come one-per-pack.
In my box's case, I ended up with perfect collation - I got 24 unique posters (one per pack) which leave me only a couple short of the full set!
The Covers insert set is seeded 1:9 packs which means you should get two to three per box on average.
My box fell on the low side - I got exactly two. However, I was happy with my two as I got the one Red in the ten card set and a Cal Ripken Jr. I would have liked pulling a Ken Griffey Jr. card as well but no complaints with one I got.
Each box also should contain one Editor's Choice insert card (seeded 1:24 packs). Unfortunately, despite its lofty "box hit" status, the Editor's Choice cards are severely underwhelming. The ten card set is also completely devoid of any Reds which means I have very little interest in the set. I won't be chasing this one.
That leads us to the final card of the box - one of the Extra Edition parallel cards (numbered out of 250).
Fleer didn't state insertion odds for these (there's also a second parallel set numbered out of 1 which I did not pull). I guess parallels make the baseball card world go 'round, but if it's not a parallel of Barry Larkin (or perhaps another Red), I'm most likely not interested. The front differs only by the foil "Extra Edition" stamp while the back has the serial numbering.
At least the numbering is foil stamped rather than inked on like Topps has done with some of its recent sets.
Set Design: A-
Opening Thrill: B-
I like this set a lot - and if Fleer had taken just a bit more care, it could have easily earned an "A" rating from me. Since I was hoping to complete the base set (and in fact, I'm still hoping to), getting four packs worth of solid duplicates was aggravating. I love the base design - and if it weren't for the one subset set of rookies being so ugly, this would have been an A or A+. The Opening Thrill isn't quite as high as some sets since you basically won't be landing "high impact" cards (there aren't even any overly rare insert cards). That's ok with me though as I'm mostly a set collector! In the end, I would highly recommend this set for anyone looking for a nice, clean base design and lots of fun photos. It's a great looking set - and the posters are even kind of fun (and different).