There have been plenty of baseball card snafus over the years. Billy Martin once posed with his middle finger extended along the bat he was holding. Angels' infielder Aurelio Rodriguez was represented on his Topps card by the team's bat boy one year. But nothing comes close to the Billy Ripken mishap of 1989. When the Fleer set was released that year, company representatives had a lot of explaining to do after collectors got a gander at card #616, which was Cal's little brother Billy. Printed in black marker on the knob of Ripken's bat and clearly visible were the words "F--K FACE." Producers went to great lengths to block out the vulgar phrase, experimenting with everything from Wite-Out to a black square. In the end, nearly a dozen versions surfaced in subsequent printings, some selling for as much as several hundred dollars at the height of the card's popularity.
Ripken at first claimed to be the victim of a prank, telling Tim Kurkijan of the Baltimore Sun: "I know I"m kind of a jerk at times. I know I'm a little off, but this is going too far." The story was widely accepted until 2008, when the journeyman infielder admitted to marking the bat himself so it could be easily located for batting practice. To this day, Ripken believes that the Fleer Company deliberately enhanced the card to boost sales.Although the craze has died down, the card still books in the five to ten dollar range.