Ex-SI writer Woodcock gives cards their backing


For 20 years, Les Woodcock was a writer for Sports Illustrated and his words were seen by millions.

In 1986, he returned to writing baseball, and again, his work has been seen by millions.

He's the man who does the backs of Score and Select baseball and football cards.

"It's a marvelous way to end my career. I really enjoy it," says Woodcock, who lived in Baltimore in the early 1970s and published Turf & Sport Digest.

He collected baseball cards as a child, then had nothing to do with them until he was working as a sports media consultant. A client, Dan Shedrick, asked him to do the backs of his first cards. Those were Sportflics, the moving cards. The company Shedrick started is now known as Pinnacle Brands. Score is the foundation card, and Woodcock is still doing the backs, but it's his full-time job.

Woodcock, who lives in New York, tries to attend a game a week and watches others on television. He reads sports and hobby magazines and several newspapers.

He keeps index cards on each player, recording descriptions of their play, quotes and significant performances. "A lot of things I never use," he says, "but a pattern may develop."

Then the trick is filling the space.

"It all depends on the number of stats," Woodcock says. "Nolan Ryan, there's no room to write anything. . . . It's a challenge to write about somebody who just came up and I have eight or 10 lines."

He also decides who will appear in subsets and insert sets and works with Pinnacle's photo department, suggesting rookies to shoot. A researcher checks facts and looks for repetition.

"I compare what I do to editing a magazine," he says. "I write it as if I'm still writing for Sports Illustrated."

His dream card?

"My favorite was a five-card set I did on Reggie Jackson when he retired. I was able to write a full back of five straight cards," Woodcock says. "I could write at length and it could be cohesive."

He's working on 1995 baseball Series I, meeting deadlines for each group of 110 cards (the number that fit on a sheet). He says if a player does anything significant between the time he does his card and the end of the season, it would probably appear as a highlight card in Series II because it is expensive to redo cards that far along in production.

NBA Jam at Eastpoint

The NBA is taking its Jam Session on a 14-city tour, and it's stopping at Eastpoint Mall Oct. 7-9. Basketball fans can go one-on-one, lace up NBA shoes, compare their reach to that of NBA players or walk in a size 20 footprint.

Fleer, which sponsors NBA Jam Session, will give away three-card packs. Collectors who bring five wrappers from Fleer, Ultra, Flair or NBA Jam Session cards receive a commemorative sheet.

People who buy NBA-licensed merchandise from participating Eastpoint merchants can do a fantasy broadcast and receive a tape of their effort.

Adding autographs

Action Packed will insert autographed cards into its auto racing set for the first time.

There will be 1,000 autographed 24-karat gold leaf Jeff Gordon cards in Series III. Subsets feature Ernie Irvan, Mark Martin, top owners and their cars, the Wallace and Bodine brothers, and a midseason recap.

The winningest team, Richard Childress', rates a 19-card insert set.

Flair for basketball

Fleer will be expanding its super-premium Flair line to NBA cards this fall. Fleer will only say that it will come in two series and be of "limited production."

Coming events

Oct. 7-9, NBA Jam Session Mall Tour, Eastpoint Mall.

Oct. 7-9, first world collectors fair, Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland (includes days devoted to coins, stamps and memorabilia, plus auction by Christie's).


Upper Deck begins the NBA season with Collector's Choice. Series One has 210 regular cards and two insert sets, which can be redeemed after the season for complete insert sets if the player shown gets 2,000 points or 750 assists. One subset features the winning teams in the Hoop-It-Up tournament. (Shown is the Bullets' Calbert Cheaney.)

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