I've always been curious as to how the card companies came up with the numbers for each of the cards. Topps seems to randomly mix up the players and teams, though the better players were on the 5's and 10's with the 100's saved for the super stars.
When Fleer came out in 1981, they made it real easy. They just went with one team at a time. That made more sense to me.
Donruss had its own way in 1981. Generally, they went five cards from one team, five from another, a Phillie, and repeat. After five rotations, the Phillie was replaced by a Brave in the next five rotations.
Here's how the first 120 cards broke down:
4 Padres, 6 Tigers, 1 Phillie
6 Pirates, 4 Astros, 1 Phillie, 2 Astros,
5 Rangers, 5 Blue Jays, 1 Phillie
4 Mets, 4 White Sox, 1 Mariner, 1 Phillie
4 Mariners, 6 Angels, 1 Phillie
6 Dodgers, 5 Reds, 1 Brave
5 Cardinals, 5 Giants, 1 Brave
5 Indians, 5 Brewers, 1 Brave
5 Expos, 5 Red Sox, 1 Brave
5 Royals, 5 Yankees, 1 A’s, 1 Yankee
5 Orioles, 4 A’s
That same general pattern was repeated three more times, up through card number 481. Now look again at the team names. Only 24 of the 26 teams are listed. Who's missing?
Well, since I'm writing about it you can pretty easily guess who one of the two is; the Cubs. The other missing team? The Twins.
The first Cubs card in the set is #482, Bill Buckner. The first Twin doesn't show up until #487, Roy Smalley. So in the rest of the set, from #481 - 600, you get lots of Cubs and Twins, and a random assortment of players from the other team. in no particular order any more.
Donruss goes from a pretty predictable pattern with the first 481 cards, to total randomness the last 119, and then finished with 5 checklists.
So why did they not include the Cubs and Twins in the patterns? And why were the Phillies and Braves spread out? Your guess is as good as mine. I like to think that they were saving the best teams for last!
Here's one more Cub oddity with Donruss 1981. For better or for worse, Donruss didn't do any airbrushing. If a player changed teams, they used a photo with the old team and placed the new team's name on the card. The 1981 set features a whopping 6 players in Cubs uniforms listed on different teams. And all six of those were stuck at the end of the set too.