Thursday, December 1, 2016

Stuck In the Middle: My Retired Baseball Greats base card collection

In my last post I showed off some of my base cards of Baseball Hall Of Famers. Now I'll list my base cards of retired greats who were considered stars in their playing days but are not enshrined in Cooperstown. 

Some of these players have not been retired for the requisite five years, while others are on the ballot and may one day be elected. 

Some have legendary statistics but are being excluded for different reasons - as I discussed in an earlier blog post. They won't be excluded here.       

Here are some of my favorite base cards of these retired superstars...

Don Mattingly was a PC player back in the day.

So was Sammy Sosa.

1992 Fleer Ultra was one of my favorite sets as a kid...but 1993 Ultra might be even better.

 Trois Expos (how about that outfield, Mike Matson?)



Jeff Bagwell in his ZZ Top days. He's knocking on the Hall Of Fame doors, and I think they'll let him very soon. I hope his plaque will show off this sweet beard.

A pair of pre-Papi cards from 1998 - Bowman Chrome & Bowman's Best. These are the oldest David Ortiz cards I own, for some reason I do not have either of his 1997 Fleer RC's.

Jeter and A-Rod in their rookie seasons. My vote for best baseball uniform of all-time goes to the mid-90's Mariners. What's your favorite?

 Le Big Mac.

 Barry Bonds was a hard player to root for. This 1994 Flair card is a lot more likeable.

I knew a guy in high school who called himself "the biggest Gary Sheffield fan you'll ever meet." He even wore a gold chain with Sheff's #10.

I dig those orange Orioles throwbacks Raffy's sporting on this 2005 Leaf card. (And did I mention I used to collect Sosa cards?) PEDs or not, there's nearly 1,200 career home runs between these two.

 I saw Todd Helton play for the double-A New Haven Ravens a time or two.

Why are there two Mark Teixeira cards in this 2011 Topps Heritage set? And how did I end up with both of them? (true story: my bff once mispronounced Tex's name. He called him "Max.")

A pair of Rockets. I won a pack war game with the Tri-Star prospects card; the pot went to the holder of the oldest prospect. How about this guy? He was born in 1962.

 Has there ever been a cooler home run celebration than this?

We'll end with this iconic Derek Jeter card from 2015 Topps (can a card from last year be called 'iconic' yet?)

Here's a complete list of every retired star player in the box, and how many cards I have of that player. (please note: this list does not include inserts, parallels, rookie cards, memorabilia, autographs, graded singles, Red Sox cards, etc...)

Jeff Bagwell (18)
Barry Bonds (18)
Roger Clemens (7)
Prince Fielder (9)
Nomar Garciaparra (5)
Vladimir Guerrero (20)
Roy Halladay (5)
Todd Helton (16)
Trevor Hoffman (13)
Bo Jackson (7)
Joe Jackson (1)
Derek Jeter (15)
Chipper Jones (10)
Jeff Kent (6)
Don Mattingly (54)
Mark McGwire (10)
Mike Mussina (15)
David Ortiz (3)
Rafael Palmeiro (9)
Tim Raines (5)
Manny Ramirez (7)
Mariano Rivera (6)
Alex Rodriguez (14)
Ivan Rodriguez (16)
Pete Rose (2)
Curt Schilling (25)
Gary Sheffield (12)
Sammy Sosa (49)
Mark Teixeira (7)
Jim Thome (15)
Larry Walker (10)

Now for the fun part!

Some of those players are all-time greats and belong in the box, if not the Hall Of Fame. Tim Raines cards were in my binders for years, and I promoted him when it started to look like he'd be elected to the HOF (then again, I did the same thing for Jack Morris.) I dont think anyone reading this would dispute Bonds, Clemens, Jeter, Rose, or A-Rod. But what about the other players? Are there any names on this list that you don't consider star players?

On the other side of the coin, there are some statistically comparable players who have been left out of the box. I flipped through my binders last night and realized that I have no good explanation as to where I drew the line. That's why I need your help...

The following 44 players are in my commons binders at the moment - but they're all borderline Hall Of Famers and/or were considered star players during their career. For your consideration:
  • Albert Belle
  • Kevin Brown
  • Jose Canseco
  • Joe Carter
  • Will Clark
  • David Cone
  • Johnny Damon
  • Eric Davis
  • Carlos Delgado
  • Dwight Evans 
  • Cecil Fielder 
  • Steve Garvey
  • Jason Giambi
  • Juan Gonzalez
  • Dwight Gooden
  • Tim Hudson 
  • Torii Hunter
  • Andruw Jones
  • Kenny Lofton
  • Fred Lynn
  • Edgar Martinez
  • Fred McGriff
  • Jack Morris
  • Dale Murphy 
  • Graig Nettles
  • John Olerud
  • Dave Parker
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Jorge Posada
  • Scott Rolen
  • Bret Saberhagen
  • Johan Santana
  • Lee Smith
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Darryl Strawberry
  • Miguel Tejada
  • Alan Trammell
  • Fernando Valenzuela
  • Mo Vaughn
  • Omar Vizquel
  • Billy Wagner 
  • Lou Whitaker 
  • Bernie Williams
  • Michael Young

  Do any of these names jump off the screen (and into the box?)

There are also a handful of players who were stars before my time, and therefore I don't feel as qualified to determine their proper place: Vida Blue, Bill Freehan, Frank Howard, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich, Minnie Minoso, and Bill Skowron could be considered 'minor stars' but I think Gil Hodges and Roger Maris are star player box worthy for sure. What say you?



  1. Definitely like that Expos Outfield. Would have been killer if they played in the same era..

    As for your list.. I think Albert Belle has the same stigma as Bonds, if not worse, due to his handling of fans and media.

    Joe Carter was a solid player for many years. Mid career had 6 seasons of 24+ HR and 100+ RBI. I am a little biased on him because Jay..

    Carlos Delgado was a solid hitter who took time to find a position. Started as a catcher, then was in left field before going to first.

    Fred McGriff was a solid player who did his job quietly. He has been overlooked a lot because he didn't have the flash of some players but 7 years of 30+ HRs.

    John Olerud was another one who just quietly did his job. 1993 was definitely a career year for him but he was fairly consistent.

    That's my nickel into the pile (pennies no longer exist as legal tender in Canada)

    1. I guess this is why Beckett has a "semistars" list... all of those guys compare favorably to Walker, Helton, Fielder, Mattingly, etc. but maybe they weren't big enough names in the US? And I agree about Belle; if he were a decent human being he might be in the HOF, or close to it.

    2. Very possibly. Aside from McGriff, the guys I named had their best years in Toronto. Fielder came up as a Jay (after they got him from the Royals) but it took him going to Japan and going to the Tigers for him to become a force.

      I honestly think Belle was worse in his treatment of the media and fans than Bonds was..

  2. As a child of the late '80s/early '90s I'm big on guys like Will Clark, Juan Gonzalez, John Olerud, etc. but if I'm being truthful I'm not sure they really belong. My bias aside, I'd say maybe the Crime Dog Fred McGriff is most deserving to be elevated and Olerud as well because he was such a good hitter for a very long stretch. Also, though they're both before my time as well, I 100% agree that Maris and Hodges are bona fide stars. Great post, really got me thinking!

    1. I think I will put my Hodges and Maris cards in the box. McGriff and Jose Canseco are two that I'm seriously considering, though Gonzalez is not far behind. Will Clark was such a popular player in the late 80's/early 90's; if I grew up on the west coast I'd probably have him in over Mattingly.

  3. Replies
    1. Heck of a player on some bad Braves teams. Certainly a star back in the day. I still remember his promos for 1988 Donruss.

  4. A. The 86T Mattingly is a fantastic looking card!

    B. So many great jerseys in MLB to choose from, but I'll go with the 1984 San Diego Padres (away jersey). Love the brown, orange, and gold... on white... and this was the only year they went with a button down using this particular color combination.

    C. There are a lot of great names on that Hall of Very Good list. The one that sticks out the most to me is Omar Vizquel. He gets in... because The Wizard of Oz got in.

    1. 86 Topps had some godawful cards but there were a few nice ones.

      I was thinking about the 84 Padres unis when I wrote that about the M's. They're probably in my top five.

      I agree 100% about Vizquel, and I hope the voters do, too.

  5. The one name on your first list that strikes me as being a bit out of place is Jeff Kent.

    1. Good call Adam. I think I might demote Kent. Probably thought of him as a star because he has more HRs than any 2nd baseman, and he's getting 15-20% of the HOF vote. Not a big "name" even though he had a great career.

    2. Yeah.. Kent was a solid player but I picture him along the lines of a Robby Thompson-style player.
      Oddly enough, Kent was another Jay farmhand.. Traded to the Mets for David Cone..