Zosky was part of the 1989 draft, a draft class that got broad coverage in the 1990 Score set, igniting my imagination with what these kids could potentially do. Some of them went on to better things, like Mo Vaughn and Chuck Knoblauch (relatively speaking), and some never appeared in the majors. Zosky was one of those cup of coffee types, but I was a bit blinded because I was big into the Blue Jays at the time. I wanted to see Zosky thrive in the majors. He had a slick glove, after all, and shortstops really didn’t need to hit during that era. He could make it, right?
Well…no. He ended up with a 14 OPS+ career. That’s Tony Pena Jr.-esque. Maybe they should have converted him to a pitcher? Either way, I did manage to catch a few of the games he played in 91 and 92 and he looked great in the field but absolutely clueless at the plate.
Despite my Blue Jays fandom at the time, I never liked this card. I think it’s the lighting and that you can’t see his face very well – not to mention the photo is a bit blurry and for once the color composition on a Gold Leaf is not all that great. Still worth mentioning as part of the set, however.
Early on prospectors knew that Billy Ashley was going to be a Dave Kingman/Mark McGwire type (this was pre-record McGwire, mind you), so when I got this card, I was excited, but a little reserved because I questioned whether he had the chops to stick at the Major League level. Oh, I had no doubt the guy would hit 30+ homers a year, but I expected Incaviglia-esque strikeout totals and batting averages. I hung on to the card for a bit, but wanted to play a wait-and-see on getting anything else for him.
Well, he surprised me. 30 homers a year? Yeah, he didn’t even manage 30 career homers. As predicted, his career BA was .233 with an absymal .307 OBP. 307! Yikes. I was reserved in my enthusiasm for the guy and he managed to underwhelm even those expectations. Good job, Billy!
Time for another Leaf Gold Rookie. Still a ways to go in the 1991 set, and then we’ll get to 1992. Reggie was another of the early prospects that I learned about, included with a class of Wil Cordero and Dan Opperman. He was often compared to Eric Davis, who was a superstar at the time and one of the players that I really admired. Reading that made me instantly want every one of his cards I could find, which was not much back in 1989. Come 1991, he had a card in the Upper Deck Final Edition set and the Leaf Gold Rookies, so of course I snapped up those as soon as I could. I believe I traded for Reggie’s Gold Leaf card through a friend who had pulled it from a pack.
I think Reggie falls in the same category as Zeile: good but not great. Injuries held him back a lot (like Davis), and of course he bounced from team to team, which couldn’t have been good for him overall.
I have to comment on this card: the photo is pretty weak by Gold Leaf standards. The color coordination, which was the set’s strength, is still there, but you can just barely see Sanders’ face and the pose is only so-so. Kind of disappointing.
Oh, and here’s a 1991 Final Edition card of Sanders with Ryan Klesko, since I wasn’t sure where else to put it:
I’ve told the tale of the 1989 Upper Deck High Numbers a few times, but this card in particular has an interesting story. I was part of a little card club back in 1989…we were a group of kids and a couple of older guys who would meet in the basement of the public library and swap cards from our collections. This usually resulted in the older guys ripping off the kids (thanks, jerks). But this card represents a little change. When I saw Zeile I was instantly intrigued – a prospect I hadn’t heard of? I checked out the guy’s stats on the backs and decided he looked like a pretty good catching prospect; the kid I was trading with wanted a bit for him, but to me it was totally worth it. I seem to remember dealing some 87 Fleer Update cards for him, but the actual trade is lost to the mists of time. Either way, I didn’t care. I had what I wanted.
Of course, Zeile went on to have a pretty decent career, if not Hall of Fame. He remained one of my favorite players during his playing years – one I always kept an eye on, even if this card disappeared into the ether sometime in the late 90s (this is a recently acquired copy). Thanks for the good years, Todd.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure Johnny Damon was going to stick. Sure, he was a speedy outfielder with a good glove (how things change), but I wasn’t sure he had enough of a bat to hang around. I thought the Damon cards I got were kind of cool back in the day, especially this one, but I didn’t think he was going to hang around long enough to really make a mark. Obviously I was wrong, but the odd thing is that this is not a recent acquisiton; this is the original card I got in 1994. I think I may have even traded for this. So I guess in some corner of my mind I had some questions. I’m still not a big Damon fan, but I have to admit this card is pretty cool. I think of this parallel as a predecessor to the later sets like refractors and x-fractors. I may try to track down more of these as I have an opportunity to.
Scott Erickson was the coolest pitcher I’d ever seen. The guy dressed all in black on his pitching days, and went so far as to paint his spikes black. It seems really dorky now, but when you’re 14, it seems like the height of coolness for a major league pitcher. Rock star kind of stuff. It helped that he was a pretty good pitcher, too, even if I didn’t give a damn about the Twins past the 1991 World Series. I never noticed until now, either, but he bore a resemblance to Jim Palmer, who remains my favorite pitcher of all time (okay, maybe secondary to Satchel Paige). I’m sure there was some influence there.
Unfortunately, after a promising start, his career fell apart. Oh, he stuck around for a long time, but after 91 and 92 he was mediocre at best. Too bad. I don’t know if an injury was to blame or if the league just figured out that sinker.
Remember when Arthur Rhodes was supposed to be the next Vida Blue? Ugggggh. Yeah. I bought into that, especially as I was an O’s fan at the time. Mussina and Rhodes – what else could the Orioles want in their rotation?
Well, of course it didn’t work out that way. Rhodes turned out to be decent, but Vida Blue he is and was not. This card, however, is still a favorite of mine. Look at the gorgeous photo – the orange just pops, especially with the player in the background. I also love the lighting here.