Following up on manager day, here’s Don Wakamatsu. Unlike Eric Wedge, Don was never really seen as a prospect. He always something of an organizational filler kind of guy – never impressive with the bat, marginally impressive with the glove. I hadn’t even heard of him before he made his ML debut in 91, and if you look back at his stats, you can see why. But I am glad the guy got a cup of coffee – it probably made his path to ML manager much easier.
He looks so young here…I don’t even remember him looking this young back then. Looking at him today, however, I can see that he’s generally just a young-looking guy. Here he is:
Frank was one of those guys that looked amazing right out of the gate, as soon as he was drafted, and put his cards pretty much out of reach until the scope of the early 90s overproduction became apparent. That’s part of why I treasured this Best card so much, even back then: so many people had Thomas’ 1990 Score and Topps, fewer had the Leaf, but I never saw this card in anyone else’s collection. I can’t remember exactly where I found packs of these cards, but I know that we found about half a box and, owing to the rarity, I convinced my parents to scoop up all the remaining cards.
The packs also contained some future stars such as Bernie Williams, Javy Lopez, and Luis Gonzalez, among others that I thought would be future stars at the time. The cards seem simplistic, but I think they’re actually pretty nice. Full-bleed shots were unheard of at the time, and while the font is a little low-rent and cheesy, it’s about what you would expect for that time. Better minor league cards were coming, and soon, but for now, this offered what I thought was an underrated look at an undiscovered country: the world of minor league baseball, which still fascinates me to this day.
Wilson Alvarez was one of those players who, for me, had a reputation that preceded him. I read about him in some magazine back in the day, most likely early 1990, talking about this Rangers kid who was tearing up the minors and had a high upside. I was immediately captivated and wanted a card of him but, unfortunately, they were a little hard to find at the time (read: non-existent, save for minor league issues that were as out of reach for me as the moon).
So I was all ready for him to become a big-time Rangers prospect, and as the team also had Brian Bohanon in the pipeline for a team that had Bobby Witt and Nolan Ryan, I had a good feeling about the future of the Rangers pitching staff. Then, of course, Alvarez got dealt to the White Sox as part of the Sammy Sosa deal (yikes, Texas, just yikes), leaving the 1989 Topps Debut card as the only one depicting him in a Rangers uniform (and this was a good few months before that set came out). As I was somewhat into the Rangers at the time, this was kind of a mood killer, but I still looked forward to this card.
Then, of course, the Upper Deck high numbers were issued. This was becoming an annual treat for me, so I went nuts when I started to see them, pulling Wilson fairly early on and putting him in a plastic case. These days, of course, it’s not worth nearly as much – Alvarez had a decent if not great career – but the picture on the front still evokes memories of that long wait and my excitement pulling him from a pack. I wish sometimes I could go back to that simplicity in collecting, but I’m pretty happy with where I am.