1996 Leaf Signature Series
I learned about Matt when he was a prospect in the Padres system, with High Desert back in 1991, where he had hit .341 with 15 home runs and looked like a great prospect. I was a bit surprised when he was part of the Gary Sheffield deal, but he was with Milwaukee by 1993, putting up a .687 OPS in 23 games. He only really managed to stick for a full season in 1995, and only got over 100 OPS+ in 1998, for two years. So he turned out to not be that great after all.
Still, I have fond memories of him in a fantasy baseball game that I created way back in the day, and was giddy at the prospect of getting his autograph.
Bert was kind of my introduction to an arcane world, one of prospects who hadn’t made mainstream baseball card sets, and yet were well-known to certain circles of fans. I’ve mentioned the prospecting magazines I used to read in the late 80s and 90s; as I recall, the first one I picked up reviewed every team – it was where I learned of players like Jeff Bagwell for the first time, but I also learned of some Brewers prospects that I had never even heard of before. Darryl Hamilton I was familiar with (the guy in the magazine was tabbing him as a future superstar – just a little off), but he was also talking of some catcher in A ball named Bert Heffernan. I had never heard of him, but I was instantly intrigued. Was this Milwaukee’s catcher of the future, flying just under the radar?
Well, history shows that no, of course, he wasn’t, and as far as I know, he never even had a major card issue. I had completely forgotten about him until I bought a cheap box of Star a few years back and came across this card. Once I saw him, though, all those memories came flooding back, and I decided to check up on his stats to see if he’d been overblown.
I was surprised to see he had made the majors, if only for a cup of coffee. I was less surprised to see that he had pretty much never been a legit prospect – just one conjured up this sportswriter. In 1989, the year I think the guy was writing for, he did hit .296, but had a paltry .376 slugging percentage.
The moral of the story? Don’t trust sportswriters for prospect picks.