For those of you who weren't collecting at the time, a little bit about the set: it was one of the many "randomly inserted" Donruss inserts that year, so I'm not really sure what the odds were. This was definitely something a bit different for Donruss as they celebrated the 20th anniversary of their inaugural 1981 baseball set, and they never fell pray to the Topps mailing-it-in attitude of "Screw it, let's reprint more of our crap, people will go nuts for it."
They also didn't go the Topps route of messing with the reprinted card after the fact as Topps did with some if their reprint sets, (i.e. reducing a multiplayer RC down to that single player) and their alterations were limited to three design elements to clearly mark these as reprints: a silver "20th Anniversary" logo stamped up front, and on the back numbering based on the insert set--not its numbering from the original set--and a serial number based on the year the card was issued. Cal Ripken's '82 reprint, therefore, is the lowest numbered card at 1982 copies, meaning that many complete sets are possible, as previously mentioned.
A parallel version, of which 1900 fewer of each card exists, was also possible to pull, and in picking up the Griffey for this set, I received my first parallel version in the eBay transaction that culminated in this post, in which the USPS did its best to prevent those cards from arriving to me, as usual. My interest, though, was always in the main reprint insert set for several reasons. First and foremost I enjoy the multitude of designs the retrospective gives you, featuring cards from 1982-1992. Secondly, the serial numbering made this one of the more challenging pursuits of my collecting experience, especially when I encountered stubborn sellers clinging to the idea that they were worth much more than any sane person would pay for them. Finally, the player selection is quite good and hits on many of my favorites from that time span, the era when I grew up and first got into baseball.
All that makes this easily my favorite insert set I've yet completed. And now I proudly present to you all 39 2001 Donruss Rookie Reprints!:
- Cal Ripken Jr. 1982 (#0961/1982): A great way to start the set off with a bang, though Donruss really had no choice--the '81 set featured no major RCs and the '82 version was devoid of anything major except Cal. I have the original version of this one, of course.
- Wade Boggs 1983 (#1316/1983): Here's the first of a few on this list I don't yet own. Young Wade hit .349 in 104 games for the '82 Sawx on his way to a hit-filled HOF career and was one of four key '83 RCs in the set, the fourth being Julio Franco, who didn't make the cut for this set (to no one's surprise).
- Tony Gwynn 1983 (#0458/1983): I own Gwynn's Fleer and Topps RCs from that year, but not this Donruss issue. The back mentions that he was "A most pleasant late addition to the Padres in '82" and that he was called up from Hawaii. Man, if you've gotta pay your dues in the minors, it may as well be in Hawaii, right?
- Ryne Sandberg 1983 (#1503/1983): My eyes! The goggles do nothing! Aside from the ugly-ass uni on the front, this card reminds everyone that Ryno was traded from the Phils to the Cubs along with Larry Bowa in 1982. Bowa, of course, headed back to Philly as a manager for a few years in the early aughts. This is another one I really need to pick up--I should get a wantlist going or something.
- Don Mattingly 1984 (#1006/1984): This list considers Donnie Baseball's RC the only key rookie in the set, though the next card will have something to say about that. Mattingly is certainly one of the more memorable recent Yankees even if he's not really HOF-caliber. Not bad for a 1979 19th-rounder. Bonus quote from the back: "One of the very few Yankee farmhands who made it to the big leagues as a Yankee." Those were the days.... Add this one to the wantlist too, by the way.
- Joe Carter 1984 (#1034/1984): You'd better believe I have this one. Carter's no HOFer but he had an excellent overall career, and he definitely sealed his place in baseball history with one of the most dramatic World Series homers ever. The #2 overall pick in 1981 found himself in Cleveland the year after this card was made, and he would play for six teams in his 16-year career, though he'll always be remembered (and loved) by Blue Jays fans for his World Series exploits. A worth addition to this set for sure.
- Roger Clemens 1985 (#0439/1985): Screw this guy--I don't have this card and I don't want it.
- Kirby Puckett 1985 (#0920/1985): There's no way this set would be complete without the incomparable Kirby Puckett. This is a great posed shot of the Minnesota legend and it's a card I'm sadly missing in my collection--for now. Kirby didn't show much power--no homers--in the 128 games of his rookie 1984 campaign, but the hitting prowess was already on display as he hit an excellent .296 in the first year of his HOF career.
- Orel Hershiser 1985 (#0217/1985): At first glance, Hershiser may seem like a strange addition to this set, and this key cards list agrees, but this is a guy who won a Cy Young, pitched in three World Series (winning one) and amassed more than 200 wins in his 18-year career. As with Joe Carter, Donruss made a wise choice here.
- Andres Galarraga 1986 (#0864/1986): Here's another guy who inexplicably didn't make the key cards list for this year. The Big Cat compares well to the previously mentioned Joe Carter as well as HOFers Orlando Cepeda, Jim Rice and Willie Stargell, and he enjoyed an outstanding, if not HOF-worth, 19-year career.
- Jose Canseco 1986 (#0247/1986): This was definitely a popular card at the time, but as with Clemens, screw that guy.
- Fred McGriff 1986 (#0386/1986): One of Tim's favorites, and for good reason as he was also an outstanding player for several teams over a long, productive career, not unlike a couple other guys you've just read about. A Yankees prospect that got away (muhahahahaha!) the Crime dog moved around quite a bit but did manage to win it all with the '95 Braves. An excellent choice for this set.
- Paul O'Neill 1986 (#1728/1986): I've never liked O'Neill and I never will, but he was definitely one of those unsung guys who could put a good team over the top, as his five rings (one with the '90 Reds) prove.
- Mark McGwire 1987 (#1920/1987): Overrated, one-dimensional cheater, so I'll take this opportunity to mention that the '87 set is the best represented here with eight total cards, though only five make the linked list. This is definitely one of my favorite Donruss sets for that very reason.
- Barry Bonds 1987 (#1884/1987): Yeah, whatever. Next.
- Kevin Brown 1987 (#1669/1987): Ugh, not only was this guy a cheater, he was also an overpaid douche, and I only vaguely understand his inclusion here, but that's probably mostly hindsight. NEXT.
- David Cone 1987 (#0079/1987): That's more like it. Cone was also left off that list, but he won almost 200 games in his 17-year career, including 20 twice, picked up a Cy Young award, won five rings (one with Toronto, four with the Yanks) AND pitched a perfect game.
- Rafael Palmerio 1987 (#1570/1987): Ok, this is getting a bit depressing. NEXT.
- Barry Larkin 1987 (#1354/1987): Not sure why one of the best shortstops of his generation and a deserving HOFer isn't included here, but there's still plenty of time to right that wrong. A Michigan grad (have I mentioned that) and product of athlete factory Cincinnati Moeller High, the 1995 NL MVP gave his all for 19 years with his hometown team, highlighted by a championship in 1990. All that remains is enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, something that had damn well better happen this year, along with counterpart Alan Trammell.
- Bo Jackson 1987 (#0327/1987): There was no way Donruss was going to deny collectors another card of one of the 80s' biggest manias, but then again, Bo could have told you that. Though he only played a few seasons due to injuries, the two-sport star managed to put up some big numbers, but even those were overshadowed by his highlight reel plays in the outfield. This is a perfect case of a reprint set bringing back the perfect amount of nostalgia from collectors' childhoods.
- Greg Maddux 1987 (#0742/1987): Maddux is the last of the '87s, and really, what more can I say about the guy than I already have? Seeya soon in the Hall of Fame, buddy. Just make sure you don't have the Sidney Crosby punk-ass facial hair going on, ok?
- Roberto Alomar 1988 (#0678/1988): Speaking of HOFers, the first of the '88s is Robbie Alomar, an All-Star mainstay who deservedly was enshrined in 2011. You know who he best compares to? Sweet Lou Whitaker. If only the Whitaker-Tram duo could enter the Hall together in 2012. Oh well, at least Alomar got his due.
- Mark Grace 1988 (#0370/1988): Interesting note: Grace finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting that year to Wolverine Chris Sabo. Both went on to win a ring, but it's not much of an argument that Grace had the better career by far. It's good to see him sticking around the game as a commentator, though maybe he'll find a front office/management-type role someday.
- David Wells 1988 (#0087/1988): As with the other Yankees on this list, (though Wells was briefly a Tiger as well) I was never a fan of this loudmouth fatass, but he did have a few nice seasons over his amazing 21-year career.
- Tom Glavine 1988 (#1978/1988): Glavine doesn't look thrilled to be with the Braves here, but little did he know that he'd be a big part of the best team of the 1990s. I made sure to check the back for a hockey reference, and sure enough it mentions that the Kings drafted him in 1984, the same year the Braves picked him up. Looks like he chose the right sport.
- Matt Williams 1988 (#1218/1988): Williams went a few picks ahead of the forthcoming Gary Sheffield in '86, but I think the Giants are pretty happy about their pick. From 1987-1996, Williams was consistently homer-happy, including a monster shortened 1994 season, and put up some outstanding numbers. When people like Topps assemble "fan favorites" sets based around guys that don't really get their due, they include players like Williams, and for good reason.
- Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 (#0702/1989): I dunno, maybe you've seen this one before? The first of five '89s is definitely the best--the Kid. The old Rated Rookie logo brings back tons of memories for me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. In fact, I know I'm not, especially because of one of Kevin's typically excellent posts. The original card, of course, has its place in my rookie card PC here.
- Randy Johnson 1989 (#0219/1989): Johnson appears to be sneering "Yeah I started my career with the Expos, and yeah I had the mullet all the way back then, so what?" The sure-fire HOFer actually found himself traded to the Mariners in 1989, and the rest is history, thanks to five Cy Youngs, a World Series ring, 300+ wins, a ridiculous 4875 Ks, a no-hitter AND a perfect game, plus a 20 strikeout game. Dude was good.
- Gary Sheffield 1989 (#1756/1989): See: Barry Bonds. Screw this guy. In the ear.
- Craig Biggio 1989 (#1225/1989): One of the greatest athletes ever to play the game, period. Catcher, second base, outfield, it didn't matter where you put him, he'd hit, or get hit, but he'd always get on base. And when he did that, you could count on teammates like Jeff Bagwell to bring him home. A 3000 hit club member, I hope to see him enter the Hall very soon.
- Curt Schilling 1989 (#0677/1989): Something something...bloody sock...something...politics...something...Warcraft.... Interesting note on the back: The Red Sox sent him to Baltimore along with noted cheater Brady Anderson, though of course Curt found his way back to Boston in time to live up to his team's name years later.
- Larry Walker 1990 (#0423/1990): Walker still has a pretty decent chance at making the Hall, but if he doesn't he can still rest on his laurels, which include fairly impressive numbers both inside and outside of Coors field.
- Bernie Williams 1990 (#0564/1990): Basically Paul O'Neill minus the douchiness, plus he was a homegrown Yankee, not that New York fans would feel that they have to point that out AD NAUSEUM.
- Sammy Sosa 1990 (#0391/1990): Steroids and cork are the lasting images from a career that should have been remembered for mammoth home runs and 1998.
- Juan Gonzalez 1990 (#1239/1990): Oh that the ill-advised trade to Detroit never had happened. At least he won't make the Hall and everyone can just forget about his stupid ass.
- David Justice 1990 (#1614/1990): The guy had some very nice seasons, especially with the Braves, and won two rings in a crazy six Series appearances. I'll always remember him with the Braves, not the Indians, Yankees, Mets and A's.
- Ivan Rodriguez 1991 The Rookies (#0727/1991): Clearly one of the greatest catchers ever, Donruss was smart enough to include Pudge in their Rookies set that year. Though I'll always remember him with Texas, I'll also fondly recall his seasons with the Tigers, including the magical 2006 World Series team.
- Jeff Bagwell 1991 The Rookies (#0697/1991): The erstwhile Red Sox 3B was the NL Rookie of the Year that year on the way to what should be a Hall of Fame career.
- Manny Ramirez 1992 The Rookies (#1520/1992): Here's Manny being Manny as the final entrant in the set and the only representative from 1992. I started following Manny a couple years after he became a productive player so for the longest time I associated him with Cleveland. Still, it's clear that his best years--in general, mind you, what with all the drama--were with Boston. There may never be another one like him, and if there isn't, it would be a detriment to the game (mostly).
There you have it, my favorite insert set of all time completed! Please let me know what you all think of this set, what Donruss did with it, if you have any of the originals and your thoughts on those, etc., and look forward to more content hopefully soon.