There is just something special about opening a pack of trading cards. It’s the unknown quantity of what might be in the pack. Could the pack you hold in your hands have a single card in there that could one day pay for a car? A house? A trophy wife? If you were a kid like me and collected cards in the late 80’s and early 90’s the answer would be a resounding “no”. That was the era of massive overproducing of trading cards which stunted the value of the cards. I have several boxes of baseball, football, and basketball cards collecting dust in a large storage shed at my parent’s house and safe to say they haven’t enhanced my lifestyle.
That being said I still like the idea of opening a pack of cards. For this hopefully regular feature I will be opening a pack of cards and commenting on each player in the pack. Now I am by no means a trading card aficionado so I apologize if I won’t have any great insights on the cards themselves as I haven’t regularly collected trading cards since around 1993/94. What I am though is an aficionado of useless facts and nostalgia about the era of sports I grew up on and these 80’s and 90’s cards will be right in my wheelhouse. For each player in each pack I’ll be adding facts, random thoughts, and the occasional personal anecdote. I will focus primarily on the season that pack was produced while possibly delving into another part of the player’s career as well.
I’ve ordered a 25 random pack lot of baseball cards from the 80’s and 90’s off of Amazon (a couple of reviews claim they only received 90’s cards). I may at some point also buy similar lots of old football and basketball cards as well but for now will be sticking with baseball. As we speak this box of cards is being shipped to me so for the first entry of this series I’ll be commenting on a pack of 1988 Donruss baseball cards I received as a stocking stuffer a few years ago.
I always loved getting Diamond Kings in my packs. One of the most underrated players of his generation, Dewey was still a very good hitter at age 36 although the once great right fielder had become a defensive liability at this point in his career and split time at first base.
A “Rated Rookie” card would always be overpriced in the off chance that the player became a future Hall of Famer. Jose Lind was not that player, and really almost all “Rated Rookie” cards are worth pittance. At least according to WAR he was quite valuable in 1988 and was an excellent defensive second baseman but could never hit a lick.
These were the salad days for Deshaies as this was the first of three straight quality years for him.
Witt was a phenom in his early to mid 20’s but by age 27 his arm was dead and this year was the beginning the end for him as an effective pitcher.
Much like most of his career Cerutti spent the season between the rotation and bullpen. He died in 2004 of a heart arrhythmia.
Presley had been living off a fine rookie season in ’85 (118 OPS+) but his numbers had declined each of the following two seasons and was one of the worst everyday players in the game in ’88. Somehow kept his job with the Mariners for two more seasons which probably says a lot about the way the Mariners were run during those years.
This was a very good season for the future Bowling Hall of Famer.
Unbeknownst to me before looking at the back of his card, Mahler was some sort of Opening Day savant for the Braves. He had thrown 34 straight scoreless innings on Opening Day entering the ’88 season. That streak would come to end in the 2nd inning of the ‘88 opener against the Cubs via a two run homer by Jody Davis. (box score)
John had a bit of a career renaissance when he returned to the Yankees a couple of years earlier at age 43 but he was finally starting to run on fumes at this point. He’d be released and eventually retire during the ’89 season. During the ’88 season in a game against the Brewers he had the misfortune and participating in one of the most a unique plays in baseball history when he committed three errors on the same play.
This was his first year as an everyday player. It’s interesting to have him the same pack as an upcoming player as he might never have become a Yankee if said player hadn’t been traded.
Riles was traded to the Giants in June for Jeffery Leonard. A month after that he would hit the 10,000th home run in franchise history in a 21-2 rout of the Cardinals (box score). I actually remember that game because I went to the game the day after that. Yes I went to a couple of Giants games during my youth, I’m not proud of it either.
What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?! He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doin’! – Frank Costanza
The trade made infamous by Seinfeld would occur on July 21st of this season for Ken Phelps. Although Phelps actually did add some extra sock to the Yankees line up the rest of the season (10 home runs, .521 SLG in 127 plate appearances) he’d be traded away the following season when his power disappeared while Buhner eventually became the Mariners everyday right fielder for a period of eight years. If the Yankees were going to give away prospects, which they were prone to do during those days, they should have added a pitcher as they had one of the worst staffs in the league (93 ERA+ as a team). As for the Mariners funny enough it took them two and a half years to give Buhner the everyday job in right field despite him putting up strong numbers (.258/.338/.476 in limited playing time from ’88 to ’90) when he was in the lineup but they apparently felt the likes of Darnell Coles, who was acquired from the Pirates the day after the Buhner/Phelps deal, and Greg Briley were better options.
This was his first full year with the A’s and his first full year in the bullpen. In an early season game against the Mariners he would commit four balks which tied the A.L. record (box score)…set just one day earlier by Bobby Witt of the Rangers (box score). ’88 was the Year of the Balk as the rule was changed prior to the season to instead of requiring the pitcher “come to a complete stop” now had to “come to a single complete and discernible stop, with both feet on the ground”. In the A.L. alone the number of balks over the course of the season increased from 137 to 558. The rule was mercifully changed back to the pre-’88 wording before the ’89 season.
Perez was in the middle of remarkable comeback after being out of the game just two years earlier, he lead the Majors in WHIP in ‘88. He was murdered in a robbery attempt last November.
By far the most obscure player in the pack, he was traded to the Orioles during Spring Training where he didn’t exactly distinguish himself during his longest stint in the Majors.
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