Friday, February 9, 2018

1990 Donruss Baseball's Best: AL and NL

I recently posted on the 1988 and 1989 Donruss Baseball's Best sets, and today it's time for the 1990 editions.  In 1990, Donruss changed things up a bit and issued two sets, one for the American League and one for the National League.  I have a total of 11 cards from the 1990 Best of the American League set.  Like my 1988 and 1989 Donruss Baseball's Best cards, I have no idea where I got them and I don't believe that I would have bought them intentionally.  I didn't originally have any from the Best of the National League set, but I decided to order the whole set last week.  From 1990 through 1992, the Pirates won the National League East each year, and I decided to use this set to commemorate the start of that era of Bucco near-greatness.  Part of me wants to buy all the junk-era sets I don't already own, but another part of me wants to keep my junk-era collection as-is, as a monument to my childhood as it actually was.  I mostly go along with this second desire, and my program of acquisitions focuses on older cards.  But sometimes I see a set I really want; other than this Best of the National League, the only other similar set I've bought recently is the 1985 Topps Circle K Home Run Kings.

Best of the American League: The 11 Cards Already in My Collection

Mookie Wilson.
Mookie Wilson card back.
Who doesn't love Mookie Wilson?  After playing with the Mets from 1980 through 1989, he was with the Blue Jays from 1989-1991 before retiring.  Toronto was driving towards its back-to-back World Series wins, but Mookie wouldn't be a part of that.  In 1991, they did win the AL East, losing to the eventual champions, the Twins, in the ALCS.

The card fronts are obviously different from standard 1990 Donruss cards in that they're blue rather than red.  The backs are different in that they're vertical and feature full stats rather than the Donruss horizontal standard of five years plus career totals.
Dan Plesac and Brian Harper.
I remember Dan Plesac as a good closer from that era.  He was one of many rookies in the 1987 Topps set.  In 1989, he appeared in 52 games with the Brewers (who were in the AL!) making a 2.35 ERA and 33 saves.  Brian Harper debuted in the majors in 1979 with the Angels, and then played with the Pirates, Cardinals, Tigers, and A's before arriving in Minnesota in 1988.  In that stretch with those other teams from the 1979 through 1987 seasons, he never appeared in more than 60 games per season.  That changed with Minnesota, and he played 126 games in 1988, and he was a starter with them through 1993.  In 1989, he batted .325 with 24 doubles and 57 RBI.  After the Twins, Harper played 1994 with the Brewers and 1995 with the A's before retiring.
Jeff Ballard and Ellis Burks.
Jeff Ballard pitched with the Orioles from 1987 through 1991, then with the Pirates for 1993 and 1994.  In 1989, he had a great year -- unfortunately, the only good year of his career -- going 18-8 with a 3.43 ERA, finishing 6th in the AL Cy Young voting.  He followed that up in 1990 with a 2-11 record with a 4.93 ERA.  Ellis Burks was not one of the many rookies in the 1987 Topps set, but made his debut in 1987 Topps Traded (and 1987 Donruss The Rookies, 1987 Fleer Update, and 1987 Sportflics Rookies) instead, with real rookie cards in the 1988 sets.  In 1989, he hit for a .303 average with 21 stolen bases and 61 RBI, while only playing in 97 games.  Burks continued to play through 2004, with solid career totals of 2107 hits, 352 home runs, 1206 RBI, and 181 stolen bases.
Kevin Brown and Matt Nokes.
Kevin Brown was a rookie hurler with the Rangers in 1989, having made a couple of appearances in 1986 and 1988.  He finished 6th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Gregg Olson, Tom Gordon, Ken Griffey, Jr., Craig Worthington, and Jim Abbott (in that order).  He was 12-9 with a 3.35 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 28 starts that year.  Brown's career lasted through 2005, and he put up solid numbers of a 211-144 record, a 3.28 career ERA, was a 6-time All-Star, twice led the league in ERA, and was part of the Marlins' championship 1997 season.  I've posted about Matt Nokes a few times, including just recently, as I also have his 1989 Donruss Baseball's Best card.  Nokes' career lasted from 1985 through 1995, with his 1987 rookie season being his strongest.  In 1989, he played in 87 games, batting .250 with 39 RBI.
Steve Sax and Tom Henke.
I remember Steve Sax as a Dodger, but after leaving Los Angeles, he played with the Yankees from 1989-1991, the White Sox for 1992-1993, and the A's in 1994.  Sax, of course, like Steve Blass before him, is well-known for suddenly struggling with making basic throws.  He stuck it out, though, and managed to recover.  Although he never won a Gold Glove, he was the Rookie of the Year, won one Silver Slugger, was a 5-time All-Star, and with the Dodgers, won two World Series.  In 1989, he led the AL with 651 at-bats, hitting .315 with 205 hits, 26 doubles, 63 RBI, and 43 steals.

The Blue Jays had a lot of great players in the 80s, as they were building towards their back-to-back World Series wins in the early 90s.  Henke was one of many strong pitchers they had, and he was the closer with the 1992 championship team.  As a free agent, he left for Texas after that 1992 season, playing with the Rangers in 1993 and 1994, and the Cardinals in 1995 before retiring.  In 1989, Henke had a great 1.92 ERA with 20 saves, appearing in 64 games.  He finished with a career total of 311 saves, currently 22nd on the all-time list, but was 5th all-time when he retired.
Geno Petralli and Alvin Davis.
Geno Petralli played in the majors 1982-1993 with the Blue Jays and the Rangers.  In 1989 he batted .304, appearing in 70 games, 49 as catcher, 16 as designated hitter, and then 5 more (probably as a pinch hitter).  Petralli frequently had the task of catching for knuckleballer Charlie Hough (it's a kind of requirement that if you say "Charlie Hough," you have to preface it with "knuckleballer"), leading to not-so-great defensive numbers.  Alvin Davis debuted with the Mariners in 1984, winning Rookie of the Year and making his only All-Star appearance.  He had a number of good years in his career, and 1989 was one of them, hitting .305 with 21 home runs and 95 RBI.

That's it for the cards from my original collection.  Now on to the recent purchase.

Best of the National League: Unboxing a Recent Acqusition

Factory Sealed Since 1990.
There are quite a few copies of this set, the 1990 Donruss Best of the National League, available on eBay.  Prices vary fairly significantly, but I found this one still factory sealed with a Buy It Now price, shipping included, for less than $10.
Unwrapped and opened.
If I bought this in 1990, it's possible that it would have stayed factory sealed.  Maybe, maybe not.  Some sets I have from that era are still shrink-wrapped and others aren't.  But these days, I bought it to see the cards.  So the shrink wrap was gone immediately.  Inside is a plastic tray holding three cello-wrapped packs of cards.
Three wrapped packs of 48 cards each, and three mini Yaz puzzles.
In addition to the three cello-wrapped packs of 48 cards, there are three of the mini Donruss puzzles.  I have a few of the mini puzzles from various years, since they tended to come in things like this, Donruss Rookies, Donruss Highlights, or Donruss Traded.  The three players at the top of the packs are greats Andre Dawson, Eric Davis and ... Pat Combs.  I don't remember Pat Combs, but I must have actually seen him pitch since he was a Phillies starter in the years that Dad and I went to so many games.
144 blue 1990 Donruss cards, fully unwrapped.
Of course I unwrapped the cellophane as well. I won't show any of the cards in detail here, as I am planning to make this a weekly series -- for the next twelve Fridays, I will highlight the team sets from this set. Next Friday, we'll kick it off with the 1990 Donruss Best of the National League Pirates team set, since I bought this to commemorate those near-great early 90s Pirates division-winning teams. Then I'll go through the rest of the teams, one each week.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Donruss should have used blue instead of red for the base set...