Friday, February 2, 2018

Sets Not in My Collection: 1988 and 1989 Donruss Baseball's Best

I really don't know where I ever got some of these cards.  I have a conjecture that maybe the shows I used to go to back around 1990 might have given a random selection of a couple dozen cards included with the admission.  Otherwise, I have so many odd cards that I really can't imagine ever buying on purpose.  This includes a total of 18 cards from the 1988 and 1989 Donruss Baseball's Best sets -- 8 from 1988, and 10 from 1989.  I'll show all the ones I have below.
1988 Glenn Davis.
1988 Glenn Davis back.
1989 Bobby Bonilla.
1989 Bobby Bonilla back.
I don't think I ever knew what these cards were, until now.  I have no memory of Baseball's Best; having rejoined the collecting world last summer, being on hiatus since 1994, I feel constantly surprised when I discover sets which are new to me from the junk era.  While they were obviously 1988 and 1989 Donruss cards, they're also obviously not the main set, as can be seen by the differences in both the fronts and the backs.  As I keep saying, information was harder to come by back then, and I'm sure when I encountered these, I figured they were some odd Donruss set and I just filed them away.  I suppose I could have asked at one of the several local card shops if the owners recognized them, but I probably wasn't all that interested, either.  I just looked through the ads in some of my old Baseball Cards magazines, and there are one or two dealers who do advertise the Baseball's Best sets.  But mainly, they appear to have not been very popular even at the time.
Gene Garber.
Tom Candiotti.
Jack Howell.
Vance Law.
The set had approximately 12 cards from each team, representing baseball's best players.  That's just about half of each team.  That's a fairly low standard for "baseball's best" -- the top half. 

Here we see Gene Garber, whom I remember with the Braves, but it looks like he finished his career with the Royals, and Tom Candiotti, who was near the beginning of his career.  Jack Howell with the Angels hit .245 in 1987, with 64 RBI to earn his place among Baseball's Best.

There was a post at Wrigley Wax just the other day about double logos in the 1987 Fleer set.  Since the 1987 Fleer cards had a team logo at the bottom right, that logo was placed right next to the same logo on the players' jerseys in a number of cases.  Here we see the same thing on the Vance Law card.  I think of Vance Law as a Pirate, and as part of Tony Pena's 1981 Topps rookie card, but he was really only with the Bucs in 1980 and 1981.  Law made his only All-Star appearance with the Cubs in 1988.
Gerald Perry.
Jay Bell.
Paul Kilgus.
Steve Wilson.
Like Vance Law, Gerald Perry also made his only All-Star appearance in 1988.  Jay Bell is my personal favorite from this group, since he went on to be shortstop for the Pirates during their division-winning years in the early 90s.  Bell stayed in the majors long enough to win the World Series with Arizona in 2001.

Paul Kilgus was a rookie in 1987, going 2-7 with a 4.13 ERA and 0 saves.  He followed that up with a regular spot in the Texas rotation, achieving a 12-15 record in 1988 with a 4.16 ERA.  He retired after the 1993 season.  Moving on to the 1989 Baseball's Best set, Steve Wilson pitched for the Rangers, Cubs, and Dodgers between 1988 and 1993, with a career 13-18 record, a 4.40 ERA, and 6 saves.
Lee Smith.
Frank Williams.
Jose Gonzalez.
Milt Thompson.
Lee Smith was a great reliever in his day, owning the all-time saves record for many years.  He pitched in over 1,000 games in his career, with an ERA of just 3.03.  Frank Williams pitched for the Giants, Reds, and Tigers in a career lasting between 1984 and 1989, with a career record of 24-14, 8 saves, and an ERA of 3.00.  Outfielder Jose Gonzalez played for the Dodgers, Pirates, Indians, and Angels between 1985 and 1992, with a career batting average of .213.  Gonzalez appeared in 5 games of the 1988 NLCS with the Dodgers, having zero plate appearances but scoring two runs, and he appeared in 4 games of the World Series, with two plate appearances, striking out both times.

Milt Thompson I remember fondly as a member of the Phillies when I started paying attention to baseball, 1986-1988.  The Phils weren't very good back then, but he was a dependable bat, hitting .302 in 1987.  He was traded to the Cardinals in December, 1988, but came back to the Phillies as a free agent in time to be part of the pennant-winning 1993 team.  He played with the Astros, Dodgers, and Rockies before retiring after the 1996 season.
Mitch Webster.
Gary Gaetti.
Gerald Young.
Matt Nokes.
I posted a card of Mitch Webster with the Expos once, which was celebrating his being the triples champ of the NL with 13 in 1986.  Gary Gaetti was an important part of the Twins' 1987 World Series-winning team, but wasn't still with them for their 1991 repeat.  Gaetti was a two-time All-Star who won four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, and ended his career with 360 home runs and 1341 RBI.  Gerald Young played with Houston, Colorado, and St. Louis between 1987 and 1994, leading the league twice in times caught stealing (he had 65 steals in 1988 and was caught 27 times, and had 34 steals in 1989 and was caught 25 times).  He didn't steal nearly as many bases after that.  Matt Nokes was a big star with the Tigers when he was young; I don't think I've posted a card of him before, but I did post him on a magazine cover.  Unfortunately, Nokes never seemed to be able to match his performance from his 1987 rookie season.

So, that's it for the cards from the 1988 and 1989 Donruss Baseball's Best sets.  As you can see from some of the players, taking half of all MLB players doesn't result in a great definition of the "best," although some of these folks were stars, and a few had some very good years.  Donruss changed things up for 1990, issuing separate sets for the best of the AL and the best of the NL, and we'll talk about those sets in some future posts.  Thanks for reading!

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