Tag Archives: Mark Grace

The 1989 Project Day 1 – Jerome Walton

Well, here we go again, folks. I think I’m more prepared for this, though, as I learned a lot from the 88 project.

Today we’re starting with 1989 NL Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton.


1989 Donruss Baseball's Best


There was no bigger-deal rookie in 1989 than Jerome Walton, bar none. It’s a testament to how weak that class was, however, that a guy who hit .293/.335/.385 was the ROY. But it was 89, and WGN was still king for us guys…so the Cubs were still as hot as when Mark Grace made his debut the previous year. Which meant Walton cardboard was scorching hot as far as we were concerned. Never mind that I thought Dwight Smith was the better player, I needed Walton cards.


1989 Donruss The Rookies


Walton made his major league debut on April 4th after a torrid Spring Training, especially on defense, where he earned rave reviews. He also hit .284 that spring and stole seven bases, living up to the Cubs’ hopes for him.


1989 Fleer Update


I think what really won “Juice” the ROY, though, was his hitting streak. From July 21st to July 31st of that year, he hit in 30 straight games (a Cubs record), and it was a big deal. Capital letters Big Deal. It was written about quite a bit, and of course there were always questions of whether he could match DiMaggio (as if). The streak ended as these cards started hitting the market, and he was red-hot. We all had to have his cards.


1989 Score Rookie and Traded


July 13th was arguably the high point of Jerome’s 1989 season. He went 4 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI. Of course, he also stole four bases on June 18th, and drove in three runs on July 7th, so he had some high-water marks that year. Marks he would never again live up to, but we were eating it up.


1989 Topps Traded


The rest of Walton’s career is depressing. He started falling off in 1990, and only hit .219/.275/.330 in 1991. The Cubs let him go after a .127/.273/.164 1992, and he bounced around the league, managing a decent year with the Reds in 1995, when he hit .290/.368/.525, but fell off another cliff after that. He landed with Tampa Bay in 1998 for his final season, and it was just as odd a sight as you might think:

His last team was actually the Yankees, though, as he tried out for the team in 1999 Spring Training, but got cut:


1989 Upper Deck High Numbers


This was the crown jewel of the Jerome Walton experience in 1989. Believe it or not, there was a time when this was a $20 card. I had it entombed in plastic like my Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card, and figured it was a solid long-term investment. These days it’s a quarter. Sad coda to the whole affair. But there were better long-term rookies in 1989.

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Box Break: 2002 UD Authentics

I haven’t disguised my love for this set, that’s for sure, and yet I’ve always found the boxes tantalizingly out of reach, either too expensive or difficult to find, so when I found a box going for an obscenely cheap amount on Ebay, I bid and sat on that auction. Yesterday the box finally arrived.

Stated odds, as you can see, are 1 in every 16 packs. The box is obviously meant to echo the 1989 box design, as everything in this set is a loving homage to that original set. Including the setup when you open the box:

As you can see, they’ve used that same paper material that UD used in their 1989 issue:

The whole thing gave me nostalgia goosebumps, down to the authentic (heh) feel of opening the first pack.

Now, as to the actual content of the box. Well, first, I should note that I was supposed to get two reverse-negatives card in this box, but I only got one, this Jason Johnson:

And that’s A-okay by me. The reverse negative gimmick is easily the crappiest, most annoying thing about this set, as I’d have preferred to get the base Johnson, which I still don’t have. Sigh. Oh, I’m also okay with it because I not only beat the odds for relics on this box, I pulverized them. 1 in 16 packs, right? 18 packs in the box, so maybe, tops, I could have gotten two if I was extremely lucky. Yeah, I got four, including a reverse-negative game-used card and a gold reverse-negative game-used card. I didn’t even know the latter existed. My first ever hot box!

Very, very cool stuff. I love it. Oh, I also got two inserts: their version of the Baseball Heroes, numbered to 1989

And a 1989 Flashback Mark Grace, numbered to 4225 (though that Cubs picture is more recent than 1989, he didn’t have that facial hair until the 90s).

I also got a mess of base cards that I needed; only two doubles in the whole box, and a small stack of cards that I already had. Look for those cards to wind up in some trades in the near future.

I’m still quite a bit short of the set, so I may pick up another box when I have some money. Overall, I give the box an A for the presentation, the hits, and the collation. Totally worth the money and exceeded my expectations. Oh, and all these cards save the base cards/reverse negative are available.

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The 1988 Project Day 5: Baseball’s Best Catch-Up Edition

As promised, here are the 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best cards that correspond to the players we’ve seen so far (save Walt Weiss, who was not in the set). I’ve also done a comparison between the Rookies edition and Baseball’s Best, just for point of reference.

1988 Donruss Rookies

1988 Donruss Baseball's Best

I’ll talk about my feelings on the design of the Baseball’s Best set in a bit, but obviously I prefer the BB aside from the design…yeah that orange and red will scar your retina, but it’s a much better photo, far more engaging. And you can see his face!

1988 Donruss the Rookies

1988 Donruss Baseball's Best

The Leiter’s kind of funny. It’s probably from the same roll of film as the Rookies shot, but I like the Rookies one much better, for some reason. This one is interesting, though, almost in an alternate reality way. What if that had been Leiter’s Rookies card?

1988 Donruss the Rookies

1988 Donruss Baseball's Best

And finally, Grace. Let’s just say that this one is a definite downgrade. From interesting photo to too dark, and impossible to see his face. Just…yuck.

Okay, now, on to the design…up front, let me state that I had actually never seen an 88 Baseball’s Best card in person. I had the 89 set back in the day, and some of the 1990 cards (which were highly superior to the 1990 Donruss base set). The 1988? Wow. I didn’t think anything could be uglier than the base 88 design, but Donruss proved me wrong. “Yeah, let’s take an ugly-ass design and make it orange. That’ll work!” It is, without a doubt, one of the ugliest baseball card sets I’ve ever seen. I mean, the history is kinda cool. As I said, some of it has an alternate reality feel to it, but good lord. I would never have purchased this set outside of this project. Which means it’ll be fun as hell to see the differences. Just prepare your eyes.


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The 1988 Project – Day One

And so begins one of the new regular columns in this spot. The concept, as I mentioned earlier today, is to acquire every late 80s/early 90s traded/rookies set and post them. I’m beginning in 1988. Why 1988? Because it marks the beginning of my collecting.

Back in those days you didn’t have a whole lot of baseball to watch if you had basic cable; generally we got a handful of Orioles games a year and could watch the Braves or Cubs daily. The Braves were pretty awful, so as a neighborhood, we gravitated to the Cubs. This is where collecting comes in.

August, 1988, as I recall, and I had been pretty disdainful of my friends collecting cards up to that point. Until someone gave me a Cubs Team Leaders Topps card for free. Something clicked. At the time, in our town, Topps was pretty much it, so I started picking them up at the mini mart.

But now let’s think about this. It’s 1988. You’re 12. Your budding baseball consciousness really only revolves around one team. Who is the player you want the most out of any 1988 set, and are denied over and over again (if you’re limited to Topps)?

Mark Grace.

And that’s why he’s the first pick for the 1988 project; which is funny, considering I’m not even that big a fan of the guy these days.

But let’s do this chronologically. My first ever Mark Grace card…is this one. Literally this one. I didn’t have to rebuy it in some fit of nostalgia or feeding my inner child.

1988 Topps Traded

I was insanely jealous of my friend who had the 1988 Topps Traded set. There was nothing I liked more than rookie cards, and it was FULL of Olympic athletes that I just knew would go on to be huge stars. I needed it. And so I put together a package that he could not refuse for it. I’m sure I got completely ripped off, but I was thinking at the time of future value, which helped me justify it. Shows I was a bit of a businessman from the beginning, I guess. I have held on to that set til this day, and this Grace comes from that set. Unfortunately, getting that set with players that had insane futures meant I wasn’t as interested in Grace (and had moved on from him at that point anyway), so this card never really made an impression on me. I’m guessing that’s because it’s not a very good card. Even grading for the 1988 Topps angle (let’s face it, the photography in that set is just…yeah. Abysmal), it’s a dud. Who looked at a picture of him and said “Yeah, let’s take the one where his eyes are closed”? Geez. Nostalgic, yes. Good, no.

Moving on…

1988 Fleer Update

How friggin hot was Mark Grace in 1988? Two sets that had already published cards of him created a second one. Grace appeared in the 1988 Fleer set, sharing a card, and yet got his own Fleer Update card. I don’t know if that was standard procedure back then, but it’s interesting, at least. I’m fairly sure this was the second Grace card I bought, as I found a sealed Fleer Update set in an Eckerd and bought it without hesitation. While this card is also subpar, I have to note that I was a Fleer fanboy up until Upper Deck. The 1987 Fleer design evokes a pleasant longing for what seemed like simpler times…and as cheesball as 1988 Fleer is to a mature eye, that design was AWESOME for a 12-year-old boy in 1988. It was my favorite of the year, and is why I still have both Fleer sets from that year.

1988 Donruss the Rookies

Third card I got. I vividly remember buying this set at an antiques mall in early 1989. The proprietor was a real ass, and I’m sure this was overpriced, but I didn’t care. Rookies, rookies, rookies! They’re why this set became the first set I would purchase every year after this. And hey, that Grace card is actually pretty damn nice despite the hideous borders; as a former first baseman, I love that photo, and I loved it back then, too.

1988 Score Rookies and Traded

And finally, the white whale. In 1988, I scoffed at Score. I thought the design was godawful, the card stock cheap (still think that about the 88 set), and the overall package just cheesy. I figured it would be like sportflics. I actually get the impression that this was the case with a lot of people in 1988, hence some of the limited nature of this set. What this means is that I saw this set in a coin shop back in 1988 and never bought it, because who the hell wanted Score? Wellllll…when I became a Roberto Alomar collector, I learned about the card in this set (this was 1989), and then saw how much it was worth in Beckett. My heart sank. Here was a traded set, something cheap and inexpensive, that had shot up almost immediately. It wasn’t fair.

I absolutely refused to pay what people wanted for the set, despite wanting it badly for years. Even when I got back into collecting in 2003, I resisted, despite going back and paying more for some other sets I wanted. It was a matter of principle, really.

So a few weeks ago, having gotten savvy at finding bargains on eBay, I thought I’d apply my new skills to this set. And I did it – I found the set for 12 bucks. Pretty close to what I would’ve paid back then. Allowing for inflation, I was happy. And so we come to the Grace card. Like I said, I still think the card design is goofy as hell, but appreciating now what Score was bringing to the table, this card comes alive for me. I mean, it’s a great photograph. Heads above what the other series, even Donruss, was offering.

And a word about the entire Score set. I found it fascinating how when I looked through the set, I found that the 1988 season came alive to me in a way that it had never lived before. I realized that 1988 and prior had always had a certain “set” feel to them thanks to the more staid photography (and photography is my #1 reason for liking these cards). Suddenly these more static images became dynamic, with better lighting. It was like 1989 forward, only for 1988. I mean, just look at them. It’s almost apples and oranges. So good job, Score. Pretty awesome what you brought to the table.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a Yankee.


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2000 Bowman Chrome Pulls

I recently joined in on a group break over at Bad Wax, picking up two Bowman packs. Here’s what I managed to pull; alas, no Expos. Oh, well. Any of these are available just by emailing me at crimnos at gmail.com. I’ll pay for shipping and everything.

First pack:

Pack 1

Jose Canseco, Geoff Jenkins, Ramon Soler, Ryan Minor

Okay, Canseco is definitely the star of this pack. Not a bad card at all, but I wasn’t bowled over by the pack.

Pack 2:


Mark Grace, Michael Tejera, Kevin Nicholson, Manny Ramirez “Meteoric Rise” insert.

Okay, now we’re talking. Still no real star rookies, but that Ramirez is really nice. I got a box of Bowman Chrome a few years back and pulled a Randy Johnson of this insert set; really liked it. I was glad to get Manny here.

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