When it comes to rookie cards, most people go nuts trying to track down the biggest names and most iconic stars while others spend half a lifetime trying to win Lady Luck’s good graces in the prospects market. Nearly all collectors seek financial wealth or ego bragging rights with respects to the rookies in their possession. Isn’t card collecting suppose to be more (or, in a way, less) than that? What ever happened to collecting cards that make you smile when you look at them and flood you with memories of childhood?
In all of my thousands of cards, I naturally have a plethora of rookie cards. Some are of top stars, others are of promising young studs, while others are of has-beens that were supposed to be the next big things (not to mention the vast number of never-weres). But out of all of those, one of my favorites will always be the gem you see below:
Why is this card so special to me? Just look at it! Still baffled? All right, we’ll walk through it together.
First, it’s a 1996 Gonnabe PRO. You may not have heard of this card company, but with a name like “Gonnabe PRO,” you know they only pick the best young prospects to be in their sets. Otherwise, it would be false advertising, and no one wants to deal with that headache. Next, it has a glorious red, white, and blue gradiant background, complete with a shadowbox of the photo. Printed in 1996, it may have been behind the times a bit in design as it has more of a 1992 flavor, but it is a design that has aged well. Who doesn’t love a blatant patriotic appeal? We are going to ignore the HORRIBLE off centering, but seriously, I think they must have had the blind night shift crew cut these things apart. Next, you have the luxurious gold name plate, complete with basic Times New Roman font and left alignment. Even for a player who goes by all three given names (like John David Booty and a host of presidential assassians — I’m sure he was thrilled to be lumped into that group by his OCD-form-filling-out Mother), the name plate is just too long. I guess they were cautious after having an issue with Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala of the Pittsburgh Steelers the year before. The photo is also classic. Not only could the photographer not properly frame the subject (a case of the rule of thirds gone horribly wrong), he also must have put his camera on a long pole to get that nice I’m-looking-down-on-you point of view. And can I just saw how much I love the over-sized trucker cap with the obnoxious E embroidered on the front? Too bad every team in the league wore the same cap. Lastly for the front, although you can’t see it in the scan, the card has a great, super-high gloss finish that is beginning to peel at the edges. Either that, or it is a protective coating just like the Finest and Flair brands of the same era. Talk about high quality!
Now onto the back. The card is not numbered, so perhaps it was from a preview set. There are also no logos, so I suppose this was an unlicensed product. Eat your heart out, 2010 Upper Deck baseball! I guess the Ephrata Rec Center Baseball Association was just as exclusive as MLB. We do have a sweet flying baseball clip art though, so that makes all the difference. The kid doesn’t have a uniform number. It’s almost as if the ERCBA had a stock pile of different colored t-shirt “jerseys” and just handed out the necessary sizes each year. Next we have some “vital statistics”. Age 10 — wow, prospectors really do take things to an obscene level. Standing at 4’4″ and 80lbs, this kid would probably be better off as race horse jockey than a baseball player. Either that, or he will suddenly add a lot of weight without much more height to go with it and then become a business major years later. Just sayin’. Also, we see he is a second baseman. Sounds a little exclusive. Maybe Second Base/Short Stop/Occassional Third Base/Center Field/Left Field would have been more accurate. Gotta love the versatility of Little League utility men who have a knack for turning bunts into triples (or a single with two fielding errors, whatever). It also says he throws and bats right-handed. Not bad for a kid who writes and kicks with the left side of his body. And lastly, we see the favorite pro player of this “gonnabe pro” kid is Michael Schmidt. Michael Schmidt? Wow. This kid’s mom must have taken forms WAY TOO SERIOUSLY if she couldn’t just write “Mike Schmidt” like everyone else in the world. I bet he is still annoyed about that one. We also see that to make ends meet, this card company was forced to sell the bottom portion of their cards for advertising space. Or that is a plug for the parent company. Either way, an old-timey cartoon like old school baseball cards would have been much better. The greatest thing about this card is that although we do not see an official serial number, I have it on good authority that this card was limited to a print run of just 9 copies. MOJO!!!
Okay, so now that I think about it, this card kinda sucks. But I will say that it will always find its home in a penny sleeve and gold lettered “ROOKIE CARD” top loader. Besides, how many collectors can boast they have their OWN rookie card?
Too bad this prospect retired from baseball two seasons later and went on to become that aforementioned business major…