Congratulations are due to Houston Astros for being the 2017 World Series Champions! The Astros were established in 1962 and have never won the championship title – that’s 56 years! Looking into things a bit further I was equally impressed with the career of the first Astro ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Craig Alan Biggio.
He played for 20 years all with the Houston Astros, this fact, in and of itself carry’s a lot of weight with me. I love when there’s loyalty between player and the organization and vice a versa, it’s a virtue that’s seen less and less these days but was fairly common in days of old. Craig started his career as a catcher but because of his on base percentage and speed at the bases he was convinced to transition over to second base in 1992. As his career progressed he became known as a reliable lead-off hitter, to this day he holds the National League record for homeruns by a lead-off man with 53. He’s also been accused of being the “king of hit batsmen” his career 285 hit by pitch puts him second all-time. His trademark was his batting helmet – it was filthy, full of dirt and pine tar but was a reflection of the owner who year after year put in the work and wasn’t afraid to get dirty.
Biggio was considered the core of the “Killer B’s” – a trio of Houston ball players composed of Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Lance Berkman which led Houston to 6 playoff appearances between 1997-2005. Biggio is a 7x All Star, 5x Silver Slugger and a 4x Gold Glover. His career stat line is one that every lead off man should strive for: 3,060 Hits | 668 Doubles | 291 Home Runs | 1,175 RBI | 414 Stolen Bases | .281 Batting Average | 2,850 Games.
ROOKIE CARDS OF HALL OF FAMER CRAIG BIGGIO
1988 Fleer Update, Card No. 89 (shop eBay)
For it’s fifth straight year Fleer released its annual Update set. These sets typically are released later in the season and are an extension of that years base set. They also look very similar with its only distinction being the numbering found on the back of the card, U-89. The purpose of these update sets were to show collectors who was traded to other teams and usually depicted that player in their new team uniform and they also included rookies that were called up during the season, which is why Mr. Biggio was included, he was called up mid June in 1988 and Fleer took a great photo of the young catcher and offered it to collectors in this update set which could only be purchased through hobby dealers. The overall card design is unique with red, white and blue diagonal lines and notice how the background fades out. The card backs lack in eye appeal but notice how statistically they show players “At Their Best” which would compare stats on player performance during day, night, home or road games – that’s different.
Unfortunately, like most of Biggio’s rookie cards they fall into the massed produced era which means, easy to find for collectors and not much value. As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$3.00; and graded mint copies (9’s) can be had for $6.00-$10.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $15.00-$30.00 range.
1988 Score Rookie Traded, Card No. 103T (shop eBay)
Seeing the success of the Topps Traded and Fleer Update through the years Score opted to join the party and declared the “me-too clause.” Offering collectors its debut “Rookie & Traded” set. It was highly anticipated and Score delivered a huge hit with collectors. Quality is the word that comes to mind with this set as you get top-notch card stock, photography and design. It’s unique from all other traded sets in that cards are grouped as follows: Cards 1T – 64T are all the players that were traded to other teams. Cards 65T – 110T are all of the rookies. 1988 Score was a brand ahead of its time and for these reasons card 103T of Craig Biggio is considered the best rookie card of our featured Hall of Famer.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $3.00-$6.00; graded mint copies (9’s) can be purchased for $5.00-$10.00 and gem mint copies sell in the $25.00-$50.00 range.
1989 Donruss, Card No. 561 (shop eBay)
This 660 card set is one of my favorite sets printed in 1989. What impressed me most was card design, they really did something special with the borders on the front of these cards. The border sides are a gun-metal black, the top and bottom borders are a dual colored gradient fill. Stamped on the front is the “Rated Rookie” logo the hobby has grown to love. Couple of things that hurt this set: 1) is print runs. Decisions made by Donruss caused many cards to be DP meaning Double Printed. Trends of the day already produced high print runs and to double print is borderline irresponsible. 2) Also, this years offering of Donruss also suffers from mis-cut cards, which is a common characteristic of cards that were mass-produced. All that aside great action photo of Mr. Biggio and a legitimate rookie card.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for .50-$1.00; graded mint copies (9’s) can be purchased for $4.00-$8.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $8.00-$15.00 range.
1989 Fleer, Card No. 353 (shop eBay)
This is my least favorite of all his rookie cards. The depressing gray / pin-stripe design reminds me of a card design for the State Penitentiary. The light gray design didn’t really work for the 1970 Topps design nor does it work for this one. Nonetheless, it is an official rookie card of a Hall of Fame ball player. Fleer used the same photo they used for the Fleer Update card but they did zoom in giving us a very nice portrait shot. A couple of things I did notice about the card back; the “Did You Know” text box was included apparently to fill-in the huge void in the center. Also, the cartoon on the bottom gives us statistics prior to and after the All-Star break.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for .50-$1.50; graded mint copies (9’s) can be purchased between $5.00-$10.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $5.00-12.00 range.
1989 Score, Card No. 237 (shop eBay)
The second year of Score Baseball was not as big a success as its 1988 release. Collectors complained of bad card design, bad photography with many photos being dark and out of focus. However, I can not agree with any of those allegations for the offering of Craig Biggio. Clear, bright, portrait defines this one. Not sure if it was a sunny day or if he had that Texas sun tan going on either way a great card. The card back however was a tell-tale sign of things to come in the hobby: color action photo, color team emblem, great biographical commentary, even gives us his jersey number.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for .50-$1.50; graded mint copies (9’s) can be purchased between $3.00-$10.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $5.00-$15.00 range.
1989 Topps, Card No. 49 (shop eBay)
Topps kept it simple, not too much razzle-dazzle here just a clean card design which allows us to see more of the photo. White borders with a couple of rounded edges on the photo give it nice touch and that all impressive team / player name swoosh is classic! The card back gives us a lot of good biographical info and can be challenging to find gem mint copies due to the black, reddish/pink card stock.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for .50-$1.50; graded mint copies (9’s) can be purchased between $5.00-$10.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $17.00-$30.00 range.
1989 Upper Deck, Card No. 273 (shop eBay)
Upper Deck was the new kid on the block in 1989 and promoted quality photos, quality paper stock and quality printing and man did they deliver. This product was second to none and lit the hobby on fire. Many notable hall of fame rookies in this set including the one of our headliner.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $1.00-$2.00; graded mint copies (9’s) can be purchased for under $10.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $15.00-$25.00 range.