Studying the Rookie Cards of Professor Greg Maddux

Maddux Player Capsule

In my last post, we looked at the accomplishments and rookie cards of Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. A funny thing happened though after I posted it, I felt really inspired to do another All-Time Great pitcher, Greg Maddux.

Greg was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984 and was a September call up in 1986. Since then he went on to pitch for 23 years. He did two stints with the Cubs for a total of 10 years. His longest ride was 11 years with the Atlanta Braves. And his last couple of years were spent going back and forth between the Dodgers and the Padres.

A personality trait that Greg Maddux had on the field was you could never tell if he was happy or sad. Many times he would get locked into a zone and no matter the circumstance he was even-keeled. His claim to fame was the two-seam fastball and his command.

What Made Him So Dominant? 

“Movement and location are more important than velocity,” says, Maddux. He always worked on his command. The result was absolute perfection. He could place that ball anywhere he wanted and with tons of movement. Another key element of his game was a consistent and repeatable delivery, control over the body determines the control of the ball, it enables deception and the result is buckled knee caps of opposing batters.

A third weapon Maddux had in his arsenal was his defensive fielding skills. He is an 18x Gold Glover and he practiced fielding a lot, he took it seriously. Why? Maddux explains he was brought up that you have to get every out you could get.

For Us Nerds

His career stats: Wins 355 | Loses 227 | ERA 3.16 | Games Started 740 | Innings Pitched 5008.1 | Strikeouts 3371 | WAR 106.6

He is also a: 4x Cy Young | 4x ERA Title | 8x All-Star | 18x Gold Glove | 1995 World Series Champion

Why Did They Call Him “The Professor?”

He was nicknamed The Professor because he wore glasses when he wasn’t pitching but also for his intelligence against opposing batters, he’s been labeled a freak of nature because his average speed was between 79-81mph but he had such movement and command that some feel it will never be duplicated.

It can be said, and I feel confident in saying so because I witnessed his entire career. Greg Maddux was one of the most accomplished and efficient pitchers in MLB history. You could say the greatest, post-war, control pitcher of all-time.


OFFICIAL ROOKIE CARDS OF HALL OF FAMER

GREG MADDUX

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1987 Donruss, Card #36

Leading us off is this black-bordered beauty offered to collectors by Donruss. Really distinct card design that reminds me of a bumblebee. Chronic chipping along the edges and off-centering plague this set. The photo shows a very young Maddux with what appears to be a bad graffiti job on his upper lip makes this one a classic among collectors of this era. And lets us not forget about that awesome Rated Rookie logo! There are no parallels for this set.


1987 Leaf, Card #36

The best way to describe this one, it is an abridged version of the Donruss set, with some differences of course. Card design at first glance mimics the American Donruss version quite a bit. But the primary difference is in the number of cards in the set. This one has 264 cards as opposed to 660 cards in the Donruss set. Leaf was the Canadian version of Donruss and primarily depicted full 25 man rosters of the late Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos because they were Canadian MLB franchises at the time. The other teams only had partial rosters within the set.

Two ways to tell the difference between Leaf and Donruss are, the brand is proudly displayed on the upper left-hand corner of the card front. And English with French translation where ever applicable on the card back. There are no parallels for this set.


1987 Fleer Update, Card # U-68

Like any update set, this one is an extension of the Fleer base brand. It mimics it in every way except for the “U” prefix in the numbering. Greg Maddux was not included in the Fleer set even though it has 660 cards in it, so his rookie card was included inside this 132 card Update set. The centering of the photo, I believe, hurts the eye-appeal for this one but none-the-less an RC of a Hall of Famer! There is one parallel for this one Fleer Glossy and was sold at Hobby Shops and QVC.


1987 Topps Traded, Card #70T

This one functions as an Update set as well. Greg Maddux was not inserted into the Topps base brand but they were able to get him into this Traded set. The primary purpose for these sets is to capture the players who were traded during the season and to include any rookies they may have missed in the original Topps brand. The wood grain card design is loved by collectors who grew up in this era. The action photo of Maddux is well centered and the overall design on this one is a classic! There is a Tiffany parallel as well which features a glossy front and white card stock on the back.


CARD OFTEN VIEWED AS AN RC

BUT IT’S NOT!


1987 Donruss Rookies, Card #52

A Watered Down Rookie Card 

A concern that I have deals with the misrepresentation of the term “rookie card.” Today, it seems to be used very flippantly. There is lots of confusion amongst collectors and whenever the topic is brought up a debate is sure to arise or worse yet an agreement that may turn to a “whatever” mindset. Meaning, “every collector has his or her own opinion of what an RC is and that’s okay.” This is a scary thought.

The card listed above is oftentimes referred to as a “Greg Maddux RC” but legally, officially, and logically it is not. The reasons are simple. For decades the hobby has had criteria that were used to determine true RCs.

The Confusion Affects Us All

More specifically, the Donruss Rookies #52 (pictured above) is a good example. It’s a card issued in 1987 which is his rookie year, right? It has that really cool rookie logo with the baseball on the card front so its an RC, right? Well, sorry to say, that’s incorrect.

Now I can assure you I’ve been a collector for over 30 years and recently I decided to put together the Frank Thomas RC Set Registry so I started scooping them up on eBay. Can I tell you I purchased a 1990 Score Update Frank Thomas “RC” but it is NOT one of his rookie cards! It was just presented that way. Did I mention, this happened to me within the last year?

Why Isn’t It An RC?

The reason the former is not a rookie card is that it’s a second Donruss issue released. Greg Maddux was already issued an RC inside the Donruss brand. The Rookies set is a 56 card boxed set and was distributed in factory set form. When dealing with rookie cards distributed in specialty boxed sets which are an extension or a spin-off of a mainstream set, they should not be considered RCs.

Perhaps a more proper identifier would be what COMC has determined. They will reference these types of cards as Rookie Year or Rooke Related, I can live with that. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to the sacred rookie card. I get into this topic in a three-part series under the Keeping It Real category. The first of three posts can be found here, Understanding the Complexities of the Rookie Card.

Happy Collecting, Collectors

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Sources:
Greg Maddux Stats | Baseball-Reference.com https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/maddugr01.shtml (accessed March 20, 2020).
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