Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend to join baseball’s immortals as the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
One is the first No. 1 overall draft pick to ever make it to the Hall. The other is the lowest draft pick to ever be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Griffey received 99.3 percent of the vote — a record and three votes short of unanimous — after his first time on the ballot. Meanwhile, Piazza appeared on 83 percent of the 440 ballots in his fourth vote.
Griffey helped usher in a new era of collecting in 1989 as the iconic No. 1 in the first Upper Deck set, a release that helped change the printing and packaging of cards and the collecting expectations of a generation. For those same thirty-somethings and beyond, he’s an also icon on the field with his backwards cap and a smooth but powerful left-handed swing that helped produce 630 home runs and countless more memorable moments for the Mariners, Reds and White Sox over 22 seasons but never a World Series at-bat.
Clearly he’s one of the greatest players — and most-beloved players — in MLB history, a symbol of what’s good about the game in an era of bogus records and inflated statistics that have undermined not only the results on the field but also the cardboard of our youth. His enshrinement this summer in Cooperstown will be the stuff that cardboard (and baseball) marketing is made of.
Here are some basics on each player as past noted here on The Buzz …
Ken Griffey Jr. — Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, 1989-2010
The Basics: The Mickey Mantle of today’s generation of 30-somethings and beyond, Junior ranks sixth on the career home run list. He was a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, the 1997 American League MVP and a four-time AL home run champ. He ranks first in Mariners home runs (417) but he also never played in a World Series game.
The Best Rookie Card: 1989 Upper Deck #1. A no-brainer of a pick. The tougher ones might be the Bowman Tiffany and Topps Tiffany cards.
Other Rookie Cards: Eight others from 1989 — Bowman, Bowman Tiffany, Donruss, Fleer, Fleer Glossy, Score Rookie & Traded, Topps Traded, Topps Traded Tiffany
Mike Piazza — Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s, 1992-2007
The Basics: Went from being a 62nd-round draft pick (1,390th overall) to the most-powerful catcher in MLB history with 396 bombs from the position. The former Rookie of the Year was a 12-time All-Star and a 10-time Silver Slugger Award-winner. He hit .300 nine times and was the first catcher to have a 200-hit season.
The Best Rookie Card: 1992 Bowman #461. Sure, the Fleer Update is pricier, but I’ll go with Bowman. How else would I point out that he’s in full gear but missing a chest protector? (Update: The new Hall of Fame-inscribed and slabbed Fleer Update RCs being sold by Fanatics via the Hall of Fame’s site aren’t bad-looking, though.)
Other Rookie Cards: 1992 Fleer Update
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