By 1992, I was starting to drive (learner’s permit) and began hitting the baseball field at high school. I was also still heavily investing in baseball cards. One of the differences for me from ’91 to ’92 was that I was turning my less than average landscaping abilities into weekly cash. I was mowing a couple of church lots from time to time but my weekly gig was at a local insurance company in Camilla. I would pop on my headphones, lose all touch with reality and mow that yard for about an hour and a half. It was a push mower but it was one of those fancy self assist jobbies that did most of the work for you. So it was me, Gin Blossoms and Pearl Jam on those hot summer days just dreaming about the cards I would buy with that $20 I was about to make.My prime target in 1992 was Donruss. I liked the design (still do in relation to other 90’s Donruss) and the price was reasonable for a 15 year old on a lawn mowing budget. But more than that, there was an insert found in ’92 Donruss that was originally introduced in ’91 that made me say a little prayer before opening every pack. If you collected during that time, you likely know the feeling of that chase well. Donruss Elite was like nothing ever before as it related to chase cards. Sure, ’90 Upper Deck introduced the random autograph but there were only 2,500 of those and I knew that was impossible. On the flip side, Elite was printing 10,000 of each player and while that sounds like a lot by today’s serial number standards, that was a drop in the bucket compared to production runs.I remember one of my best friends pulling an Andre Dawson in 1991 and it was the only one I ever saw pulled. I never pulled an Elite card from a pack. I did pull a Legend Series Robin Yount about 4 years ago from an old box of ’92 and that was pretty dang exciting! I can only imagine that I may have passed out from sheer joy if I had pulled a Ken Griffey Jr. or Nolan Ryan back in the early 90’s. Andre Dawson wasn’t even a HUGE name but my friend bounced around his room for about an hour. In 1992, subsets were ramping up in popularity as you’ll see when we get to the pricing section of this post. Fleer Ultra, Stadium Club and Leaf were taking over the premium set domination while Upper Deck was lost in the same basic design from ’89. They were still premium but they had not come very far in my opinion.The cover of the Beckett that I used for this look back to 1992 was listed in my top 12 favorites that I posted a few weeks ago. It had to have been a shot that Topps had in the file from the ’92 Topps collection as it is next to that same batting screen with the same jersey and bat. It’s almost the same pose except he replaced his smile with a stoic look. There was a major player on the back of the magazine too and I’ll save it as my last photo. It’s one of the other reasons this is on my favorite list. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what was happening in the world of baseball cards in 1992.This magazine was from April 1992 and hit store shelves just before opening day. Inside, there were a couple of prediction pieces that were interesting to read and compare to actual results. They hit a couple on the head but also whiffed on a few. That’s pretty standard for all prediction pieces. It’s important to remember that the two leagues had only two divisions each back then as well. The divisions were split up into the East and West and regionally they made no sense. There was also just one playoff round before the World Series. Beckett predicted the final standings as follows, with the actual winners in bold.
• NL West – Atlanta, Cincinnati, LA, San Fran, San Diego and Houston – They got the top 2 right here
• NL East – NY, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Philly, Montreal and Chicago – Most people remember the epic playoff matchup between Atlanta and Pittsburgh. But do you remember that Montreal finished 2nd that year in the division? The Mets finished 24 games out.
• AL West – Chicago, Oakland, KC, Minnesota, Seattle, Texas and California – Oakland pulled out the division with Minnesota finishing 6 games out.
• AL East – Toronto, Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, NY, Milwaukee and Cleveland – They nailed the AL East but the surprise in 1992 was Milwaukee finishing only 4 games out of first place. Their second place prediction finished last, 23 games out.They also predicted the major awards for the upcoming season but that is even tougher than final standings. This is almost impossible when factoring in injuries, trades and other issues that come into play over a 162 game season. But it is interesting to look at what the expectations were at the beginning of the season vs. how the actual players ended up. Beckett’s prediction is listed first (along with how they finished) with the actual winner listed after.
• AL MVP – Cecil Fielder (9th) – Dennis Eckersley – Eck finished with a 7-1 record, 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA
• NL MVP – Bobby Bonilla (NR) – Barry Bonds – Bobby Bo was a bust in ’92 with a .249 average, 19 home runs and 70 RBI
• AL HR – Cecil Fielder (35) – Juan Gonzalez (43) – This helped the price of the ’91 Donruss Reverse Negative
• NL HR – Daryl Strawberry (5) – Fred McGriff (35) – Straw only played in 43 games in ‘92
• AL Batting Champ – Wade Boggs (.259) – Edgar Martinez (.343) – The worst batting average Boggs had in his career
• NL Batting Champ – Hal Morris (.271) – Gary Sheffield (.330) – Also one of Morris’ worst batting averages of his career
• AL Cy Young – Roger Clemens (3rd) – Eckersley – Hard to argue with the numbers above
• NL Cy Young – Ramon Martinez (NR) – Greg Maddux – Martinez was 8-11 with a 4.00 ERA and Maddux was 20-11 with a 2.18 ERA. Tom Glavine finished 2nd.I would be remiss if I didn’t include this beautiful article about my main guy, Ronnie Gant. The Hot list hadn’t changed at the top much since 1991 but Atlanta Braves were starting to take over with Avery (3rd), Justice (4th), Klesko (13), Gant (20), Glavine (26) and the Braves as a team (22). Meanwhile, Sportsflics just couldn’t catch a break with readers.I also remember full spread ads from card companies like this Fleer ad. Of course, I also remember this Rocket insert as being pretty sweet. “Over 2,000 signed”!On to pricing and we have to start with the 1982 Topps Cal Ripken that was now hovering at$70. Ron Guidry on the other hand was about to see his last month in the price guide.1983 Topps was rolling along as well as Ryno, Gwynn and Boggs were all high value cards.I had to check in on the 1984 Fleer Update set and much to my surprise, it continued to rise. Two cards over $200!1984 Donruss was also a big hit with Darryl Strawberry checking in at $65, Don Mattingly at $60 and Joe Carter at $35. Carter was in store for a huge season and postseason as well!We are beginning to see the downfall of Jose Canseco and his 1986 Donruss. We were only a year away from a baseball bouncing off of his head and into the stands for a homerun. We all should have gotten out right around this time.Fleer was the king in 1987 with Will Clark at $30 and Bo Jackson at $22.And what do we have here? Ron Gant at $7 and rising in ’88 Fleer.The ever popular 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. was still climbing in value.1990 Leaf was otherworldly with Frank Thomas at $70, Dave Justice at $40, Ken Griffey Jr. at $24 and Steve Avery at $20. Totally out of place with other 1990 sets!I had TOTALLY forgotten how in demand 1992 Donruss Diamond King was when it came out. Look at these prices!!Another extremely hot insert set for 1992 was Fleer Rookie Sensations. The 20 card set was checking in at $175!There were a ton of great reader comments from this edition so I had to really think about which ones were pertinent to this post. This one was included because it gives some of the young guys a glimpse at the selling options before eBay, Twitter and all the other online sites. “Place an ad in your local newspaper.”We have a Ron Kittle mention here so I had to include this one.I laughed at how literal this reader took Beckett’s previous advice in this one.Here’s a new feature that wasn’t included in the ’90 or ’91 editions I covered. Cardboard Art has now come to our modern technology with the Twitter follow @bsblcardvandals.The shows were still going strong in ’92 but had decreased from 22 pages to 20. Still a ton and the guests were out of this world. Look at these two ads for card shows in Pittsburgh and California.The last item of note was this sweet interview with Nolan Ryan. He had some pretty fun answers including, “I looked into buying one of my rookie cards one time, but it was so darn expensive, I changed my mind.” He goes on to say that he offered a dealer a free pitching lesson in exchange for a rookie card and was denied.The other reason this is one of my favorite Beckett’s – the back cover!
Baseball cards were still trending in the right direction in 1992. New products were including highly sought after cards and the stars from the 80’s were at the peak of their careers and driving up the value on their early cards. Some of the rookies from ’89 and ’90 were stumbling while some of the others that were mediocre their rookie season were starting to take off. Unfortunately, we were getting close to a crash and didn’t know it. We were flying on wings of cardboard that were getting dangerously close to the sun. But we weren’t quite there yet. We were still living it up at card shows and buying product all over town. We’ll take a look at 1993 next week and we might see some signs starting to surface. But as for 1992, there may be no other year I’d rather go back to and experience again in card collecting!