Ramblings: Altered Reality of Jeter Rookie Cards

One can argue, whether based on current on-field performance, if the honor was deserved but Derek Jeter will be the starting shortstop for the American League in the All-Star Game next week in Minneapolis. For collectors, even those who are a little cynical about Jeter’s final season at age 40, it’s a fitting tribute to one of the first players whose cards were red hot long before he actually set foot on a big league diamond.

Jeter’s first cards came almost immediately after being drafted by the New York Yankees in 1992. Five teams had passed on him, fearing the possibility he might choose college or because of a reluctance to pay what was at the time considered a huge signing bonus of $1 million.

There is a great story about Hal Newhouser, a Hall of Fame pitcher in his own right, who staked his career on trying to convince the Houston Astros to draft Jeter with the number one overall pick, rather than Phil Nevin, who the Astros ended up selecting.  As a Hall of Famer, Newhouser had the right instincts about the high school shortstop from Kalamazoo.  We can all wonder how baseball and baseball card history would have been different if Jeter had spent his entire career with the Astros instead of the Yankees.

Thanks to John Hogan of the Cards That Never Were blog for helping us see what a Jeter Astros card might have looked like in 1993 Upper Deck (remember how young he looked on those early cards?).

Derek Jeter Fantasy card 1993 Astros

What is more interesting is the Astros usually needed help at shortstop during those years and would Jeter joined with the Killer B’s to make the Astros a dominant franchise?  Not many of us were aware of these issues when we opened our 1993 baseball card packs.

Jeter appeared in most sets but as was apparent almost immediately, his best rookie card was considered the 1993 Upper Deck SP issue.

Derek Jeter Upper Deck SP 1993 PSA 10

Following closely in the footsteps of the 1993 Finest set, this issue was for that era, a really super premium set and featured rookies, which the 1993 Finest set did not have as part of its checklist. Of course, now more than 20 years later, we can wonder what if there had been a 1993 Finest Jeter Refractor with what’s believed to be a print run of 241 cards.  It would be selling for a lot of money today.  Thanks to Topps’ 2001 Finest Origins set, we got to visualize it.

Fantasy card 1993 Finest Derek Jeter

Fantasy aside, there is little doubt the condition sensitive 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie will go down as one of the best cards of the modern era because it honors a legend at the beginning of his major league card career with an absolutely beautiful design. And since the concept of signed cards as part of the regular card set was still a few years away for many players, it’s the most desirable of all the 1993 Jeter cards.   You can see what’s currently listed on eBay here.

However, things could have been a lot different had other big league executives believed Yankees scout Dick Grouch who was famously prescient about those Jeter-to-college fears and what would actually transpire in the next 22 years.

“The only place Derek Jeter’s going is to Cooperstown”.