For two decades between 1962 and 1982 Topps published multi-player rookie cards each season. At least one of the players in those sets usually wound up being enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are a few exceptions of course, but what’s interesting is sometimes it can take up to 20 years to really determine who will be the key person in any of those rookie classes. One example is the 1968 Topps set in which Johnny Bench was regarded as a future Hall of Famer from his rookie season, but a fireball pitcher from Alvin, Texas kept rolling along and hit his hobby peak in the year Bench was elected to the Hall of Fame. Ryan finally became the ultimate Texas legend in 1989 when he struck out more than 300 batters at age 42. Bench, meanwhile, has remained popular but has never quite and will never catch up to Ryan in price.
Other examples are in the 1977 Topps set subset where the hottest of those multi-player rookie cards circa 1980 was one featuring Jack Clark, Ruppert Jones and Lee Mazzilli. All three of those players were 25 or younger and two of them were starting center fielders for New York teams. With those two players, not even counting Jack Clark who had a superstar season in 1979, the future looked bright for that card. Today, it’s just a blip in collectors radar as both Dale Murphy, who appears to have a good long-term chance for the Hall of Fame and Andre Dawson, who is already enshrined have out-shined them long-term. Both Murphy and Dawson would win MVP awards in the 1980’s.
And sometimes there is a shift because a person has a better post-playing career then as a player. A great example of this is 1981. There is still a reasonable expectation that Tim Raines will make the Hall of Fame and while Fernando Valenzuela won’t, he will have the special popularity which goes with his magical 1981 summer.
But there is one other guy on Fernando’s rookie card with a good chance for Cooperstown, although not for what he did while crouching behind the plate or standing at it. Mike Scoscia, once a Dodgers prospect, has now managed the Angels for more than a decade and does have a World Series championship under his belt. If he enjoys a long, successful managerial career, it’s quite possible he will be selected as a veteran’s committee nominee someday.
All this leads us to perhaps the last person to break out of any of these rookie card groupings. He was among a trio of players in what turned out to be a very weak crop of 1979 ‘Rookie Stars’. When your best player is Pedro Guerrero, who was a nice player but will never be confused with an all-time great, that tells you something. Terry Kennedy, Kevin Bass and Danny Darwin were among others who eventually made the big leagues but when that is your player grouping, you are hoping for the occasional all-star season or a monster season in Japan.
However, 35 years later we finally have our breakout card from the 1979 rookie prospects. With a third World Series win as a manager under his belt, there is probably no way Bruce Bochy does not make the Hall of Fame when he retires. If you examine the job he has done the past few years, there are some truly amazing changes in his three teams. Just four years ago some of the key players included Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria,. Three old and aged veterans, one of whom had played a big role in the 1997 World Series. Just four years later, with the help of GM Brian Sabean, the team is re-tooled and youngsters like Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik now have key roles. Bochy is the manager and has helped to shepherd each of these World Series wins.
And I would wager that his three-player 1979 Astros Rookie Prospects card is finding a lot of buyers and will probably continue to do so. I’ve noticed more listings—and more sales—of Bochy’s rookie card on eBay, with ungraded examples still available for just a couple of dollars even in near mint condition. He’s also on a minor league card, wearing a sporty pair of 1970s era shades.
Future HOF manager rookie cards are popular as one can see with the election of Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox, both of whose cards were almost priced as Hall of Famers long before they were elected. The same fate probably awaits Bochy.