Sometimes, “common” cards today were far from common back in 1980’s. Many of those once hot players were produced in such a quantity that those cards, albeit popular, are available at a very modest price point.
One memory of the amazing 1986 rookie card class involved a player who, although he completed a nice career, never came close to the greatness predicted for him after his first two seasons. Wally Joyner suffered a mysterious infection late in his rookie campaign and also dealt with having a knife thrown at him at a Yankee Stadium game. The power he showed early on wasn’t really his game, something he freely admitted and while he hit over .300 three of four years during the mid-1990’s, living up to those first couple of seasons would be tough for anyone. But for a while, the feeling was he was on his way to the Hall of Fame. Fans loved him and card collectors young and old couldn’t get enough.
He was so well thought of that Donruss, in what was a new release for them, created the “1986 Donruss Rookies set” so they could have their own contestant in the updated set contest then occurring with the three major manufacturers plus Sportflics. Card #1 in the Donruss Rookies set was Wally Joyner and that was the first card anyone could see through the cellophane wrapping.
But, there turned out to be a production issue and all the early sets of Donruss rookies had damaged Joyner cards as a result of the cellophane wrapping. That’s right, the cards had to be reprinted so there would be no damaged cards in the late season release. That was because Joyner was among the most popular cards and anyone pulling a damaged card would be very upset. This problem did go away and today almost all the 1986 Donruss Rookies sets you see are in good condition.
A couple of years later, Joyner was tabbed by Upper Deck to help get the fledgling company off the ground. He took part in a photo shoot at a local diamond and was featured, along with DeWayne Buice on a promo card as Upper Deck tried to sell dealers and distributors on its idea for a higher end product with holograms. They were pricey for a time, but today you can get them for just a few dollars.
One of the strangest parts of Joyner’s career was that he peaked in his first two seasons and never came close again to the heights he reached at the beginning of his career. That phenomenon is not unique in baseball history as a good example of similar career, although the time frame was much shorter was Ray Jablonski in the 1950’s. Ray drove in over 100 runs in each of his first two seasons and with that type of start looked like he was on his way to Cooperstown. Instead, less than a decade after he made his major league debut he had retired. Joyner’s career was longer but he never was the same hitter after the 1987 season.
Joyner is still making a living in baseball, serving as hitting coach of the Detroit Tigers but that 1986 Donruss Rookies card reminds us that nothing is guaranteed, no matter how great of a start one gets to a career.