Friday, June 2, 2023

One-Sheet Collections: 1990s Hit Leaders at Each Postion

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The One-Sheet Collections idea is a simple concept with infinite possibilities. Take a single nine-pocket sheet and a reasonable $100 budget, and build a nine-card collection with a unifying theme.

This week’s collection takes a look back at the hit leaders at each position during the 1990s, a decade that was dominated by the home run ball but also featured some great pure hitters as well.

All nine players are represented by either a Rookie Card or in a few instances an XRC from that brief window of time in the late 1980s when boxed sets were a big part of the industry landscape.

1989 Upper Deck #24 Dante Bichette RC ($1)

Hits: 1,584

Bichette spent the 1990 season with the Angels and the following two years with the Brewers before joining the Rockies for the inaugural season in 1993. There he emerged as one of the most productive outfielders in baseball. Bichette batted .303 for the decade and finished runner-up in NL MVP voting in 1995 when he hit .340 with 40 home runs and 128 RBI.

Following a 21-game cup of coffee in 1988, he had Rookie Cards in the 1989 Donruss, Fleer, Topps and Upper Deck sets. A few dollars is all you’ll need to scoop up all four of them.

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1989 Score Rookie/Traded #100T Ken Griffey Jr. RC ($12)

Hits: 1,622

Just 20 years old when the decade began, Griffey launched 382 home runs during the 1990s, a total that trailed only Mark McGwire (405). While that power production grabbed the headlines, Griffey also hit .302/.384/.581 during that stretch and his 1,622 hits were tops among all center fielders.

Among his six different Rookie Cards, his inclusion in the Score Rookie/Traded set remains arguably the best bang for your buck with a great action shot and a price tag that’s a notch below his more well known Topps Traded and Upper Deck options.

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1983 Fleer #360 Tony Gwynn RC ($30)

Hits: 1,713

Gwynn was already 30 years old with 1,354 career hits and four batting titles under his belt when the 1990s began, but he was just getting started. He went on to win four more batting titles during the ’90s while making a serious run at a .400 average during the strike-shortened 1994 season. Gwynn hit .344 overall for the decade.

His 1983 Topps Rookie Card carries a slightly higher price tag than his Donuss or Fleer alternatives, but in terms of visual appeal his Fleer rookie gets my vote as the best of the bunch.

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1982 Donruss #405 Cal Ripken RC ($30)

Hits: 1,589

Playing in every single Orioles game from the start of the 1990 season until his record consecutive games played streak ended on Sept. 20, 1998 afforded Ripken plenty of opportunities to rack up hits. He had 210 of them during his AL MVP-winning season in 1991. Amazingly, this was one of just two 200-hit seasons in his 21-year career.

His 1982 Topps Traded card remains his most sought after early option, but as far as his regular release Rookie Cards the 1982 Donruss, Fleer and Topps cards all carry a reasonable price tag. While he shares his Topps flagship card with two other players and his Fleer rookie can be hard to find with the picture in focus, his Donruss rookie is a straightforward headshot.

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1988 Score #638 Tom Glavine RC ($3)

Hits: 143

Besides being a 300-game winner, Glavine was also a solid hitter for his position, winning four Silver Slugger awards during the 1990s. The best offensive season of his career came in 1996 when he hit .289 with a .333 on-base percentage over 96 plate appearances. Teammates Greg Maddux (131) and John Smoltz (118) were the only other pitchers with more than 100 hits during the decade.

None of his Rookie Cards are overly expensive thanks to 1988 being the peak of the Junk Wax Era, but his 1988 Score has always been my favorite as it’s the only one that has the word “rookie” anywhere on the front of the card.

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1989 Upper Deck #273 Craig Biggio RC ($15)

Hits: 1,728

Biggio spent the first two years of the decade behind the plate before shifting to second base for the 1992 season, and he was a catalyst atop the Houston lineup throughout the 1990s. He led the NL in plate appearances five times and he had at least 180 hits three years in a row to close out the decade.

His inclusion in the iconic 1989 Upper Deck set is far and away his most valuable Rookie Card, and he has five different first-year options in total.

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1987 Donruss Rookies #45 Matt Williams XRC ($2.50)

Hits: 1,438

Williams was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball at his peak, tallying six 30-homer seasons during 1990s, including 43 long balls in 112 games during the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Between the decline of George Brett and Wade Boggs and the arrival of Chipper Jones, he has a strong case for being the best third baseman in the game.

Along with his four Rookie Cards in 1988 products, he also has three XRCs from 1987 boxed sets, including the above card from the short-lived Donruss Rookies product line.

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1991 Bowman #272 Ivan Rodriguez RC ($4)

Hits: 1,333

Rodriguez is the only player to lead his respective position in hits during the 1990s without suiting up for all 10 seasons of the decade. The Hall of Fame catcher made his MLB debut as a 19-year-old in 1991 and went on to become one of the greatest two-way backstops of all-time.

He has seven different Rookie Cards, though 1991 Bowman was the only product to feature him on the main release checklist, as the other six were all part of traded/update sets at the end of the year.

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1988 Topps Traded #42T Mark Grace XRC ($2)

Hits: 1,754

In a decade loaded with future Hall of Famers, it was Grace who led all players with 1,754 hits, narrowly edging out Rafael Palmeiro (1,747) for the 1990s title. He hit .310/.385/.449 during the 10-year span and was a three-time All-Star at a time when the first base position was loaded with superstar talent.

His first Topps flagship card was an XRC in the 1988 Topps Traded set, and he was part of the All-Star Rookie Cup team the following year when he appeared in the base set for the first time.

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Total: $99.50

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