1992 Bowman Manny Ramirez
In my last post I talked a little bit about how sets with a concentration of good rookie cards can raise the bar on some of the lesser rookie cards. The 1992 Bowman set has three really important rookie cards; Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, and Mike Piazza. The set also includes important second year cards of Chipper Jones and Pedro Martinez which often trade and sell like they are true rookie cards. However, there are also several other good Major League players with rookie cards in the set. Trevor Hoffman, Carlos Delgado, and Garrett Anderson are probably the next biggest three rookie cards in the set. Each of the lesser three rookie cards is greatly helped by the fact that it resides in this set and not another. For example, Trevor Hoffman's 1992 Bowman card frequently crosses $5 on Ebay and can be seen as high as $20-$30 for a nice graded copy. Hoffman's Upper Deck Prospects rookie card is usually $1, or can also be spotted in the quarter bin at your local card shop.
1992 Bowman Mike Piazza
The three important rookie cards in the 1992 Bowman set truly make this set a huge success, but this set also was the first "modern" Bowman set that Topps produced. By modern, I mean that Topps included innovations such as foil stamping, improved card stock, and better finishing on the cards then the previous releasing in 1989, 1990, and 1991. The set was very well received when it was released and was seen, in terms of quality, as being a premium set issue. The important rookie cards and second year cards were just the icing on the cake.
1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera
Now that I've squeezed a picture of all three important rookie cards into the post let's take our remaining time to talk a little bit about each of the cards. Similar to the 1992 and 1993 Stadium Club Dome and Murphy sets, which also featured rookie cards of minor leaguers and draft picks, the Bowman set sometimes featured players off the field. It's one of the unique card features from this area. Who can forget Cliff Floyd pulling out his Michael Jordan impersonation for his rookie card? As you look at the three cards above, clearly the Rivera and Ramirez cards fit this profile. While the Rivera card can easily have been taken around a stadium, the Ramirez card was taken in front of the chapel on the campus of Duke University.
The three players on the field were extremely important to the game of baseball during the past thirty years. Piazza was easily the best offensive catcher of his generation and belongs in the conversation with Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Carlton Fisk as the greatest catcher ever. While, he missed on the Hall of Fame this year, Piazza will be in very shortly. Rivera is the easily the greatest closer of all-time. He has had some great years, in terms of individual statistics and accolades, as well as being an important cog on several World Series winners. The use of bullpens and saves have taken off over the past three decades and Rivera has certainly defined himself as the best in the business.
Ramirez is a little bit trickier issue because of the debate surrounding steroids. If you are anti-steroids in the Hall of Fame, than please stop reading and visit another page. However, in my opinion Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of his generation and belongs in the Hall. His overall career numbers are incredible and he was apart of an awesome run of teams with the Indians during the mid to late 90s where he hit seventh one year. Of course, Manny also had a great run with the Red Sox and they would not have won two World Series without him. Just my two cents. One more card.
1992 Bowman Chipper Jones
The decision to put this set in the top few of my countdown was a no brainer. When I first started thinking about the top set during my thirty years in the hobby I wrote down sets at the top of my list. As I went and started looking back through all of the sets I've collected, talked to other collectors in the hobby, this set always came up in the discussion. Think of all the rookie cards produced by the Bowman line since 1989. The 1992 Bowman set is where the "Home of the Rookie Card" really started and will always be remembered as the set that pushed the envelope on rookie cards.