The 1997 set has kind of had a lot of twists and turns over the years in regards to collectability and value. Upon its initial release the hot and trendy cards in this set belonged to Kerry Wood, Travis Lee, and Miguel Tejada. All three players made it to the big leagues and contributed something to their teams. Wood and Tejada obviosuly more than Lee, but there are some other good rookies in this set too.
There is also Eric Chavez, Lance Berkman, Jayson Werth, and Aramis Ramirez. The two best cards in my opinion however belong to the only two potential Hall of Fame players with rookies in this set. Remarkably both cards have flown under the radar for years on card value and repsect with in the industry. Let's take a look at the two cards.
1997 Bowman Roy Halladay RC
Halladay has the easier case to make in terms of Hall of Fame credentials, so I will get his card out of the way first. If you are looking to add this card to your collection it will probably cost you around $5 if you are willing to look. Beckett lists them at $12 and they sell between $4 and $7 on Ebay without shipping. I acutally prefer the 97 regular Bowman cards over the Chrome. I am aware that the Chrome card lists and sells for more, but I love the black border of the base set and think over time you will see that feature make these cards a little more desirable for grading. Dark backgrounds show imperfections easier and make them more condition sensitive.
Basically, the guy spent ten seasons pitching north of the border and flew under a lot of radars during that time. He's played for the Phillies for the past three seasons winning fifty games and throwing a no-hitter in a playoff game. He's not pitched the Phillies to the World Series, as he was brought in to do, but he has a playoff ERA slightly north of two with two loses to Tim Lincecum and Chris Carpenter.
Halladay will cross 200 wins this season, or next, and is also above 2000 strikeouts. Checking his Baseball Reference page shows that he is already exceeded the Hall of Fame metrics using the Black Ink and Hall of Fame Monitor while he is slightly off with the other two metrics. However, Halladay is signed for two more seasons and should further improve his overall totals. A nod should also be given to the fact that he pitched on many third and fourth place Jays teams and still was very successful, and was also successful pitching in that tiny little park in Philadelphia. On to the next one.
1997 Bowman Adrian Beltre RC
When this card set was released everyone was all over Scott Rolen as the third baseman of the coming generation. Rolen played great for about seven or eight years. Rolen hit a huge home run in the 2004 NCLS off of Roger Clemens, possibly should have won the NL MVP that season, and racked up a whole bunch of Gold Gloves. Then he got run over by Hee Seop Choi, cried a bunch, and got traded around a few times. About that time, up came David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman and people jumped on that bandwagon too. Longoria a few years later.
Now, during that entire 15 year span of baseball Adrian Beltre has been a very good third baseman. Beltre has put up over 300 home runs, 2200 hits, 1200 RBIs, been named to five All-Star teams, won four gold gloves, and finished second in MVP voting twice. Did I mention he only turned 33 this year? Take a few minutes to check out Beltre's Baseball Reference page. Scroll down to the bottom and find the column that shows comparable players and these names appear: Ron Santo, Cal Ripken, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline, Brooks Robinson, and Orlando Cepada. It's money in the bank that Beltre plays five more years, at least, and the argument for putting him in the Hall of Fame is going to get louder and louder. Back to the card.
Beltre actually has a whole bunch of rookie cards, including a very tough autographed rookie, that appeared in the Bowman set. This is a very affordable rookie of a great player and an easy add for any collector. Honestly, how can you go wrong spending three or four dollars to add a potential Hall of Famer's rookie card to your collection?
Like the 1997 Bowman set? Not appearing in my countdown is the 2003 Bowman Draft set. This set has a similar black card design and some very solid rookies including: Jonathan Papelbon, Robinson Cano, and Ryan Howard. At this point none of these guys are Hall of Famers, but it's another good addition to your collection.
2003 Bowman Draft Jonathan Papelbon RC