Friday, November 27, 2015

USA Baseball Retired Numbers

I am generally not a fan of Panini, but I really have to give them credit for their work the past few years with the USA Baseball products.  I live just a few miles from their complex in central North Carolina and have really enjoyed attending games there over the past few years.  They do great things for amateur baseball.  

One of the best parts of the recent Panini products has been the fact that their cards not only give exposure to the current crop of high school and college players in the program, but they have also done a great job of shedding light on some of the past players to go through the program.  There have been plenty of great names over the years who have gone on to play baseball at the professional level.  Panini captures them all.  

I have been to the USA Baseball complex dozens of times over the years I am still not entirely sure that I have ever found where, or if, they display their retired jersey numbers.  I am really leaning towards the fact that they are not hanging up anywhere.  Anyway, there are two of them.  

I always knew that McGwire had his jersey retired for his performance in the 1984 Olympic Games.  He was the best player on the team and provided a spark offensively that helped the team to a silver medal.  I recently had the chance to pick up a copy of one his 2015 Panini USA Baseball cards.  

This card is from the 2015 Stars & Stripes product.  Kind of mimics the 1990s Donruss Crusades cards that were really popular with collectors.  I actually think I have a copy of the 1998 Donruss Crusade McGwire card hanging out somewhere in one of my card boxes.  Just like the original Crusade cards there are different colored cards in the Panini version with each version having a different serial number.  This card is numbered to just 99 copies.  

I was originally just going to make this post about this card, but in doing a little bit of research about Mark McGwire's retired USA Baseball jersey I found a cool factoid out about another baseball card from yesteryear.  I was not actually sure if Big Mac had the only retired jersey number by the organization.  I was half way expecting there to be another big name there along side McGwire.  A Barry Larkin, Will Clark, Nomar, or Jason Giambi.  

Instead, I found out the only other player with a retired jersey number at USA Baseball was Stephen Reich.  He went to West Point, played summer baseball with USA Baseball in 1993.  The team competed at the World Olympic Games.  After completing college he briefly appeared in the minors with the Orioles, and then served in the army for the better part of a decade before his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.  

There are some news clippings about his story floating around, but it does not seem really well publicized by USA Baseball.  After reading a little bit about Reich I went through a few boxes, flipped around the internet too, and found that he actually has two baseball cards.  The first is a 1993 Topps Traded card.  It's card 85.  Not an easy find as a single card, but the 1993 Topps Traded set is a pretty affordable set.  

Panini also included him in their 2013 Panini USA Baseball Champions product, but I never put together the complete set.  The card shows the jersey retirement ceremony for the former West Point grad.  This is a copy of the card I found on COMC.  Is that the DBAP?  I think so.  

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