Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Griffey Pre-Rookies!

Griffey Pre-Rookies!

Pre-rookies are hard.  What really makes a pre-rookie in my opinion is when the card was actually printed.  Beyond that they're just picture cards that could have been made yesterday.  The main problem is that they tend to not have brands or production information printed on the back. 

Any information you may have on these would be amazingly helpful. 

Here we go:

Moeller High School - both versions

Moeller High School back - both versions

I have 3 Moeller high cards, two of the right version and one of the left.  The version on the left includes a High School All-American banner across the front and the Kid in a pro uniform named the Mariners' #1 draft pick for 1987 on the back.  Obviously this card was made later when those two things had been decided.  The production quality is super-high.  Both sides have finished surfaces like only card fronts tended to be in 1988, and the full-color front and back contribute to the mystery here.

From: Charleroi, PA To: Donora, PA
Donora, 15 minutes away and upriver of Charleroi

The card on the right is glossy and may actually be an authentic pre-rookie.  It lists Griffey's birth place as Charleroi, PA instead of Donora, PA which is where he is widely known (among fanboy weirdos like me) to have been born (Stan Musial was also born there).  It suggests he may well be a first-round pick someday....

One thing I really like about this card is the Moeller uniforms are very similar in color to the Mariners, but also anyone who is a fan of the band Moe would love one of those hats.  I saw them at Bonnaroo a few years back - it was a solid show.  Maybe I'll try and find one of these hats online.

Awww.  Nevermind.....  But look, a Barry Larkin jersey.

San Bernardino Spirit #34
San Bernardino Spirit #34 back

I have three of this San Bernardino Spirit card.  This is his California minor league rookie card for 1988.  He had just had a solid 53-game (or was it 54?  more on that later...) year with the Bellingham Mariners (I have no cards showing him as a Bellingham Mariner) and was promoted to the bigger California league.  He would not even finish the year there. 

This has the look and feel of a minor league team set, the kind they give away on Thirsty Thursdays or Footlong Fridays.  Alliteration is huge in minor league marketing.

California League All-Star #26

California League All-Star #26 back
Of course, he was already an All-Star.  He hadn't even put up any stats in the California League yet when this card was made.  Pretty good design for the minors, too.  I have two of this one.

Oddball minor league card #2 "The Kid"

Oddball minor league card #2 "The Kid" back - ignore that tiny version - it's a glitch I'll get rid of soon enough....

I have two of these as well - it has no brand, but it does have all the Kid's minor league stats for the 2 years he was there as well as the first time "The Kid" appears as his nickname on a baseball card.  He is in his Spirit uniform which is not surprising as he spent the most time there and also played at his best.  Homeruns are not recorded on the back of this card, but he had 27.  And .320 in 129 games is pretty good for a teenager.

And look.  54 games in 1987, not 53.  Hmm....

SB Spirit Gold
SB Spirit Gold back

I have one of this card.  I have no idea where it came from or what it's signifcance is, but it has a gold foil border on the front and is numbered out of 5,000.  These two characteristics led me to believe that this card must be worth millions.

The stats show him playing 128 games and batting .323, but he played 129 games and hit .320, right?  It is not clear whether he missed a game in Bellingham and this is the only card that takes this into account or they're just wrong.  Here's my opinion:

They're wrong.  Here's why: they got the team name wrong.  The Spirit.  Not the Spirits.  You know how old people like to add an "s" to store names like the name is always the owner's name the way it was in the 50s?  "Get in the car, we're going to Wal-mart's for some new socks."  This card does that.  And it pisses me off. 

"Go Magics!  Beat the Jazzes!" 

"The Crimson Tides really dominated the Fightings Irishes in the BCS Championshipses."

Annoying, right?  Moving on.....

Oddball set #16, 17, 18

Oddball set #16, 17, 18 back

These are from some 18-card set that came out after his minor-league career.  I'm not sure if these were made by the Vermont Mariners or the Seattle ones (though I assume it would have a MLBPA logo or something), or just some company cashing in on Ken's newfound fame. 

I am hoping this is one of those sets (that doesn't exist) where players get 3 cards in a row (18 is divisible by 3!) instead of one.  That way these 3 would be considered all of his cards from that (imaginary) set, not just a small minority.

Also, Reds is not capitalized.  Derp!

ProCards Vermont Mariners

ProCards Vermont Mariners back

Now this is a freakin' minor league card.  Pre-rookie through and through.  You've got a date, brand, and MLB logo, which is immediately more than you can say about any of those other cards.  These facts make me believe that this card speaks truth; therefore, 54 is correct number of games in 1987.  You heard it here.

Now, look closely under the round Vermont logo on the front.  There's a light ink stain in the shape of that MLB logo from where the cards were stacked too soon after printing.  Those would be the little card packets you get at minor league games for free on Thirsty Thursdays.

And it looks like Griffey lost 5lbs.  I've mentioned before that 1988 was a tough year for Junior, so it's no surprise.

The value of these cards is a complete mystery to me, but they are some of my favorites of his.  Again, if you know any specifics about them, let us know!


  1. This is probably just the cynic in me coming out, but I'd guess the only card that is authentic is the last card, and even then I'd want to make sure it was compared to other players in the Vermont Mariners team set. Card "bootlegging" was rampant in Griffey's early seasons, and the hype around him (and Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, etc.) was so massive that certain people decided to crank out fake cards by the barrel. Some of them would be designed to replicate an official, very limited release like that purple San Bernadino card, while others would be some really basic designed card of ambiguous origin. Sometimes they'd do goofy stuff like make a Michael Jordan baseball card designed to look like 1986 Topps, while others would just take something you'd see on a poster in the mall and turn it into a "baseball card". All of these cards that I encountered would be printed on very thin stock with either a glossy coating (similar to the minor league 1990 Best set) or a coating similar to a dull Polaroid photo.

    Of course, authentic minor league cards were produced so cheaply that it might be difficult to distinguish between real and fake cards.

    Another term for the cards back in the day was a "Broder" card, which I imagine led to this somewhat amusing entry on the Baseballcardpedia site:

    One final thought from Captain Bringdown - I guess the reason I am thinking the high school card on the right is also some sort of fake is because, aside from the prevailing question as to why someone would attempt to legitimize a high school baseball card, is why it was printed in Taiwan (or "Taiwian".)

  2. One more thing. A google search for "Griffey pre-rookie" led me to this link. Note the discrepancy in the font for Griffey's name.

  3. FWIW, 54 games is right. That's what was published in the 1988 Baseball America Almanac, and its what Baseball Refernce lists:

  4. Jeff - thanks for verifying that!

    Madding - I was considering the nation of Tiaiwiain's unlikely involvement with a Catholic high school's baseball team to be a bad omen on that one. And I'm certain I came across these far too easily for them to be authentic. Oh, well. At least my guy looks good on 'em.

    Also, FYI, I'm still amassing a nice pile of Cardinals for you as well as the players listed on your site. Your lady friend's list as well.... I'll keep you posted when I've filled a Priority mail box.

    Thanks for the info y'all!

  5. I'm looking for a decent list of the full bleed oddballs similar to #16, 17, and 18. Send me a message at nlindstromphoto at gmail dot com sometime.

  6. just stumbled across your blog for the first time. I have the purple “the kid” idea where I got it and it’s not in the best shape but it’s definitely my favorite.

  7. I also have the Kid purple card. Any idea how much its worth?