I always thought it was relatively easy to spot a rookie card. Take Will Clark’s 1987 Topps card. It’s obvious it’s his rookie because it looks like they told him to go take a few grounders during Spring Training as Roger Craig quietly loaded the Giants onto the team bus and they hightailed it outta there. Clark looks pissed cause Craig and Leonard and the rest of the team sprung a good one on him. But there were other ways you could tell as well. For instance, Clark was a fresh face in 1987, and if you were poor and couldn’t afford the 1986 Topps Traded set (like me), then you knew just by looking at the photo and the name that he was a new, hot-shit rookie, like Dan Plesac, Mike Greenwell, Barry Larkin and all the rest of the unmarked rookies from that glorious set.
So excuse me if I’m a little taken aback when I saw the ‘Rookie Card’ emblem on Justin Verlander’s 2006 Topps card. Have things got so bad in cards today that the companies need to tell collectors that a card’s a player’s rookie? Wouldn’t collectors know that already? If we’re going to start labeling rookie cards, how about card companies start guessing when a player’s going to retire and put a ‘Last Card’ emblem on theirs?
Think about it: Topps needs another scandal to bookend the Alex Gordon card. How about a card of Julio Franco that pre-empts his retirement announcement? And then, when it doesn’t happen, Franco’s famed ‘Last Card’ can sell on eBay for hundreds, Keith Olbermann can pontificate on the necessity of owning it in order to ‘complete the set’ and I can sell my 1983 Donruss rookie of the guy for a hundred thousand percent of its book value and buy an unopened 1986 Topps Traded set.