40. 1993 Bowman
I’ve been trying to come up with a metaphor to help better my understanding of how this set fits in the early Nineties Bowman lineage. The best that I’ve been able to come up with is that 1991 Bowman is John Lennon, 1992 is Paul McCartney, and 1993 is George Harrison (and if we follow this line of thinking, 1990 Bowman is Ringo Starr and 1989–Bowman’s mostly forgettable re-introduction–is Stu Sutcliffe).
As a collector at the time, 1989 Bowman was a dud of a set. The nostalgia of larger cards was lost on me (was this truly the first ‘Heritage’ set?), and my ten-year-old brain couldn’t make heads or tails of the statistical grid on the backs. And yet, though it didn’t fit in the hobby’s landscape then and stands out as a sore thumb today, the Bowman brand wouldn’t be the same today without it.
It’s very clear to the casual observer that they took a step back after 1989 bombed and shifted the brand’s focus to rookies for 1990 (Starr). And while that set is fairly uninteresting, it’s loaded with rookies, assuring it inevitable staying power, deserved or not.
Though not as universally popular as the Hobby Titan/McCartney issue in 1992, Bowman really hit its stride in 1991 (Lennon), prompting an endless debate of which is the greater set. Combining just the right mix of minor and major league rookies with a winning design and loads of stars, 1991 felt like a real set, without a hint of the novelty that pervaded the oversized ’89s or the tweening bland puberty that plagued the ’90s.
Like Harrison’s role within The Beatles, 1993’s set is ‘The Quiet Bowman.’ There is plenty within this set that makes it memorable, and you even get the feeling that Bowman was restraining itself a little, even though the released the set in greater quantities than 1992.
With the gentle foil, the understated front-of-card design that took nothing away from the clean photography, not to mention the full-color backs (if still promoting a slightly convoluted system of statistical analysis), and the standout rookies of Pettitte and Jeter, you almost forget that set's overall rookie class is much weaker than years before. The key word there is almost.