During his 14 years with the Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz became the face of the franchise, leading the team to three World Series championships while becoming just the 27th member of baseball’s exclusive 500 home run club. As one of baseball’s top sluggers, Ortiz became quite popular with baseball card and memorabilia collectors as well. A wide-range of Ortiz variation, rookie, game-used-memorabilia, and autographed baseball cards remain popular even with Ortiz six months into retirement.
Some of the most memorable and coveted baseball cards are the ones that capture a unique moment in baseball or a city’s history. The rare variation of Ortiz’s 2013 second series Topps card captures one of the more emotional moments in Boston sports history. A defiant Ortiz took the field just five days after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, making an impassioned, heartfelt speech declaring the city’s resolve.
Known in collectible circles as the “Boston Strong” card, Ortiz is pictured with a microphone in one hand and a clenched fist raised to the heavens with the other. In the background is a giant American flag draped over Fenway’s left field wall, creating a uniquely patriotic scene. Upon release, the short-printed “Boston Strong” card sold in the $50-$75 range. Following the Red Sox third World Series title in 10 years in October of the 2013 season, the card was selling in excess of $150. During the height of the Big Papi Farewell Tour last summer , the card sold for as much as $199. Today the card value has settled in the $35-$65 range.
Ortiz played a huge role in the Red Sox six-game 2013 World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, hitting .688 with two homers and six RBI en route to being named World Series MVP. The popular Topps World Champion autograph insert set features top postseason sluggers. The 2014 edition captures Ortiz’s famed home run stroke along with his certified signature. Limited to a production run of 50, the Ortiz World Series autographed card sells for $59.
When Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003, there was considerable confusion surrounding his rookie baseball cards. Prior to signing with the Red Sox, Ortiz played several seasons in the Seattle and Minnesota systems. Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Mariners in 1994 just days after his 17th birthday, Ortiz, who gradually established himself as a power-hitting prospect, was traded to the Twins as the player to be named later for Dave Hollins prior to the 1997 season.
After joining the Twins system, Ortiz decided to change his baseball name. His legal name had always been David Americo Ortiz Arias. While playing with the Mariners, he went by his maternal family name (Arias) rather than his paternal family name (Ortiz). As a result, his earliest baseball cards are listed as David Arias. With the Twins, he requested to be called Ortiz, which has stuck ever since.
Ortiz joined the Red Sox as a platoon player in 2003, so many collectors didn’t connect the dots between David Arias and David Ortiz, meaning the Arias rookie cards were readily available for under $1 during the first half of the season. With more playing time came more home runs and a knack for late-inning heroics. By season’s end Ortiz slugged 30 homers in just 128 games, boasting the David Arias cards to $10-$15.
One of only two Ortiz rookie cards, the 1997 Fleer “David Arias” card could be found in 1997 Fleer Series 2 packs. The base version of the card, sporting a throwback matte finish during an era of high-gloss cards, currently sells for $30. The far more limited “Tiffany” parallel version — one of the more valuable Oriz cards in the market — features a high-gloss look and feel while selling for $400 .
The other Ortiz (Arias) rookie is from the 1997 Fleer Ultra series, a slightly more upscale version of the Fleer set, sells for $35. The full-bleed, glossy look was a popular alternative to the high-priced Tiffany parallel set. Gold Medallion parallel versions display a different picture and gold-foil lettering. Limited to just 200 copies, the popular parallel version sells for $49.
The Topps Bowman brand, known as the “Home of the Rookie Card”, somehow bypassed Ortiz in its 1997 set. Sometimes wrongly advertised as a rookie, the 1998 Bowman Ortiz is readily available for under $4. Far more limited chrome and International refractor parallel versions sell for $18 and $15 respectively.
For oddball baseball card collectors, there is a handful of Ortiz pre-rookie cards that have become quite popular in the slugger’s final season. The Ortiz (Arias) 1996 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Midwest League All-Star card,is an overlooked gem selling for $48. His 1998 New Britain Red Cats Best minor league card is selling for $15. Both cards feature a relatively elementary design with simple white borders — a far cry from the the glitzy, full-bleed photos popular with major league sets in the late ‘90s. The more mainstream Upper Deck 1998 SP minor league Ortiz card — featuring a portrait of a svelte, smiling Ortiz inside a silver foil border — sells for $5.
Ortiz made his Topps debut in the 1998 edition where he was featured in a prospect card with future All-Star slugger Richie Sexson. Ortiz made his first appearance in a Red Sox jersey in the more obscure 2003 Fleer Update Series and the 2003 Upper Deck 40-Man set. All three cards can be had for $3.
The hobby’s most sought after and costly cards are serial numbered autographs of baseball’s top players. Ortiz autographs have been extremely active in the secondary market since the start of the season. His 1997 Donruss Signature Series Autograph is his first card to carry the name “David Ortiz” instead of “David Arias”. The base version (red background) has 3,900 copies and is selling for $122, while the Millennium parallel Version (green background) is limited to 1,000 copies and is selling for $225. Perhaps the most valuable Ortiz autographed card is the Signature Series Century Autograph (blue background) is numbered to just 100 and is selling for $600.
A common gripe among autograph collectors is Ortiz’s failure to sign within the designated area of the Donruss Signature Series. Most signatures in all three versions appear towards the side of the card rather than the bottom. Ortiz’s signing gaffe may have held down the card values before he established himself as one of the game’s top sluggers. There is no such issue today. The 2005 SkyBox Autographics signature card is available for under $60, providing a nice alternative to the high priced Signature Series autographs.
As the Red Sox prepare to retire Ortiz’s number, expect his baseball cards to sell at elevated prices. No. 34 placed among Red Sox immortals along Fenway Parks right field roof facade means increased attention for their charismatic slugger, which means inflated values for his cards. You can anticipate card values to decline and level off later this summer. The next boost for Ortiz cards will come in five years when one of the Red Sox all-time sluggers is Hall of Fame eligible.
The Hall of Fame electorate and many old school baseball fans have shunned the DH position since its inception in 1973. Edgar Martinez, one of the best pure hitters of his time, has yet to receive more than 36.5 percent of the HOF vote in six tries. Quality hitters such as Don Baylor and Harold Baines have barely registered a blip on the HOF ballot.
However, the anti-DH faction has been weakening in recent years. Enshrined in 2004, Paul Molitor served as his team’s DH for nearly half of the games he started. Last year, Frank Thomas became the first HOFer to DH in the majority of his games played.
Ortiz is looking to become the first full-time DH to receive baseball’s highest honor. He has established the standard for designated hitters, collecting more hits, home runs, and RBI than any other DH. His endless late-inning production — including 11 walk-off homers — have made Ortiz one of baseball’s most feared hitters throughout his Red Sox career.
Ortiz’s Mantle-esque playoff production (a slash line of .295/.409/.553 with 17 homers and 60 RBI) have made him one of the game’s most recognized players. His postseason success and affable persona has made Big Papi the ultimate fan favorite among Red Sox fans, which reflected by his many memorabilia cards. His 2013 Topps Tier One Game Used Jersey and 2014 Panini Classics Game Used bat cards, each selling for $15, are great additions to any Red Sox baseball card collections.
The designated hitter is an actual position that has been debated, discussed, probed, and prodded since the 1890s. Since the inception of the American League position 44 years ago, the DH has served it’s purpose ably: enhancing offense, while increasing fan interest. Each year, the best DH is honored with the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. Somehow, the player who established the benchmark for excellence at the position has been kept out of the Hall of Fame and has just two remaining years of eligibility — a slight to one the finest hitters baseball has ever seen and to the position as a whole.
Martinez did not become a full-time player until the age of 27, which limited his career hit total to 2,247 and home run total to just 309, well short of top sluggers from his era. But looking deeper into the numbers, we discover that Martinez was actually one of the top and most consistent sluggers of his time — or any time period — culminating an 18-year career with an eye-popping .418 on-base percentage and .933 OPS. Jayson Stark of ESPN describes Martinez as one of the “greatest hitters of his generation.”
Martinez was just one of eight players to have 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average above .300, a career OBP above .400, and a career slugging percentage above .500. He is also one of six players to hit at least .320 for six consecutive seasons alongside Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, and Todd Helton. All but Helton are in the Hall.
Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who spends endless hours crunching numbers to evaluate Hall of Fame candidates, says Martinez is one of the top 30 or 40 hitters of all time. Martinez outdistanced David Ortiz in career WAR 68.3 too 55.4. Most consider fellow DH Ortiz a clear cut Hall of Famer, steroid issues aside. Martinez is one of 25 players with at least eight seasons with OPS+ greater than 150. All who are eligible and not connected to steroids are in the Hall of Fame except two: Dick Allen and Martinez. He also has the fourth best career OPS (.933) among right-handed hitters in the modern era … And still not enough Hall of Fame votes.
The anti-DH faction among baseball writers has weakened over the years, but is still clearly present. There are several players who have appeared extensively as a DH already in the Hall, including Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield and Jim Rice. But most of these players played the majority of their games at other positions — usually first base or outfield.
Elected in 2004, Paul Molitor served as his team’s DH for nearly 44 percent of the games he started. Two years ago, Frank Thomas became the first HOFer to DH in the majority of his games played. Martinez played DH for 71% of the games he started. If Martinez is not elected before his expiration date, Ortiz will likely become the first almost-full-time DH to receive baseball’s highest honor. Ortiz collected more hits, home runs, and RBI than any other DH.
The designated hitter first proposed during the 1890s as the designated pinch hitter. Connie Mack took credit for the idea in 1906. NL owners actually approved the DH rule in December 1928, but were ironically overruled by their AL cohorts. In 1940, the Bushrod League, a California winter circuit, adopted the DH. In 1969 the International League experimented with the DH for a year.
After nearly eight decades of debate between league presidents, owners, and players, the American League finally approved the DH before the 1973 season. On April 6, Ron Blomberg, became major league baseball’s first designated hitter when he drew a first-inning, bases loaded walk from Luis Tiant on a cold, windy Opening Day at Fenway Park.
A pulled hamstring forced the 24-year-old first baseman to his new position. If Matty Alou, batting third for the Yankees, didn’t stroke a two-out double in the first inning, the Red Sox Orlando Cepeda, the first player signed specifically for DH duty, would have made the history books. Although the Red Sox won the game 15-5, Cepeda, the prototype DH, went 0-for-6, the only Red Sox starter to go hitless.
AL owners hoped the DH would increase offense, give aging sluggers the chance to extend their years of productivity, and increase attendance. The three-year experiment worked. AL teams were scoring more runs, league attendance rose from 11.4 million to 13.4 million, and older stars were extending their careers.
Cepeda was exactly what the AL owners had in mind when they adopted the DH. The 35-year-old former first baseman entered the season with bad knees and 358 career home runs, and had driven in over 100 runs five times in his career.
In 1973, Cepeda played all of his 142 games at DH for the Red Sox, hitting 20 homers and 86 RBI — excellent power numbers for the time — winning the first Associated Press Designated Hitter Award.
The DH helped sluggers such as Cepeda, the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year with the Giants and the 1967 MVP with the Cardinals, achieve Hall of Fame status. Cepeda, elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999, finished his career with 379 home runs (21 as a DH) and 1,365 RBI.
The DH is now widely accepted and used in some form in most leagues from high school to the majors. The final hurdle to its acceptance as an actual position may be a deservedly wider presence in the Hall of Fame.
Curt Schilling is a blowhard. He talks and talks and talks and I’m not sure he always knows what he’s talking about, but he keeps talking. I will never understand why he thinks people care about his views on politics, gender issues or anything else, but he keeps talking.
What I do understand is Curt Schilling was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His social media rants have grown tiresome, but should not block his path to Cooperstown. He was never suspended, never linked to drugs, gambling, or anything else harmful to the game. Not being able to control himself on Facebook should not keep him out of the Hall.
Naysayers claim Schilling’s 216 career wins don’t pass muster. But wins are not the sole measure of a pitcher’s value. Schilling proved to be dominant in most essential categories, ranking 15th all-time in strikeouts. More important in today’s advanced metrics, Schilling ranked third in strikeout-to-walk ratio all-time and 26th in career pitching WAR, tied with first ballot HOFers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. By not giving away bases or allowing hitters to make consistent contact, Schilling put his teams in position to win as much or more than baseball’s all-time greats.
Doubters are also quick to point out the Cy Young Award missing from the mantle in the Schilling household. Schilling spent his best years in the shadows of teammates Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, but he was one of the best and arguably most dominating pitchers of his era, striking out three hundred batters in consecutive seasons (1997 and 1998 with the Phillies).
Schilling was also one of the best money pitchers in baseball history, leading three teams to World Series titles and winning some of the most memorable games in postseason history. He finished with a 2.23 postseason ERA en route to an 11-2 record when the games counted most. Schilling’s playoff heroics started in 1993, when he earned MVP honors in the National League Championship series by throwing a 147-pitch shutout, forcing a Game 6 in Toronto (when Joe Carter hit his memorable World Series walk-off homer).
Schilling was overpowering in the 2001 World Series, giving up just two runs in seven innings before Randy Johnson sealed the deal in the final two innings to end Yankees mini dynasty. Three years later, he held off the Yankees — bloody sock and all — in Game 6 of the American League Championship, leading the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years. He closed out his career with another ring with the Red Sox in 2007.
It’s unfortunate that Schilling’s political and social rants cost him his job with ESPN. He was thoughtful and insightful as a color commentator on the network’s Sunday night showcase. I’ve heard more than enough of Schilling’s political views and will never vote for him for political office (he has threatened to run for senate), but he gets my Hall of Fame vote.
Schilling’s Topps 2005 World Series Game Worn Jersey card is a favorite among Red Sox fans.You can fine Schilling sporting his Baltimore Orioles uniform in his 1989 Donruss Rookie — a drab looking set with black and purple borders.
Whether you fancy yourself a baseball historian or a baseball fan with at least a remote interest in the game’s glorious history, Charles Leerhsen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty is an absolute must read.
Leerhsen’s wide-ranging reporting and storytelling skills are on full display as he debunks the myths and sheds light on the complicated but brilliant career of Ty Cobb. Most of what we knew about Cobb was written in 1961 by biographer Al Stump, a man who seemed to have a personal grudge against the highly toxic Cobb. Looking for a quick profit and instant fame, Stump did not allow a the truth to interfere with a sensational story. Many of Cobb’s digressions — and there were many — were greatly exaggerated to make for a better read.
Leerhsen looked deeper into the myths and embellished stories surrounding Cobb. His account of the Georgia Peach is based on information derived from tireless research and interviews. What he found was a flawed, complicated man with unfathomable determination who happened to be one of the greatest baseball players to ever live.
What Leerhsen does best is put Cobb’s life story in perspective with baseball and American life during the rough and tumble times of the early 1900s. Cobb was a smart, young upstart athlete from the south, a fierce competitor who rubbed many the wrong way. He found rookie hazing unacceptable, which did not sit well with veteran teammates. His aggressive, hard-nosed approach to the game threatened teammates who feared losing their jobs and opponents who were being tested in new ways
During a time when disputes were often settled with fists both on and off the playing field, Cobb had his share of fisticuffs with teammates, opponents, umpires, groundskeepers, hotel staff and even fans — or “cranks” as they were called back in the day. Leerhsen explains how some of these stories were true, others greatly exaggerated, and some completely false. He sheds light on how Cobb struggled with being the first celebrity athlete; the most famous athlete beyond his hometown; the athlete the President wanted to meet.
We may never know all the facts surrounding Cobb’s life, but Leerhsen’s meticulously researched account gives baseball fans much to think about regarding the first player elected to the Hall of Fame and how he helped to shape baseball’s “Deadball Era.”