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.
Drab, ordinary, jurassic are terms that come to mind when describing the Hostess Baseball Cards of the the mid-late ‘70s. The sets were nothing more than marketing ploys to sell more Twinkies, HoHos, Suzy-Q’s and King Dons (Ding Dons if you lived on the West Coast) . Big on errors and small on creativity, the Hostess sets featured the game’s biggest stars with simple head shots displayed against uninspired spring training backdrops and white borders.
Yes, the Hostess sets were dull, almost cheerless, but just about every 40-something to 50-something
baseball fan/collector (like the guy I see in the mirror every morning) has fond memories of Hostess’s lame attempt at manufacturing baseball cards. After all, this was the set that we assembled piece by piece while waiting for Mom to rummage through the produce isle at the local grocery store. This is also the set that got us hooked on The Sporting News, which played a huge role in the development of our baseball fandom.
Back in the day,Topps dominated the baseball card hobby. If the single Topps set — there were no premium, platinum or chrome releases — didn’t satisfy your collecting needs, the Hostess sets produced from 1975-1979 gave you another option. Dealers and collectors couldn’t buy Hostess cards directly from the company, so they had to work and spend to complete these sets.
Beginning in 1975 Hostess cards were produced in three-card panels on the back of each multi-pack Hostess box. The best part of this new wave of collecting was seeing what you were buying, which encouraged set building. Hostess panels — complete with an offer for a free issue of The Sporting News — kept in tact are more valuable and coveted today that cards cut from the box. Some cards were printed on not-so-tasty products and are more difficult to find today. Cards printed on the back of the smaller HoHos multi-pack boxes are often creased at the corners from handling.
Proofreading, editing and reading the daily box scores were not priorities for Hostess baseball card editors. The initial set was loaded with mistakes. Slugger Bill Madlock was listed as a pitcher, Rangers catcher Jim Sandberg was named Mike and outfielder George Hendrick became George Hendricks. Robin Yount, a teenage phenom at the time, is one of the more popular players in the set. Unfortunately, Hostess did not include a rookie card of future Hall of Famer George Brett.
Despite the quality-control issues, the debut Hostess set remains popular today with over 3,000 listings, including a handful of graded panels, currently on eBay. The 1975 panel set is worth as much as $400 depending on the condition. The single-card set varies widely because of stain issues — creamy cake fillings sometimes seeped through the packages — and cards being miscut.
Celebrating the nation’s bicentennial, the Hostess 1976 set includes red, white and blue stripes surrounding the player’s name, team and position. Collectors familiar with the 1976 Topps set will recognize some of the same photos in the Hostess series. The set is loaded with stars, including Brett, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, a Dennis Eckersley rookie and one of Hank Aaron’s final cards.
The 1977 Hostess set includes Hall-of-Famers-to-be Joe Morgan, Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, Thurman Munson and Johnny Bench. By this time, collectors learned to save the cards as complete panels. The complete panel sets are valued as much as $300 with the single set selling for nearly three times as much due to scarcity.
Although Eddie Murray was considered just another player at the time, his rookie card in the 1978 Hostess sets remains highly coveted. For the first time, a few action shots were used to liven up the product. Unfortunately the cost of producing baseball cards out-weighed the marketing advantages. As a result, the 1979 edition was the final Hostess set. Hostess went out with a bang, featuring an Ozzie Smith rookie card on the same panel as Nolan Ryan as well as Willie Montanez.
Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, two of the most popular players in Red Sox history, were rightfully inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame last night. The two Red Sox icons announced their retirement and simultaneously tossed out the ceremonial first pitches in the home opener four years ago.
Although Red Sox fans were well aware of Varitek’s significance since his 1998 debut, his rookie baseball card — the 1992 Topps Traded (#123T) — did not receive national acclaim until the Captain’s infamous tussle with Alex Rodriguez that sparked the team’s World Series drive. At the time, this true rookie card sporting the former Georgia Tech star in his Olympic Baseball uniform was selling for $15. Today the same card is a great addition to any Red Sox collection for $5.
On July 31, 1997, the foundation for the the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox World Series teams was put in place. That was the day the Red Sox GM Dan Duquette flee
ced the Seattle Mariners, Heathcliff Slocumb for Varitek and pitching prospect Derek Lowe. Managers, coaches and teammates all confirm that Varitek set the tone for those championship teams.
A catcher with questionable skills in the minor leagues, Varitek became an expert handler of pitchers over his 15-year-career with the Red Sox. He quickly became a fan favorite for his determination and unselfish commitment to winning. As much as anyone, Varitek was responsible for the Red Sox World Series drought ending at 86 years.
So where does Jason Varitek stand in Red Sox history? He caught a major league record four no-hitters, steering Hideo Nomo (2001), Lowe (2002), Clay Buchholz (2007), and Jon Lester (2008) into history. He is the only player in history to have played in the Little League World Series, College World Series, Olympics, Major League World Series and the World Baseball Classic.
The 2007 Upper Deck Goudey “Big League” throwback card (#54) captures one of Varitek’s many unique accomplishments. The card back highlights Varitek becoming the fourth consecutive Red Sox player to hit a home run in an April 2007 game against the Yankees as the Red Sox became just the fifth major league team to smack four straight homers.
The Red Sox Captain has two World Series rings, hit 11 home runs in 63 career postseason games and made three All-Star appearances. His career does not scream Hall of Fame, but he was one of the most significant players to ever wear a Red Sox uniform.
Wakefield also made his mark in Red Sox history. The knuckleballer had 200 career victories, including 186 with the Red Sox, just six shy of the team record shared by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. Wake’s 17 years of service with the Sox is exceeded only by Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Dwight Evans. He’s featured prominently on the team’s all-time list: first in appearances (590), starts (430) and innings pitched (3,006); second in strikeouts (2,046).
Not bad for a minor league first baseman turned knuckleballer claimed off the scrap heap nearly two decades ago. Wakefield’s limited 1988 Watertown Pirates minor league card is a great buy for $10.