Tag Archives: 1995

The Best: College Basketball Kickoff Edition

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of college basketball.  Here in Tucson college hoops is an institution and it’s hard to grow up here and not become a fan.  I’ve had the opportunity to watch and meet many of college basketball’s legends, guys like Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, Jason Terry, and Mike Bibby to name a few.  Two teams defined my childhood: the Yankees and the Wildcats. So it should be no surprise then that I have a number of college basketball cards in my collection.  This is an area of the hobby that I believe is both under represented and undervalued.  I’ve been able to get autographs of a number of my favorite Wildcats for less than $3 and even the higher profile names, like Bibby and Elliott, go for no more than $10 in their college uniforms.  While I know that guys like Jordan, in his NC blues, and Larry Bird, in his Indiana State duds, command some serious coin, lesser names go for next to nothing in their college unis.  This is especially true for guys from the Classic/Sage era, who signed a number of cards for those college centric sets.

With that in mind, I’m going to spend the college basketball season highlighting cards from college basketball sets (Classic, Press Pass, SAGE, etc.).  These sets were often after thoughts when they were introduced and are not often though about now.  Some of these sets are very well designed and the checklists are better than you remember.  For instance, check out the 1995 Classic Autographs checklist, while the draft class is not one of the best (Stackhouse, Damon Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess), there are autographs of Jason Kidd, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dikembe Mutombo before the big boys even started including autographs as a normal insert.  Sets like Scoreboard Rookies and Press Pass continued including big name autos, especially in 1996 when the NBA drafted one of it’s best classes in history (Kobe, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson).

To kick off college basketball season, the first card I’m featuring is my 1995 Classic Rookies Preview card of Damon Stoudamire.

First of all, Damon Stoudamire is my all-time favorite college basketball player.  He had the sweetest shot and was, arguably, the best point guard in Arizona history helping to solidify Arizona’s reputation as Point Guard U.  Take a look at his stats, amazingly 4 years of them, and tell me he doesn’t rank up there with any of the great college point guards.  23 ppg, 7 apg, and 46% from the three point line as a senior?  Good god, he was a man among boys at only 5’10”.

While I have plenty of his college cards, including a few autos, I featured this card because of the outstanding photography and wonderfully simple design.  Classic hit it out of the park in 1995.  They maintained an understated design during the the time that the big guys were relying on die cuts and as much foil as they could put on a card.  Classic understood that cards are a time capsule, especially college cards given that the players are only there for a limited time, and focused on having a classic design and great photography.  This was also the first Stoudamire card that I tracked down, so it always has a special place in my collection.

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The Best: The Captain

Baseball began for me in the early nineties.  You can look at my previous post about 1991 Topps Baseball for more on that.  When I began caring about baseball my favorite players were already established, guys like Griffey, Strawberry, Nolan Ryan, and Frank Thomas were established and, for the most part, had already had most of their great moments.  Griffey’s meteoric rise had already happened.  Ryan had already pitched all of his no-hitters, and Strawberry’s glory days were behind him.  These weren’t guys I grew up with, these were guys who defined the game before I was even interested in it.  I still loved watching their highlights and, even more, I loved chasing their cards, but they weren’t “my” guys.

All my favorite baseball players from 1992 in one place.

Around 1995 I started rooting for the Yankees above all else.  I no longer identified Ken Griffey, Jr. as my favorite player because he was not a Yankee.  I was true fan.  This was the influence of my dad.  He was always a Yankee fan and he made sure I became one too.  That season was a defining season for me and it was for the modern Yankees.  Though I watched in despair as the Yankees lost to my former favorite player in the ALDS, I also caught a glimpse of the future in the form of Derek Jeter.  The future captain got called up that season to play 15 games.  He hit .250 and I had no idea what was about to happen.

The next season Jeter became a regular, the Yankees hired Joe Torre, and the Yankees won the first of four championships with a Jeter/Torre combination.  I became all to used to October/November baseball and I got to witness the beginning of a career for one of the all-time greatest Yankees and my favorite player.  Since that time my dad and I have collected all-things Jeter, cards, coins, Starting Lineups, and miscelleaneous memorabilia.  He is one of the modern greats, a player with no ties to steroids (unless you talk to the skeptics and the Yankee haters), who played hard day in and day out and did it with one team.  His exploits don’t need to be recounted here, we all know them (first Yankee with 3000 hits, a .313 career average, five rings, and lots of unforgettable playoff moments).  Jeter is more than a great player for me, he is the one truly great player that I’ve been able to follow for his whole career and he has represented the last 16 years of baseball for me.

I own quite a few Jeter cards, including his Topps, Upper Deck, and Bowman rookie cards.  No matter the product, good, bad, valuable or worthless, I save the Jeters.  I know it’s funner to hear about the guys who collect the underdogs or the kooks, but I’m a Jeter guy, like a lot of other collectors, and there’s not much I can do about it.  We share a name and he’s the best player of the last 16 years (disagree with me if you want, but I think the arguments are pretty strong for him), he plays for my favorite team, and he’s the first guy in 25 years with even a plausible shot of breaking Pete Rose’s record.  I’m a Jeter guy and I’m not ashamed of it.  When he retires I’ll miss his sweet swing, his (unnecessary) jumping throws at short, and his diplomatic approach.  He has his flaws (most definitely a liability at SS for a while, doesn’t walk enough), but he’ll be remembered as a great and he should be.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Jeter card.  All of his rookie cards are solid choices (the Bowman is my favorite, but I’m a Bowman apologist), though the Topps card has always seemed a bit ugly to me (the background is plain stupid).  But if pressed I would have to pick the only Jeter autograph I own.  Let it be known that my Jeter autograph is the only card I’ve spent more than $100 on.  It is the only one I can imagine dropping that much coin on.  Also, let it be known that there is a Jeter autograph that I covet more than the one I own.  My most wanted card (in the world) is this:

1997 Bowman Autograph Derek Jeter. It’s so clean, the photo is perfect and the signature is immaculate. I will possess it someday.

This is the one that I own:

Forgive the dimness of the photo.

A 1997 Bowman’s Best Derek Jeter autograph.  Graded a 9 by BGS.  While I don’t love shiny cards, I love this one.  The autograph is perfect.  The photo is classic Jeter. And it is my most valuable card.  This will be my favorite card until I get the card mentioned above.

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