Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rookie Card of the Week: Kent Hrbek for $2

This past week, I wanted to find a rookie card on eBay that would have been released before my birth.  I was born in 1982, so any card prior to that year works just fine.  Turns out, cards from before my birth can be quite expensive.  The law of parsimony led me to look for 1982 cards, which just happened to be the year when Kent Hrbek's rookie cards were released.  He had a Topps and Donruss rookie card, but only the Donruss card looked like this:

And so, I bought it.  I got it for $1 dollar with $1 dollar shipping.  If you're scoring at home, that's 2 bucks.  Last week, I procured Shane Mack's rookie card for a buck.  Hrbek's was twice as expensive, almost certainly because he was twice as good, right?  As with all baseball arguments, WAR should settle the score.
Shane Mack was worth 19.6 rWAR for the Twins.  Hrbek was worth 38.2 rWAR.  Hrbek wasn't quite twice as valuable, but the discrepancy in price must be inflation-related.  I look forward to getting Mickey Mantle's rookie card for 6 bucks next week.  It's a shame I can't write about it because I can only write about cards under 5 bucks.

I'm not going to lie, I was never a big Hrbek fan.  That came out wrong.  It's not that I didn't like him.  I liked him.  He was just third banana in my tiny brain, behind Kirby Puckett and Frank Viola.  Also, Hrbek was a good player when I was cognizant, but he wasn't a great player.  By the time I was old enough to understand baseball beyond what my Dad told me, it was 1991.  I liked the Twins in the late 80s; I adored the Twins in the early 90s.

I really remember Hrbek for three things.  First, he pulled Ron Gant off of first base in the '91 World Series.  It's been over twenty years, it's okay to admit that he did that.  The Twins won't lose the series retroactively because we decide our eyes work.  For me, it's more awesome that Hrbek did that and got away with it.  It's wonderfully heelish and it makes me like him even more.

Second, I remember a litany of funny baseball cards, including these two:

Who is he talking to?  Who is he scowling at?  I was completely unaware of his Donruss rookie card, because it was made before I was born and probably cost more than 10 cents.  That said, it's pretty great.  He looks super young (because he is), but he also seems to be portraying just a slight bit of forced idiocy.  He's got that "I'm trying to look drunk" look on his face.  Perhaps this rookie card was his first attempt at trying to have fun at work, something Hrbek was classically good at.

Finally, I remember his grand slam in Game 6 of the '87 World Series.  Oh wait, no I don't.  I was just five.  I watched the game, that is certain.  I just don't remember that moment because I was a loser kid with a bad memory.  That grand slam was huge though, even if I don't remember it happening.  I can see Hrbek rounding the bases when I close my eyes at night, as I've watched the highlight many times.

Back to the rookie card.  I had a little yellow squeaky bat when I was a baby.  I carried it around everywhere and I cherished it until an embarrassingly old age.  The bat at the bottom of that Donruss rookie card looks just like my squeaky bat.  Now, I have a daughter and I should try to find that bat and give it to her.  Or, I could just play with it myself.  Whatever I decide, I'll be back next week with another fun rookie card.

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