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The Baseball Card Set That Brought Me Back To Collecting

This week marked the release of the latest Bowman set. As I have hopped from Target to Target and Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart all week I finally found a small stash of blasters on Thursday. I’ll review the 2018 product this weekend.

But tonight it’s all about the set that brought line back to baseball card collecting as a 16-year old. It was 1998 and I had turned 16 in June. After a hot start by the Cubs, Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game, and Sammy Sosa blasting home runs at a record pace I was a baseball fan again. My sports fandom had turned to basketball by 1992 and the strike of 1994 further pushed me away from baseball.

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During the summer of ’98 I earned my drivers license and found myself spending many a Sunday afternoon driving 30 minutes to a baseball card shop in Colona, Illinois. It was there that I discovered Bowman. With my earnings from working at the IGA grocery store I slapped down $50 or so on a hobby box of 1998 Bowman. It was just the second hobby box I had ever opened. The first was 1991 Upper Deck football.

One thing about 1998 Bowman I had forgotten about was the “Guaranteed Value” exchange.

During a 4-month period you could exchange your complete set for $125. It was a gamble. What if Ruben Mateo or Magglio Ordonez became the next Mickey Mantle? It could be worth hundreds. Or it could end up being worth $10….which is what happened.

Wish I would have cashed in on that $125. Too bad Topps didn’t do this anymore!

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The Cubs had 12 cards in the 1998 Bowman set. It was twilight of Mark Grace’s career.

Sammy Sosa was slamming home runs. What a fun season to be a Cubs fan. I really hope the Cubs and Sosa reconcile their differences sooner than later.

Pat Cline was one of the Cubs top prospects of the 90’s. Like many others he didn’t pan out.

Another top prospect was the Cubs first round draft pick from 1997.

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Unfortunately, the Cubs dealt Jon Garland to the crosstown White Sox. The return? Matt Karchner. Ouch.

Garland wasn’t the only pitching prospect the organization traded away. Todd Noel was the team’s first round pick in 1996 and was sent to the Marlins for Felix Heredia.

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That trade benefited the Cubs much more than Garland for Karchner.

While the Cubs traded away their first round pitching draft picks from 1996 and 1997, they did hang on to their number one pick from 1995.

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The flame throwing Kerry Wood took baseball by storm as a 20-year old in 1998. He’s still beloved by Cubs fans today.

Rod Beck had a great 1998 season with Chicago notching 51 saves.

On the short list of my greatest memories of the 1998 Cubs is Brant Brown. It’s actually the reaction by Ron Santo in the WGN radio booth during a late season game against the Brewers.

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Brown dropped a fly ball allowing Milwaukee to win while the Cubs were fighting for a playoff berth.

Candy bars rained down from the bleachers for Henry Rodriguez. Of course, they were O Henry bars.

Chris Gissell was another Cubs prospect that didn’t quite crack it. He did make the big leagues for a cup of coffee with the Colorado Rockies in 2004.

Jeff Yoder spent the 1998 season with the single-A Daytona Cubs. His pro career peaked at double-A West Tennessee in 1999 and 2000.

Courtney Duncan appeared in 36 games with the Cubs in 2001 and 2002. He went 3-3 with a 4.80 ERA.

Bowman remains one of my favorite products from a design standpoint, and 1998 remains an all-time favorite.

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