10 Baseball Cards that tell the story of the Boston Red Sox
10 baseball cards that tell the story of the Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox fans have many fond memories to reflect upon throughout the storied history of the franchise. We can look back at the recent magical seasons of 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018 and relive those amazing moments that changed the fortunes of or storied franchise. We can even go back to 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986, and 2003 and experience the magic and anticipation of the ultimate success, just before the heartbreak sinks in. If you want an escape from the true reality of baseball, you can always cue up “Fever Pitch”, or turn the television off altogether, and turn the pages of the Stephen King thriller, “The girl who loved Tom Gordon”
Most Red Sox fans have something to remember and symbolize their fandom by. A commemorative book, magazine, or plaque. Maybe a t-shirt, jersey, ticket stub, or program that provides a personal link to themselves and the team they follow feverishly from March to October every year.
For a lot fans, that connection comes in the form of cardboard. Yes, baseball cards. They’ve been around for as long as the franchise has been, and every generation of Red Sox fan can feel a connection to the players on the front of the cards, and the stats on the back.
Today, we’ll look at the Top 10 baseball cards that every Red Sox fan can connect with. Some may cost a small fortune, while others can be found in the bargain bin. There’s also plenty that can be found in between, and all of them keep us connected to our beloved Boston red Sox
10. 1988 Fleer Card #630 “Changing of the Guard in Boston” : Right in the middle of arguably the two best outfield trios in Red Sox history – 1975’s Rice/Lynn/Evans squad and 2017-19’s “Killer B’s” unit featuring Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi- there was a young core that showed the promise and potential to be among the all time greats. Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, and Todd Benzinger were supposed to be the future of the franchise, and while it didn’t quite work out, they came with enough hype to be commemorated on their own card together.
Greenwell would go on to have the most success in a Boston uniform, while Burks would have the best overall career of the trio, making two All-Star teams and winning multiple Silver Slugger awards over 18 MLB seasons. Benzinger, the most hyped of the prospect trio, was sent to Cincinnati after the 1988 season and spent the majority of his career in a utility role/bench player capacity before retiring during the 1995 season. The card can be found for less than a quarter these days, but for fans of a certain age, this card was a “must have”
9. 1992 Topps Traded Card #39T Nomar Garciaparra Team USA: While the card didn’t feature Nomar in a Sox uniform (he was drafted in 1994), it was his first mainstream release, and collectors- especially Sox fans- clamored for this card as Nomar rose up the prospect rankings ahead of his 1997 rookie season.
The set itself became a must have for Sox fans, as it also featured Jason Varitek as a part of Team USA. While it can be argued that Varitek was the more influential player in Red Sox history, playing his entire career in Boston and winning multiple World Series championships as “The Captain” and that it’s his card that should be on this list, he never carried the mainstream appeal that Garciaparra did.
The 1992 Topps Team USA Nomar Garciaparra card can be found today for about $10 on secondary market sites like eBay, but topped out at close to $100 in Garciaparra’s prime.
8. 1983 Topps Card #498 Wade Boggs: The most prominent of three Wade Boggs Rookie cards (Fleer, Donruss being the others), the 1983 Topps version is among the most iconic rookie cards of the 1980’s. Boggs was a fixture on the AL All-Star teams during his time with the Sox and could always be found atop the batting average leader board.
Boggs’ career and his ascent into baseball superstardom happened at a time where baseball card collecting was finding it’s way into the mainstream of American hobby culture, making his 1983 Topps rookie card one of the first widely “chased” cards in the hobby.
The 1983 Topps set also includes rookie cards from HOF’ers Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg. This card is a staple for any serious Red Sox baseball card collector. Today, they can be found in the $10-15 price range.
7. 2015 Bowman Chrome Card #BCAP-RD Rafael Devers: This card differs from the others on the list for a variety of reasons. The previous cards were produced in what is known to collectors as the “junk wax” era, a time where baseball cards were mass produced, and could be found at every gas station, grocery store, convenience store, and pharmacy around, and were readily available. They were made cheaply, and millions were produced each year. This card is printed on “chromium” stock, and features an on-card, authentic, autograph by young Raffy himself.
Devers’ breakout 2019 season, and his 2021 All-Star selection have put this card in high demand, and it’ll run you close to $200 to add it to your collection.
6. 1999 Upper Deck SP Signature Edition Card #PM Pedro Martinez: It’s not a rookie card, but it is a card featuring (arguably) the most dominant pitcher of the modern era, in one of the most dominating seasons by a pitcher in Red Sox history.
In 1999, Pedro went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA ad 313 K’s, en route to winning the AL Cy young and finishing second in MVP voting. He also struck out the first four NL batters to start the 1999 All-Star game in Fenway park.
The card features an on-card, authentic autograph from Pedro. If you’d like to add this card to your collection, it’ll set back about $250.
5. 1984 Fleer Update Card #U27 Roger Clemens: Arguably the most sought after, and most rare rookie card of the 1980’s, the 1984 Fleer Update Clemens was the first to feature “The Rocket” in his major league uniform. Unlike most mass produced cards from the 1980’s, the 1984 Fleer Update set was limited production, and not available in packs. The product, and card, were extremely scarce for the time period it was produced.
While Clemens was racking up Cy Young and MVP awards, collectors looked at this card as the holy grail of their collection. The value has come down some, but it will still cost you over $100 today if you’re looking to add it to your collection.
4. 1975 Topps Card #616 “Rookie Outfielders” featuring Jim Rice: At first glance, the card doesn’t look like much. Three no-name outfielders… and a Hall of Famer! Jim Rice was dominant from the start of his career, and quite possibly could have changed the outcome of the 1975 World series if he wasn’t injured and unable to play.
This rookie card was never too expensive, and peaked in value at around $20. Today, you can add this rookie card of a Hall of Famer to your Red Sox collection for $5!
3. 2014 Topps Update Card #US-26 Mookie Betts: Mookie may be gone, but this rookie card will make sure he’s never forgotten. Added to the late season Topps “Update” set, this 2014 rookie card of the future MVP and World Series champion has steadily risen in value as Betts continues to cement himself among the games elite players.
The card wasn’t particularly limited in production, but is highly sought after as the key rookie card of a future Hall of Fame player. It can be found on the secondary market for around $50, and should be a must for collectors that want to tell the story of the Boston Red Sox through trading cards.
2. 1939 Play Ball Card #92 Ted Williams: Perhaps among the most iconic baseball cards ever made, the 1939 Ted Williams rookie card is more than just a baseball card – it’s a piece of American history. It’s simple design and black and white photo bring us back to a simpler time.
Of course, that it features the “Splendid Splinter”, and is over eighty years old, the existence of this card is scarce. Finding one in decent condition is even more difficult. For serious Red Sox collectors, and serious baseball card collectors, the card can be found. And copies in decent shape will cost upward of $5,000.
1. 1960 Topps Card #148 Carl Yastrzemski: The iconic Rookie Card of Yaz is the No. 1 card on our list. The 62-year-old Topps card presents a relatively affordable bridge between the past and present for Red Sox fans. You won’t find it available in the bargain bin, but at an average price of around $150 (for copies in decent condition), it gives today’s collectors and affordable opportunity to own a rookie card of their father’s or grandfather’s favorite player, to add to their collection alongside Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and stars from the 1970’s through the 2000’s.
The story of the Boston Red Sox can’t be told without Carl Yastzermski, and if you’re telling that story with baseball cards, the 1960 Topps Yaz rookie card should definitely be a part of your collection.
There are plenty of baseball cards featuring players, managers, mascots, games, and historical moments featuring the Red Sox. There are some franchise icons that just missed the list and hundreds of others that hold a special place in the hearts of fans throughout Red Sox Nation. From Dom Dimaggio to Fred Lynn, Sam Horn to Shea Hillenbrand, and Dustin Pedrioa to Jarren Duran, generations of Sox fans can hold a link to their favorite player on their favorite team in the palm of their hand. While MLB has put the business of baseball on hold, take this opportunity to pull out that old box of cards from your childhood and relive those memories. Or, stop by your local big box store or authorized baseball card retailer and pick up a fresh pack and create some new ones.