Welcome to Heaven or Hell, a feature where the staff of Wax Heaven looks at a player (active or retired), his rookie card, and asks all the important questions.
Back in 1995 the Cleveland Indians had their own version of ‘Murderer’s Row’, led by the maniacal and always angry Albert Belle, who hit 50 home runs in the strike-shortened season. Behind Belle there was a relatively quiet Dominican RBI machine named Manny Ramirez who was on his way to becoming a star. That season Manny had his first 30 home run, 100 RBI season. Behind those two sluggers there was a big oafish man by the name of Jim Thome, who was somehow on the path to 500 home runs despite never hitting more than 20 in his first four years in the majors.
In the end we found out that Albert Belle, for all the natural power in his body, just could not keep up with the younger stars and retired before even reaching 400 home runs. Manny went on to sign one of the biggest contracts in the history of baseball for Boston and became the best player in the league for 3-4 seasons, belting 40 or more home runs in a season 5 times, and 100 or more RBI 11 times! Thome meanwhile, quietly built a massive career after leaving Cleveland. A career that included belting 40 or more home runs a season 5 out of the last 7 years and reaching 100 RBI 9 times. In 2007 he reached the Hall of Fame mark of 500 career home runs. We don’t know if he ever took steroids or simply took advantage of lousy pitching over the years but since there are no real rumors we can’t help but to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Wax Heaven Verdict: HEAVEN!
It’s shocking to me that there are so many PSA 10 Gem Mints of Jim Thome’s true rookie card , 1991’s Bowman on eBay for so cheap. For $40 you can pick up a perfect rookie card of a man who has a realistic chance at 600 home runs. If graded cards aren’t your thing you can pick one up just about any place that sells cards for $4 or less. He will probably never flash a hint of personality, but less than $5 bucks for a man who is a certain Hall of Fame member, well you just can’t go wrong there.