It’s funny how much our hobby has changed, thanks largely in part to Bowman Chrome. In the 80’s it would have been an act of blasphemy if you put out a set of cards and left out Jose Canseco. The same could be said about a 90’s set without Ken Griffey Jr. and/or Frank Thomas.
So when exactly did unknown and unproven prospects become more important than stars? Well, the rookie obsession has been around for decades but ever since 1997’s Bowman Chrome debut, not to mention the historic 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols autograph rookie, it’s become priority number one among almost every collector imaginable, at least in baseball.
So if you are what they hobby refers to as a “Chromie”, you have probably seen it a million times by now. It began with Jose Cruz Jr. and Kerry Wood in 1997 and is still going strong today. There have been many “Can’t Miss” prospects who for one reason or another, missed. For every one Travis Lee, there have been hundreds, if not thousands of collectors who have spent small fortunes on their cards trying to put together the best collection around, only to find their stash worthless in a few years or less.
Tribe Cards recently sent over a package of Florida Marlins cards from 2007 all the way back to 1993. It gave me a chance to do a little reminiscing about the time when I wasn’t a Marlins fan (’93-96), a time when I jumped on the bandwagon (’97, ’03), and the dark ages of everything in between. One thing I couldn’t help but notic is the amount of below-average players we have carried through the years.
Josh Booty, Kurt Abbot, Todd Dunwoody. All of them were Marlins and when they left the team, all pretty much became nomads until finally disappearing from baseball. What that meant was that as much as I enjoyed the package sent, naturally a lot of it went into my commons box. The thing is, while looking through each card as I was filing them away one card grabbed my attention. It was a 1993 Topps Draft Pick card of a player named Rich Ireland who was drafted by the Florida Marlins.
While reading the card bio it shocked me to find out that this guy was not just any regular player but some kind of baseball phenom. He will probably go down as one of the greatest high school players of all-time and yet, no one will ever remember him. Do you?
Did you know that in his Senior year at Crater High School he threw an astonishing three no-hitters? In another game that year, he struck out 19 of 21 batters he faced. Of course, in no time he was drafted to play baseball but lasted just two seasons in the Minors before dropping off the face of the Earth. It’s not like he did terrible in the Minors, either. He actually pitched quite well but then mysteriously, the stats come to an end in 1993, at the tender age of 18.
So much promise, such a bright future and today his cards are rotting away in commons boxes all around the Country. Where in the world is Rich Ireland and why did he give on baseball?
Sadly, the world may never know.