This week’s featured autograph is a 1991 Topps Stadium Club Jimmy Key. This is absolutely one of my favorite sets to get autographed. I have completed about 16% of this set for my personal collection, a project I plan on completing.
1991 Topps Stadium Club, sometimes referred to as TSC, was a landmark set for many reasons. It was the first to feature a full bleed border, a semi-gloss finish and crystal-clear photography. Collectors loved the new concepts. When they held these cards, fresh out of the packs, they looked and felt like miniature 8x10s and at a fraction of the cost. At least for a while, this set also marked the first time that you would consider paying more than $1 for pack at the local card shop, in many cases prices rose to $4 or more. But like with all things new and exciting, they were mass produced and eventually supply outgrew demand. Also, since the baseball card industry loves to take a good thing and drive it into the ground, the 1992 sets were basically copies of 1991 Topps TSC. Currently, you can get the full set of 600 cards for about $40 off of eBay.
Before we go any further, we need to define a term that I will be using often in writing. There are many ways to get autographs of your favorite players; this one was obtained “TTM.” This is the most common way I get autographs; it stands for “Through The Mail.” I get TTM autographs by writing a nice letter to the player, and I include the card I want signed, along with a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE).
So why, of the nearly 100 1991 TSC cards that I have signed, did I pick this one? The first reason is that it turned out so well. Not every autographed TTM card looks this good. Sometimes they get smeared, or the pen is dying, or the player doesn’t put any concern into how good their signature looks. This card has none of that — it’s just as crisp and clean of a TTM autograph that you could ask for. The second reason I picked this card is that I love the action shot, with the ball coming right at you. God help you if you’re a lefty batter. And lastly I picked this card because Jimmy Key is stinking cool.
If you did not get a chance to watch him pitch you missed out. Key’s career lasted 15 years, with nine of those in Toronto, followed by four with the Yankees, and ending with two in Baltimore. This lefty was a four-time all-star, and finished in the top four in Cy Young balloting three times. In 1987 he lost out to Roger Clemens for the Cy despite leading in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and H/9. One surprising statline from that year that may have helped Clemens in the voting was that Key’s FIP was nearly a run higher than his ERA. Was this an early victory for SABR fans? No, Clemens had the name recognition and voters love the Ks, nearly 100 more in this case. Key’s other second-place finish came in 1994 while with the Yankees. This time he probably should have done worse, losing to David Cone, but he didn’t nearly the season that Randy Johnson had, despite beating him out in the voting for second by a substantial margin. He had two productive postseasons helping both Toronto and New York win World Series titles (’92, ’96).
Let’s have some fun with the B-R Play Index and see who Key did really well against, along with who did really well against him. We’ll call it “WHO HE OWNED”, and “WHO OWNED HIM”.
JIMMY KEY OWNED Kevin Maas
They only faced each other ten times, I’m sure that was just fine with Mr. Maas. Key took full advantage of the lefty-lefty match-up, and in those ten plate appearances, Maas struck out five times all swinging. Three PA resulted in ground outs to 1B or 2B, and the other two were infield pop flys. Good for a slash line of all zeros. OUCH!
Kevin Maas is shown on his 1990 Leaf card, hopefully looking for a fastball down the middle from a righty.
RICKEY HENDERSON OWNED Jimmy Key
Not surprisingly a 90’s era HOFer would be Key Kryptonite. In fact, four of the top five performers against Key are HOFers, but Henderson’s stats stand out above other others. I will let the numbers speak for themselves, but it’s pretty obvious that Key was probably not too thrilled when Rickey came to the plate.
Rickey’s autograph is shown on this lovely Official Major League Baseball. This ball was a gift from a friend of mine for my 40th birthday. Pretty stinkin’ cool if you ask me.
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