Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 Top 20 Under $25 - #15 - 1993 Finest John Olerud Refractor

What is it? A 1993 Topps Finest John Olerud refractor.
When and where did I get it? March 2nd on eBay.
How much did it cost me? $20.50 (free shipping!).

Like almost everyone who was collecting in 1993, I found the Topps Finest refractors to be some of the most desirable baseball cards of the era. Seeded at one per box (a very expensive box at that), these were supposedly limited to around 250 copies each, give or take. The scarcity of the cards, combined with the sheer number of Hall-of-Famers and stars in the set, has resulted in a ton of collector interest that really hasn't waned at all over the years. These refractors still demand a premium on the market, in fact you can expect to pay well into the hundreds for decent examples of the biggest names in the set like Nolan Ryan and Ken Griffey, Jr.

As it stands now, Olerud is my second of these refractors, the other being the Will Clark I got earlier this year. I always liked Olerud as a player, although I have to admit this is largely because I played several seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays in Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball for Super Nintendo, and he was an absolute beast in that game. Aside from that, my brothers and I always found it comical that he wore a batting helmet while fielding his position (too young to realize there is nothing comical about a brain aneurysm I guess).

In all seriousness though, if you were to take a time machine back to 1993 and bust a box of Finest, there would be very few refractors you'd be happier to pull than this one. John was enjoying his breakout season, flirting with batting .400 as far into the season as late August. He'd finish at .363 with a .473 on-base percentage, a 1.072 OPS and 54 doubles, all good for first in the AL. Throw in career highs of 200 hits, 24 home runs and 107 RBI and Olerud appeared to be on the path to super-stardom. He was named an All-Star and finished third in AL MVP voting that season as the Blue Jays won their second consecutive World Series.

Eventually John came back down to earth. While he was never a top-tier player, he did enjoy a lengthy career that included 2,200+ hits, 500 doubles, 250+ home runs and four 100+ RBI seasons. He would go on to spend time with the Mets, Mariners, Yankees and even Red Sox before calling it a career.

1993 was one hell of a season for John Olerud, and for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Given the prices that some of these refractors fetch, I thought dropping an Andrew Jackson on this one was more than reasonable.

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