Quick … who holds the Major League Baseball record for the most saves in a season?

Well, yes, Francisco Rodriguez, who nailed down an amazing 62 in 2008. It’s a huge number, even if you think saves are meaningless, useless.

But before Rodriguez?

That might be tougher for a lot of modern fans to come up with, but most kids our age (“old”) know the answer — Bobby Thigpen, who put up 57 for the Chicago White Sox in 1990.

Find 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best on eBay(affiliate link)

Find 1988 Donruss Baseball’s Best on Amazon(affiliate link)

And that was an even more amazing number at the time, because it shattered — like 1986-Red-Sox-level shattered — the old record of 46 set by Dave Righetti just four years earlier (also 1986).

Percentage-wise, that would be like someone hitting 90 home runs in a season to take down Barry Bonds’ mark of 73 (whether you think that one is dubious or not).

No one ever expects a record to fall so spectacularly, though Thigpen did have two consecutive 34-save seasons entering 1990. Still, no one saw 57 coming.

Well, no one except maybe Donruss.

See, back in 1988, Donruss issued a big ol’ late-season set for the second consecutive year. In 1987, it was Opening Day.

In 1988, though, it was Baseball’s Best.

That one showcased 335 guys who, presumably, were among the best on their teams that season.

One of those dudes?

Yeah, Bobby Thigpen, just then wrapping up the first of those 34-save campaigns.

Now, these cards were no masterpieces, drawing their design from Donruss’s funky alternating-color borders from the 1988 base set, but replacing the so-so and only slightly depressing blue with a jarring tangerine.

And new pics.

Find 1988 Donruss cards on eBay(affiliate link)

Find 1988 Donruss cards on Amazon(affiliate link)

For Thigpen, that meant replacing a pretty nice action shot (base set) with a sort of overly-exuberant smile (Halloween set).

Still, Donruss designated him as one of Baseball’s Best, and Thigpen made them look good for it a couple of years later.

I mean, sure, Brian Fisher was one of Baseball’s Best, too, and he put up a 7.94 ERA in 1989.

And, yes, 333 other guys were Baseball’s Bests, too.

But sometimes, you just gotta pump up the numbers to tilt the odds in your favor.

And sometimes, people surpass even your lofty expectations.

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