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Tim Raines baseball cards spent most of their lives chasing the the cardboard version of that other all-time leadoff man who plied his trade during the 1980s and 1990s, and who shall remain nameless (for a few paragraphs, at least).
In many ways, the cards mirrored the men themselves.
Tim Raines was a giant killer, and that was never more evident than at the 1987 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Oakland
That summer, Andre Dawson was playing for peanuts in Wrigley Field, trying to prove himself after being shunned on the free agent market. He was smashing baseballs like no one since George Foster had 10 years earlier.
In the American League, strapping young Mark McGwire was a rookie first baseman for the hometown A’s. On the heels of teammate Jose Canseco‘s monster rookie season in 1986, McGwire took up the Bash Brother mantle and matched Dawson homer-for-homer throughout the season.
But on that sweltering July 14th night in the Coliseum, two of the most potent lineups in recent memory battled to a 0-0 tie after nine innings. And after 10 innings. And after 11 innings.
And after 12 innings.
Finally, in the top of the 13th, NL catcher Ozzie Virgil led off with a single against Jay Howell. Lee Smith struck out, Hubie Brooks singled, and Willie McGee lined out.
The number-5 hitter in the inning thus strode to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second.
There is more than a little irony in the fact that that hitter was Tim Raines, the Montreal Expos’ speed burner who normally slotted into the leadoff position. On this occasion, though, it was up to Raines to bring home the bacon — and he delivered by smacking a two-run triple that gave the National League a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t matter that Juan Samuel — another burner — lined out to end the inning, because Sid Fernandez set down the AL in order after allowing a leadoff walk to Kevin Seitzer.
For the game, Raines went 3-for-3 and was an easy pick for MVP, besting all the sluggers and lockdown pitchers who had pushed the contest deep into the night.
It was a stellar performance by a superstar at the peak of his game, but it was soon forgotten as baseballs continued to fly out of stadiums faster than Donruss and Fleer wax packs flew off store shelves that year. By October, Raines had amassed 50 stolen bases, 123 runs, and batted .330. He was one of the very best players on the planet but finished a distant seventh in MVP voting, far, far behind Dawson, who won the NL award.
That season was a microcosm of Raines’ career: consistent superlative play with frequent flashes of otherworldly talent.
But he was always overshadowed.
For most of his time in the Majors, it was Rickey Henderson who relegated Raines to an afterthought in the conversation about the best leadoff men in baseball.
Even when Rickey had a rare down season, Raines was mired in the obscurity of Montreal.
And when the Expos finally let him go, four years after Dawson’s escape, Raines landed with the Chicago White Sox and was immediately eclipsed by “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas.
As the speed began to erode, Raines moved to the New York Yankees, where he won titles in 1996 and 1998. Stints in Oakland, Montreal (again), Baltimore, and Florida left the speedster with 2605 hits, 808 stolen bases (against just 146 times caught stealing), and a lifetime batting average of .294.
It was all great stuff, but by that time, Barry Bonds and others were swatting home runs like they were fleas, and the public was hungry for bigger numbers, more gawd, more flash. Raines slid into retirement as an interesting footnote to the pre-Millennium era in baseball.
It was little surprise, then, that he languished on the Hall of Fame ballot for most of his eligibility. It took him six ballots to crack the 50% barrier, and, even in 2015, he languished well below 60%.
But with the backlog of huge all-time names clearing out in recent years and an increased overall appreciation of analytics, Raines took a big leap forward in 2016, being chosen by 69.8% of voters.
And then finally, in 2017, The Rock got The Call.
After a career that saw him slug .425, get on base at a .385 clip, and score 1571 runs, Tim Raines goes into the Hall of Fame as the eighth greatest left fielder of all time (according to the JAWS metric at Baseball Reference).
What better way to celebrate Rock’s election than with a little vintage cardboard? In that spirit, here are 30 of the best Tim Raines baseball cards ever issued.
Take a look at that uniform number flying around the bases in your diamond memories.
(This is part of a series of posts about the 2017 Hall of Fame inductions. Read them all here.)
1979 TCMA Memphis Chicks (#20)
There’s not much to this card other than the fact that it features a minor leaguer named Tim Raines two year before he’d appear on a “real” baseball card and almost 40 before he’d be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Seems worthy of your consideration, no?
1981 Donruss (#538)
Sure, Fleer may have been the company that ended Topps’ monopoly by winning a famous $1 antitrust lawsuit in 1980, but it was Donruss who really surprised collectors in 1981. After nearly three decades of pumping out non-sports cards, Donruss reached across the collecting aisle with a rush-job baseball set to go head-to-head with the other two giants.
While the cardstock was as flimsy as toilet paper and the photos were generally dark and blurry, Donruss scored a coup as the only manufacturer to issue a single-player Tim Raines rookie card in its base set.
1981 Topps (#479)
Of course, Topps was still king to most collectors in 1981, and their version of Raines’ rookie card has been the standard-bearer since it was issued. Never mind the fact that he has to share his debut with a pair of immortals: Roberto Ramos and Bobby Pate.
1981 Topps Traded (#816)
Topps used their first full, dedicated Traded set, at least in part, to ameliorate their whiff on featuring Raines on a solo pasteboard in their base set. His #816 is arguably one of his best-looking early issues and sees healthy continued activity on eBay.
1982 Kellogg’s (#53)
You can’t really run down the cards of any even moderately popular player from the late 1970s or early 1980s without breaking out that novelty of novelties — the 3-D card. In Raines’ 1982 Kellogg’s issue, he appears to be searching for lost keys, but it’s still a fun card.
1982 Topps Stolen Base Leaders (’81) — and Rickey Henderson (#164)
Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines appeared together on a slew of these League Leader cards in the 1980s, but this is the only one where Raines actually bested his AL counterpart, 71 to 56 swipes in the strike-shortened 1981 season. Perhaps that failing spurred Rickey on to his record 180 thefts in 1982.
1982 Zellers (#3)
One of my favorite parts about collecting in the 1980s were all of the oddball and regional issues that would wink at me from the pages of Sports Collectors Digest and occasionally make an appearance at a local card show. In the US, the 1982 Zellers Montreal Expos set was a real delicacy since it was issued in Canada. It didn’t hurt any that the Expos were loaded with young talent, and Raines was right there alongside Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, and all the rest.
1982 Perma-Graphics Super Star
The oddball parade continues with Raines’ 1982 Perma-Graphics Super Star issue. Each of these cards was rendered on hard plastic stock which, coupled with its smaller-than-normal size, earned the set the sobriquet of “credit cards.” These were another card-show favorite and a great impulse buy that was nearly impossible to resist.
1983 Topps All-Star (#403)
With its blue star, this card immediately brings to mind that hot summer night in 1987 when Raines bested all of the sluggers to take home the All-Star MVP award. He doesn’t look too happy here, but things would get better.
1983 Topps (#595)
Raines looks like he’s standing in the middle of a meadow, but you just know he’s getting ready to turn on the burners and make some poor pitcher pay for being too slow to the plate. Great design, and a nice full-body shot of the Expos home whites.
1984 Donruss (#299)
The 1984 Donruss set was a landmark in the hobby, combining vastly improved card quality with perceived scarcity. This shot of a peaking Raines is a perfect fit.
1984 Topps (#370)
The design is not quite as strong as the 1983 Topps or 1984 Donruss set, but the visuals for this underrated Tim Raines card are better than its counterpart in those other more ballyhooed sets. Great card that you can find for next to nothing most days.
1984 Topps Nestlè Dream Team (#17)
Topps made two Nestlè sets in 1984 — one 792-card parallel that the chocolate maker released in sheet-only form, and a special “Dream Team” set that was issued in small, cellophane-wrapped groups in the company’s chocolate candy bars. The former is fairly scarce, but this Raines card is a sweet example of the latter and a wonderful period piece for nostalgia lovers.
1987 Fleer (#328)
This was the year that all three major companies unleashed innovative designs, and the 1987 Topps set remains a classic that evokes the essence of the era. It was the other two sets, though, and especially the 1987 Fleer set, that set the hobby abuzz. Early-season scarcity sent collectors scrambling to soak up any product they could locate, and prices spiraled out of control. It may have been the first true new-product frenzy, and if you dared to open a pack, you could have pulled this cherry Raines card.
1987 Fleer Juan Samuel and — Doubles & Triples (#642)
During the 1980s, Fleer revived a concept that Topps had used to great effect two and three decades earlier — the multi-player “candid” card. By 1987, Juan Samuel had joined Raines and Henderson among the list of legitimate burners, and he added a healthy dose of power to the mix. No wonder he took top billing on this card, but he seems out of place next to a HOFer all these years later.
1988 Donruss Diamond Kings (#2)
This is Raines’ only Diamond Kings card, and it came the year after Andre Dawson left Montreal for the Chicago Cubs. It also came as part of the first set that was perceived as massively overproduced almost the second the first cases came off the truck. No matter though, because it’s still a beautiful combination of colors and baseball.
1989 Topps Rock Raines (#560)
“Rock” looks every bit as powerful as his nickname would suggest as he prepares for his time at-bat on the front of this 1989 Topps card. There are those who would suggest that Topps was taking a dig at Raines for his “extracurricular” activities by using his sobriquet here, but we’ll leave that for the card truthers.
1990 Baseball Cards Magazine 1969 Topps Replica (#24)
Back when it was still thrilling to go the actual mailbox every day and every envelope might contain an adventure of one sort or another, the best day of each month was the day my copy of Baseball Cards Magazine arrived. The writing was like nothing else going, and the articles were innovative and fun. I felt like I’d found my brethren. Maybe best of all was that the rag came with actual cards, inserted in the middle and featuring then-current players on classic Topps designs. It was heaven, just like this Raines insert.
1991 Topps Desert Shield (#360)
In early 1991, the US plunged into the first Gulf War. Before we unleashed Desert Storm, though, we tried the more diplomatic Desert Shield. Though that sentiment soon escalated to full-on military offensives, it did give Topps the chance to issue a special run of their 40th-anniversary cards to be sent to our military men and women in the Middle East. Of course, where there was something new in the hobby, there was a way for someone to make money, so the cards quickly found their way to the stateside market. Here, Rock Raines is in full-swing glory beneath the Desert Shield shield.
1991 Upper Deck (#773)
After the 1990 season, Raines bid adieu to Montreal and landed with the Chicago White Sox. While base sets that year still pictured him in Expos togs, the updates caught him in his ChiSox uniform. As a first card with his new team, it’s hard to beat this 1991 Upper Deck high number offering, featuring a clean design and a crisp action shot.
1992 Topps (#426)
After years of almost outright begging by collectors, Topps finally capitulated and ditched their long-standing love of soft, drab brown card stock in 1992. The new white stock complemented the crisp new design, and this Raines action shot is a perfect example of a card done right.
1993 Stadium Club White Sox (#5)
Topps Stadium Club was one of a handful of super premium sets that lit the hobby on fire during the early 1990s. It was the darling of 1991 that had lost a bit of luster by ’93. In an attempt to regain some of that sheen, Topps issued 16 team-specific, factory-sealed sets, each containing 30 cards. This Raines offering is typical of the artsy photography and glitzy design elements of the era.
1994 Donruss Triple Play (#268)
Full-bleed images, garish product logos, and a set name that makes it impossible to distinguish from 20 other issues of the same time period? Yeah, 1994 Donruss Triple Play checks all those boxes for being a poster boy of the overproduction era, but this Tim Raines card looks pretty darn good anyway.
1995 Topps (#77)
This must have been what opposing pitchers saw in their nightmares as they prepared to face Raines — Rock waving goodbye on his way to second base. Topps designs and quality came a long way between 1990 and 1995, huh?
1996 Pacific (#284)
There were just so many sets from so many manufacturers in the 1990s — does anyone even remember Pacific? We do, right here, right now, with this solid action shot of Raines coming out of the batter’s box.
1997 Topps (#334)
Any pinstripes card from the mid-1990s just looks regal, and especially if it’s coupled with a solid Topps design. Add in Tim Raines, and you have a triple-whammy that stands out in any commons bin.
1999 Plumbers Union (#30)
Thanks to the Plumbers Steamfitters Refrigeration Local Union 342, we get this team-color-coded card of a tough-looking Raines, ready to hack a baseball or maybe cut down a tree (yes, I know that’s not in the typical job description for steamfitters).
Cool oddball all the way around
2001 Fleer Platinum (#308)
Fleer may have missed out on issuing a Raines rookie card in their first set in 1981, but they got their chance to make up for that with their 2001 Platinum edition. Great to see an old design upgraded with better print quality and image crispness.
2002 Fleer Tradition (#87)
Tim Raines on a modern-day Goudey card? No way this one could have missed the list, even if Raines in Orioles gear looks almost as strange as Eric Davis would have.
2003 Donruss (#285)
If you had told me that Tim Raines finished his career with the Florida Marlins, I wouldn’t have believed it. But this Donruss pasteboard proves me wrong and serves as a capper card that shows his entire MLB record. Still looks strange, but it is, indeed, a wrap.
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