30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cheap Cool Cards #18: 1991 Leaf Gold Rookies Nolan & Rickey

On August 22, 1989... exactly twenty-two years ago... Nolan Ryan struck Rickey Henderson out to become the first and only pitcher in MLB history to record 5,000 strikeouts.

"It gave me no chance. He just blew it by me. But it's an honor. I'll have another paragraph in all the baseball books." -Rickey Henderson on Ryan's 5,000th strikeout (The Sporting News, 1989)

Two hall of famers, who each hold records that may never be broken (Henderson's 1,406 career stolen bases & Ryan's 5,714 career strikeouts) involved in one historical event. It's as if the baseball gods were writing the script to a movie. Who would have predicted that these two superstars would share newspaper headlines again less than two years down the road.

May 5th, 1991. Ryan's Rangers were hosting the Toronto Blue Jays and Henderson's Athletics were at home against the Yankees. When the evening was over, Nolan Ryan had fanned 16 Blue Jays, including Roberto Alomar to end the game and secured the 7th & final no-hitter of his career.

Fourteen hundred miles away, Rickey Henderson wanted to enter baseball's record books himself. Entering the game, he knew he was tied with Lou Brock for the most career stolen bases. With Brock in the stands and over 36,000 fans in attendance, Rickey would get the opportunity in the first inning... after Yankee's starting pitcher Tim Leary walked him. On a 2-1 pitch... he took off for second... but it wasn't meant to be as Matt Nokes threw him out at second.

In the second inning, Leary struck out Henderson... leaving the fans waiting... as the suspense kept building.

Then in the fourth... the baseball gods helped Henderson reach base safely on an error by Yankee's shortstop Alvaro Espinoza. Dave Henderson hit a single advancing Rickey to second base. Two batters later... on a 1-0 pitch to Harold Baines, Rickey was off and running... diving head first into third safely to become the Stolen Base King.

Later that year, Leaf produced two cards to commemorate these two historical events:

1991 Leaf Gold Rookies #BC25 Nolan Ryan

1991 Leaf Gold Rookies #BC26 Rickey Henderson

Unfortunately, I don't access to price guide information regarding these two inserts. But if I'm not mistaken... the card shop I worked at sold these in the $10 to $15 range... and we couldn't keep them in stock.

These days, you can pick up either one for less than a quarter on COMC... which is either a blessing or a nightmare depending on your point of view.

Now for today's question of the day:

Do you think anyone will ever break Ryan's seven no-hitters record, or his 5,714 career strikeout record?

And will anyone ever break Henderson's single season record of 130 stolen bases or his career record of 1,406 stolen bases?

It's hard to say never... but in these four cases, I just don't see it happening anytime soon.

I'll start off with with the no-hitter record. Second behind Ryan is Sandy Koufax with four. I'm not 100% sure, but I think Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay are the current MLB leaders with 2 a piece. Nobody is even close.

Then there's the insane career strikeout record. A pitcher would have to nineteen 300 strikeout seasons to catch up to Ryan's career totals. The last person to record a 300 strikeout season was Randy Johnson in 2002.

Rickey's records seem to be untouchable as well. These days a player is lucky if he steals 75 bases in a season... or even 100... let alone 130. And he'd have to average over 70 stolen bases for 20 years to catch up to the career record.

But it could be just wishful thinking on my part... and maybe I'm just being selfish... hoping both of these guys remain the Kings of their records forever. Both of these guys played when I played (lol... little league of course)... and both were a huge part of my childhood in terms of collecting cardboard.

And if you looked around my office... you would eventually come across these two cards, which are both cool and cheap. So what are you waiting for? Pick up these two beautiful insert cards from the overproduced 90's and grab a piece of baseball history.

Good night everyone... and have a great week. Sayonara!


  1. the way the game is now... pitchers pulled after 6, the american league not knowing what small ball is... these records will stand a looooong time. But the game changes... and in a few generations, I'm sure they will fall like all records do.

    missed you at the draft tonight fuji...

  2. holy crap... i hope my team turned out okay.

  3. I remember those cards. What I remember more is the Upper Deck SP card depicting the two of their records. I just posted a pic of that to my blog within the past week!

    Justin Verlander pitched his second career no-hitter earlier this year, and came close to a third against the Angels. I would have to go with Halladay or Verlander being the only active players who could possibly come close. It's a tough task but possible.

    The strikeouts record is virtually untouchable, because of how long it would take to reach that number, especially given the lower number of games pitchers appear in per year compared to the '70s.

    Stolen bases? Rickey Henderson was dedicated to his goal, but these days the SB has lost its importance with all the home runs (besides, when your leadoff hitter got on, you didn't want him to get caught stealing when your #3, 4, and 5 hitters all could go deep). Now that there's a return to small ball, it's possible a player could come along who's good at getting on base and moving himself around. For a player focused on breaking the records and good enough to get on base enough times to make it possible, either stolen base record can be broken.

  4. I agree with all the points above about the records...I don't see any of them being broken unless the game turns back to stolen bases some time later this century

  5. Ryan - I used to have that 1991 Ryan/Henderson SP card... looked, but couldn't find it.

    Thanks for the update... makes it three current pitchers with 2 no-hitters. Can't imagine any of them will get 6 more in their careers... but anything is possible.

    I agree that it's possible for the SB records to be broken... but the game will need to change... and it will require the right talent and manager/game plan. Rickey's 130 had help from Billy Ball.

    Markz - Agree 100%