Joe Carter was supposed to be one of the guys who helped the Chicago Cubs shake their “curse” and turn into contenders.

That’s what any team would expect from a number-two overall pick and a College Player of the Year … right?

Things were looking pretty good for Carter and the Cubs, too, as he climbed their minor league ranks after they selected him out of Wichita State University in 1981.

The young outfielder showed good power and speed in a season-plus at Double-A Midland, and then more of the same at Triple-A Iowa in 1983. The latter performance, including 22 home runs, 83 RBI, and 40 stolen bases, got Carter a call to Wrigley Field that July.

In 23 games with the Cubbies, Carter hit just .176 with no homers and a single steal, so it was little surprise that he began 1984 back on the farm.

But that Olympic summer was full of surprises.

Chief among those were the juggernaut Detroit Tigers … the contending San Diego Padres … and the standings battle heating up between the New York Mets and, yes, the Cubs.

We found some surprises in our wax packs, too, like a new series of “Rated Rookie” cards mixed in among the snazzy 1984 Donruss issue.

What did that even mean? “Rated Rookie”?

Most collectors weren’t sure, but one thing we did know was that the Cubs had a fly chaser who merited the tag:

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Those RR cards felt really special, too, like Donruss knew something we didn’t and imbued these particular rookie cards with some extra hobby juice.

These were the players who were going to be big stars, we decided.

And then, on June 13, there was another surprise — big Rick Sutcliffe was going to the Cubs to help them in their battle with the hated Mets (1969, anyone?).

Chicago was also getting Ron Hassey and George Frazier from the Indians, and all they had to give up in return were Mel Hall, Don Schulze, and minor leaguer Darryl Banks.

Oh … and Joe Carter.

All of a sudden, even while we were still (theoretically) pulling it from packs, that Carter rookie card was out of date.

Of course, that magical 1984 season continued to deliver on its abracadabra, with the Tigers putting together a historical run to the title, the Padres making it to their first World Series, and the NL East keeping us entertained most of the year.

In the end, the Cubs claimed their first division title — ever — on the backs of NL MVP Ryne Sandberg and a Cy Young Award winner named … Rick Sutcliffe.

Meanwhile, Carter stepped right into the Indians’ starting lineup and never looked back.

Within a few seasons, he was an automatic 100-RBI man, a trend that continued in San Diego (1990) and Toronto.

Of course, it was with the Blue Jays that Cater delivered his signature moment, a walk-off home run to win Game 6 of the 1993 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, lifting Toronto to their second consecutive title.

In a way, then, Joe Carter did fulfill the destiny laid out for him on that 1984 Donruss Rated Rookie baseball card …

He helped the Cubs shed their also-ran status in that long ago Olympic summer …

And he helped lift a franchise to a (two) championship(s).

Rookies don’t rate much higher than that, do they?


Hobby Wow!

That walk-off home run in the 1993 World Series will forever make Carter a baseball hero, and the subject of groovy memorabilia like this:

That’s a shot of Carter celebrating the blast while Mitch Williams hangs his head after giving up a piece of history, autographed by both.

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1984 Topps Baseball Cards - You Pick - #601-#792 - nmmt

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1984 Topps Baseball Cards - You Pick - #201-#400 - nmmt

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1984 Topps Baseball Cards - You Pick - #401-#600 - nmmt

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