Back in the early 1980s, most baseball fans didn’t really know who Dwight Gooden was.

All that changed in a hurry, of course, when Gooden won the 1984 National League Rookie of the Year Award and then followed up with a dominating 1985 that landed him the Cy Young Award.

And all that quick and gaudy success made it just about impossible for his nephew, Gary Sheffield, to enjoy any kind of early anonymity of his own.

Not that he would have wanted it, necessarily.

Because, even while Gooden was tearing through National League hitters, Sheffield was lighting up high school pitchers, catapulting himself to the top of the draft board as his senior season came to an end in 1986.

And, of course, the baseball pedigree that included a dollop of those Gooden genetics didn’t hurt Sheffield’s, um, prospects at all.

In the end, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Sheffield with the sixth overall pick, and he started his ascent with the Rookie-level Helena Gold Sox that summer.

A scant two years later, the young shortstop had justified all the hype that comes with such a lofty prep pick, and he split 1988 between Double-A El Paso and Triple-A Denver.

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Well, actually, he made it to a third level that summer, because his .327, 28 HR, 119 RBI line in the minors got Sheffield a call up to the Majors that September, when he was still just 19 years old.

By then, naturally, Sheffield had really caught the attention of talent evaluators, including those at Baseball America.

No surprise, then, that Sheffield made the cut of 30 “Top AA Prospects” that BA honored with a baseball card set that season.

Of course, just like so many fastballs, no cardboard could keep up with young Sheff, and his card was out of date almost the moment it was issued.

Because, those “AA Prospects” days of his were limited to just 77 games.

Which, when you think about it, is what the best prospects do best — be brief, be bright, and be gone … on to the next level.

And so Sheffield was.


Hobby Holiday Hots

If you grew up in the hobby of the 1980s, you probably had dreams about landing a Topps vending case and adding 12,000 new cards to your collection all at once. You know, like the one offered in this eBay lot …

That’s a 1988 Topps vending case. Overproduced, yes, and devoid of huge rookie cards, but still tons of fun.

Check out the full listing on eBay here (affiliate link).