Of all the available Randy Johnson rookie cards, one stands out as maybe the most appropriate representation of the Big Unit.
Nah, not that slick 1989 Upper Deck card of his. That’s just a (smirking) headshot and does nothing to denote the power of the man, the potential.
And not Johnson’s 1989 Topps RC, either — another headshot, minus the smirk but plus the nifty Expos home uniform (in contrast to the road blues on the UD card).
Donruss, Fleer … more of the same, though big D did make Johnson a Rated Rookie, and Fleer did make him a Marlboro spokesman, and then went through some machinations to cover it up.
Donruss’ The Rookies gets closer, showing Unit driving through on a pitch, looking long, lanky, and pretty stiff in the process.
Similarly, 1989 Score is a pretty good representation of the dude, giving Johnson the “1989 ROOKIE” banner and giving us a front-on shot of that whip of a left arm about to uncoil from out of the plane behind him.
The back of the card gives us the seemingly obligatory Johnson headshot, too.
And, like Johnson himself for a good while there, 1989 Score is sort of the forgotten major set of the year, offering up many of the same features as the ballyhooed Upper Deck issue but lost in the sea of its own overproduction and clean design that somehow feels cluttered and mismatched at the same time.
If you’re looking for a Randy Johnson rookie card that’s truly been nearly forgotten, though, and one that matches Johnson in at least one other respect, well, look no further than his 1989 Topps Big issue …
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Like Johnson himself, Big was something of a novelty when it was issued, even in its second rendition in 1989.
The cards were colorful and loud and full of potential … but they didn’t fit in exactly with the rest of our collections because they were, well, big. And sort of wild.
Sounds familiar, right?
But, while Johnson found himself in Seattle by season’s end, a move that would prove monumental for baseball history, Big found itself back in the planning room, revamped and modernized for one last go-round.
And, even as Johnson amped up his game in the Kingdome in 1990, Big sputtered through that final release, met with collector yawns, far and wide.
Indeed, Topps Big maintained its pariah status for years, and pretty much still does today.
Johnson, of course, harnessed his potential and became an all-time great, one of the top handful of lefthanders the game has ever seen.
But there they are together, man and cardboard, on that 1989 Topps Big Randy Johnson rookie card, about to embark on wildly divergent paths that would leave them about as far apart as one man and his own baseball card could become.
Even a shunned, oversize swath of cardboard gets its day in the sun sometimes, as evidenced by price tags on the Big Unit’s Big RC pushing $1000 in PSA 10 condition today. Dial that down to a “9” and you’re still looking at a $50 card, while copies in PSA 8 check in around $25.
And Johnson himself?
You can see him anytime you want … in plaque form, at least, and for the price of admission to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
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1989 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 601-792) Nm-Mint
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End Date: Monday 04/10/2023 15:55:59 EDT
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