Once upon a time, teams lined up their legends for a shot at Sammy Sosa.

After all, Sosa began his professional baseball life as a teenage amateur free agent with the Texas Rangers and stayed in their minor league system until they traded him (and others) to the Chicago White Sox for Fred Manrique and future Hall of Famer Harold Baines (I know, I know) in July of 1989.

In Chicago, Sosa began to live up to his promise, in the majors, no less — he cracked 15 home runs and stole 32 bases in 153 games for the White Sox in 1990.

The next season was more up and down — as in up to the majors and down to Triple-A — but he still managed double-digit homers and steals.

And then, before the 1992 season, Sosa was off to Chicago … er, to the Cubs this time, traded with Ken Patterson in exchange for 1987 American League MVP George Bell.

The die was cast, and after a so-so (So-sa?) start to his northside career in 1992, Sammy went 30-30 for the first time in 1993 before picking up his first MVP votes in 1995.

By the time Sosa took his talents to Wrigley, though, he was already entrenched in the hobby.

No surprise, either, since collectors were jamming hard to rookie card mania by that point AND since Sosa’s first success at the big league level coincided exactly with the advent of the premium 1990 Leaf set:

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Yeah, that really is Slammin’ Sosa getting ready to lay down a bunt there on his most popular rookie card (with apologies to his “First Donruss Card” in 1989’s The Rookies).

The hobby latched onto this card, along with the rest of the ‘90 Leaf RCs — Frank Thomas, John Olerud, David Justice, Larry Walker, and all the rest.

And our chuckles grew a little more hearty with each homer Sammy swatted in that magical summer of 1998 — “Imagine? Sosa, bunting?”

Yeah, maybe the laugh was on us in the end, considering the mess that erupted for this generation of mashers in the 2000s, but the 1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa rookie card never completely lost its luster.

Today, this is about a $15 card in PSA 9, jumping up to about $50 in perfect 10 condition.

And, while those numbers may fall way short of where we all thought this beauty might land, well, it’s still a hobby legend in its own right.

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