If you were a casual bargain hunter who happened upon a stack of baseball cards at a garage sale thirty year ago, you might not have given a second thought to spying a 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera as you thumbed through looking for the names of baseball greats you’d actually heard of.

Ruth. Mantle. Mays. Reggie. Tom Hume.

Old, yellowed, priceless cards that inspired awe, and dreams.

After all …

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Of course, it’s easy for baseball fans and collectors now to recognize the greatness of the Yankees diminutive closer and the importance of his rookie card.

I mean, as of this writing in late November 2021, Mo is the only man elected to the Hall of Fame in unanimous fashion.

And he’s generally acknowledged as the greatest relief pitcher of all-time (though Hume has his supporters on that front).

That RC of his is something special, too, tipping the scales at around $100 in PSA 8 condition, and ratcheting that up to $160 for PSA 9 specimens and $800 or more for copies in graded a perfect “10.”

But that’s now.

Back in 1992, when this card was issued, Rivera was entering his third season in New York’s minor league system and wouldn’t taste his first cup of coffee in the bigs for another three years, debuting in the Bronx on May 23, 1995.

But if you looked closely, and read the Bowman tea leaves, this card would have given it all away.

The harbingers of greatness?

They were all right there to see:

  • Rivera, not pushing over that stanchion, but pulling it back from oblivion with one hand — perhaps his first save.
  • The right arm, hanging like a whip on a barn nail, ready to sling into action with the ring of a phone.
  • The young knuckles, bereft of jewelry, begging for rings of the sort and number that only the Yankees could conjure.
  • The dashing sartorial style that could be dressed up further only with pinstripes under an October moon.
  • The aqua themes, evoking sandy visions and foreshadowing Rivera’s Metallica-tied nickname.
  • The watch that told opposing batters their time was just about up.
  • The all-knowing smile, inspired by visions of Jeter and Bernie and Andy and Torre and champagne and plaques and all the rest.

It was all right there to see, if only you’d slowed down in your rush to uncover that 1989 Topps Steve Searcy.

But I get it, for who among us can resist a bona fide “Future Star”?

1992 Bowman John Elway FOIL, Denver Broncos

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1992 Bowman Chipper Jones #28 HOF

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1992 Bowman - #461 Mike Piazza (RC)

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1992 Bowman Football Card #151 Hugh Millen

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#302 MARIANO RIVERA rc 1992 BOWMAN rookie

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1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera RC #302 BCCG 10

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1992 Bowman Baseball #302 Rookie Card RC Yankees

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