If you’ve been around the hobby for awhile, or been a baseball fan for awhile, the 1997 Bowman Adrian Beltre rookie card might make you do a doubletake, reach for the record book.
After all, here we have a card of one of the greatest third basemen of all time, wearing Dodger Blue, and hailing from the brand (Bowman) that has become synonymous with rookie cards.
And, you might remember, the Dodgers have sort of owned the Rookie of the Year award, fielding 18 youngsters who took home the hardware over the years.
It all began, of course, when Jackie Robinson was named the first-ever ROY in 1948, and continued through the late 2010s (at least).
And, Dodgers’ prospects have a tendency to pick up Rookie of the Year nods in spurts — 1948-49 and ‘52-’53, for example.
And four in a row from 1979 through 1982, for another example.
And then, a streak in the early 1990s that included Eric Karros (1992) and Mike Piazza (1993) before The Strike, then kept going.
Maybe you remember that Hideo Nomo landed in that run somewhere, and that the streak seemed like it might never end. And, maybe, you wonder who all won rookie awards for the 1990s Dodgers.
And you look at that Beltre card again.
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Was he part of L.A.’s historic romp through rookiedom?
That’s when you really do reach for the record book (or click for it).
There, you find that Todd Hollandsworth was the last in the historic Dodgers run, in 1996.
The next year, when Beltre was making his cardboard debut, Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen broke up the party by nabbing National League Rookie of the Year honors.
The year after that, it was Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs.
Reliever Scott Williamson of the Cincinnati Reds brought home the prize in 1999 to round out the decade, and the century.
By then, Beltre had made his Major League debut (in 1998) and seized the Dodgers starting job at the hot corner (in 1999).
The young five-tool player came with plenty of hype, as Dodgers prospects are wont to do, and he did display double-digit power with middling batting averages and a smattering of stolen bases those first few seasons.
Still, it was no ROY performance, and nothing to really get collectors super excited. Indeed that 1997 Bowman RC of Beltre’s was eclipsed in the hobby by set-mates like Wood, Jake Westbrook, Eric Chavez, Hideki Irabu, and others.
But then, Beltre broke out in 2004, with free agency looming, to the tune of .334, 48 home runs, and 121 RBI.
Suddenly, the guy who didn’t even get a whiff of the ROY award in 1998 was finishing second (to Barry Bonds) in the 2004 NL MVP voting.
Not surprisingly, that big season punched Beltre’s free agent ticket, which he used to hook on with the Seattle Mariners. It also punched his RC’s ticket to hobby stardom.
And, though Beltre didn’t quite live up to his own hype in Seattle, he did win a couple of Gold Gloves before blossoming for good in his 30s, first with the Boston Red Sox (in 2010) and then with the Texas Rangers.
By the time he retired after the 2018 season, Beltre was a Texas legend and future Hall of Famer with more than 3100 hits and 477 home runs to his name.
And that 1997 Bowman rookie card?
It’s neck-and-neck with the Roy Halladay RC for the title of most valuable card in the set, checking in around $20 for copies in PSA 8 condition. Move up to a 9, and you’re in the neighborhood of $80.
And a perfect “10” will run you $1000 or more here in 2021.
Add in the Chrome parallel and another entry in 1997 Bowman’s Best, and you can find Beltre RCs all along the price spectrum.
They all show a legend … they all show a future Hall of Famer.
But none of them show a Rookie of the Year.
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