Whether you love him or … “not so much” … there is no denying that Curt Schilling put together one of the most dramatic Major League Baseball careers of the last 30 years or so.

And that goes double when it comes to his postseason exploits with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox.

But, bloody sock aside …

There’s also no denying that Schilling was a superstar in his prime and pushed those peak years out a lot further than most players are able — he put up 4.0 WAR in his final season (2007) at age 40, after all.

All of that left Schilling on the doorstep of Cooperstown as I write this in the early fall of 2020, having appeared on 70% of Hall of Fame ballots in the 2020 election.

With a weak first-year class on the docket, Schill seems like a pretty good bet to make the Hall cut for 2021.

So, what better time to look at his early cards?

None, really.

Here, then, is a run through all of the Curt Schilling rookie cards there are, excluding minor league issues, but tacking on an extra for good measure.

1989 Donruss Curt Schilling (#635)

1989 Donruss Curt  Schilling

For some reason, when I think of Schilling’s early days in the Majors, my mind always goes to the Houston Astros first. That’s likely because he was part of that January 1991 deal that sent Schilling, Steve Finley, and Pete Harnisch to the Houston Astros in exchange for Glenn Davis.

For the longest time, I sort of mixed up Schilling and Harnisch, too.

Of course a 1992 trade to the Phillies (for Jason Grimsley) and the ensuing heroics made the differences clear enough after a decade or so.

Way back in 1988, though, Schilling was a 21-year-old Baltimore Orioles prospect who made it The Show but went 0-3 with a (gasp!) 9.82 ERA.

That meant Schilling would spend most of 1989 and some of 1990 in the minors before finally officially exhausting his rookie eligibility in that summer of ’90.

The brief (awful) showing in 1988 was enough for the youngster to land his very first MLB card, though — this simple staring shot in the massively overproduced 1989 Donruss set.

It’s no world-beater in terms of value, but it’s sure to draw a lot of interest as Schilling approaches Cooperstown, and top-graded copies can touch triple digits.

One last interesting note before we move on to the 1990s …

Schilling didn’t come to the O’s at all until July of 1988 when they traded veteran Mike Boddiker to acquire the young righty and an outfield prospect named Brady Anderson.

The other team in that trade?

Yeah, the Red Sox, who had drafted Schilling in the second round in 1986. In the end (or the middle), the BoSox just couldn’t stay away.

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1990 Bowman Curt Schilling (#246)

1990 Bowman Curt  Schilling

By 1990, Schilling was looking more like a legitimate prospect, having just completed a 1989 season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings that produced 13-11 record with a sturdy 3.21 ERA.

At the same time, Bowman was still trying to find its legs since Topps resurrected the brand with an oversize issue in 1989.

Trimmed down to standard card size (2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″) for 1990, Bowman was already showing a propensity toward early-career guys, so Schilling fit right in.

Another overproduced set, the 1990 Bowmans nonetheless look good with clean lines and big photos. They are great vehicles for player autographs, too, and the Schilling rookie card draws some decent interest in top grades.

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1990 Donruss Curt Schilling (#667)

1990 Donruss Curt  Schilling

Of course, 1989 Donruss and 1990 Bowman have nothing on our next two entries when it comes to overproduction.

I’m still half convinced that 1990 Donruss cards actually figured out how to reproduce, and each generation brings along the same overwhelming, gory red borders.

But, hey, at least that means cheap Curt Schilling rookie cards … except, of course, this isn’t a rookie card at all since Donruss beat themselves to the punch in 1989.

It makes our list, though, since 1990 is sort of the rookie card-ish season for Schill.

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1990 Fleer Update Curt Schilling (#U-68)

1990 Fleer Update Curt  Schilling

Everything I said about 1990 Donruss goes for this card, too, except this design is arguably better. Less hair-on-fire, at the very least.

And 1990 Fleer Update may be a tad less plentiful than the base 1990 Donruss and Fleer sets, though that’s sort of like comparing grains of sand on earth to stars in the galaxy.

At any rate, this card gives us a rare look at both a very youthful and smiling Schilling, and the Orioles creamsicle orange jersey, to boot.

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1990 O-Pee-Chee Curt Schilling (#97)

1990 O-Pee-Chee Curt  Schilling

Lots of collectors have an aversion to the 1990 Topps design (and, by extension, the O-Pee-Chee design), and I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan of it for a long time.

Then, someone pointed out the comic book motif, and I started to warm to the set.

The Schilling rookie card adds in an eerie Gotham-esque sky for a background, and the O-Pee-Chee card is arguably a bit more scarce than its Topps counterpart.

All in all, not a terrible first card.

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1990 Score Curt Schilling (#581)

1990 Score Curt  Schilling

Here we have Schill looking more like we remember him later on — a bit heavier, intense concentration, ready to haul it home

This is not a bad looking card, as few Score cards hardly ever were, but it’s never going to break the bank — for better or for worse.

What it is for sure is that this is Score’s first Curt Schilling card, I mean, unless you count that one below, the next one, as a tie.

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1990 Score Rising Stars Curt Schilling (#94)

1990 Score Rising Stars Curt  Schilling

You couldn’t make baseball cards in the late 1980s or early 1990s and just make a base set.

No way, no how!

Especially not when there was rookie card gold spewing from every mountain stream and every ballpark water fountain.

So Score issued a 100-card boxed set of Rising Stars to accompany their veteran-focused Superstars issue of the same size.

Schilling made the cut as a Rising (#94) on his way to someday being a Super.

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1990 Sportflics Curt Schilling (#133)

1990 Sportflics Curt  Schilling

Did the world need another Sportflics baseball card set in 1990?

No, no we didn’t.

But at lest 1990 Sportflics looked a little different than 1980s Sportflics, because the 1990 Sportflics cards had a sort of 1990 Topps border thing going on, with a Fleer-box-set sort of bottom panel.

And, of course, it had the standard Sportflics lenticular magic motion magic magic happening, with the indecipherable photos and everything.

Everybody knew we didn’t need it, though. And that included Sportflics/Pinnacle, because they stopped making Sportflics in 1991, except they did make them … and called them Kellogg’s cards. Which makes some sense, considering that Sportflics always seemed like they wanted to be Kellogg’s cards, anyway.

Sportflics proper came back in 1994, and then became Sportflix in 1995. Because “x” is cooler than “cs” no matter how you look at it.

None of that mattered in 1990. What mattered was that we got a haunted Curt Schilling rookie card out of the deal, complete with ghost images.

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1990 Topps Curt Schilling (#97)

1990 Topps Curt  Schilling

And here is the actual 1990 Topps Curt Schilling rookie, looking smug because it knows it did the borders better than Sportflics.

Not because it’s very valuable or anything, though it can be a little valuable in top grades, slabbed.

And it does still look like that OPC card, and it still has the Batman vibe, too. How Schilling never ended up with the Mets after early cardboard like this is beyond me.

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1991 Upper Deck Curt Schilling (#528)

1991 Upper Deck Curt  Schilling

This card comes in pretty late on our list, a full two years after the 1989 Donruss Schilling rookie card.

But this is Schill’s first Upper Deck card, and the 1991 UD set completed the trip around the design diamond that started in 1989 and continued in 1990.

This was a popular set in 1991, driven by a strong crop of rookie cards, a Michael Jordan insert, the Nolan Ryan Baseball Heroes cards, the clean design, and great photography.

There were some collectors who started to complain that UD was boring … too much of the same from year to year. And, as it became obvious that Upper Deck was pretty much as plentiful as every other set, the market for the company’s 1991 issue softened.

All of which is to say that today you can find this first Curt Schilling Upper Deck card on the cheap most of the time, though graded GEM MT copies run into double digits.

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