I'm taking a bit of risk by assuming about three hours before the announcement that Tim Raines has been selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today and compiling an entire post about him with absolutely no backup plan.
But the signs have been overwhelmingly positive for Raines' selection, so I don't feel too out on a limb. Besides, the other guys with the best chance of entering are '90s guys, and I have so little to say about most of those players. Certainly not enough for an entire post. I don't want all those mullets all over my blog.
Raines is different. He is a holdover from the '80s. When he first reached the majors, I was 14 years old. The rookies of that period were my people, the new stars that I could witness from the start, not some hand-me-downs from an earlier era.
Raines, if you don't remember or amazingly haven't heard, was an eye-popping star from the start. He stole 71 bases his rookie year in 1981, which sounds not that astonishing until the next part of that sentence, which is " ... in 88 games!" There was a strike that year, you know. And he sat out with a hand injury near the end of the season.
But don't let me say it. Here, take a look at the back of Raines' 1982 Donruss card:
Yup. Keep in mind Rickey Henderson showed up just 2 years earlier. And Fernando Valenzuela was a rookie in '81, too.
I've dedicated several blog posts to Raines, from the sudden decision to call him "Rock" on his baseball cards to his rookie card's remarkable resemblance to another teammate's card the very same year. So, it's about time he be recognized in the Hall.
And there is nowhere else you can go to see Raines' finest baseball cards (at least the finest in my collection), but here.
So let's take a look at 10 of my favorites, in honor of the 10 years it took Raines to be named to the Hall. I definitely have more than 10 favorite Raines cards, so I fully expect this list to change while I am making it.
Also, I am starting with the my favorite Raines card -- which also happens to be the best Raines card -- and working my way down, as opposed to the reverse order I usually do. I simply can't bury this card:
1. 1993 Upper Deck
That might be one of the best cards to come out of the last 25 years. I cannot find a single thing wrong with it ... other than that he should be in an Expos uniform.
2. 1981 Donruss
I was there when Tim Raines' 1981 Donruss card was released, so let me tell you how it went down.
I pulled it out of a pack, obviously, probably at Monroe Market. Young baseball fans like me knew who Tim Raines was at the time. He was one of the new stars of baseball, but it was strange hearing all of that praise for Raines contrasted against the back of his baseball card that said his lifetime batting average was .050.
3. 1981 Topps Traded
This is a beautiful card. Colorful as an MTV video. As full of promise as ... well, spring training. And it took a long time to land, because the '81 Traded set was not available in stores. You had to have a subscription to Baseball Digest or some similar baseball publication and spot an advertisement so you could fill out an order form and wait for it to come in the mail in like 8 weeks.
4. 1986 Topps
Another hopeful card. I don't think I've ever seen Raines happier than on this card, regardless of what appears to be a gigantic bandage on his elbow. He's ready to go.
5. 1984 Fleer
Would you like to know the first time Tim Raines is shown in a red Expos batting practice jersey on a baseball card? You're looking at it. Oh, sure, he's wearing the red jersey in a couple of 1983 stickers, but those don't count. I need Raines in red in a batting cage in the vicinity of a random dude in slacks shown ON cardboard.
6. 1992 Stadium Club
If you can get baseball players and scenery together in one photo, you're living right. Raines' White Sox uniforms weren't the most colorful, so I get the feeling the photographers had to work a little more to make pictures interesting.
7. 1984 O-Pee-Chee All-Star
The best aspect about Expos players in the '80s is that they almost always had OPC cards, too. This one is particularly great because there is French on the front of the card (please note the color contrast between each card).
More OPC. This time it's the first time that Raines is referred to as "Rock" on a baseball card. This habit would continue with Topps (and also OPC for a bit) into the '90s. It was all very weird and I think everyone realized the insanity of it all around 1993, but, man, it was a strange four years.
9. 1995 Topps
Until now, you haven't seen Raines on the basepaths. Those cards do exist (1983 Topps, 1991 Upper Deck and a bunch of others). But they just didn't make the cut. This is a staged photo of Raines on the bases. By now he was long a veteran and something like this works for someone who had well over 600 stolen bases at the time.
10. 1982 Topps Highlight
Who doesn't like having their achievements preserved on paper? As someone lucky enough to win a couple of awards, I know I am a sucker for plaques and parchment. And if I was a baseball player, I'd be a sucker for a highlights card. There it is for everyone to see. 71 stolen bases as a rookie. No need to turn the card over. It's right there. Forever.
OK, that didn't feel nearly complete in terms of my favorite Raines cards, so here are some more:
That last one is great. Tim Raines is 5-8. But you get the feeling he is 5-4 in this photo (Eric Davis is 6-2).
Raines is a throwback in a few ways. He was short. And his calling card was the stolen base, something highly valued and praised in the '80s but not so much now. Plus, he played for a team that doesn't exist anymore.
I'm quite happy he'll be in the Hall of Fame. As an Expo. And, sure, I'm happy for those other guys, too. No mullets on the plaques please.
Oh, and I apologize about the title for this post. That was a risk that didn't really pay off.