Each week I look back through my baseball card collection for a deep dive on beloved Bombers and past seasons.
Player: Jim Abbott
Set: 1993 Topps Finest
Card #: 46
In 1967, James Anthony Abbott was born without a right hand. In 1993, he became the fifth Yankee to pitch a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. This week we take a look at the groundbreaking 1993 Topps Finest set and a fan favorite Bomber.
By 1993 there was barely any elbow room in the card industry. Each year Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer and the rest attempted to corral precious market share with new and innovative products. 1993 saw the rise of “super premium” products like a Upper Deck SP and Flair (Fleer) with high quality card stock and shiny foil elements. Topps didn’t just throw their own super premium offering into the fray, but changed the game entirely with Topps Baseball’s Finest.
Topps printed its 199-card set on chromium card stock, the first of what has become an industry standard in products like Topps Chrome and Donruss Optic. It was also the first set to introduce refractors (more info below), also a mainstay of the hobby. 1993 Finest also marked the first time a card company announced the print run of a product, stating that only 4,000 cases were produced. The scarcity of the release, particularly among the refractors which were each limited to just 241, made it the hottest release of ’93.
Twenty-one editions later, Topps Finest is still going strong as a yearly homage to one of the most iconic sets of the ’90s. In 2013, Topps recycled the ’93 design in its Finest release, putting Mariano, Jeter, and others onto the distinct chromium backdrop.
Best from the Back: 2.77 ERA
In his final season in California, Abbott finished with a 7-15 record, but yielded just 65 earned runs in 211 innings for a 2.77 ERA. His record was an eyesore, but received little run support from an Angels offense that mustered the third fewest runs in the AL and finished 24 games behind Oakland in the AL West. His 2.77 ERA was good enough for 5th best in the AL behind the likes of Clemens and Mussina.
The picture on the back also provides a clear window into Abbott’s magic. You can see he has his glove perched on his non-pitching hand. After releasing the pitch he quickly shot his hand into his glove into order to field his position. If a comebacker came is way, Abbott slipped the glove under his arm, freeing up his hand to snatch the ball and fire it to first.
Oh, and when he pitched in Milwaukee in ’99, he had to bat as well. What this guy did at the pinnacle of his sport is astonishing.
Abbott in 1993
Abbott’s first season in pinstripes was uneven. After his first six starts his record stood at 1-5. He won his next three decisions, but never found a rhythm as he won three consecutive starts only once. Entering a September 4th match-up with Cleveland Abbott was 10-11 with a 4.31 ERA . Thoughts of a no-hitter could not have been further from anyone’s mind that afternoon as the lefty dug, just six days removed from giving up 10 hits and 7 runs in just 3.2 innings at Cleveland Stadium. But it was a cloudy day game, just the kind of conditions Abbott liked.
He was masterful that afternoon, facing the minimum in seven of his nine innings. Only a trio of walks blemished an otherwise sterling line. No Indian touched second base and the likes of Lofton, Alomar Jr., Thome, Manny, and Belle never threatened. Abbott capped one of baseball’s most astonishing feats by inducing a 6-3 groundout of Carlos Baerga (Velarde-Mattingly) as 27,125 roared. It remains one of the most inspiring and memorable moments in Yankees history.
(Sidenote: How crazy is it that Bernie and O’Neill played in four no-hitters/perfect games at Yankee Stadium? The ’90s in the Bronx were magic.)
There are no recent sales on eBay, but the card is currently up for grabs in raw condition for between $2.00 and $5.00. The extremely scarce refractor version of the card in PSA 9 condition will currently run you between $90 and $200.
Notable Yankees in 1993 Topps Finest
#30 – Bernie Williams
#46 – Jim Abbott
#90 – Wade Boggs (AS*)
#98 – Don Mattingly (AS)
#170 – Paul O’Neill
#174 – Jimmy Key
Bonus Hobby Knowledge: Refractors
1993 Finest influenced the hobby in a variety of ways, not the least of which was the introduction of refractors. Refractor cards have chrome elements that reveal a rainbow effect when they catch light at the right angle. They typically feature the same design as a player’s base card, but are set apart by a color variation or refractive design (as in the x-fractor’s checkerboard element). They can be inserted at varying degrees of scarcity, as rare as 1/1 serial numbers that Topps dubs the “SuperFractor.”