When Jose Cruz Jr. was promoted to the Seattle Mariners in 1997, he was something special. Here was this late comer, who out of the blue started showing up his much more famous teammate, a prime Ken Griffey Junior. In just 49 games, Cruz Jr. hit 12 home runs before mysteriously being traded away to the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s safe to say that Cruz Jr., who had a couple of impressive years in his 12-year career, never quite lived up to the excitement he created in just 49 games playing alongside “The Kid”. How could someone who looked like a future power-hitting legend, come up so short before ending his career toiling in obscurity?
I call it the “Donruss Curse” of 1998.
You see, in 1998 the fine folks at Donruss created an autograph insert set called Back to the Future which featured a player from the past and a young guy who had the potential to be as great, if not better than the veteran. Ben Grieve was matched up with Juan Gonzalez. Todd Helton with Jeff Bagwell. Chipper with Eddie Mathews, etc. Sounds innocent enough, right?
Well, when Jose Cruz’s turn came up Donruss decided he’s most likely to be like …. Hammerin’ freakin’ Hank Aaron. Geez, could you guys add enough pressure to this poor kid’s life? So let’s see, 23 home runs in his rookie year so that makes 700+ more to go feasible. That sounds about right.
Good luck, Jose!
As for the card below, it is numbered to 1,500, which is astronomical by today’s standards but the on-card autograph, unique design, and great photography trumps many of today’s cards. Not to mention the fact that The Hammer clearly needs to take a break from signing thousands of Topps and Donruss stickers.
As for the product that this card was inserted into, 1998 Donruss Elite, it is a must-buy for anyone that can find it for under $40 dollars. Parallels from the set, which are not exactly super rare, can bring in some good coin if you pull something like this. Just be warned, autographs are NOT easy to find. This was 1998 when autos were needles in haystacks not fish in a barrel.