We have posted 25 Card of the Day articles already, but this one today is just our second guest submission. Two weeks back, Kevin Cummings wrote about the 1887 N172 card of Pittsburgh Alleghenys second baseman Sam Barkley, talking about the famous Old Judge set and the player depicted on that card. Today’s card is 111 years newer than that Barkley card, but it has an interesting story of its own.
Jim Rosati, who ran the Pirates site North Side Notch, shares a card he owns of a young Jose Guillen. The picture on the front is a great pose, while the back has an interesting fun fact.
1998 Topps Jose Guillen
by Jim Rosati
Today’s Card of the Day is the first Topps card of the outfielder with the strongest arm that Pirates fans my age have ever seen, Jose Guillen. Guillen was a very highly touted prospect when he cracked the Pirates Opening Day roster at age 20 in 1997 and was a key member of that ‘97 team that would be dubbed, “The Freak Show.”
Here’s the front of the card:
There’s a lot going on with the front of this card that I love. First, there’s Guillen doing the same pose as Clemente in front of his statue located outside Three Rivers Stadium. If you haven’t watched Guillen’s arm lately, click here really quick and come back to read the rest of this.
All my childhood, I heard stories about Clemente’s arm in RF and when Guillen arrived in Pittsburgh, seeing him out there always brought me back to those stories about Clemente’s arm. This picture just adds to the nostalgia of the two player’s tools being compared to each other.
The second thing I love about this is the Topps All Star Rookie Cup on the top right, symbolizing Guillen being named as one of the top rookies from 1997.
Here’s the back of the card:
The first thing that jumps out here is the bio. It provides a super fun fact about Guillen. The guy made the ‘97 Opening Day roster without playing Double-A or Triple-A ball. After tearing up the Carolina League, Guillen made the jump straight to the Majors. Can you imagine that happening with someone on today’s Pirates? The story about hurdling a picnic table is also an awesome added anecdote.
While the back of the card says, “Rookie Card,” that isn’t exactly the case here. That designation is officially attributed to Guillen’s 1996 Bowman and Bowman’s Best cards.
After being traded to Tampa Bay in 1999, Guillen would bounce from team-to-team and from Triple-A to the Majors for quite a few years. He finally hit his stride at age 27 and put together three years where he hit .295/.349/.862 with an OPS+ of 126.
Again, going back to the bio on the card, was he rushed? Could he have had more success with Pittsburgh if he was given more time to develop? I guess we’ll never know.
Because Guillen became more of a role player throughout his career, this card can be had for under $1 most places you look, and is quite a neat piece for any Pirates collection.
That arm, though. Jeez.
You can follow Jim on Twitter at @northsidenotch
Here are the previous Card of the Day articles. Eventually we will have a better way to organize them, as opposed to just a continuously growing list at the bottom of each article:
2020 Topps Living Set Josh Bell
2020 Roberto Clemente Topps Throwback
1887 N172 Old Judge Art Whitney and Dog
1981 Topps Pirates Future Stars
1936 R312 Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan
2005 Bowman Heritage Andrew McCutchen
1961 Topps Gino Cimoli World Series Highlights
1969 Topps Richie Hebner/Al Oliver
1887 N172 Sam Barkley (guest submission)
2020 Topps 206 Roberto Clemente
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.