Promising Pitcher and Low-Key Car Connoisseur Erik Hanson

Erik Hanson joined ’93 Finest checklist as what looked like one of the up-and-coming future stars of the American League. He had logged an 18-9 record in 1990 and was generating high single digit strikeouts per 9 innings of work in a period in which this was still something of a rarity. A look back at his career using more advanced metrics shows an even better pitching talent. He produced 3+ wins above replacement pretty much every season through 1996, including strike shortened affairs in 1994 and 1995. His adjusted fielding independent pitching (FIP-) was waaaaaay better than 100 until the arrival of elbow injuries. Even then, it took massive ligament damage to bring his performance down to just merely average. A damaged Hanson could be just as good as your typical big leaguer. Rather than go through the ups and downs (and uncertainties) of reconstructive surgery, he stepped out of the majors just a decade after taking the mound.

I Bet Erik Hanson Appreciates Good Cars

Today you’ll typically find him on a golf course, racking up an impressive array of amateur titles. He can probably carry a pretty good conversation about golf, but since I have almost zero knowledge of the game I looked to other areas of interest in his post-playing career.

One of those topics is that of high performance cars. Hanson had a teammate in Seattle, Ken Griffey, Jr., who favored highly tuned European sports models. Griffey is known to have owned quite a number of impressive wheels, including a Koenig modified Mercedes 300CE, a raft of BMW 8-series coupes, and more recently a Porsche Carrera GT (as well as a Porsche dealership for good measure).

While Griffey appears to have frequently purchased cars, he has been consistent in selling his older models to make room in his garage. In 1993 Griffey found himself making room for the BMW 850Ci shown below. Hanson purchased his previous BMW 850 (also in white and barely used) and continued to own it a couple decades later. Griffey moved on, eventually selling the ’94 model which recently hit the market on Bring a Trailer in 2022.

The 850 was only sold in the US for a handful of years and did so in low volume. It’s not a car you see everyday and one that tends to raise an eyebrow among collectors. The fact that the former Seattle pitcher picked one up and kept it so long indicates he knows how special this particular model is.

Completing The Set Suddenly Becomes Realistic

With the addition of this card I unexpectedly found myself staring at the possibility of completing the ’93 Finest Refractor set well ahead of my original timeline. To find cards as soon as they became available I had saved searches across multiple collecting forums that alerted me whenever a needed card appears. Upon opening one of these tabs I found more than a dozen cards listed in numerical order, a sign that someone was breaking up a set. Further research showed that more than 90% of the checklist would be coming to market with all cards having been graded a uniform Mint 9 by PSA. Importantly, the seller was asking prices commensurate with what these cards commanded prior to the pandemic boom. The cards were available and affordable.

The seller was listing these cards an hour at a time in the evenings, apparently doing so after work. Each day brought about two dozen new offerings, and for much of the process I was the only one camped out buying needed cards the moment they went live. Eventually I was joined by two other collectors with the same game plan, but was able to come within a dozen cards of completing the set by the time the sales ceased.

The first day’s sale kicked off with this card of Erik Hanson. The front shows him wearing a dark blue Mariners jersey, a hue that shows exceptional color-changing properties when given the refractor treatment. The back features him in a home jersey against those brown block walls that make up part of the aesthetic of attending a game in Seattle. As mentioned with the previously profiled card of Robin Ventura, I find these home/away combinations of front/back photos to be really nice and appreciate it when they appear on a card. Topps appears to not have done this on purpose with the set, but it would have been a nice touch if a conscious effort to do so had been made.

In another interesting Hanson/Griffey twist, a small number of 1993 Finest base cards were accidentally printed with the front and backs of the cards inserted into the printed upside down. This resulted in mismatched front and backs. Griffey and Hanson’s cards switch places when this is done, resulting in few copies being mistaken released with Hanson’s image on the front and Griffey’s on the back.