The 1993 Finest checklist includes a lot of Texas Rangers cards, and they are all good players. Nolan Ryan and Ivan Rodriguez both have plaques in Cooperstown. Rafael Palmeiro has the stats to join them but his PED suspension will likely insure he has to pay for admission to view the exhibits. Jose Canseco and Juan Gonzalez are probably still giving pitchers nightmares 30 years later. Tom Henke is less of a household name but those that were watching the game at the time know his worth. Kevin Brown emerged as the successor to Nolan Ryan, becoming the team’s first 20 game winner in almost two decades.
Brown was one of the top pitchers in the 1990s, an era in which pitching could be overwhelmed by the explosive offense of the time. I could rattle off a long series of statistics showing how his performance is about equal to Mike Mussina, John Smoltz, or Curt Schilling, but I won’t. Instead, take a look at how little batters were able to touch him in the year of the homerun race; 1998. That season, he gave up only 8 homers across 35 games, with none coming off the bats of Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire. He didn’t pitch around these guys, as he only walked 33 batters all season despite pitching more than 250 innings.
Brown would undoubtedly be among the 1990s Rangers in Cooperstown if he had not been connected so closely with the PED usage of the era. His presence in the Mitchell Report has pretty much relegated him to the same fate as Palmeiro. Brown had a reputation for over the top tantrums and clubhouse problems, items that contributed to him potentially being the best player to ever be cut off from Hall of Fame voting after a single round with just 2.1% support on his only ballot.
Kevin Brown on Cardboard
Kevin Brown has a sense of humor that can be seen on several of his baseball cards. Following in the wake of Field of Dreams-inspired fondness for century-old baseball, teams trotted out vintage versions of their uniforms for “Turn Back the Clock” nights across the sport. The Texas Rangers, having been created in the 1960s, didn’t really have old uniforms to turn back towards. The team opted to dress in uniforms that reflect how they might have looked in the early part of the 1900s. Brown took this game of athletic cosplay to another level by using eye black to create some 19th century style facial hair and an era appropriate windup.
While I don’t have the 1994 Topps or 1994 Score cards pictured above, I have managed to track down one of the ’93 refractors of the Rangers’ pitcher. This card has proven a bit more difficult to track down than many others in the set. Sales data going back 20 years shows it has sold on eBay in the bottom quintile of the set’s checklist. The records I have personally captured have it in the bottom 4% of transactions, effectively making it seen as often as the very tough Jimmy Key and Orel Hershiser cards. The latter two are hard to even find offered for sale while this one seems to appear regularly enough to give the impression that it is not rare. It gets advertised a lot (I see five available online right now), but the card just doesn’t seem to actually change hands.