Sometimes Availability Is Everything

Scott Cooper appears in the first few cards of the 1993 Finest checklist as card #7. Wade Boggs had looked to New York for the next phase of his career and left third base open in the process. Cooper, who had already spent a half-dozen years in minor league and MLB platoon assignments, was the available glove to fill in one of the more demanding defensive positions on the diamond. He did well in 1993, batting .279 while almost generating 3 wins above replacement.

He made the American League All-Star team that year as the sole representative of the Red Sox. Mo Vaughn didn’t make it. Andre Dawson didn’t make it and neither did Roger Clemens, though that didn’t stop Topps from depicting the pair as All-Stars in the ’93 Finest set. All three played positions that were stacked with talent, limiting their ability to garner enough votes to be named to the team. Once again availability proved the decisive factor as third base faced little competition. Cooper snapped up votes with little in the way of competition, becoming the only Boston player to make the team and backing up his former teammate Boggs on the AL roster. The scene repeated itself in 1994 with Cooper again being the only Boston-attired player on the field.

He would be sent to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1995 and was gone from baseball by the end of 1997. Cooper was no longer available, but his vacated position with the Red Sox opened the door for trade that gave them a player to be named later. That player was David Ortiz, a guy who would go on to represent the team for two decades.

A Rather Unique Premium Card

1993 saw the introduction of several higher end, limited production sets from the major card manufacturers. Topps released Finest, but was also joined by Upper Deck SP and Fleer Flair. The latter was particularly impressive at the time and was the only one of these cards that I ever opened from a pack. Flair cards didn’t come in the traditional wax, plastic, or foil wrappers. Instead, collectors received them in a small cardboard box that could be used to store the cards or at least protect them on the way home from a store.

Scott Cooper appeared in each of the upper tier releases of 1993. What makes his Flair card so interesting is that it doesn’t look like the rest of the set. Cooper is given a horizontal layout so collectors can see him stretching out to field a ground ball.

1993 Finest Refractor

Here’s something to know if you are building the 1993 Refractor set: Availability is not a trait often associated with high-grade examples of Scott Cooper’s card. The card is often found off-center, limiting the number that ever had a chance to be found in mint condition. Mine is no exception, stretching the bounds of acceptable centering. Graded examples command a premium (there are still a paltry 91 seen to date in any condition by PSA), so I elected to find an affordable raw copy with decent corners. PSA recently returned this to me with a grade of 7 out of 10.