The Fashion Designer in ’93 Finest

Aside from Julio Franco and Minnie Minoso, baseball players can’t continue to play the game forever. They move on to other pursuits. Since leaving the game, former Boston Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn has gone into several ventures, including starting his own fashion label. Vaughn’s MVP Collections line of clothing is a play on his 1995 AL MVP award and an acronym for Mo Vaughn Productions. The brand’s big & tall oriented clothes are sold in widespread outlets, including Nordstrom and DXL.

Vaughn was a baseball player I grew up following. His was one of the first “good” rookie cards I ever pulled from a pack of cards, as defined by Beckett Baseball Card Monthly telling me via its newsprint price guide section. Vaughn’s box scores backed up that assessment when he began regularly launching some of the longer home runs of the 1990s. Things got even better when my favorite player was traded to the Sox and the pair protected each other in the lineup.

Above: 1990 Score Mo Vaughn rookie card, a card I distinctly remember pulling from a pack

Vaughn was known for hitting home runs and driving in runs, two skills at which he excelled. Despite the fact that stolen bases were not considered one of his strengths (3.2 SB per 162 games played) and he played several years elsewhere, Vaughn ranks 8th among 1990s Red Sox players in stolen bases.

Vaughn is considered on the best Red Sox players of all time, but his time with other teams (Angels/Mets) are another story. His 1999 contract with the Angels made him the game’s highest paid player, a price that looked overly generous when he sprained his ankle chasing a foul ball into the dugout just two outs into his first appearance with the team. He still produced for the Angels (30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs in each season) but injuries began piling up.

Vaughn spent the entire 2001 season on the disabled list and was traded (along with his massive contract) at the end of the year to the New York Mets. He arrived in New York with a rising weight and shrinking mobility. Combined with his contract, this didn’t sit well with local fans who were also contending with the fallout of the recently discovered fraud of Bernie Madoff, with whom Mets ownership had heavily invested. Lost in the shuffle of blame was the nuance that the Mets had not lost too much on taking a chance with the once-great hitter: The team had contingencies in place that absorbed much of his annual contract cost. Vaughn last played in early 2003 but delayed his official retirement until later to run out the clock on guaranteed payments that were in turn mostly picked up by third parties.

Say It Ain’t So, Mo (Which He Promptly Did)

I stopped following Vaughn in 1998, the year in which he smashed his truck into a disabled car in the emergency lane of I-95. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol after failing 8 field sobriety tests. He quickly issued apologies and purchased newspaper ads to get his contrition out to the public. I have an extreme personal dislike for drunk drivers, so reports of Vaughn’s predicament did not sit well with me*. Two months later he pled innocent and maintained he was not under the influence after leaving a bar and crossing out of his lane. A jury of his peers agreed and responded with an acquittal, either concluding the prosecution did not offer sufficient evidence to prove their case (no breathalyzer test) or that no reasonable person could expect a Seton Hall graduate to recite the whole alphabet so late at night.

Sigh. I liked him up to that point but drew a different conclusion than the jury. Granted, hitting a car and rolling your vehicle a few times might make anyone have trouble with the alphabet. Combined with the lack of a specific, legally defined blood alcohol content reading (Vaughn refused to take a BAC test) this likely introduced enough doubt to clear him of the charge. Regardless of the legal outcome, my personal fandom was gone and from that point onward I began rooting for opposing pitchers.

*An important legal distinction: DUIs have a much lower threshold than being drunk, hence the case. Outside common usage where people use DUI/drunk driving interchangeably, I haven’t seen anyone connected with the accident stating Vaughn was drunk, only that observations at the scene led them to believe he had been drinking at some point prior.

1993 Finest

All of this was still five years in the future when I was first laying eyes on Topps Finest cards of Mo Vaughn and he was still one of my favorites. He still had less than 100 of his 328 career home runs on the back of the card’s stat line. He ended up with more HRs than Cecil and Prince Fielder, players out of the same athletic mold.

This particular example carries a split grade from PSA, garnering a rating of 8.5 and further muddling the difference between near-mint and mint condition. I’m not really sure what makes this any different from a straight 8 or 9, which I guess is the reason someone evaluating the card just averaged the two values.