Saturday, February 18, 2017

Top Five: Mark Grace

I think it's about time I focused on a hometown Cub in my weekly Top Five series.

The Cubs have a particularly sparkling stable of stars to choose from: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, etc. Any discussion regarding the North Siders is bound to involve such greats of decades past.

Maybe it's just a product of the era I grew up in, but to me, Mark Grace is one of those rare All-Time Cubs. He patrolled first base at Wrigley for virtually an entire generation, played on good teams and bad, did pretty much everything you could possibly do as a major leaguer...all while sporting that famous eye black in the process.

He also has the distinction of being my mom's all-time favorite ballplayer, which has earned him special prominence in my own collection (which currently stands at 380 different cards) and the spotlight in this week's Top Five.

#5 -- 1995 Pinnacle #371 Mark Grace

Mark Grace, first and foremost, was a leader and a beloved figure at Wrigley.

This crowded -- yet fantastic -- Pinnacle card shows that more than any other I've seen of Gracie, presumably featuring the celebratory aftermath of some kind of game-winning hit.

If you're a fan of cameos and/or the Cubs, then this is a card for you.

#4 -- 1994 Collector's Choice #114 Mark Grace

I've always loved this one because it provides a clear look at the ivy and the basket at Wrigley -- an angle of the ballpark you don't often get to see on baseball cards.

One of the many gems Collector's Choice provided in the brand's relatively short lifetime.

#3 -- 2002 Topps Total #566 Mark Grace

I'm still conflicted over seeing Mark Grace as an Arizona Diamondback.

Don't get me wrong, I'm infinitely pleased Grace finally won it all in 2001 after years of misery with the Cubs. And he seems to have found a second life in Arizona as well: he's making a return to the broadcasting booth with the Diamondbacks this year, in fact.

Still...holy cow does Mark Grace look awkward in a D'Backs jersey, although that doesn't get in the way of my love for this awesome shot of him with a giant Coke bottle in the backdrop.

#2 -- 1989 Topps #465 Mark Grace

Mark Grace seems to be one of those players destined for the Hall of Very Good purgatory.

I'm not saying he's a surefire choice for Cooperstown, but I'd definitely argue that he deserved better than the 4.1 percent of the vote he received in his first (and only) year on the ballot in 2009. The credentials are there for all to see: a .303 career average, four Gold Gloves, nearly 2,500 career hits -- including the single most hits of any player during the 1990s.

Yet here's Gracie just as his illustrious career was getting underway, wearing the unfamiliar #53 (which he never wore outside of spring training) while flanking a Topps Rookie Cup, looking up and out at the greatness awaiting him in the decade to come.

#1 -- 1988 Donruss #40 Mark Grace RC

Baseball cards are portals, and few of them represent that fact better to me than the one you see above.

I can't say for sure what the first card I ever owned was -- and I envy those who can -- but this was, at the very least, somewhere within the first batch of cardboard I welcomed into my collection as a young, pre-adolescent baseball fan. It's one of those select few pieces of cardboard I can't help but attach personal meaning to.

I see this card and I think of my childhood. I see this card and I think of Little League. I see this card and I think of the way I would sit on the floor of my room, sorting my "good" cards into a little blue binder which was always being retooled and reorganized.

I see this card and, even all these years later, I see my absolute favorite piece of my Mark Grace collection.


Laurens said...

When I flip through my Grace cards, it's kind of a trip to see pictured as a fresh faced young player to the epitome of a grizzled veteran.

gcrl said...

My favorite Grace card is the UD MVP card that shows him on the mound. If only it showed his Mike Fetters stare.

Tony Burbs said...

Gracie as a D'Back is jarring, to say the least. However, that said, the Coke bottle Total card might just be my favorite of this bunch. I love the unique photo angle too, in mid-throw.

Trevor P said...

I love this list! Gracie is my all time favorite player. My favorite card is probably the 1993 Studio with the Cubs hat stitching as the background.

Anonymous said...

Little known fact... That's not Mark Grace on the Total card, it's actually his evil twin, Stark Grace. You can tell it's Stark because of the goatee.

Rob said...

I always liked the 1994 card - he's had some good ones over the years.

Daniel Wilson said...

Great list! I'm actually fond of Grace in a D-Backs uni and am glad he'll be broadcasting again with the team.

Fuji said...

That Collector's Choice card of Grace is awesome! One of my favorite Grace cards is his orange bordered 1988 Score Rookie & Traded card that shows a nicely cropped photo of him swinging at the plate.

Hackenbush said...

Certainly can't argue with your sentimental first choice. He looks so young!

Julie Owens said...

D'back Grace seems so out of place but I'm happy he has a ring and beat the Yanks to win it! I've always been drawn to him. He and I share the exact same birth date too (yikes I'm getting up there!) I wish I'd collected as a young person. Your memories are to be cherished!