The 1989 Score Rising Stars baseball card set was unique in that it celebrated some of baseball’s top prospects and young talents who had yet to establish themselves as full-time major leaguers. While many rookie cards at the time featured recently debuted players, the Score Rising Stars set took a look ahead at the future of baseball by highlighting some of the most promising minor leaguers in the game. Several of the players featured went on to have tremendous big league careers, making some of the cards quite valuable today. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the most notable rising stars from the 1989 set and what their cards can be worth to collectors over 30 years later.

One of the biggest stars and most valuable cards from the 1989 Score Rising Stars set is Ken Griffey Jr. As the highly touted son of longtime major leaguer Ken Griffey Sr., Junior lived up to the hype by establishing himself as one of the greatest outfielders and players in baseball history. In his rookie Rising Stars card at age 19, Griffey’s 5-tool talents and glorious left-handed swing were already evident. He would debut in the majors later that year and go on to win 10 Gold Gloves and be selected to 13 All-Star games over a 22-year Hall of Fame career. No surprise then that Griffey’s rookie Rising Stars card is one of the most coveted from the set. In near mint to mint condition, it can fetch upwards of $500-$1000 or more depending on factors like centering and corners. The Griffey is truly a trophy piece for any baseball card collection.


Another superstar player featured as one of Score’s rising talents was Frank Thomas, who was selected by the Chicago White Sox in 1989 after winning back-to-back College Player of the Year awards at Auburn. “The Big Hurt” more than lived up to expectations with 521 career home runs, two MVP awards and a .301 batting average over 19 big league campaigns. His powerful left-handed swing and intimidating presence in the batter’s box made Thomas one of the most feared sluggers of the steroid era. Like Griffey, his ’89 Rising Stars rookie card is a prized possession for collectors, with graded mint condition copies going for $300-$500 or higher. Even in raw near mint, a Thomas Rising Stars can still sell in the $100-$200 range depending on qualities like centering and corners.

While Griffey and Thomas topped expectations and had Hall of Fame careers, a few other big names highlighted as prospects in ’89 struggled with injuries or took longer to develop than expected. Such was the case for Bobby Witt and Ben McDonald, both number one overall picks from the 1988 draft. Witt showed five-tool promise but battled elbow issues, though still managed to play parts of 11 MLB seasons. McDonald was a hard-throwing righty who made two All-Star appearances but never really put it all together consistently due to health. Both of their Rising Stars rookie cards have since gained value as two of the bigger baseball stars of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Near mint Witt and McDonald cards can sell for $50-$100 depending on condition specifics.


In addition to superstars and top prospects, the ’89 Score Rising Stars set also highlighted some promising young talents who went on to have really solid big league careers, even if they didn’t achieve superstardom. Pitchers like Orel Hershiser (already an All-Star in 1988 when featured), Jack McDowell and John Smoltz all developed into reliable starters who pitched well into the 1990s and beyond. Second baseman Quilvio Veras (pictured diving for a ball on his card) carved out a 12-year MLB career, and catcher Charles Johnson was a reliable backstop for over a decade. Their Rising Stars cards have gradually increased in value to the $10-30 range depending on condition for Veras and Smoltz, while Hershiser and McDowell can fetch $20-50 due to their success as pitchers.


The ’89 Score Rising Stars set also highlighted some prospects that never quite panned out or had brief MLB cameos. Pitchers like Bill Kruger, Jimmy Key and Gregg Olson had some big league time but didn’t sustain success. Infielders Mike Lansing and Tim Naehring each got a cup of coffee in the show. Outfielder Gary Roenicke played 6 seasons. Their Rising Stars rookie cards are still collector favorites for fans of ’80s/’90s baseball, but realistically sell for $5-15 depending on the name and condition of the specific card.

While not all of the prospects featured came to fruition like Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas, the 1989 Score Rising Stars set provided an early peek at some talented young players who would eventually impact the game. Cards of stars like Griffey, Thomas, Bobby Witt and Ben McDonald have grown to six-figure values in mint condition over the decades. But cards of solid big leaguers like Hershiser, McDowell, Veras and Smoltz also appeal to collectors. Even those of pitchers who flamed out hold nostalgia value. The ’89 Score Rising Stars was a unique and prophetic glimpse at baseball’s future.

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