1991 DONRUSS BASEBALL CARDS ROOKIES

The 1991 Donruss baseball card set is notable for featuring some of the biggest baseball rookies and future Hall of Famers of the early 1990s. Upper Deck debuted in 1989 and revolutionized the baseball card industry by using cutting edge photography and finer quality card stock compared to the traditional brand Donruss. However, Donruss remained a popular set for collectors leading into the 1991 season as kids and adults still enjoyed opening wax packs in search of their favorite players.

Among the top rookies in the 1991 Donruss set were Bobby Bonilla of the Pittsburgh Pirates and David Justice of the Atlanta Braves. Bonilla hit .262 with 13 home runs and 57 RBI in his rookie season of 1987 playing for the Chicago White Sox. His Donruss rookie card from that year remained highly sought after by collectors. In 1991 with Pittsburgh, Bonilla emerged as an all-star caliber player, batting .302 with 26 home runs and 103 runs batted in. His powerful stroke from the left side of the plate made him one of the most feared hitters in the National League. Bonilla’s success led his 1991 Donruss rookie card to take off in popularity.

Meanwhile, David Justice also broke out as a star player for the up-and-coming Atlanta Braves in 1991. After being called up late in the 1990 season, Justice got his first full season in the majors in 1991. The power hitting outfielder smashed 25 home runs and drove in 101 runs while hitting .271. His combination of power and run production at a young age made Justice an untradeable piece for the Braves future championship teams. Justice’s rookie card from the 1991 Donruss set became a popular pick up for collectors now looking ahead to Atlanta’s dynasty years of the 1990s.

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Two pitchers who also debuted in 1991 and had notable rookie cards were Brian Boehringer of the Houston Astros and Roger Salkeld of the Milwaukee Brewers. Boehringer was an excellent fielding catcher who was moved to the mound by Houston in 1991. In his rookie season, the sidewinding right-hander went 6-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 16 games started. While he didn’t have a long career, Boehringer’s low numbered rookie card appealed to collectors looking for obscure and cheap pickups from the set. Roger Salkeld also showed promise as a starter for Milwaukee, going 5-8 with a 4.27 ERA. Salkeld had a four pitch repertoire that kept hitters guessing, making his rookie card another interesting middle to lower tier investment from the class.

The 1991 Donruss set also featured rookie cards for Tom Glavine and John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves. Both pitchers would go on to have Hall of Fame careers and be integral cogs in Atlanta’s run of 14 division titles between 1991-2005. Glavine, an excellent control pitcher with a deadly changeup, went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA in his first full season in 1991. Meanwhile, Smoltz established himself as a solid setup man and spot starter, going 9-12 with a 3.56 ERA and 11 saves. While neither Glavine or Smoltz rookie cards were considered super high value investments yet, collectors took notice of their early success and stocked up on the cards looking ahead.

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One of the biggest stars of the 1991 rookie class was Chuck Knoblauch of the Minnesota Twins. The speedy second baseman batted .281 in his first season while leading the American League with 54 stolen bases. Knoblauch showed off impressive all-around skills with both his bat and glove that made him an instant impact player in Minnesota. His Donruss rookie card jumped in demand as fans and collectors recognized his future all-star potential. Knoblauch went on to star for the Twins and New York Yankees, winning four Gold Gloves and making two all-star teams over his career. His rookie card from 1991 Donruss remains one of the most iconic and valuable from the entire set to this day.

A few other notable rookies featured in the 1991 Donruss set included Alex Cole of the California Angels, Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers, and Steve Avery of the Atlanta Braves. Cole showed some hitting ability his rookie season with a .259 average, though he didn’t sustain success long term in the majors. Gonzalez, meanwhile, blasted 16 home runs and drove in 69 runs in his rookie campaign, foreshadowing his rise to two-time AL MVP honors later in the 1990s. And Avery, part of the famed Braves youth movement, won 15 games as a 21-year old rookie with a 3.95 ERA. While none possessed a true elite rookie card at the time, all three provided interesting longshot speculation for collectors.

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While 1991 was an important season as Donruss continued trying to compete with the Upper Deck juggernaut, the set is still fondly remembered today for featuring rookie cards of stars like Bonilla, Justice, Knoblauch, Glavine and Smoltz. Collectors who purchased packs or complete sets back then looking for their favorite players, and also picked up obscure or low numbered rookies as long term investments, reaped great rewards in subsequent decades. The 1991 Donruss baseball card set underscores both the fun of the era’s excitement, but also importance of recognizing future talent for astute collectors.

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