Donruss Triple Play Baseball Cards: A Brief History of the Groundbreaking Triple Play Insert Set

In 1991, Donruss introduced one of the most innovative baseball card inserts ever created – Triple Play. The concept was simple yet genius – include three cards of the same player in each pack or box of cards. Each card would feature the player at a different position on the field. For example, a Derek Jeter Triple Play insert would include a shortstop card, an outfield card, and a third base card, reflecting Jeter’s versatility on defense. This was a first for baseball cards and captured collectors’ imaginations. Over the years, Donruss would produce several series of Triple Play inserts, becoming one of the most iconic and sought-after specialty sets in the hobby.

The original 1991 Donruss Triple Play inserts debuted alongside the main Donruss baseball release. Packs and boxes had a chance of containing a Triple Play insert instead of the usual single card. Each insert featured three cropped photographs of a player, arranged vertically. The front of each card listed the player’s name and primary position, along with a fun factoid about playing that position. On the back, stats from that position were provided. For example, the back of Jeter’s shortstop card contained his 1990 shortstop fielding stats.


Collectors loved the innovative concept and the creative photography used. Seeing star players at unfamiliar positions was intriguing. The inserts also captured the versatility many ballplayers possessed. While most fans only associated Ozzie Smith with shortstop, his Triple Play insert reminded collectors he also spent time at third base and the outfield in his career. For young players just breaking in, the inserts offered a glimpse at their future potential if moved around the diamond.

The first series was a huge success and became one of the most sought-after subsets in the 1991 Donruss product. Inspired, Donruss continued producing new Triple Play inserts for several years. In 1992, they introduced multi-player “Team Triple Plays” showing three defensive alignments for the same club. The 1993 version featured horizontal card designs instead of vertical. Subsequent years saw additional visual tweaks to keep the concept feeling fresh.


By the mid-1990s, collectors had amassed sizable Triple Play collections. The inserts became a popular category for team and player sets. With their innovative photography and fun designs focused on versatility, the inserts captured the imagination of both kids and adults. For many, assembling a complete run of Triple Play inserts became a long-term project and a true testament to dedication in the hobby.

While production of Triple Plays wound down later in the decade as insert sets proliferated, the early runs remain hugely popular with vintage collectors today. The original 1991 Triple Plays are among the most iconic and valuable baseball cards ever produced. Top star rookies like Frank Thomas and Chuck Knoblauch can fetch hundreds of dollars per card in Near Mint condition. Even common players command premium prices due to the iconic set’s popularity.

For modern collectors just entering the hobby, tracking down a complete ’91 Donruss Triple Play set presents an exciting long-term collecting goal. The innovative concept of three cards per player in different defensive positions broke new ground and captured the essence of baseball. By focusing on versatility and creativity over traditional stats or action shots, the Triple Plays showed collectors and players alike in a unique new light. Their legacy lives on as one of the most beloved specialty subsets from the early 1990s boom period in baseball cards.


In summary, Donruss Triple Play inserts were a groundbreaking concept when introduced in 1991 that captured the imagination of collectors. By featuring players in uncommon defensive positions on three cards per insert, they showed versatility and presented players in a new light. The innovative photography and fun design led to the inserts becoming a hugely popular specialty subset. While production wound down by the late 90s, the early runs – especially 1991 – remain extremely iconic and valuable today. The Triple Plays broke new ground and their legacy continues to influence modern baseball card design and specialty sets. They were simply ahead of their time in terms of focusing on versatility and creativity over traditional card tropes.

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