Card of the Day: 1990 Upper Deck Kevin Maas rookie
**Note: With the All-Star game taking place this week at Yankee Stadium, I will spend the next several days showcasing cards from my Yankee collection.
The Yankees have always produced legends. Ruth. Gehrig. Mantle. But for each one of those guys who have had their names, faces and resumes engraved in bronze and placed in Monument Park, there are dozens of other legends whose accomplishments, or lack thereof, are engrained in the minds of fans and particularly of baseball card collectors. In 1990, the hobby had two major budding superstars: Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas. But at Yankee Stadium there was another youngster with apparent Ruthian power trying to make a name for himself. That was Kevin Maas.
Just mention the name to collectors who were around in 1990 and you’ll hear a deep sigh. Before Sammy Sosa took top billing in the 1990 Upper Deck set, there was Maas, the supposed heir apparent to another Yankee legend, Don Mattingly. Maas burst onto the scene blasting 21 homers in just 79 games. And in the process he won the hearts of Yankee fans and card collectors alike. This card, his Upper Deck rookie, was the cream of the crop. It instantly became one of the hottest rookie cards in the hobby, right up there with the 1989 Upper Deck Griffey and 1990 Leaf Thomas. Maas’ popularity was on a ridiculous scale and it actually led to one of my dumbest decisions I ever made in this hobby, although it did lead to a cool story.
After the 1990 season, two young American League sluggers were scheduled to sign at a card show in San Jose, California. They were Frank Thomas and Kevin Maas. My friends and I planned a trip to that large regional show (it was only 10 miles away but we needed rides from our mothers) that year where both guys were signing. I was 10 years old, the youngest of the bunch by atleast two years, but none of us really had the means to afford both autographs so we were forced to chose: Thomas or Maas. We ALL chose Maas (in part because his brother, Jason, was signing with him for free), except one friend, who attended the show with his father and got both signatures. But that’s not the kicker.
While standing in the line for Maas (which appeared to be much longer than the one for Thomas) a discussion broke out about getting his autograph on a rookie card. Many people had baseballs in hand, and a few even had some of his ProCards minor league issues. But some had the coveted 1990 Upper Deck rookie in one hand and a sharpie in the other. At the time the consensus among the dozen or so people discussing this issue was that it was a dumb move. Any ink, including that put there by the player himself, would ruin the value of the card. This funny considering the times we are in now where signed rookie cards are the rage.
But again that’s not the funny story I was talking about. That actually took place later during the show.
After getting the legend’s signature, my friends and I gawked at our signed cards (I chose to have my less desirable 1990 Fleer rookie autographed) and then spent time visiting the dozens of dealer tables. About two hours into the show I needed to use the restroom, and no less than 10 seconds after being there, a man walked in and headed to the urinal next to me. It was Kevin Maas. Star struck and in disbelief, I did several double takes before he made it across the room. Was that the new Yankee star? The guy who is pictured on the baseball card in my back pocket? The man who almost won American League Rookie of Year? It was … and he was about to break Man Rule No. 1: No Talking In The Restroom. “Hey, kid,” he said, acknowledging my stares and further reaffirming my notion that it was him. And that was the extent of the interaction. I left without saying a word, and I did not asking him to sign anything because even then I knew it was not a good idea to have any interaction in the restroom other than a nod of the head to acknowledge someone’s presence. Maas’s career didn’t really amount to much. He went on to hit a total of 65 career home runs, 64 as a Yankee and 1 as a Twin, and was out of baseball by the late 90s.But still he’s a legend in the game of baseball, just in a different sense of the word.