The year was 2003. A young, rising star named Dontrelle Willis was becoming one of the game’s brightest, charming stars. With a pitching style so funky and a smile that could light up any room, Willis was taking the sport and hobby by storm. His best rookie resided in the first pack-issued Bowman Draft set released the Fall before.
The set had a different feel than renditions released in years past. It was a Bowman product, but in each pack were a pair of Chrome cards that comprised a separate set. And within that set were a dozen or so Chrome cards that were autographed.
In the eight years since the sets release, Willis’ career has tanked, and the autographs featured in the set have yielded almost nothing noteworthy. Joe Saunders is probably the best, followed by a pair of guys who never really succeeded, Royce Ring and Khalil Greene.
But it is what resides within the basic Chrome set that is remarkable. In addition to the Willis — which now is relatively worthless — collectors can find notable rookies of 2009 American League Cy Young Award Winner Zack Greinke, 2010 National League Cy Young contender Josh Johnson, 2010 National League Most Valuable Player candidate Joey Votto and 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player Cole Hamels.
Also in this set are true rookies of the following solid Major Leaguers: Matt Cain, Corey Hart, Shin Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Denard Span, Jeff Francoeur, Jhonny Peralta, Jonathan Broxton, James Loney, Joe Blanton, BJ Upton, Jorge De La Rosa, Fred Lewis and Delwyn Young.
That’s a hell of a checklist for a 175 card set.
I recently purchased a set on eBay for a relatively low price of $51. I missed one a week earlier at $38. The set price is pretty affordable considering that the Joey Votto rookies have been selling consistently from $20-$30 in the last month and a half, and other key singles have sold in the $5-$15 range in the past.
I’ve broken down the set and removed the true rookie cards for my collection. But before I put them away, I’ve scanned them all and uploaded them to Photobucket. Check out the 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft rookie card album HERE.