I don’t know why, but one of my all time favorite sets is the 1989 Topps flagship. It’s the usual 792 card set, but for an added twist, they through in some First Draft Pick cards. I loved these the most because I was a stats guy and because, thanks to the stats on the back I put together a great Micro League Baseball <link> team. One of the players I remember so well from that set was the man with the golden left arm <link>, Steve Avery.
Just look at those senior year stats! 13-0 with 1 save in 14 appearances. An ERA of 0.51, 196 strikeouts in 88.1 innings. No wonder the Braves thought they had the next Steve Carlton. I can’t remember many cards from the set, but I remember this one vividly. Maybe because at one point I had nearly 100 of them. You know, as an “investment”.
So he was chosen third overall behind Andy Benes and the Indian’s Mark Lewis. The Braves felt as though he was going to be the ace of that staff for years to come. He didn’t disappoint either, he moved through the minors with the greatest of ease, piling up strikeouts and wins in the process. By 1990, at the age of 20 he was in the majors to stay. After a rocky rookie campaign where he went 3-11, he came back in 1991 and went 18-8 and finished 6th in Cy Young voting that year.
He would go on to have two more very good seasons after that, at the age of 23 he already had 50 career victories under his belt. That’s when it all went down hill. After a fairly promising start to the 1994 season he had him first of many arm and shoulder issues. He was never able to get his velocity back and although he had seasons where he won 10 games or more, he was not the same pitcher.
Great things were expected from Steve Avery, but in the end the question of durability sprang up and took away the momentum of his career. He played for a total of 11 seasons with four reams (Braves, Red Sox, Reds and Tigers), finishing his career in 2003 at the age of 33. To this day he remains forever a fan favorite and as a member of the Holy Rotation of the Braves (Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux and Avery), he will always be remembered fondly.
For the most part his card value is fairly low being he was a proud member of the junk wax era, but still his autograph is going to go for more than the dollar bin. In fact right now, the average asking price for his autograph is between $5-$10. A mere pittance for a signed card that makes me smile when I see it.