Thursday, November 13, 2014

1981 Donruss Rated Rookies: Ojeda, Bell, Bonilla

In 1981 there were 17 players receiving Rookie of the Year votes. Topps managed to get 9 of them into the 1981 set. All of them on multi-player "Future Stars" cards. Donruss only managed to include 2 players. Tim Raines and Mookie Wilson. Both of them got their own regular issue card. Had Donruss made multi-player rookie cards in 1981, they might have included more of these rookies. Donruss wouldn't make "Rated Rookie" cards until 1983. Here is what a multi-player Rated Rookie card from the inaugural Donruss set might have looked like.

Bob Ojeda was 6-2 in 10 starts for the Red Sox in the strike-shortened 1981 season. That was enough to finish 3rd in AL voting. He went onto have a solid 15 year MLB career. A career that was perhaps shortened by a tragic boating accident. After going 6-9 for the Dodgers in 1992, Ojeda was traded to the Indians. During spring training, his new teammate Tim Crews took Ojeda ans Steve Olin boating and crashed into a pier. Crews and Olin were killed. Ojeda survived but missed most of the season recovering from both the physical and emotional injuries. He was signed by the Yankees for the 1994 season but was released after pitching just 3 innings.

George Bell batted .233 in just 163 at bats in the 1981 season. Somehow that was enough to earn a couple ROY votes but not enough to remain on the Blue Jays' roster for the 1982 season. In 1982 he returned to the minors then was plagued by injuries and illness. It wasn't until 1984 that he became a regular in the Toronto line-up. In 1987 he was the AL MVP.  On this card I used the "Jorge" spelling of his name because that is what all the card manufacturers used in 1982. This despite the fact that his facsimile autograph on his 1982 Topps card is clearly spelled with a "G". In 1984 Donruss began spelling his name with a "G". Fleer followed suit in 1985. Topps finally used his preferred spelling in 1987. This is the same company that called Roberto Clemente "Bob" until 1970.

Juan Bonilla had a career year his rookie season. He hit .290 and with Ozzie Smith at shortstop, Bonilla turned 72 double plays, 2nd best in the league. He was released by the Padres just before the 1984 season and sat out the whole season. In 1985 he was signed by the Yankees and spent most of the season playin AAA ball. By the end of 1987 his playing career was over.


  1. The only reason Bell appeared in the majors at all in 1981 is that the Blue Jays drafted him from the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft. They would have to offer him back the Phils if they wanted to send him down to the minors.

  2. I think you put more effort into this custom than Donruss put into the entire 1981 set.