The 7 Best Roger Clemens Rookie Cards – One For Each Of His Record 7 Cy Young Awards
Roger Clemens was, quite simply, one of the best pitchers to ever take to a major league mound.
If the Cy Young Award wasn’t named for Cy Young, you could argue that it should be named for Clemens, who has won the award more than any other pitcher. But Clemens is not in the Hall of Fame, despite his impressive resume, and controversy clouds his legacy.
Who is Roger Clemens? And what are those controversies that cloud his legacy? What are his best rookie and early career cards to chase? And are they worth seeking out?
Who is Roger Clemens?
Roger Clemens’s pitching record is one of the greatest in history. Over his 24-year major league career, he won a record 7 Cy Young Awards, 2 pitching triple crowns, and an MVP award. He was also an All-Star 11 times.
His overall record of 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA. Those 354 wins place him 9th all-time, one behind Greg Maddux. Clemens and Maddux are the only pitchers in the top 10 to debut after the end of World War II. His 4,672 career strikeouts rank third all-time. Clemens won his first Cy Young Award at age 23, and his final at age 41.
For his career, Clemens was worth 139.2 WAR. This total is good for the 8th best of all-time. The only pitchers ahead of him on the list are Walter Johnson and Cy Young, who retired in 1927 and 1911, respectively.
Roger Clemens and the Hall of Fame
With his track record on the field, Clemens election to the Hall of Fame should have been a sure thing. Unfortunately, Clemens was named in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) investigation.
While it’s often impossible to know who did what without a clear positive test, the evidence against Clemens is rather damning. In the court of public opinion, he’s long been one of the poster boys for PED use.
Where Clemens likely would have glided into the Hall of Fame on the 1st ballot with well over 90% of the vote if not for the controversy, association with PEDs has so far kept presumed users from being elected.
Instead, Clemens debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013 with 37.6% of the vote. He stayed on the ballot for the maximum 10 seasons peaking at 65.2% in his final year on the BBWAA ballot in 2022. It is now in the hands of the various veterans committees going forward if Clemens is to make the Hall of Fame.
Opinions on PED users and the Hall of Fame are slowly changing over time, and due to just how great on the field he has been, it is likely that Clemens and Barry Bonds become the first two presumed PED users to eventually get inducted.
Roger Clemens baseball cards
Roger Clemens has appeared on 17,835 baseball cards according to the Trading Card Database (TCDB.com). That includes two appearances in 1984 (see our list below for those two) and close to 200 already in 2023, sixteen years after his retirement.
The Top 7 Roger Clemens rookie cards
Roger Clemens rookie cards appeared in 1984 and 1985, just before what most people consider the start of the junk wax era. That means they’re not really considered “vintage”, but they are also approaching 40 years old.
They are fairly readily available but still hold significant value. And being of a time before our new ultra-modern era, there aren’t dozens of parallel versions available. It’s a fairly short list.
7. 1985 Donruss Roger Clemens #273
The 1985 Donruss Roger Clemens rookie card has the second-highest population on the list, with a total PSA population approaching 10,500. Of those, over 2,700 are in PSA 9 slabs.
Despite the black borders that can be unforgiving, these sell for only $30-40 in that condition. PSA has graded 580 PSA 10s, which sell for roughly $300-350.
For a rookie card that is approaching 40 years old of an all-time great pitcher, that’s surprisingly low. I think it’s a great looking card. If you’re looking for a low-cost Clemens rookie card for your collection, you can’t go wrong with this one.
6. 1985 Fleer Roger Clemens #155
The 1985 Fleer Roger Clemens rookie card has been graded over 7,200 times by PSA, with a bit over 1,800 PSA 9s. Expect to pay $55-70 for a copy in that condition.
Interestingly, PSA has only awarded 180 of these a PSA 10 grade. Because of the low population of PSA 10s, they sell for $1,100-$1,200 in that condition.
5. 1985 Topps Roger Clemens #181
The highest PSA population of the cards on our list, by a long shot, belongs to the flagship 1985 Topps. With over 31,700 copies graded, these are far from rare. With almost 8,500 PSA 9s, they’re not hard to find.
In a PSA 9 slab, these sell for $50-75. There are 362 PSA 10s, and in that condition, they’re going for $1,000 to $1,300.
4. 1985 Leaf Roger Clemens #99
Leaf is the Canadian version of Donruss, similar to what O-Pee-Chee for Topps. The 1985 Leaf cards were produced and graded in far lower quantities than their American counterpart. PSA has graded less than 20% as many of the Leaf version as the Donruss.
In a PSA 9 slab, the Leaf versions sell for between $85 and $125. Only 47 copies of the 1985 Leaf exist in PSA 10 slabs. The only recent sale was for over $2,500.
Topps whiffed on Clemens in the 1985 O-Pee-Chee set, making the Leaf card Clemens the only Canadian offering in 1985.
3. 1984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #22
Despite, err, rocketing through the minor leagues in a mere 18 games, Clemens did manage to appear on one minor league card. In 1984 TCMA produced a card of him as a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
PSA has graded only 612 copies of the card, with only 39 PSA 9s, and no PSA 10s. In a PSA 9 slab, these sell for $400-450.
As one of the toughest Clemens early career cards to find, this is a fun card for the Clemens super fan and may be a card with some upside if and when Clemens eventually makes the Hall of Fame.
2. 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens #U-27
Prior to the major brand rookie cards in 1985, Clemens appeared in the 1984 Fleer Update set. The small boxed set, which was released via hobby outlets, also contains the first major league cards of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett and 1980s phenom Dwight Gooden.
Technically, at least in the terminology of the day, this was an Extended Rookie Card or XRC. Today, it’s recognized as Clemens’s first big league card, and demand is strong.
The card has been graded almost 6,400 times, with over 2,700 PSA 9s and over 590 PSA 10s. Despite this, it sells readily for $275-300 in a PSA 9 slab, and for between $1,800 and $2,300 in a PSA 10.
1. 1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens #181
1985 was the second year that Topps released Tiffany versions of their flagship set. The 1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens gets the top spot on our list due to the premium nature of the card, the “low but not impossible” PSA population, and the strong price point that the card sells at. A total of 664 of the 1,664 copies graded by PSA are in PSA 9 slabs.
In that condition, they sell for $500-700. As with the rest of the Top 3 on this list, this premium Clemens RC offering likely has some upside upon his eventual Hall of Fame induction.
Only 48 PSA 10s exist of the Topps Tiffany Clemens rookie card. They don’t come available very often but expect to pay $11,000-13,000 for one if you can find it.
The 7 Best Roger Clemens Rookie Cards: PSA populations & recent comps
|Card||Total PSA Pop||Recent Sale Pop||Recent Sale Price|
|1985 Donruss Roger Clemens #273||10,483||PSA 9 = 2,746||PSA 9 = $30-40|
|1985 Fleer Roger Clemens #155||7,259||PSA 9 = 1,820||PSA 9 = $55-70|
|1985 Topps Roger Clemens #181||31,711||PSA 9 = 8,497||PSA 9 = $50-75|
|1985 Leaf Roger Clemens #99||1,841||PSA 9 = 413||PSA 9 = $85-125|
|1984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #22||612||PSA 9 = 39||PSA 9 = $400-450|
|1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens #U-27||6,384||PSA 9 = 2,759||PSA 9 = $275-300|
|1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens #181||1,664||PSA 9 = 664||PSA 9 = $500-700|
Final thoughts on Roger Clemens’s best rookie cards
Roger Clemens is one of the greatest, but also one of the most controversial pitchers in recent history, and arguably of all time. His achievements on the field put him in G.O.A.T conversations among pitchers, but the connection to PEDs has left him on the outside looking in when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
Still, his rookie and other early career cards hold significant value and could potentially see some increase when and if his Hall of Fame candidacy finally comes to fruition.
What is your favorite Roger Clemens card? Do you think he should be in the Hall of Fame? Tell us about it at card_lines on Twitter.
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