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How the Original Donruss Rated Rookies Turned Out

In 1984, Donruss released what some collectors consider one of the greatest baseball card sets of all time. In addition to 26 Diamond Kings—a subset of cards depicting a star player from every team—the 660-card set included 20 Rated Rookies, a new subset that highlighted a crop of promising young players selected by New York Daily News writer Bill Madden. The Rated Rookie would become a staple of the Donruss brand for years to come.

A few of the original Rated Rookies lived up to the hype, while others look silly in hindsight. Many of the 20 Rated Rookies that constitute cards 27-46 of the 1984 Donruss checklist fell somewhere in between. Here are their stories.

#27 Joel Skinner
Skinner broke into the majors in 1983 with the Chicago White Sox and appeared in 43 games in 1984, batting .213 with 3 RBIs in 80 at-bats. The San Diego native and son of two-time All-Star Bob Skinner hit 17 home runs during his nine-year major league career. Skinner is currently the bench coach for the Oakland A’s.

#28 Tommy Dunbar
The Texas Rangers selected Dunbar out of Middle Georgia College in the first round of the 1980 draft. The Graniteville, South Carolina native made his big league debut on September 7, 1983, but didn’t stick in the majors. Dunbar batted .231 with 3 home runs and 18 RBIs in his brief major league career before bouncing around the minors until 1991. He passed away in March while recovering from prostate cancer.

#29 Mike Stenhouse
The Montreal Expos gave Stenhouse a $32,000 signing bonus after making him the fourth pick of the 1980 amateur draft. The son of former major league pitcher Dave Stenhouse, Mike starred at Harvard, where he was a two-time All-Ivy Leaguer. He never lived up to expectations in Montreal and was dealt to Minnesota after the 1984 season. Stenhouse played one year with the Twins and one more with the Red Sox. Today, he is the executive director of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute in his native Rhode Island.

#30 Ron Darling
Who would’ve guessed that two of the first four Rated Rookies were Ivy League-educated? Darling was drafted ninth overall in 1981 out of Yale, where he double majored in French and Southeast Asian history. Darling went 136-116 in his 13-year major league career, was named an All-Star in 1985, and won 15 games for the 1986 World Series champion Mets. Today, Darling is a color commentator for the Mets and on national broadcasts for TBS.

#31 Dion James
The Sacramento native was a solid player during his 11 seasons with the Brewers, Braves, Indians, and Yankees, but his biggest claim to fame might be killing a bird with a batted ball during a 1987 game. The incident provided great fodder for one UPI writer, who reported, “The Atlanta Braves, a team not known for its knowledge of ornithology, say the bird Dion James killed with a fly ball was a dove and not a pigeon.” James was credited with a double on the play. Last month, the Yankees drafted one of James’s three sons.

#32 Tony Fernandez
Here’s one that Madden got right. The slick-fielding shortstop won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1986-1989 and collected more than 2,000 hits while batting .288 in his 17-year career. Fernandez was named to five All-Star teams, won a World Series with Toronto in 1993, and hit .327 in 150 postseason at-bats.

#33 Angel Salazar
Salazar batted .155 with only 4 walks and 38 strikeouts in 80 games for the Expos in 1984, but his reputation as a strong defensive shortstop convinced the Kansas City Royals to trade for him. In 1986, Salazar set a Royals record for most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop. He was out of the league by 1989.

#34 Kevin McReynolds
McReynolds starred at the University of Arkansas before the San Diego Padres made him the sixth pick of the 1981 draft. McReynolds was traded to the Mets before the 1987 season and had 27 home runs, 99 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases for New York in 1988, finishing third in the NL MVP voting.

#35 Dick Schofield
The third pick of the 1981 draft, Schofield hit three home runs in 54 at-bats after earning a late call-up at the end of the 1983 season. The shortstop would hit only four home runs in 400 at-bats in 1984, the first of four seasons in which he finished with fewer than 100 hits and at least 400 at-bats. Schofield is the son of Ducky Schofield, a 19-year major league veteran, and the uncle of Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth. He is currently the hitting coach for the Rookie League Tempe Angels.

#36 Brad Komminsk
Komminsk was the fourth overall pick in the 1979 draft by the Atlanta Braves and tore through the minor leagues so fast that Hank Aaron called him the best prospect he’d ever seen. That alone made Komminsk worthy of the Rated Rookie label, but his minor league success didn’t translate to the majors. Still, he likely always had a fan in Evelyn Rogala, the woman who won $100,000 as part of a radio promotion sponsored by Goody’s Headache Powder when Komminsk hit a grand slam in a predetermined inning of a 1984 game. “We won at bingo times, but nothing like this,” Rogala’s husband told the AP. In 1987, Komminsk was traded for fellow Rated Rookie, Dion James.

#37 Tim Teufel
Teufel finished fourth in the National American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1984 after hitting .262 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs. He won a World Series with the Mets in 1986, but was perhaps best known for his unique batting stance, the “Teufel Shuffle.” You can watch Batting Stance Guy’s Teufel impression at the end of this video. Today, Teufel manages the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.

#38 Doug Frobel
Frobel, an Ottawa native, hit 12 home runs for the Pirates in 1984, but batted only .203 and struck out in more than one-fourth of his plate appearances. His 20 career home runs rank him 20th among major league players born in Canada, 363 behind Larry Walker and 7 ahead of Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.

#39 Greg Gagne
Originally drafted by the Yankees in 1979, Gagne was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1982 and developed into one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. Gagne tied a major league record by hitting two inside the park home runs in the same game in 1986 and won two World Series titles in Minnesota before moving on to Kansas City and Los Angeles. He retired in 1997.

#40 Mike Fuentes
Fuentes won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top collegiate player at Florida State and was a second-round draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1981, but was one of the least accomplished major leaguers among the 1984 class of Rated Rookies. He appeared in nine games, but entered eight of those games as a pinch runner or pinch hitter.

#41 Joe Carter
Carter would justify his place in the Rated Rookie subset long before he hit a walk-off three-run homer off Mitch Williams to win the 1993 World Series. The former Wichita State star blossomed with the Cleveland Indians, leading the league in RBIs in 1986, and was later named to five All-Star Games with the Toronto Blue Jays. Carter finished his 16-year career with 396 home runs.

#42 Mike Brown
Brown was selected in the seventh round of the 1980 draft out of San Jose State and had a five-year career with the Angels and Pirates. He had a career-high 9 home runs and 53 RBIs in 1985.

#43 Mike Jeffcoat
Jeffcoat appeared in 255 games, most of them as a relief pitcher, during his 10-year career, but the former Louisiana Tech standout is in the record books for something he accomplished at the plate. In the ninth inning of a 15-1 win against the Milwaukee Brewers in 1991, Jeffcoat, then a member of the Rangers, became the first American League pitcher to get a hit since Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 and the first to record an RBI since the designated hitter rule was adopted in 1973. Today, Jeffcoat is the head baseball coach at Texas Wesleyan University. The Rams went 31-23 last season.

#44 Sid Fernandez
Fernandez, who wore No. 50 in honor of his native Hawaii’s distinction as the 50th state, was a fan favorite throughout his career. A two-time All-Star, “El Sid” finished with 114 wins in 15 seasons, most of them with the Mets.

#45 Brian Dayett
Dayett appeared in 218 games over five seasons after being drafted in the 16th round of the 1978 draft by the New York Yankees. He was out of the major leagues by 1987, but played three more seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. Dayett is currently in his seventh season as a hitting coach in the Rangers’ minor league system.

#46 Chris Smith
Smith was selected in the 11th round of the 1978 draft by the Rangers, broke into the majors with the Expos, and was traded to the Giants. Smith batted .328 with 1 home run and 11 RBI in 22 games with the Giants in 1983, but was released after the season and never played in the major leagues again.

Unrated Rookies

Madden’s selections weren’t perfect. There were a number of rookies in the 1984 set who weren’t rated but probably should have been, including Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry. Other rookie stars, including Dwight Gooden, Kirby Puckett, and Roger Clemens, were omitted from the 660-card set altogether.

Future Rated Rookies

Donruss introduced a flashier Rated Rookie logo, the one most collectors associate with the brand, in 1985, and used it through 1993. Rated Rookies were included in Donruss’s baseball sets until the company lost its MLB license in 2005. Today, the Rated Rookie label lives on in Panini Donruss’s sets of NFL and NBA cards.

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New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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