In The Cards: 1997 Calgary Cannons

By IAN WILSON

It seems like all minor league teams – if they stick around long enough – go through a pinstripes phase with their uniforms, and the Calgary Cannons were no exception.

The players and coaches do look sharp in these white uniforms, which take centre stage in this 30-card set from Best Cards, Inc. The photos mainly feature static poses, but they are in focus and the card design is adequate. While the lighting is not ideal – as some of the faces are obscured by ballcap shadows – and the cards themselves could be a tad thicker, these are minor complaints about a fairly decent Cowtown collectible.

Meanwhile, the back of each card includes sponsor logos, recent statistics, biographical information, and a better-than-average line or two about why we should be interested in this person.

Despite a losing season, the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (PCL) affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates went 60-78 under manager Trent Jewett, the Cannons welcomed 291,918 patrons to Foothills Stadium in 1997. Must have been those snazzy uniforms that kept the fans coming back for more!

Alright, without further ado, here are the cards:

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Righthander Joe Boever (bottom middle) appeared in 516 MLB games, compiling a 34-45 record, 49 saves and a 3.93 ERA. The Missouri product was excellent out of the bullpen for Calgary in 1996, going 12-1 with a 2.15 ERA and four saves. 1997 was his last professional season of pitching. He split his time with the Cannons, where he led the team in saves with eight, and their provincial rivals, the Edmonton Trappers.
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Hitting coach Ben Oglivie (top middle) played 16 major league seasons for the Red Sox, Tigers and Brewers, batting .273 over 1,754 games. He smacked 235 long balls and picked up 901 RBI in the bigs. Oglivie’s best season was 1980, when he led the American League (AL) with 41 homers, earning him a Silver Slugger award and an All-Star appearance.
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Manny Martinez (bottom middle) led the Cannons in runs (78) while batting .331, hitting 16 homers and swiping 17 bases. The Dominican slugger ended up playing 232 MLB games for the Expos, Pirates, Mariners and Phillies. The undrafted outfielder also played several seasons in the Mexican League.
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One of those interesting tidbits on the back of these cards pointed out a famous teammate of Barry Johnson (middle). The 6-foot-4 pitcher was a member of the 1994 Birmingham Barons, where he played with NBA superstar Michael Jordan. Like His Airness, Johnson never cracked an MLB roster. But the righthander did pitch well for the Cannons in 1997, going 5-2 with 51 Ks and a 4.13 ERA over 56.2 innings.
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New Yorker Kevin Polcovich (top middle) was the Ernie “Coach” Pantusso of the Cannons in 1996, leading the team in the hit-by-pitch category by being plunked 14 times. The shortstop only played 17 games for Calgary in 1997. He spent over half that season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he showed off his painful attraction to baseballs by generating two runs for the team during a July 27th game against the San Francisco Giants. During the 10-7 victory, Polcovich was beaned twice.
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Pitcher Jose Silva (middle right) had some ups and downs during his 20-year playing career. As a prospect with the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 1994, the Mexican-born Silva was involved in a car crash near his San Diego home that shattered his face and nearly killed him. He persevered and kept playing baseball – in 1996, the Jays traded Silva and five other players to the Pirates in exchange for Orlando Merced, Dan Plesac and Carlos Garcia. The righthander pitched well for the Cannons in 1997, going 5-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 54 Ks over 66 innings. At the major league level, Silva pitched over 400 frames during parts of seven different seasons. He struck out  298 batters and won 25 games. Silva closed out his pro playing career in the Mexican League.
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Turner Ward, the fellow on the left with the five o’clock shadow, had a productive 59-game stint with the Cannons, batting .340 with nine long balls and 44 RBI in 1997. The outfielder played 626 MLB games for the Pirates, Blue Jays, Brewers, Indians, Phillies and Diamondbacks. More recently, he made headlines as a hitting coach with the Dodgers and Reds, earning praise for his ability to get the most out of hard-hitting right fielder Yasiel Puig.
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First baseman Ron Wright (bottom) was very good for Calgary in 1997, punching 16 baseballs out of the park, driving in 63 runs and batting .304 during 91 PCL matchups that season. Five years later, Wright got his Moonlight Graham moment (see Field of Dreams) by appearing in just one MLB game. He went 0-for-3 in that game for the Mariners, striking out, grounding into a triple play and then wrapping things up by hitting into a double play. That was the extent of Wright’s career in the majors, but he did play professional baseball for a decade.

Thanks for strolling down memory lane with us, cardboard style. We encourage you to leave a comment about the players and cards below.

We are hoping to create an online digital archive of Alberta baseball card sets with our In The Cards series. If you have baseball cards you’d like to donate – or lend – to our cause, please email us at AlbertaDugoutStories@gmail.com with more information and to make arrangements.

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