In The Cards: 1986 Calgary Cannons

By JOE McFARLAND

What to do for an encore?

That was the question facing the Calgary Cannons following their very successful first season in the Pacific Coast League. They put together a 71-70 record, losing in the league semi-finals to the eventual champion Vancouver Canadians.

The Cannons were going to have a lot of new faces heading into 1986, starting with their manager. Bill Plummer was replacing Bobby Floyd.

The Cannons were also challenged by their parent club, the Seattle Mariners, who were a young team trying to find the right mix of players to build around. Star infielder Danny Tartabull, who clubbed 40 home runs in 1985, would become an everyday player in the bigs. Also gone would be Darnell Coles, Al Chambers, Kevin King and Bob Stoddard.

The Cannons started the season strong, finishing second in their division in the first half with a 36-35 record. But they struggled to a last place 30-42 mark in the second half, failing to qualify for the playoffs. They were once again strong at the gates, drawing 288,197 fans into Foothills Stadium, good enough for second in the PCL behind the league champion Las Vegas Stars.

As for this ProCards set, it was pretty standard fare – white borders with typewriter-esque print of the player names, city and position. The Cannons logo features prominently near the bottom right corner. The players are in their usual poses at Foothills Stadium and it appears some of the photos were taken just before a game as fans had started to stream in towards their seats. There is nothing really exciting about the backs of the cards, as they are white with black printing of the vital facts and statistics about each player. Of note, it appears the Calgary Police Service is a sponsor, as each of the cards includes the CPS logo as well as a safety message, such as “it only takes 20 seconds to shoplift – but it destroys years of trust.”

Cannons’ faithful were rewarded for their trust in the team in 1987, as the club made it all the way to the league championship. We will get into that at another time. Until then, here’s a look at the 1986 ProCards set for the Calgary Cannons in our latest In The Cards.

Mickey Brantley was Mr. Everything for the Cannons in 1986. He followed up a solid 74-game stint with the team a year earlier by batting .318 with 30 home runs, 92 runs batted in and 25 stolen bases on 106 games. It was by far his most productive season in professional baseball, and he was rewarded for it by being named a PCL all-star. He bounced between the Cannons and Mariners for a few more seasons before making stops with Milwaukee, Houston, Cincinnati and San Francisco. Brantley then spent time coaching in the Giants and Toronto Blue Jays organizations. He has since spent time watching his son, Michael, put together a solid 12-year MLB career with Cleveland and now Houston.
Greg Bartley was the Cannons’ workhorse coming out of the bullpen. Leading the team in appearances with 51, Bartley sported 5-3 record and a 5.48 ERA. The team seemingly had a “closer by committee” situation with eight pitchers registering saves, including Bartley with five. Behind the scenes though, Bartley was going through a major life transformation. A teammate of his with the Cannons and a few other teams in the Mariners’ system, Lee Guetterman, introduced him to the Bible. After years of abusing alcohol and drugs, Bartley “accepted Christ as Savior and was set free from the bandage of sin.” After retiring in 1987, Bartley became a pastor, teacher and baseball coach in Chattanooga.
Much like Brantley, John Moses could never really seem to catch on with the Mariners full-time. A 16th round pick in the 1980 MLB Draft by the M’s, Moses spent 11 professional seasons bouncing between levels, including parts of the 1985, 1986 and 1992 seasons with the Cannons. His most productive was in the team’s inaugural campaign, but he was effective in Calgary in 1986. He boasted a .324 batting average with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in just 39 games. Moses went on to coach at a few different levels, most recently with a team well-known to Calgary’s Mike Soroka: the Gwinnett Stripers.
A staple in many of the minor league sets are the unsung heroes known as the trainers. Dealing with the injuries not only for the young players making their way up, but also with the veterans sent down for rehabilitation assignments. Doug Merrifield was one of the best in the business. He started with the Chicago Cubs in 1971, moving to the Mariners system seven years later, where he stayed between 1985 and 1988. Strangely, it was his time with future Hall of Fame member Edgar Martinez that led to the Mariners eventually firing him. “He had tendinitis in his knee from playing on the turf in the Kingdome and one of the reasons they got rid of me is they said I couldn’t keep Martinez on the field,” Merrifield told the Kitsap Sun. He went on to work with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he received World Series rings in 1992 and 1993.
Speaking of Edgar, he made sure to thank his minor league managers for teaching him the “fundamentals of the game over the years.” One of those managers he mentioned by name was Bill Plummer, who he would meet in 1987. Plummer served as the bench boss for the Cannons between 1986 and 1988, taking them from a non-playoff team in his first year to the PCL championship the following season. Plummer has had a long and illustrious career in the game, including as a player with the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s. He was the backup catcher for Johnny Bench with the Big Red Machine, winning the World Series in 1975 and 1976. After retiring in 1978, Plummer began his coaching career, which continues to this day with the Redding Colt 45s. There is also a documentary on Plummer being produced, entitled “Plum: A Life In Baseball,” slated to be released this fall.
It isn’t just sports for some athletes. As they are first introduced to public events and charity work, some stick with it right through their careers. Such is the case with Dave Valle. Along with his wife Victoria, the 13-year MLB catcher started Esperanza International in 1995. The organization serves impoverished families in the Dominican Republic in a number of ways including education, health care and microloans for entrepreneurs. Valle split the 1985 season between the Cannons and Mariners, mainly because of injury woes thanks to a home plate collision with Bob Boone. In an effort to make himself stronger for the 1986 season, Valle played winter ball in the Dominican, which sparked his interest to help them out a decade later. As for his ’86 season, Valle spent most of it in Calgary. He hit .312 with 21 home runs and 72 RBIs in 105 games, which was his most productive season in his career and, aside from a two-game rehab assignment in 1989, solidified his spot as an everyday MLB catcher until 1996. Aside from his philanthropic work today, Valle is also an MLB Network analyst for the Mariners.

And with that, another edition of In The Cards is in the binder … errr … books. We hope you enjoyed flipping through these cardboard collectibles. We invite you to leave a comment about the cards or maybe your favourite memories of the players you see.

If you have a series you would like to share with us, email albertadugoutstories@gmail.com. We continue to build our online database of baseball cards connected to baseball in our province. You can see all of that work here.

Until next time, happy collecting!

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