Off the field, the Edmonton Trappers were a team caught in a rundown in 1990.
Owner Peter Pocklington sold the Triple-A franchise for $5 million in August to Staten Island businessman Mike Nicklous, who planned to move the team to Memphis, Tennessee in time for the next Pacific Coast League (PCL) season.
Despite his rush to set up shop south of the border, Nicklous saw his plans delayed at a September meeting of PCL directors when Calgary Cannons owner Russ Parker proposed a two-part motion calling for a routine investigation into Nicklous and his business operations, as well as a condition that the Trappers remain in the provincial capital for at least another season and stay permanently if the City of Edmonton pledged to build the franchise a new stadium to replace John Ducey Park.
“There’s nothing on my record or my business partners’ record that could stop this deal,” Nicklous told the Edmonton Journal at the time.
The approval of Parker’s motion didn’t stop the transaction but it did give fans of the ball club a one-year reprieve and some hope that the Trappers would stay put. It also fueled a “Save the Trappers” movement aiming to generate more than 2,500 season-ticket commitments for the 1991 season.
By October, Nicklous had seen enough and he backed out of the deal, frustrated by what he expected would be a quick relocation.
“I think you’ve got a great future for baseball. Get the city to deliver a good ball park, and you’ve got a home run. But you’ve got to have the park,” Nicklous told Journal writer Mark Spector.
“And if you lose the team – forget it. You’ll never get it back.”
The California Angels re-signed the Trappers as their top minor-league affiliate shortly after, but the words of Nicklous proved prophetic. Telus Field took the place of John Ducey Park in 1995, ushering in another nine years of PCL baseball for Edmontonians. But the stadium was not enough to prevent the ultimate sale of the team to U.S. interests. The Trappers moved to Texas in 2004 and that brand of baseball has never come back.
Getting back to the 1990 season and what happened on the field, the Trappers were unfazed by the backroom dealings of the club.
Manager Max Oliveras guided the squad to a 78-63 record and a Northern Division title, their first since Edmonton won it all in 1984. The Albuquerque Dukes proved too much for the Trappers in the championship final, sweeping the best-of-five series against an Edmonton team that couldn’t get its bats going. John Wetteland put an exclamation point on the series by pitching more than eight frames of three-hit ball and striking out seven batters during the title-clinching 2-0 victory in Edmonton.
At the turnstiles, the Trappers welcomed 229,307 fans that season, averaging over 3,250 spectators per home game.
With all that in mind, let’s get to know this team a bit better through this instalment of In The Cards. This 1990 ProCards set with a wood-plaque border and gold name plate for each player has its own stories to tell. Here are some of them:
Thanks for checking out our latest series of Alberta baseball cards. Let us know what you think about the players and cards in the comments below or on social media.
We’d like to express our appreciation, as well, to the operator of the Edmonton Baseball Fan Twitter account for sharing these baseball card images with us!
We are in the process of developing an online digital archive of Alberta baseball card sets with this 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.