It’s not reflected in this set of
Line Drive Pre-Rookie Triple-A baseball cards, but 1991 was a special year for the Edmonton Trappers.
That was the season that the top affiliate for the California Angels received an unexpected visit from the hype machine himself, Fernando Valenzuela.
The lefthander from Etchohuaquila, Mexico set off a new wave of
Fernandomania when he suited up for the Trappers in late July and early August, inspiring thousands of baseball watchers to make their way to John Ducey Park to see what the 1981 National League (NL) Cy Young and Rookie of the Year award winner could do.
Valenzuela helped the Trap secure three of their 70 wins that season. Paired with 66 losses, Edmonton was an above .500 team that was in the running for the Pacific Coast League (PCL) Northern Division pennant all summer, ultimately falling behind their provincial rivals, the Calgary Cannons (who lost in the championship final to the Tucson Toros).
The famed hurler also helped boost attendance, but with the Trappers still playing out of antiquated John Ducey Park the team was limited in how many fans they could welcome to the ballpark. By year’s end 252,813 people went through the turnstiles, an average crowd of over 3,700 per game.
As for this particular set, it’s a clean looking edition of baseball cards with a simple white-border design and clear photos of the players actively warming up, taking batting practice and playing catch. The back of each card provides enough statistical and biographical information to satisfy what most readers would hope to discover about each member of the team.
Let’s take a closer look at some of those players:
Lurking in the bottom right corner of this photo is two-time World Series champion Chad Curtis. On the field, the Indiana-born player had a successful baseball career. He compiled 101 home runs and 212 stolen bases through 12 Major League Baseball (MLB) seasons. Curtis suited up in 115 games for the Trappers in 1991, registering nine round trippers, 81 runs, 61 RBI, a .316 batting average and a team-leading 46 stolen bases. Off the field, the 45th-round draft pick of the California Angels has proven to be a reprehensible human being. Curtis was convicted of sexually assaulting teen girls at a Michigan high school in 2013. He was released from prison in September of 2020, but has never admitted his guilt.
Lefty Kyle Abbott (top right) was a study in resiliency during his time with the Trappers. The 6-foot-4 moundsman – a first-round pick of the Angels in 1989 – joined Edmonton in 1990 and posted a team-worst earned run average (ERA) of 14.81 through 10.1 innings. He was sent to Double-A Midland as a result, but returned to the provincial capital in 1991 and flourished. Abbott put together a 14-10 record over 27 starts and 180.1 innings, with a 3.99 ERA and 120 strikeouts. The workhorse led the Trappers in most statistical pitching categories and made his MLB debut for the Angels that September. California traded Abbott and fellow PCL All-Star Ruben Amaro Jr. (top middle) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Von Hayes on Dec. 8th, but Abbott eventually returned to the Angels and made his last MLB appearance with them on Aug. 24th, 1996. Amaro Jr., meanwhile, played 203 games for the Trappers over two seasons. In 1991, the outfielder led the PCL in runs (95) and doubles (42). The Pennsylvania product also led the Trappers in batting average (.326), on-base percentage (.411), walks (63), and hits (154). Amaro Jr. suited up in 485 MLB games for California, Cleveland and Philadelphia over eight seasons before serving as the general manager of the Phillies between 2009 and 2015. That was followed by first base coach stints with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. In 2020, Amaro Jr. joined NBC Sports Philadelphia as a TV analyst covering the Phillies.
On a roster surrounded by players who had made it to the major leagues, or were about to, Dan Grunhard (middle right) was one of just four batters from the 1991 squad to never make it to The Show. The outfielder from Illinois toiled in the minor leagues for seven years. Of the 711 games he played, most of them (312) were at the Triple-A level, so Grunhard came achingly close to achieving his baseball dream. The 26th-round pick of the Angels in the 1985 MLB amateur entry draft spent two years in Edmonton and didn’t look out of place in his 226 games for the Trappers. He collected 15 homers, 103 RBI, 131 runs, 19 stolen bases and 226 hits during his 788 at bats for Edmonton. Alas, he was good, but not quite good enough for the majors. His playing career ended in 1992, but Grunhard came back to the game in 2011 as the hitting coach of the independent Joliet Slammers, a team he helped guide to a Frontier League championship title.
Floridian Joe Grahe (centre) spent parts of three seasons with Edmonton in the early 1990s. His busiest campaign in a Trapper uniform came in 1991, when he logged 94.1 innings for the team. The second rounder started 14 games for Edmonton that year and finished second on the club with nine wins. He also registered a 4.01 ERA and 55 Ks. At the big-league level, Grahe made his MLB debut against the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 4th, 1990 and recorded his first strikeout against famed slugger Jose Canseco. The 6-foot-1 right-hander pitched for the Angels, Colorado Rockies and Phillies, appearing in a total of 187 games over seven MLB seasons. He posted a respectable 22-30 record, as well as a 4.41 ERA during his 400-plus innings. But Grahe was most successful as a closer, picking up 45 saves, including 21 for California in 1992.
The MLB tenure of infielder Mark Wasinger (centre) was in the rearview mirror by the time he arrived in Edmonton in 1990. He had played 50 games – three for the San Diego Padres and the rest with the San Francisco Giants – in the majors. Those contests were a fraction of the 887 minor-league games he appeared in, but he did get a magical moment in the bigs. On May 9th, 1987, Wasinger picked up his first and only MLB home run off of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Bob Patterson. It was only Wasinger’s fifth major-league game and his first hit. He followed that up with three doubles that helped power the Giants to a 9-4 victory. Wasinger roomed with Patterson in the minors and served as an usher at the pitcher’s wedding. After he went yard in the first inning, the 17,609 fans at Candlestick Park coaxed Wasinger out of the dugout to greet him with a curtain call. “That was the first time that happened to me, ever,” he told the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. “You don’t get that many people in the stands in the minor leagues.” The California-born player suited up in 121 games for the Trappers at second base and third base between 1990 and 1992. Wasinger went on to manage Corpus Christi in the independent Texas-Louisiana League, before serving as a hitting coach for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. He was also a long-time scout for the San Diego Padres. Wasinger’s son, Daniel, was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018.
Southpaw Ed Vosberg (middle right) was a well-traveled and accomplished pitcher. Edmonton was just one of many stops in his baseball journey. And while his 0-3 record and 6.87 ERA during 38 innings with the Trappers in 1991 don’t speak to his achievements, a playing career that started in Single-A with the Reno Padres in 1983 and decades later came to an end in the Mexican League in 2007 gives some indication of his durability. The man from Tucson, Arizona is the only pitcher who has played in the Little League World Series, the College World Series and the MLB World Series. He has a World Series ring to show for his postseason work in 1997 with the Florida Marlins. Vosberg racked up frequent flyer miles in a 12-year MLB career that placed him in 266 games with the Marlins, Rangers, Phillies, Padres, Giants, Athletics, Expos and Diamondbacks. He was also a PCL regular who took the mound in 361 Triple-A games and he spent 1992 in the Italian League. After initially retiring in 2002, Vosberg resurfaced with the Tijuana Colts and Oaxaca Guerreros in 2007. “The last couple of years I have gotten the itch,” the 45-year-old was quoted as saying at the time. “Mentally it is such a grind. It is such a great life, but it is a grind. It is difficult being away from your family. I needed these years to get the love of the game back and get on the field again.”
We hope you enjoyed our latest trip down memory lane with this set of Alberta baseball cards. Let us know what you think about the players and cards in the comments below.
Major thanks, 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.