In The Cards: 1987 Calgary Cannons

By IAN WILSON

It was one of the finest seasons the Calgary Cannons experienced in their 18-year history.

They turned in a franchise-best record of 84 wins and 57 losses on their way to first place in the Northern Division and an appearance in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) championship.

But sadly, it wasn’t enough.

The Cannons were unable to muster their best play during the finals and lost the best-of-five series to the underdog Albuquerque Dukes, who won three straight games after dropping the opener.

“I can’t believe we lost,” a stunned Calgary manager Bill Plummer said following the last game of the series, which was witnessed by 8,156 fans at Sports Stadium in New Mexico on Sept. 11, 1987.

“As far as I’m concerned, these guys are still winners. I told them to hold their heads high.”

Catcher Jerry Narron was also stung by the upset.

“We couldn’t have played any worse if we tried … it was just plain bad baseball. You name it, we did it,” Narron told Calgary Herald reporter Gyle Konotopetz.

Despite the disappointment, it was still a successful campaign for the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

Calgary led the PCL in several offensive categories, including team batting average (.287), runs (837), hits (1,380), total bases (2,095), home runs (120), runs batted in (758), slugging average (.435), on-base percentage (.374) and fewest strikeouts (649).

They welcomed 304,897 fans to Foothills Stadium, for an average crowd of 4,325 baseball watchers per home game. That marked the start of a five-year stretch where the Cannons surpassed the 300,000 mark in attendance.

As for the baseball cards pictured here, they are very similar to the 1986 team set, which was also produced by ProCards. It’s a simple, white-border design with a red-line frame of the photos on the front. The pictures are “meh” but at least they are in focus. The big design differences from the previous year are the addition of the city name in all caps at the top, and the placement of the Cannons logo on the left, rather than the right side of the card.

The card backs include basic biographical data and stats. The Calgary Police Service (CPS) is back as a partner. Accompanying the CPS logo are a number of safety messages like this: “Don’t vandalize public telephones – you may need them in an emergency,” and “Don’t hitchhike – you may be thumbing your life away.” Wise words that have stood the test of time.

Moving on, let’s take a closer look at the Calgary roster …

The big name here, of course, is Edgar Martinez (top left) who became the first Calgary Cannon player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But in 1987, outfielder Dave Hengel (bottom right) was perhaps a more fearsome force at the dish. The Californian led the PCL in home runs (23) and RBI (103), while scoring 80 runs, smacking 25 doubles and batting .295 through 117 games. That came on the heels of a 1986 Triple-A season that saw him produce 27 long balls and 94 RBI for the Cannons. A third-round pick of the Mariners in 1983, Hengel played 298 games for the Cannons between 1985 and 1988. He ended up suiting up in 69 Major League Baseball (MLB) contests, most of them for Seattle. His minor-league success never quite translated in the majors, where he batted .186 with four homers and 18 RBI. After he made his last appearance in The Show on June 27, 1989 with Cleveland, Hengel went to Japan, where he played for the Lotte Orions.
Jim Weaver (top right) turned in his best professional season with the Cannons in 1987 and he proved to be a key contributor to the ball club. The fleet-footed outfielder led the team in triples, with seven, and finished the year with the second most stolen bases (31) on the squad. In addition, he clubbed 17 long balls, scored 95 runs, produced 91 RBI and batted .280. The New Yorker split 31 MLB games between the Mariners, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants from 1985 to 1989. He never managed a homer in the big leagues, but he did collect five hits (four of them doubles), six runs, two RBI and a pair of stolen bases. The 35th overall selection of the Minnesota Twins in the 1980 amateur entry draft returned to the Cannons for his final season playing professional baseball in 1990. Weaver suited up in 120 games for Calgary that year.
Mike Campbell (centre) was the ace of Calgary’s rotation, going 15-2 with a 2.66 earned run average (ERA) and 130 strikeouts in 162.2 innings pitched. His 15 victories and .882 winning percentage were tops in the PCL and they helped him claim the league’s most valuable player (MVP) award. Baseball America also honoured Campbell and Hengel by naming the two to their Triple-A All-Star Team. The right-handed pitcher nicknamed “Soupy” was expected to do big things in the majors, but he only managed to appear in 51 MLB games, registering a 12-19 record and a 5.87 ERA. The first-rounder was a part of a blockbuster trade on July 31, 1989 when the Mariners dealt him and Mark Langston to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson. Injuries ultimately caught up with Campbell, who took the mound in Japan and independent baseball before hanging up his cleats.
Right-hander Terry Taylor (bottom middle) was another workhorse for the Cannons. He threw 138 innings and made 25 appearances for the squad in 1987, his first Triple-A season. The Florida native compiled a 10-3 record, 3.65 ERA and 107 Ks that year. Taylor played three more seasons with the Cannons and mixed in his only MLB stint during a call-up from Cowtown. All five of his appearances with the Mariners were starts in 1988, when Taylor went 0-1 with a 6.26 ERA and nine strikeouts. His last pro campaign came in 1991, when he took the bump for the Double-A Memphis Chicks of the Southern League.
Otis Nixon and his little brother, Donell (top left), shared a few family traits. They both knew how to patrol an outfield and they could both steal bases with ease. Donell led the Cannons and the PCL in swipes in 1987, when he stole 46 bags. The North Carolina product had a great year, batting .323 with 52 RBI and 72 runs in 82 games. He didn’t experience the same success that Otis did in the majors, but Donell ended up playing 208 MLB games over four years for the Mariners, San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles. In that time, he stole 47 bases, scored 56 runs and batted a respectable .275. He spent his final three years in the minors in Cleveland’s organization.
Outfielder Dave Gallagher (bottom left) quietly had a solid PCL campaign with the Cannons in 1987, his only season in Calgary. The Trenton, New Jersey native batted .306 with 27 doubles, 45 runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 75 games. He was later released by the Mariners and found success in MLB with several teams. Gallagher suited up for seven different major-league clubs over 11 seasons. The first-round pick ended up playing 794 games in the bigs and batted .271 in that time. After he retired, he opened the Dave Gallagher Baseball Academy.

Thanks for looking over this set with us. We encourage you to leave a comment about the players and cards below.

We are currently developing 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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