In The Cards: ’88 Calgary Cannons


There was a buzz around the Stampede City in the summer of 1988.

The city was coming off a highly successful hosting of the Winter Olympic Games, and the Calgary Flames were set to get started on a National Hockey League (NHL) season that would ultimately end with the team claiming its first Stanley Cup championship.

The Calgary Cannons, meanwhile, were coming off their most triumphant season in franchise history. The Cannons went 84-57 in Pacific Coast League (PCL) play in 1987 and made it to the title final, a best-of-five series they lost to the Albuquerque Dukes.

Unfortunately, the club couldn’t replicate that on-field fortune in 1988. Calgary posted a losing season, going 68-74 on the Triple-A circuit. However, the success of the previous season made the Cannons a big draw. They set a club attendance record when 332,590 fans showed up at Foothills Stadium, good for an average crowd of over 4,600 boosters. Among PCL squads, only the Vancouver Canadians had more people show up to their home ballpark.

Baseball cards were booming in the late 1980s, as was evident in the fact that the affiliate of the Seattle Mariners had two sets devoted to their players. There was this black-bordered edition from CMC, and a gold-framed set produced by ProCards. This 25-card set offers a better design, both on the front and the back of each card, making it easier on the eyes of cardboard collectors.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the players who played for the Cannons that year:

Dennis Powell (middle left) has his name in the record books for the Cannons. The lefty logged more mound time in a Calgary uniform than any other pitcher, racking up 464.1 innings of work over five seasons for the PCL club. The Georgian also finished second in all-time strikeouts, with 287 Ks, and earned run average (with a minimum of 150 innings pitched) with a 4.19 ERA. His 25 victories put him in a tie for second place with Mike Campbell. Powell pitched for eight seasons in the majors, including six years with the Mariners, two with the Los Angeles Dodgers and one for the Milwaukee Brewers. His son, Chris Powell, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2015.
When the Cannons made the call down to the bullpen to close out a game in 1988, odds are batters would have to face Jay Baller (centre) or Mike Schooler (bottom right). Baller appeared in 66 games for Calgary that year. Just one of those games was a start. In that time, the Oregon product went 10-7 with a team-best 10 saves through 98.1 innings. He was a reliable reliever who generated 82 strikeouts while registering a 3.75 ERA. Schooler was also dependable, posting a 4-4 record with eight saves, 47 Ks and a 3.21 ERA in 33.2 frames. Both righthanders played Major League Baseball (MLB). Schooler was more successful as a closer at that level – he notched 98 saves for the Mariners between 1988 and 1992. Baller picked up half a dozen saves for the Chicago Cubs in the mid-1980s.
We all know Edgar Martinez (bottom left) achieved a few things during his playing days. His time with the Cannons made him a PCL Hall of Famer and his hitting prowess with the Seattle Mariners got him inducted at Cooperstown. But it was another third baseman who carried a big stick for Calgary in 1988. Dave Cochrane (centre) led the Cannons in homers that season when he clubbed 15 long balls. The Californian, who suited up in four seasons for the Cannons, played a total of 218 MLB games, most of them with the Mariners. In 1992, Cochrane became the first outfielder to make three errors and have two outfield assists in the same game.
Greg Briley, Brian Giles and Donell Nixon were trouble on the base paths, finishing one, two, three in stolen bases on the Cannons. Briley (middle left) had a .312 batting average, 27 stolen bases and 74 runs for Calgary in 1988. The North Carolina native also smacked 11 home runs, 29 doubles and 66 runs batted in (RBI) in 112 games. The first-round pick of the Mariners later became a hitting coach. One of his stops was with the Great Falls Voyagers of the Pioneer League … Giles (middle right) swiped 26 bags, just one less than Briley, and led the Cannons in runs by scoring 76 times. The middle infielder also hit 13 homers … Donell Nixon – the younger brother of fellow MLB player Otis Nixon – played just 40 games for the Cannons in 1988, his third year with Calgary, but he managed to sneak in 12 stolen bases during that stint. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Rod Scurry (top left) on June 23rd, as the player to be named later. Nixon (top middle) played 208 MLB games for the Mariners, Giants and Orioles … Scurry, meanwhile, was completing his final season as a professional baseball player. He had the best curveball in the PCL and earned a promotion to the Mariners after playing in Cowtown. The southpaw, who was a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1974, was arrested buying crack cocaine a day after his Dec. 21, 1988 release from the Mariners. Scurry was a key figure in the Pittsburgh drug trials and he died of a cocaine-related heart attack in 1992 at the age of 36.
We’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of Nelson Simmons (top left), although he’s likely one of the better hitters to ever slide on a Calgary jersey. The outfielder played three seasons for the Cannons and 1988 was his best offering. In 127 games and 459 at bats, the San Diego product belted 14 homers and 27 doubles while scoring 74 runs and manufacturing 73 RBI. He also batted .305 with a .382 on-base percentage. The second-round pick of the Detroit Tigers from the 1981 MLB Draft had a playing career that spanned two decades and included 100 MLB games with the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles.
Trainers are often the glue that holds a club room together. Doug Merrifield (middle left) was one of those glue guys. He had a love for baseball, but lacked the ability to excel at it as a player. That, however, didn’t keep Merrifield away from the game. He worked in the Chicago Cubs organization for most of the 1970s before joining on with the Mariners toward the end of the decade. Merrifield joined the Cannons in their inaugural season in 1985 and remained in Calgary through 1988. The Kitsap Hall of Famer later worked in the minors for the Toronto Blue Jays and earned two World Series rings from their championship titles in 1992 and 1993.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to check out our In The Cards stories, which we continue to add to every so often.

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And as always, if you have some favourite memories of the players in this or any other set we have highlighted, leave us a comment.


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