In The Cards: 1982 Edmonton Trappers


It was just their second year of existence and the Edmonton Trappers needed an encore that represented more than just a coming out party.

The 1981 season confirmed that the Trappers belonged in Alberta’s capital city. The follow-up campaign offered up the team’s first superstar player.

Outfielder Ron Kittle of Gary, Indiana gave fans a great reason to come to John Ducey Park. Kittle, who began his professional playing career with the Lethbridge Dodgers, delivered 50 home runs, 121 runs, 144 runs batted in (RBI) and a .345 batting average for the Trappers. He was an easy choice as the most-valuable player in the Pacific Coast League in 1982, and the outstanding Triple-A outing set the table for Kittle’s American League (AL) Rookie of the Year season in 1983.

While Kittle led the offence, the supporting cast around him included future Major League Baseball (MLB) players on the mound and around the horn.

The Trappers were still a losing team, but they made improvements on the field and at the turnstiles. They went 70-74 and welcomed 233,044 fans to the ballpark, good for an average attendance of more than 3,200 per game.

This 25-card set also gave collectors something to celebrate about the Chicago White Sox affiliate. The posed photos, centred in a white border with an easy-to-read font for the names, gave the cards a classic look on the front. The back of each card also had a simple but pleasant look that offered up enough statistical and biographical information to give fans some baseball trivia about each player. The only thing missing from each cardboard cutout was that classic Trapper logo that looked so sharp.

Let’s take a closer look and get to know some of Kittle’s teammates a bit better:

Infielder Steve Dillard (middle left) had a solid year for the Trappers in 1982. The Boston Red Sox draft pick, playing in his final season, put up 10 long balls, 68 RBI, while scoring 88 runs and batting .313 through 124 PCL games. Dillard played eight MLB seasons with the Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. He stayed on in baseball as a manager and hitting coach in the minor leagues. His son, Tim Dillard, was a reliever with the Milwaukee Brewers who gained a social media following by creating a number of comedic videos.
First baseman Chris Nyman (centre) actually quit pro ball in spring training of 1982, but was ultimately convinced to withdraw his resignation and play for the Trappers. “He dropped hints here and there but it came as a surprise,” Edmonton manager Gordie Lund told the Edmonton Journal. “He’s a big-league ball player. He knows that and he’s just pouting. But the only thing he can do is try and show the White Sox they’re wrong about him.” An embittered Nyman added: “I think I proved I can play in the big leagues but they wouldn’t give me a chance. They wouldn’t trade me or release me, so I have no other choice.” The Californian, who hit 16 homers and 90 RBI for the Trappers in 1981, turned his frustrations to opposing pitchers. Nyman had a brilliant year for Edmonton in 1982, scoring 96 runs and 92 RBI, while registering 14 home runs, 31 stolen bases and a .335 batting average in 118 games. His .994 fielding percentage was also tops among PCL first baseman. His scorching summer finally earned him his long-awaited callup to the White Sox. Nyman made his MLB debut on July 28th. He ended up playing a total of 49 games in The Show.
Third baseman Lorenzo Gray (top left) was another returning player from the inaugural Trapper team. He was a competent batter who squared up a team-leading 33 doubles and a .358 batting average. The well-rounded slugger also collected 16 homers, 97 runs, 79 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 124 games. Along the way, he put together a 40-game hitting streak. His strong play garnered the attention of the White Sox, who promoted him to the big club in 1982. Gray finished his playing career in 1986 with 58 MLB games under his belt, all of them with the White Sox.
Nardi Contreras (centre) graduated from the playing ranks to the coaching staff with the Edmonton Trappers. The Tampa, Florida native pitched in the minor leagues before cracking the White Sox lineup in 1980, when he got into eight games as a reliever and spent 13.2 innings on the mound. The righthander joined the Trappers the following season as a starting pitcher. Through 11 games and 48 innings for Edmonton, Contreras was 4-3 with 29 strikeouts and a 5.44 earned run average (ERA). He was the first pitcher to make a start for the Trappers and the first hurler to pick up a win for the franchise. That came on April 14, 1981 during a road start against the Portland Beavers which saw Edmonton triumph by a 12-5 score. Contreras took a coaching gig with the Trappers in 1982. He continued as a pitching coach in the minors before working in MLB as a skipper with the Seattle Mariners and the White Sox. From 2005-2012, Contreras was the minor league pitching coordinator with the New York Yankees.
Outfielder Rusty Kuntz (top middle) had over 100 games of MLB experience under his belt with the White Sox when he arrived in Edmonton. The Californian played 69 games for the Trappers – he hit seven homers, scored 35 runs, contributed 34 RBI and generated 50 walks. Kuntz, who has received attention due to his unique name, played a total of 277 MLB games and won a World Series title with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. But he really made his mark on baseball as a coach, having worked for the Mariners, Florida Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates and most recently with the Kansas City Royals. Ned Yost, the former manager of the Royals once referred to Kuntz as “the best first base coach in baseball.”
Pitcher Geoff Combe (centre) was the best bullpen arm for the Trappers. The righthander, who was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an undrafted free agent in 1974, logged 46 innings and 33 games on the bump. He went 3-2 with six saves and 34 Ks. His 2.93 ERA was the lowest on the club and it stood out on a pitching staff that had an average ERA of 5.86. Combe appeared in 18 games for the Reds in the early 1980s and his 1982 campaign was his last season of pro baseball – he left the Trappers for the Charleston Charlies, Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate, mid-season.

As always, thanks for looking through the cardboard collectibles with us! We invite you to leave a comment about the players and cards below.

The photos for this gallery are courtesy of the operator of the Twitter account @EDM_BASEBALLFAN. A tip of the cap to that Edmonton baseball booster for sharing pictures of his cards with us!

We are seeking to create 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 the cause, please contact us with more information and to make arrangements.


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