This series is called In The Cards, which would lead you to believe that the main stories of a particular season are reflected in the cardboard collectibles on display.
We have seen instances, however, where some important players are not included in team sets. On occasion, the omissions can be glaring. There can be a number of reasons for players not making the cut on the minor-league baseball card front. For example, the player just isn’t with the team yet … or they missed picture day due to injury. A lot of it can depend on what stage of the season the photographer shows up to snap pictures of the squad.
One case in point is this 28-card set of the 1994 Calgary Cannons from Fleer ProCards. It’s a nice, clean looking collection with clear and colourful posed photos of the pitchers and batters. The pinstripes on the back also match the pinstripes of the players on the front.
A few things are missing, though.
This particular year marked the arrival of one of the best players in franchise history. Alex Rodriguez, the first overall selection in the 1993 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, does not have a card in this set. It’s somewhat understandable, given the frequent-flyer miles the infielder racked up that season. The man who would eventually be nicknamed “A-Rod” spent half the year in Single-A with the Appleton Foxes. Rodriguez also played Double-A baseball with the Jacksonville Suns and made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners in July, making it into 17 games before he was sent to Triple-A to close out the campaign with the Cannons.
It was never a given that Rodriguez would come to the Stampede City, as Calgary Herald reporter Gyle Konotopetz observed in an April 20th article in 1994.
“Calgary fans have had the luxury of seeing gems such as Danny Tartabull, Edgar Martinez and Harold Reynolds, but they missed out on the best player to come through Seattle’s system in the past decade – Ken Griffey Jr. leapfrogged to the M’s from Double-A,” wrote Konotopetz.
“Now they could miss out on 18-year-old phenom Alex Rodriguez, a gifted shortstop touted as a future superstar.”
Crisis was averted for Cowtown baseball fans in early August when Rodriguez was demoted to Foothills Stadium for his Pacific Coast League (PCL) assignment. In 32 games with the Cannons, he posted a .311 batting average, six homers and 21 runs batted in (RBI).
Also missing from this set is Darren Bragg, a prospect from Connecticut who arrived with far less hype but ended up being the most valuable player (MVP) on the Cannons that year. The outfielder played 126 games for Calgary and was all over the PCL leader boards. Bragg finished fourth in batting average (.350), second in runs (112) and he was third in hits (175), total bases (271), and on-base percentage (.430). He also swatted 17 long balls, produced 85 RBI and stole 28 bases.
Slider specialist Jeff Nelson appeared in 53 games for Calgary between 1991 and 1994. The righthander, who went on to win four World Series titles with the New York Yankees, picked up eight PCL saves in his final season with the Cannons. He also put up a 2.84 earned run average (ERA) and 30 strikeouts in 18 games and 25.1 innings.
Those are three notable guys who are not in this set.
But what about the rest of the roster? Konotopetz dubbed them “ex-major leaguers, castoffs and prospects who didn’t pan out elsewhere.” Collectively, they put together a 71-72 record and attracted 297,981 fans to the ballpark.
Let’s get to know those guys a little better …
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 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 contact us with more information.