In The Cards: 1993 Calgary Cannons


As far as rosters go, the 1993 edition of Calgary’s Triple-A squad was not the best that the Cannons had to offer the Stampede City.

Collectively, the Pacific Coast League (PCL) club went 68-72 and put in a middle-of-the-pack performance.

That said, there were some notable big leaguers and memorable minor leaguers on the team, which drew 278,140 fans to Foothills Stadium that year.

It’s also worth noting how sharp the Cannons look in those pinstripes and red-and-blue ball caps. And, despite all the posed photos in this set from Fleer ProCards, the pictures are crisp and the basic card design makes for a pleasant looking collectible. The back of each card includes old timey looking images of pitchers, catchers, and batters that give it a classic vibe, and there is plenty in the way of statistics and biographical information to get to know each player.

Let’s do just that in this edition of In The Cards:

The name Lance McCullers (bottom middle) may ring a bell with current fans of the Houston Astros. That’s because his son, Lance McCullers Jr., has recorded 800 strikeouts and won two World Series titles while pitching for the Astros over seven seasons. “It’s just amazing to see what he’s done and be able to share it with him,” McCullers Sr. said in a 2022 news article. “He’s had a great run with the Astros in the playoffs. I think every year that they’ve gone to the playoffs, he’s had tremendous success.” The elder McCullers was eager to pass all his pitching expertise along to his son and keep their baseball bond intact. For his part, McCullers Sr. pitched in 306 Major League Baseball (MLB) games, collecting a 28-31 record, 39 saves and 442 Ks through 526.1 innings with the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. His final season of professional baseball was with the Cannons in 1993. During that campaign, the 29-year-old righthander served as a reliever and a starter. The Florida product went 4-5 in 33 games, 10 of which were starts. He also amassed a save, 42 strikeouts and a 5.67 earned run average (ERA) in his 87.1 innings with the Cannons. To get to that final pro season, McCullers Sr. had to battle back from a severe injury. A blood clot was discovered in his throwing arm in 1990 and doctors urged him not to pitch again, cautioning that the clots could result in the amputation of a finger, or possibly his entire hand. He had surgery the following year and made his way back to the bigs with the Rangers before suiting up for Calgary. “This is a big second chance. It’s fun and I’ve learned a lot from it,” McCullers told Calgary Herald reporter Daryl Slade in May of 1993. “I look back on my career and there were things I could have done when I was younger, but I have no bad thoughts about the past … if I get the opportunity, I know I can still pitch effectively and I’d like to still pitch a few more years in the big leagues.” McCullers Sr. didn’t get those few more seasons in the majors, but his son did.
Lefty pitcher Mark Czarkowski (middle left) would have loved a few seasons of MLB action. The University of Hartford grad had a much harder road through the minors than McCullers did. A 52nd-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, 1,299th overall in the 1989 MLB Draft, rose through the ranks in the early 1990s and reached his highest level with the Cannons. “It was a huge accomplishment being on the Opening Day roster of a Triple-A team,” Czarkowski told the Sidearmnation podcast. “I remember a couple things … you get to the dugout and there’s this big, giant silver torpedo thing in there. I said, ‘What’s this?’ They said, ‘That’s a propane heater.’ I said, ‘What do you need that for?’ They said, ‘You’ll find out.'” Added Czarkowski: “So it was cold and then you can’t feel the ball because it’s so dry. There’s no humidity whatsoever, so it’s like a glass ball … and then the infield was like a parking lot, so every ground ball felt like it was picking up speed and the air is thin so a 300-foot fly ball goes 400 feet. Other than that, it was amazing.” The 6-foot-3 southpaw logged 36.2 innings in the PCL, going 1-4 with 11 Ks for the Cannons. Czarkowski went on to play independent league baseball until 1995 and then settled in Calgary and pursued a career in wealth management. He also dabbled in coaching with the Calgary Bandits and at Sidearmnation pitching camps. Czarkowski’s daughter, Jamie, is a world-class swimmer and his son, Bret, is an outfielder with the Victoria Golden Tide of the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC).
The Cannons appeared to have healthy competition for playing time behind the plate entering the 1993 campaign. Bert Heffernan (centre), who played 15 games for Calgary and eight with the Seattle Mariners in 1992, seemed to have the inside track but he moved on to the San Francisco Giants organization. Brian Deak (middle left) and Chris Howard (middle right) ended up splitting the catching duties. Deak hit .247 with 11 homers, 41 runs batted in (RBI), and 43 runs in 80 games with the Cannons. Howard produced the best pro season of his career with a .320 batting average, 55 RBI, 40 runs, 23 doubles and 106 hits in 94 games. Howard was a long-tenured member of the Cannons. He suited up in 348 games for Calgary between 1991 and 1994. The 41st-round draft pick also managed to crack the Seattle Mariners lineup for 22 games. He went on to coach baseball in Pennyslvania.
First baseman Greg Pirkl (bottom right) swung a heavy stick for the Cannons during his three years with the club. In 1993, the Californian finished tied for the team lead in home runs, with 21, and was second in the PCL with 94 RBI. Through 115 games, Pirkl batted .308 with 137 hits, 24 doubles, and 67 runs. In addition to getting in 281 career games with the Cannons, the second rounder played 43 games for the Mariners and two with the Boston Red Sox. He finished his pro career in Japan with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in 1997.
Outfielder Brian Turang (top middle) is another player with strong baseball bloodlines. His son, Brice, is a promising middle infielder with the Milwaukee Brewers. With the Cannons, Brian was a beast on the base paths, swiping 24 bags and scoring 84 runs in his 110 PCL games in 1993. He also proved to be a reliable hitter, posting a .324 batting average and a .383 on-base percentage, while adding 11 triples, eight long balls and 54 RBI to his stats sheets. The Long Beach, California native, who was drafted in the 51st round, returned to Calgary for 65 games in 1994. He played both second base and in the outfield that season and hit .343.The elder Turang’s 78 MLB games came during both his years in Calgary. He ended up playing 78 games for the Mariners and he managed to get one home run in the majors during that time – it came off of Jimmy Key at Yankee Stadium.
They called him “Mellow” and Puerto Rican Carmelo Martinez (bottom middle) brought more than MLB experience to the Cannons. Even though he hadn’t played in the minors in a decade, he understood that minor leaguers didn’t have a lot of money to spend. “These guys don’t have much. I know what it’s like. When I was a kid out of Puerto Rico, Jerry Morales used to take me to dinner and buy me shoes. Now it’s my turn,” Martinez told Calgary Herald reporter Gyle Konotopetz. “I’ve bought baseball shoes for some of the boys, and I pay for dinners.” The cousin of Edgar Martinez, who played in the outfield and at the corner infield positions, earned millions of dollars during his major league tenure, which included a six-year stretch with the San Diego Padres. “I don’t play for money no more,” he confessed to Konotopetz. “I’m just like the others guys. I may have a lot of money in the bank, but I only got $10 in my pocket.” In 1,003 MLB games, Martinez posted a .245 batting average, 108 home runs and 424 RBI. Mellow was nearing the end of his pro playing career with the Cannons. The member of the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame played 42 games for Calgary and went yard four times. He also produced 18 RBI and 21 runs before he was released. When he stopped taking hacks at the plate, Martinez joined the Chicago Cubs organization, where he worked as a hitting coach, field coordinator and manager in the minor leagues.
Blink and you might miss it. Outfielder Aubrey Waggoner (top left) might have been a member of the Calgary Cannons for a good time, but it wasn’t a long time. The career minor leaguer – who toiled at every level of the lower circuits for a decade – appeared in just 13 games for the Cannons. He was sent to Double-A Jacksonville when the Mariners demoted outfielder Lee Tinsley, who had a monster season for Calgary. Tinsley played in 111 games for the Cannons and led the squad in runs (96), stolen bases (34), total bases (227) and extra base hits (53). Waggoner, a fifth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1985, played 872 games as a pro, including 97 at the Triple-A level. The Californian was playing centre field when Rodney McCray, his teammate with the Vancouver Canadians, crashed through an outfield fence. McCray later criticized Waggoner for not communicating more clearly about how close he was to the wall.
Pitching coach Ross Grimsley (bottom left) would be an interesting guy to chat with over a beer. He pitched for 11 MLB seasons and was a 20-game winner for the Montreal Expos in 1978. The former first rounder was also involved in a high-profile lawsuit involving a fan at Fenway Park. The 1975 incident went to the courts after Grimsley responded to a heckler by throwing a ball into the bleachers. The ball passed through protective netting and injured a fan. That member of the crowd successfully sued Grimsley and his employer at the time, the Baltimore Orioles. The 6-foot-3 southpaw was a colourful character, whose nicknames included “Scuz” and “Crazy Eyes.” Grimsley did two tours with the Cannons as a pitching coach, in 1985-86 and from 1991 to 1993. He and manager Keith Bodie (top middle) were let go by the Mariners following the 1993 season. It wasn’t Grimsley’s last coaching gig, however. He spent another two decades working as a minor-league pitching coach, most of that time was with the San Francisco Giants organization.

That will do it for this edition of In The Cards. We hope you have enjoyed taking the trip down memory lane with just some of the stories of this team. We invite you to leave a comment about the players and cards below.

If you have a series you would like to share with us, email We continue to build our online database of baseball cards connected to baseball in our province. You can see all of that work here.

Until next time, happy collecting!


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