1994 Action Packed Minors
Wow, something I didn’t know about Mac Suzuki from BR’s Bullpen:
Mac Suzuki was expelled from high school in the 11th grade for fighting. Suzuki’s father contacted Don Nomura, owner of the Salinas Spurs, as Nomura had previously expressed an interest in Suzuki at a baseball clinic run by Tony Gwynn and Katsuya Nomura. Suzuki became the Spurs’ clubhouse boy. Among his tasks were concessions, batting practice pitching and janitorial work. Mac pitched one inning for Salinas in 1992.
Nomura sold Salinas, ending his ownership career, and signed Suzuki as the first of many star clients to begin his time as an agent. With the 17/18-year old Suzuki throwing 95 mph, he became a hot property for the team, now called the San Bernardino Spirit. He went 4-4 with 12 saves and a 3.68 ERA, striking out 87 and allowing 59 hits in 81 innings. He did walk 56 batters but was voted the 6th-best prospect in the California League by managers there.
I don’t remember hearing any of that when Suzuki was a hot prospect for the Mariners back in the day. I do remember the big hoopla about him possibly being the first Japanese-born pitcher to pitch in the majors since the 60s. It’s kind of hard to think in those terms, the pre-Ichiro days, but there was a lot of excitement around the idea. I lost interest in the game during the years when Suzuki struggled, and I didn’t know it had taken him until 1999 to finally stick for a bit, at the age of 24. And he was pretty awful, offering a combined 74 ERA+ that year. Ick. He lasted in the majors until 2002 with a career ERA+ of 86. He never lived up to that potential, sadly. Weird to think he was once ranked just behind ARod as Seattle’s top prospect.
As for the card itself, well, his name was “Makoto”, not “Makato”. I like the shot, but it’s ruined by the whole Action Packed gimmick, unfortunately. Alas, it was the only Mac Suzuki card I had.
1984 Topps Traded
Hahaha, check out that portrait photo. Is that the fakest smile you’ve ever seen or what? Still, this was one of my more sought-after cards later in my collecting “career”. I know Langston wasn’t overwhelming, but he was a pretty good pitcher who I think escaped mainstream attention until he jumped to the California Angels in 1990. Unfortunately, the back half of his career took care of him being much above league average, but I still think he was an asset to his teams.
When this card came out, he was coming off of a 1983 minor league season in which he went 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA and a…1.460 WHIP? Yikes. His strikeout numbers for that campaign aren’t available, but he K’ed 161 in 177 innings in 1982. So he wasn’t overwhelming in the minors. I’m curious as to what situation in Seattle necessitated his addition to the rotation in 1984, but he went 17-10 with a 3.40 ERA that year, good for a 118 ERA+. Not bad work for a rookie.
Salkeld was one of the illustrious 1990 Score Draft Picks, and one of the cooler ones, at that. I really had a feeling Salkeld was going to be a top of the rotation hurler. Unfortunately, I think he got injured somewhere in there and never quite lived up to his potential. One of the unfortunate victims of the days when pitchers were abused more readily.
I was ambivalent on this card. I liked Salkeld and the shot is cool, but it felt superfluous after the Score card, much like some of the other rookies. Still, worth a look.
I thought this guy was going to team with Ken Griffey Jr. to become some sort of outfield dynamic duo. This card certainly caught my attention at first because here he was covering second yet clearly marked as an outfielder. Combine that with the allure of 1989 Upper Deck High Numbers (which I really considered to be the cadillac of traded sets, already my favorite hobby staple) and I had to learn more about Pee Wee. I read up on him as quickly as I could and found out that he had decent pop for a little guy. Yep – perfect counterpoint for Griffey, and this image of the Seattle outfield was set in my mind. Of course, he never panned out, but we won’t worry about that.
I still think this is a cool card. I love this era of Mariners uniform so much that I used to have the yellow S hat. I don’t know what it is about the uniforms that speak to me, but they do. Combine it with the Spring Training blue jersey and that old school Diet Pepsi billboard in the back, and this is a nice time capsule of the late 80s.
This isn’t the optimal Roger Salkeld card, but I imagine most everyone knows that one – the 1990 Score, with his fresh young face. Man, I thought this guy was going to be something…as I recall, he had a wicked curveball…which might have led to arm problems later on, I’m not too sure on that count. But it seems like he had a couple of good years in 1989 and 1990, then started falling off. But good lord he threw 173 minor league innings in 1991 at age 20. Hmmm…think he could have suffered from some overuse?
The card itself is pretty funny. I don’t know what it was about 1992 minor leagues, but there are so many tongue pics like this. Maybe it was Jordan Fever in the air. Who knows.
Man, oh, man. The 1991 Leaf Gold Rookies were it for me. This, I thought, was the pinnacle of prospect collecting. Beautiful layout, limited (hah) release, strong choice of rookies – what else could you want? I dreamed of collecting the 91 set, but at the time some of those intimidating names made it almost undoable. I will certainly get to them in time, however.
The 1992 Leaf was even stronger visually, I feel. The box at the bottom was further simplified, fed by the gold border and diamonds at the top. Like many other stories, this card’s story is wrapped up in the time that I helped my father at his job in my teenage years. If I remember correctly, we stopped off at the latest card shop (the one that had replaced the coin shop downtown, on Route 11 near the car dealerships for anyone who knows Harrisonburg, VA. All-Star cards was mecca. It was the dream, and they knew all of us well enough to hold certain cards when they arrived.
1992 Leaf was one that got held for me – the guy knew I was obsessed with the 91 rookies, and so when I came in, he had a pile of the 92 gold rookies waiting for me. I didn’t have a lot of money on hand, but I knew I had to have the Boone card – he was certainly one of my favorites for the issue that year, as I’d followed him from his years in USC. I rushed off to work with my little prize in my hand.
Of course, we all know how it turned out for Boone and 90s rookies cards, but for awhile there I really felt like I had something. This is still the original card, one of a handful spared from those days. The other stories it could tell…
I’m covering Marquis Grissom’s 1990 Rookies issue on my other site
this morning, and it seemed fitting to look at one of the more obscure prospects from that set on this site today. Knackert was not the best prospect, but what he represents is a branching out. He had an okay if not stellar minor league reputation with the White Sox before getting picked up by the Mets as a Rule V draftee. I guess he failed to make the squad and the Mariners picked him up off waivers, deciding to give him a shot at staying on the roster that year, and what an abysmal year it was. I mean, the guy was 21, but he had a 61 ERA+. My branching-out prospecting brain, however, seized on his age rather than his ability and thought he had staying power. Yeah, he didn’t. He made it to the majors again in 1996, then he was done. I still had a lot to learn.
But what really brings me back on this card is that Mariners cap
. I loved that logo, for some reason. I guess it was the yellow on blue…it had such a classic 80s feel, yet I didn’t know what that even meant at the time. All I knew was that I had to have one, being a big uniform and cap sucker. I wore that thing with pride for a few years until it was too worn out to carry on, along with my two Blue Jays hats with that classic, awesome logo that made me a Jays fan for so many years. You know the one
I felt like I was an oddity for years, until I discovered entire sites
dedicated to the subject. And yet no sites dedicated to Mr. Knackert. But hey, he does have a facebook page, with a picture from his Red Sox year.
Rock on, Brent.