Monday, March 28, 2011
1994 was a good year, until ...
Unless your name was Nancy Kerrigan, Kurt Cobain or O.J. Simpson, 1994 was going along quite nicely until the baseball strike.
I moved to a new city in 1994. I didn't know it at the time, but it was one of the smartest decisions I would make. After four years of frustration and upheaval, I began to experience stability in '94. I've lived in the same city since and what I know about my current life now began 17 years ago.
In the baseball world, the Dodgers were on the upswing. Their catcher and first basemen were the two most recent Rookies of the Year. And the right fielder was about to win the next one. The pitching staff was pretty good, even though they had just traded away someone named Pedro Martinez.
In Triple A resided touted prospects like Todd Hollandworth, Billy Ashley, Roger Cedeno and Ron Coomer.
At the time that the major league season came to a halt, the Dodgers were 58-56, but in first place in the National League West.
When baseball resumed, the Dodgers were never the same. They made the playoffs in 1995 and 1996 but weren't there for very long. They wouldn't return again until 2004.
Recently, LoCoDe from Chewing Liquorice (I have a hell of a time spelling that word), brought me back to those hopeful days of '94 -- pre-strike carnage -- with a package full of autographs. You see, he resides on the west coast of Canada, a place I've wanted to visit for a long time.
Back in '94 he was attending games at Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canadians. When the Albuquerque Dukes made a stop in Vancouver, he coaxed a few of the players into signing some cards.
And these were the results:
You don't remember Eddie Pye, but I do. In 1994, he hit .335 in 100 games for the Dukes. But he played in only 14 games in the majors.
I don't remember Rick Gorecki at all. He must have been something because they sure issued a lot of cards of the guy in the early '90s. He got into seven games in the majors.
Todd Williams is from Syracuse, which is an hour from me. He also landed on the Mitchell Report. He had his most success as a reliever with the Orioles.
In 1994, I would have loved to own an autographed card of Antonio Osuna. He was a big-time pitching prospect for L.A., and actually had a few good seasons as an often-used reliever for the Dodgers. One of my favorite cards in the package.
It's hard to see this autograph. Shiny cards are the enemy of autograph seekers. But I know it's there, and that's what's most important. ... Oh, by the way, this is Roger Cedeno. He was supposed to be amazing.
OK, now we're getting into the big time. Jose Offerman was supposed to be a contributor for the Dodgers for a long time. But apparently crazy got in the way (along with a throwing arm that scared the absolute crap out of me). Still, if you remember the time when these autographs were obtained, this is very, very, VERY cool.
More prospect-jo. Todd Hollandsworth was the Dodgers' fifth straight Rookie of the Year in 1996 and it was totally expected. I had heard about this guy coming up for the previous three years, and I didn't exactly pay attention to prospects all that much.
Hollandsworth never did match what he did in '96. If I remember correctly he had injury issues. And then he ended up on the Rockies, which is just unfortunate. I'll remember the good times, Todd.
But if you had to select just one Dodger prospect that you wanted an autograph of in 1994, it would be Billy Ashley. He was going to be better than anyone on the Dodgers.
My friend in Vancouver apparently knew this because not only did I get this '94 Donruss card, but I also received ...
... this '93 Bowman card autographed ...
... and this bad-ass 1993 Topps gold item. I absolutely love this card. Come back, Billy. We all know you can still get the job done.
I even received some signed cards of Rick Dempsey, who was the manager of the Dukes in 1994. That's very cool.
There were a few non-signed cards in the package, too.
There's the departed Pedro now. His portrait is now displayed in the Smithsonian. How great is that? One of my most favorite ballplayers of all-time.
This is one of those biggie cards that Upper Deck churned out in the late '90s. I love this card in regulation size, so it's pretty cool when it's all hopped up on cardboard, too.
The Dodgers of 1994 never got to show what they could do, and the strike likely robbed them of some momentum for future years. But it's awesome to get some autographed cards of the players that I followed so closely back then.
Thanks for the cards and the memories, LoCoDe.
And, for the record, I still miss the Expos. I heard they were having a pretty good 1994, too.