Thursday, May 7, 2015

Oil Can & The Bird - My Favorite Minor League Team Set

I'm one of those collectors that loves a good minor league team set.  Something about the obscure team names and uniforms, low quality photography, and seeing the stars before they were stars just works for me.  I've picked up a few Red Sox sets in recent months, but one of them stands out above the rest as my personal favorite.

That would be the 1983 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox set.  The PawSox have been the AAA affiliate of the Red Sox for longer than I've been alive.  Pawtucket, RI is not far from where I live, and since there aren't any major professional teams based out of Rhode Island the PawSox are about the biggest thing my little state has to offer in terms of professional sports (along with the Providence Bruins).

This is the card that led me to picking up the team set.  I've always gotten a kick out of Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, but somehow the fact that this card exists escaped me all of these years until just a couple of months ago.  How could I have missed this?  The tall, Pittsburgh-Pirate-style hat, mesh uniform, and low quality playing field just scream '80s minor leagues.  I knew when I stumbled upon it that I just had to have a copy, but they're a little tougher to track down than you'd imagine.  In the end I purchased a team set just to get one, and I'm really glad I decided to pick up the set instead of just a Boyd single.

Sets like this are a great place to get cards of obscure players, like Dennis Burtt here.  While it wasn't with Boston, Dennis did appear in 8 MLB games in the mid-'80s (with the Twins), however to my knowledge there was never an officially licensed MLB trading card produced of Burtt.

Your 1986 World Series Game 2 winner!

Here's another obscure one.  Brian Denman appeared in a total of 9 MLB games, all of them in 1982 with the Red Sox.  Again, I don't believe he has any official MLB-licensed cards.

They must have run out of the nicer jackets with the logo on them by the time they passed out a uniform to Jim Dorsey.

Here's the other card I hinted at in the post title, this one I did not know about when I picked up the team set.  What a pleasant surprise to land a new Mark Fidrych card courtesy of this set!  This is the point in his career where the Tigers had let him go and he had signed on with Boston.  He was unaware that he was suffering from a torn rotator cuff, and by the time it was discovered the arm was done for and he never pitched in the Majors again (his last MLB game was with the Tigers in 1980).  Cool card nonetheless!

Here's a look at the back.  Not very exciting, so I won't bother showing you any others.

Love these obscure cards!  14 total games at the MLB level in 1980 and that's it for Keith here.  He actually did make it onto one of those multi-player rookie cards in the '81 Topps set.

Best mustache/scariest eyebrows award goes to Bill Moloney.

Steve Shields never cracked the Boston Red Sox roster, but he did appear in just over 100 MLB games throughout the '80s with the Braves, Royals, Mariners, Yankees and Twins.

Roger LaFrancois played 8 total games with the Red Sox in 1982.  I found out while typing up this post that he was born in Norwich, CT, which is just about 20 miles or so from where I grew up.

Probably the most obscure player out of everyone in the set who does have MLB experience.  John Lickert got into a single game, for a single inning, as a defensive replacement.  He never got an at-bat but he did at least have a ball hit to him and got a single put out on the field.  Hey, at least he can say he made it!

Marty Barrett's is the only card from this set that I could remember seeing previously, before I stumbled across the Oil Can Boyd and then the complete set.  Not sure whose hat is on the ground there in front of Marty.

Juan Bustabad was a first-round pick in the 1980 draft.  Despite playing in over 1,000 minor league games through 1989, he never made an MLB roster.

Mike Davis gets two awards, most confused player in the set and player with most invisible forearms.

Dave Koza is probably best remembered for ending the longest game in baseball history.

Gus Burgess was ranked fourth out of Red Sox prospects in 1983 according to Baseball America.  Never made the bigs though.

7 plate appearances with the Boston Red Sox in 1983 sums up Lee Graham's career.

Random, obscure fact!  Chico Walker is the uncle of Boston Celtics fan-favorite Antoine Walker.  Certainly never knew that before.  In fact, I never knew Chico Walker existed before.

Tony Torchia was actually drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the early '60s.  Though he never played with the team, he logged a ton of time in the minors as a player, coach and manager; well over two decades to be more specific!

Mike Roarke was the pitching coach for Pawtucket in the early '80s.  He played minor league ball himself in the '50s, and finally cracked the Tigers Major League roster in the early '60s as a second string catcher for a few years.

Well, that's a wrap.  Not for everyone I'm sure, but I'm really glad I was able to track down one of these sets for my Red Sox collection.  Questionable uniforms aside, it's awesome to have cards of Oil Can Boyd and Mark Fidrych's time in the minors.  All of the obscure players who saw just a few games of action are the icing on the cake.  I think I'm going to have a hard time finding a minor league team set I enjoy more than this one...


Tim B. said...

That set is definitely 'classic '80's'! Great find!

Mark Hoyle said...

Very cool set. I will definitely have to get one of these. I went to Fidrych's first game that he pitched for the Pawsox. It was a crazy scene that night.

Metallattorney said...

It would have been fun to see Fidrych play for Boston. Man those uniforms are hideous. They just scream Little League to me.

Nick said...

It's hard to put into words just how much I love that Fidrych card. Awesome team set.

Jason Presley said...

These are the kinds of designs Topps should be using in their Heritage Minors sets.

Casey said...

The Barrett card is obviously my favorite but man, what a tremendous set. I would kill for one of those jerseys! Nice pickup!

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