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Friday, October 21, 2011

Cards from Vermont: Home Plate Collision

Promoted to AA Orlando in 1994, Catcher Brad Erdman didn't even get an at bat, a home plate collision in his first game saw to that, The Orlando Sentinel wrote.

He worked his way back to Orlando by August 1995. But, in his sixth professional season, Erdman was also a year older, something he was all too aware of.

"I'm a fossil," Erdman told The Sentinel, comparing himself to the younger players on the AA roster. ''I take it as a rehab stint down here and not a demotion. They (Chicago) have stuck their neck out for me and kept me around. I would like to stay in the Cubs' organization."

Erdman's "rehab stint" at Orlando went 14 games before the season was out. He got just four hits in 39 at bats. He did make AAA Iowa in 1996, but hit little better, just .175 in 57 games. He never made the majors.

Erdman made the 1990 ProCards set as a member of the short-season Geneva Cubs. I say ProCards, because, while the design is the same as the high-numbered CMC cards, Erdman did not make the main CMC set. No short-season leagues did.

Instead, Erdman appeared in the team set produced by ProCards for Geneva. The team set cards are less shiny then the cards that appeared in the CMC packs.

They also have no smaller number on the back, the CMC set number, and have a sponsor. The Geneva Cubs set sponsor was Quinn's Cards, of Sodus Point, NY.

Since Erdman is not an official member of the CMC set, I obtained him on a recent trip to Vermont. The card came in a grab bag of cards, along with a Geneva teammate. I'll get to the teammate sometime in the near future.

Elsewhere in this stretch of cards were four players who did find their way into the mainCMC set: David Justice, Derek Bell, Willie Greene and Chip Hale. Only Bell has yet to be featured here.
The Justice card is the 1992 Upper Deck team checklist. "Welcome to the Chop Shop" the scoreboard reads, with waiving fans and a guy with sunglasses and a mustache in the background.

Maybe the guy with sunglasses and the mustache was law enforcement breaking up the chop shop?

Whoever the guy with the sunglasses is, it turns out, the identities of the man and the boy next to him are known.

Bo over at Baseball Cards Come to Life! interviewed the artist in July 2010. The man is the artist, Vernon Wells Jr., the boy is his son, current major league baseball player Vernon Wells, III. Check out Bo's post: Artist Vernon Wells Jr.'s favorite card.

CMC set members in the 1992 Upper Deck Braves checklist: Steve Avery, Marvin Freeman, Brian R. Hunter, Justice and Kent Mercker. Justice was featured here in April.

Derek Bell made the CMC set as a member of the Syracuse Chiefs. He first made the majors in 1991. In 1993, he was in his third of 11 total seasons in the bigs.

His 1993 Pinnacle card back notes he won a Blue Jays starting job in spring '92, and was an early contender for the Rookie of the Year. But he lost 29 games early in the year, after getting hit by a pitch, breaking his left hand.

Willie Greene made the 1993 Pinnacle set as a Rookie Prospect, three seasons after he appeared in the CMC set as a member of the Augusta Pirates. He got into 29 games in 1992, but didn't get regular playing time until 1996. Greene was featured here in August.

Pinnacle notes Greene started 1992 still in single-A, at Cedar Rapids, but made the Reds as a September call-up. Pinnacle wrote Greene was projected to be on the Reds roster for 1993. Greene, though, only got into 15 games that year.

Chip Hale returned to the majors in 1993 after two full seasons away. He debuted in 1989, getting 28 games with the Twins. In 1990, he got just one. Hale got into 69 games in 1993. He hit safely in 17 of his final 18, Topps notes.

Hale was also featured here in August. Hale served as the Mets third base coach for 2011.

But this card isn't just Hale's. It's John Jaha's, too. That's Jaha, No. 32, in the background manning first base.

Two identifiable players on a card, of course, means that there's a good chance to figure out which game the photo is from. The sunlight and the uniforms say the game was in Milwaukee. The sunlight doesn't mean spring training, either. The Twins played in Florida, the Brewers in Arizona.

In the regular season, there were two games in Milwaukee where Hale got on first base. Neither is a perfect fit.

The July 9, 1993 game was at night, so it can't be that game. But the July 11 game, the game time weather was reported as overcast with showers. Hale had two singles and a hit by pitch in that game, the last came in the fifth inning. Maybe the skies cleared by then.
849 - Willie Greene, His Game, 8/12/11
571 - Chip Hale, Right Way, 8/14/11
285 - Dave Justice, Six Series, 4/30/11


  1. I don't know who the guy with the sunglasses is on that card but when I interviewed the artist, Vernon Wells Sr., he said that the father and son next to him were himself and his son, the future major leaguer Vernon Wells Jr.

  2. Wow. That's really cool. Now I see the artist's signature. And I thought those two looked conspicuous there, and their hats oddly specific. Just added that to the post, with the link.