The year 1989, as previously discussed, is my first real memory of being all-in as a baseball card collector.
Growing up in a small town we lived a simple life. The only thing I wanted for my 8th birthday was a small party with my eight closest friends “camping out” in the backyard following a trip to “the cities,” as in Quad Cities, to ABC Collectibles in Moline, Illinois.
This was in 1990 when Baseball Card shops were booming. In the two small cities nearest my hometown there were a combined five card shops around this time. That’s impressive for rural Illinois covering two towns with a collective population of less than 20,000 people.
But ABC Collectibles had it all. It was a very nice, large hobby shop. A huge collection of vintage, new product, supplies, and memorabilia.
I don’t remember my complete haul from that birthday trip, but one purchase stands out to this day. The 1989 Peoria Chiefs Kodak/McDonalds minor league set.
The Chiefs were the low-A Cubs affiliate at this time playing in the Midwest League. Peoria was only an hour away from my hometown growing up, but did not see a game until 2001. Ironically, I would later spend a summer working for the Chiefs as a broadcast engineer and fill-in PA Announcer in 2012.
This 1989 Kodak release was a great set, although cut slightly smaller than a standard card. It was also the first time I had seen minor league cards.
Attracting me to this set was Ty Griffin. He was a top prospect and the Cubs first round draft pick in 1988. Normally at this age I wouldn’t have known prospects, but Griffin had appeared in the 1989 Topps set, as well as the 1988 Topps Traded set as a member of Team USA.
This was not the only Griffin card in the set, as he was featured with Fernando Ramsey. The card was titled, “Peoria’s Olympic Stars.” Griffin was a star of the 1988 gold medal winning Team USA, while Ramsey had been a member of Team Panama in 1984 Central America and Caribbean Junior Championships…as a sprinter in the 100-meter dash.
Heathcliff Slocumb became my favorite card in this set. Not because of his MLB career, rather his unique name. And I was a big Heathcliff the Cat fan as a kid.
Other players made names for themselves with big league stints such as Matt Walbeck
And Alex Arias
Brad Mills managed the 1989 Peoria Chiefs and later managed the Houston Astros. Mills is currently the bench coach for the Cleveland Indians.
Rick Kranitz was the team’s pitching coach. Kranitz is the pitching coach for the Philadelphia Phillies. He had had a long career in the big leagues with stints in the same position with the Brewers, Orioles, and Marlins. And look at this card. Such a unique picture.
Maybe my favorite story from this set comes from my Through The Mail (TTM) autograph requests. From 2006-2009 I obtained well over 1,000 Cubs autographs through the mail. Braz Davis was one of my favorite successes. He signed a few minor league cards for me and wrote back a page long letter thanking me and giving me an update on his post-playing career. I will try to track this letter down and post it.
Thank you readers for the outpouring of support and trade requests. Sending out a couple more boxes tomorrow and several other trades are in the works.