The new banner is up on the FutureAngels.com web site for the 2009 season.
Who are the depicted players?
The 2008 banner had Angels minor leaguers who were now with the parent club. This year, I wanted to do something a little different. Most minor leaguers will never make the big leagues, players you’ve never heard of and will never hear about again.
At the same time, I wanted to honor Angels’ minor league history. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been writing about the history of the Statesville Owls, one of only two minor league teams the Angels had in their inaugural 1961 season.
The photo on the left is of George Conrad, who was an Owls pitcher that year. Conrad was 11-7 that year for Statesville with a 3.21 ERA. He struck out 172 in 168 innings — but also walked 116.
The next photo is of catcher Angel Diaz with the Butte Copper Kings in 1998. Signed by Tom Kotchman, Diaz was an organizational catcher who worked at every level in the system, including Triple-A Salt Lake in 2001. Organizational catchers lead a nomadic life, but they’re invaluable because they provide depth at a critical position.
Joe Urso is second from the right, holding the bat. He’s depicted with the Boise Hawks in 1992, his first professional season. Urso was in the organization as a player through 1997, when he became a coach and later a manager. Joe was listed at 5’7″ but there are those who will allege that’s a stretch, pun intended … He was the endless butt of “short” jokes but incredibly popular. The Lake Elsinore Storm fans loved him so much that he was nicknamed “The Mayor.” Urso’s #7 was retired by the Storm a few years back. He’s currently the head coach at University of Tampa, his alma mater.
Mark McLemore is the player on the right. He’s wearing the uniform of the 1983 Peoria Suns in the Midwest League. Mark was only 18 at the time; his AVG/OBP/SLG that year were .240/.346/.280. Despite that total absence of power, he managed to play his way to the majors, starting full-time for the Angels at second base in 1987. His career ended in 2004 at age 39 with the Oakland A’s, having notched nineteen seasons in the big leagues.
I’ve been collecting card sets for Angels minor league teams when and where I can find them. Some are incredibly expensive, not necessarily because of the players in the set but just that they’re rare. They’re a reminder of just how hideous minor league uniforms can be (e.g. Peoria). Sometimes you find cards for mascots, club executives, local personalities, sponsors, etc. Many of them are in black-and-white until the mid-1980s or so.
When I started doing photography for the minor league teams in 1998, one complaint I heard over and over again from the players was that they wanted action shots on their trading cards, not the posed photos. Every once in a while, I’ll find a card where the player posed irreverently for his picture. Pitcher Jarrod Washburn posed as a batter. Right-handed hitting Tim Salmon posed as a left-handed batter. Ron “Papa Jack” Jackson posed with an unknown beverage in his hand.
Hmmm, maybe next year’s banner should be all gag shots …