Monday, May 13, 2013

1980 TCMA Batavia Trojans Baseball #5, Mike Kolodny

Mike Kolodny, you look like every guy I hung out with in the bowling alley parking lot on weekends. Can I bum a sip of New Coke? How about a quarter for some Ironman Stewart's Off Road Racing? You're a true friend, Mike Kolodny.

It's easy to poke sophomoric fun at TROJANS, but trying out team names is the sacred duty of minor leagues franchises, be they great, goofy, or groan-worthy. Toledo has its Mud Hens; Vermont its Lake Monsters; Albuquerque its Isotopes. Franchise affiliates that matched MLB names top-to-bottom would feel trite and unmoored from local fan bases, so here's to keeping names individual and interesting. (Batavia currently plays as the Muckdogs and their 2013 season kicks off this week. Good seats still available!)

Without any "previous year" stats to distract me, today's the first time I've really noticed TCMA's address in that tagline and P.O. Box #2 is a pretty low number. So where were 1980 collectors actually writing for those free lists of photo fact cards?

Amawalk (the NY town) is near Connecticut's western border and this rambling white house is their post office, where founder Mike Aronstein or another TCMA employee would collect your letters from box #2 and send back their mail order catalog. If you count both major and minor leagues, TCMA  printed 61 sets that year alone!

30 Batavia Trojans appear in today's set, future big leaguers in bold.
  1. Angelo Gilbert
  2. Terry Norman
  3. Mark Baius
  4. Todd Richards
  5. Mike Kolodny
  6. Kirk Jones
  7. Tom Blackmon
  8. Tom Burns
  9. Monty Holland
  10. Mike Schwarber
  11. Orestes Moldes
  12. Chuck Hollowell
  13. Tom Stiboro
  14. Brian Meyer
  15. Rick Elkin
  16. Luis Duarte
  17. Chuck Melito
  18. Darold Ellison
  19. Kevin Malone
  20. Andy Alvis
  21. Kelly Gruber
  22. Rick Colzie, Manager
  23. Justo Saavedra
  24. Matt Minium
  25. Dave Gallagher
  26. Pat Grady
  27. Chris Rehbaum
  28. Jeff Moronko
  29. Nelson Ruiz
  30. Mark Wright

This set's biggest name is future 2-time All-Star Kelly Gruber, who hit a high peak in 1990 by capturing the AL's 3B Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for Toronto. Unfortunately, Kelly lost the second half of his career to a degenerative neck injury, ultimately retiring after a 1997 comeback attempt in AAA.

BATAVIA TRIVIA: in 1986, Batavia set the obscure short-season record of eight future Major Leaguers on one roster, fielding Jim Bruske, Tommy Hinzo, Tom Lampkin, Troy Neel, Bruce Egloff, Jeff Shaw, Joe Skalski, and Kevin Wickander. (Of those, Lampkin and Shaw saw the longest MLB careers, logging more than a decade each.)

Value: This #5 cost $2 at I've seen eBay sellers asking as much as $55 for the full set, but that's out of character for a team thin on future MLB stars.

Fakes / reprints: TCMA reprinted several 1980 team sets for "collectors kits" later that decade. Those cards come with black ink backs, while originals have today's blue ink.

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