(Check out our other player card posts here.)
If you were Brian Allard in the spring of 1980, life must have been pretty sweet.
The Texas Rangers had selected you in the fourth round of the 1976 MLB amateur draft out of Henry Senachwine High School in Henry, Illinois, when you were just 18 years old.
Over the next three years, the Rangers went from bouncing around the bottom of the AL West to competing for the division title each year. At the same time, you — Brian Allard — steadily climbed the Texas minor league ladder.
You had crafted a nifty 10-6 record with the Triple-A Tucson Toros in 1979, which earned you your first cup of coffee with the Big League club at the end of 1979. In Arlington, you appeared in seven games, including four starts. Though you went just 1-3, your ERA was a decent 4.32, and your future looks bright.
Sure, you start the 1980 season back in Triple A, this time with the Charleston Charlies, but it’s just a matter of time before you’re in Texas for good.
And besides, you even have your own baseball cards. And, man, are they something to behold.
First came the 1979 Tulsa Drillers card that features you tossing on the sideline, probably in a bullpen, with a minor league grandstand behind you. You look athletic, your curly hair and strong mustache are solid 70s chic, and you’re focused intently on delivering your next pitch. And, you’ve been photo-bombed by a fan draped over the chain link fence behind you.
But, thanks to your late-season call-up in 1979, your very next card is #673 in the 1980 Topps set. It’s a Rangers Future Star issue that you share with a smiling Jerry Don Gleaton and the ever-popular Greg Mahlberg, who, despite the nomenclature similarities to a certain celebrity, is not known to have answered to “Greggy Greg” at any point during his career.
Your own image on this card is OK but doesn’t quite live up to your reputation.
The hair is too short and too straight.
The mustache is too thin and wimpy.
But it’s fine. More than fine, in fact, because you’ve made it to the Big Leagues, both on the field and in cardboard.
As it turns out, your stint with Charleston is a blessing, if not for you then certainly for baseball card collectors.
Because, without that career detour, we never would have had the opportunity to see you in your powder-blue Charlies uniform on the front of your 1980 TCMA card.
We would have missed out on the full glory of your can’t-let-go-of-the seventies perm and the taunting smile that tells just how good things are for you. And the mustache, when viewed dead-on, has real potential. You’re no Tim Blackwell, kid, but you might go places if you keep with it.
And that’s pretty much what you do, going 8-8 as a Charlie and earning a five-game call-up to the Rangers.
But the results in Texas are unspectacular …
0-1, 5.65 ERA, 1.605 WHIP, an even 1.0 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings over two starts.
At the same time, the Rangers slide back to fourth place in the AL West, at 76-85. In today’s parlance, their window is closing.
They have to do something.
And so they do.
In an intra-division move, Texas sends you, Steve Finch, Rick Auerbach, Ken Clay, Gleaton, and Richie Zisk to the the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Larry Cox, Rick Honeycutt, Willie Horton, Mario Mendoza, and Leon Roberts.
Zisk is near the end of his career, but he will smack 47 bombs for the Mariners over three seasons.
Honeycutt will play for a lot of bad teams over the years and wind up 34 games under .500 after 21 seasons in the Bigs.
Horton will never appear in a Rangers uniform, retiring after 18 years, 325 homers, and nearly 2000 hits.
Roberts is a former rising star who was already 27 when he broke out in 1978 and really couldn’t have been expected to build on this 22 home runs that year. He didn’t.
Mario Mendoza has a career .213 average, on his way to finishing at .215 and having a Line named after him.
And the rest of you?
Well, you’re getting a new start, a chance to do big things with the proverbial change of scenery.
For you, it’s hard to think about going to a team that lost 103 games, but the moribund Mariners represent an opportunity. And you give it a shot.
After going 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA with the Spokane Indians, the Mariners call you up. You respond with a 3-2 record and a 3.75 ERA in seven starts, and you even land a solo 1982 Topps card.
But along the way, you hurt your elbow — stress fracture. You have surgery in December of 1981 and then rehab your way back to the minors the next spring. A setback in April — shoulder strain this time — slows you down, and you only make five starts for the Salt Lake City Gulls.
You pitch a full season for the Gulls in 1983, going 10-10 with a (gulp!) 6.07 ERA. You make 26 starts in 35 games.
In 1984, you manage 17 starts, but your record falls to 3-9, and your ERA climbs to 6.95.
And then you’re done.
You serve as pitching coach for a few minor league clubs through the rest of the 80s, all the while bushing out that ‘stache. By the time you appear on a 1993 Classic Best card with the Fayetteville Generals, the wild hair is nowhere is sight, but the upper lip is in good shape.
That pitching career you envisioned when you left home in 1976 didn’t pan out quite how you hoped, but you still did plenty of cool stuff, stuff any boy would kill for.
You pitched in the Major Leagues.
You were part of a blockbuster trade that featured big, recognizable names, even if they were mostly damaged goods at the time.
And, man, you scored some sweet, sweet cardboard appearances. Really, what could be better than that?
(Check out our other player card posts here.)