If you followed baseball in the 1980s, chances are pretty good you remember Rance Mulliniks, and for at least three reasons …
1) He was part of those good-to-great Toronto Blue Jays teams who posted their first winning season in 1983 and remained contenders for the next decade.
That run included five division titles and two World Series championships, in 1992 and 1993 (though Rance wasn’t around for the second of those).
2) He had that unusual name — both parts — the likes of which you might never have heard before.
In fact, he’s the only Mulliniks to ever play Major League Baseball, and he’s just the second (and, so far, last) Rance, joining Rance Pless who appeared in 48 games for the Kansas City A’s in 1956.
3) He had a pretty bookish look on all those baseball cards you pulled of him — slender build, thick mustache, glasses, often with a utility infielder’s position listing — “3B-SS-2B” on the front of his 1985 Topps card, for example.
Mulliniks reminded you of the guy sat in front of you in band, or maybe your typing teacher.
But if you’re a fan of baseball books, you might have read Brad Balukjian’s The Wax Pack, which came out last year (it’s among our 13 must-own baseball card books).
In that case, you know there’s more to Mulliniks, one of the Wax Packers, as Balukjian calls them. And that, although he played in only three games for those 1992 Blue Jays, he was right there on the bottom of the pile when they capped off their first-ever championship in 1992.
Team management would have it no other way, it seemed, recognizing the wiry company man as a key component to their success over the years. Maybe it wasn’t coincidental that the Jays started winning after Rance showed up in 1982?
He was a Blue Jay, through and through.
But if you scroll back through the cardboard years, you’ll find Mulliniks looking a bit different in the early 1980s — in particular, you’ll find him wearing Kansas City Royals blue.
And maybe that will jog a memory, not seem all that strange. Still a blue uniform, still the wiry frame, still the mustache (in some cases).
You might even remember Rance from those 1980-81 days in K.C., before the trade that sent him north.
If you flip the binder back even further, though, something might jump out at you — a 1978 Topps card of Jim Barr, but one that’s labeled “Rance Mulliniks.”
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I mean, is this not the same guy, maybe even the same shot, as the one on Barr’s 1981 Topps card?
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That might be your first impression, as it was mine, but if you look closer … note the intense eyes and slender neck … imagine some specs and a ‘stache … and …
Holy moly! That’s Rance Mulliniks, shortstop for the California Angels.
A quick check of Baseball Reference confirms it’s true, that Mulliniks played parts of 1977 through 1979 for the Halos after they drafted him in the third round in 1974.
And before the trade that sent him and Willie Aikens to the Royals in exchange for Al Cowens, Todd Cruz, and Craig Eaton.
The same trade, that, just a couple years later, would turn into Rance Mulliniks-for-Phil Huffman and set Rance — and the Blue Jays — on a path toward their destiny.
Those 1992 Blue Jays were an amazing team that realized the potential that had been brewing all through the 1980s. You can get a feel for at era with this item on eBay:
It’s a signed 16” x 20” photo featuring a slew of those Jays … but no Rance, as it turns out.
Still, a great display piece.
Check out the full listing on eBay (affiliate link).
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