Larry Owen began his baseball card career in pretty good company, appearing as the last man on a 1982 Topps Atlanta Braves Future Stars card that featured Steve Bedrosian and Brett Butler.

Both of those other players went on to some renown in Major League Baseball and were something of *real* prospects, having yet to reach their 25th birthdays when the card was issued.

Owen, though, had established his level of play through five minor league seasons as a guy who could catch a game and who would “hit” about .200 each year.

His second-half MLB debut in the strike-torn 1981 season did little to change that notion: in 17 plate appearances over 13 games, Owen hit … uh … well, .000, with a single walk.

Not surprising, then, that he saw action in only two games during 1982, his age-27 season. Pretty surprising he landed that Topps card, but it would be his last, as another handful of games with Atlanta in 1983 and then in 1985 took him to age 30 and a grand total of 30 Big League hits. In between it was all minors for Owen … same in 1986.

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So, then … what’s a guy named “Larry Owen” doing in your stack of 1988 Score baseball cards? Looking kinda like Steve Balboni, even?

Well, I lied: that 1982 Topps wasn’t the end of the cardboard line for Larry Owen.

Nope.

The Kansas City Royals followed up their World Series in 1985 victory by watching manager Dick Howser fall ill to the brain cancer that would eventually kill him, and by also stumbling to third place in the American League West in 1986.

Also in 1986, the Braves finally cut ties with Owen after the season and let him become a free agent in October.

In March of 1987, the two found each other — a day after K.C. traded away starting catcher Jim Sundberg, they signed Owen … just before the new season started.

And they took Owen with them out of Spring Training.

And he started behind the plate in their third game.

And he stayed with them all season long, appearing in 76 games total, starting 59 of them.

Owen, at age 32, had improbably become the backup backstop to new starter Jamie Quirk.

And he hit like Larry Owen — .189 in 164 at-bats.

But that was enough for Score to grab on the next year and include him in their inaugural set. By then, Owen was busy putting the finishing touches on his Big League career by hitting .210 over 37 game with the Royals.

And that swan song bought him a slot in the 1989 Topps and Upper Deck sets.

There’s a lesson be learned from this story … something like, there’s always room for more catchers.

Or, don’t give up.

That second one sounds better, though it never hurts to find your niche. And Larry Owen found his, finally.

(Note: Larry Owen passed away in June 2018 at the age of 63.)

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