As Spring Training dawned in 1995, Major League owners and players were still embroiled in a six-month-long strike that had wiped out the last third of the 1994 season and all of the playoffs, and almost made 1981 seem quaint by comparison.

For their part, players were intent on staving off wide-ranging changes to the financial structure of the game that owners had adopted the previous year, changes that surely would have tempered player salaries in the years to come.

For their part, the owners were intent on keeping their new measures intact … and on playing the 1995 season.

With MLB players on the sideline and MLB clubs itching to get fans’ fannies in the stands, the owners pulled a play from the NFL playbook, circa 1987, and brought in a band of scrubs to man Spring Training and prepare for the trip north to start the season.

Among the picket-busting replacement hopefuls were former Big Leaguers like Lenny Randle, Henry Cotto, Ken Oberkfell, and Shawn Abner.

Also in the scab lineup were dudes who would go on to successful Major League careers in subsequent years, but who were, um, scrubbed from certain commemorative opportunities down the line (in the context of World Series merchandise, etc.) — guys like Kevin Millar, Shane Spencer, and Damian Miller.

There were also plenty of players who never sniffed the Bigs, before or after the strike.

One guy who did smell the Major League coffee — one cup of it, at least — was right-handed pitcher Tony Mack.

The California Angels originally picked Mack in the third round of the 1982 Draft out of Lamar University in Texas as a starter.

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He worked his way up through the Halos’ minor league system over the course of three seasons, posting big innings totals and an okay ERA along the way. Managed to land a couple of sweet minor league baseball cards, too … like that one up there (^). Another workhorse start at Triple-A Edmonton earned Mack his promotion in mid-summer of 1985.

On July 27, Mack made his Major League debut — a start in Toronto against the rising Blue Jays.

Mack helped that trajectory, giving up four runs on eight hits over 2 1/3 innings for nifty 15.43 ERA before manager Gene Mauch lifted him for Luis Sanchez.

And then, well, Mack was back in Edmonton.

And the next season, 1986, while the Angels were winning the AL West and coming within an out of the World Series … Mack was still in Edmonton

In 1987?

Three minor league stops in the Angels’ and Astros’ systems as a reliever.

He did manage to pick up another card or two, though, like this Midland (Double-A) issue from ProCards:

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Mack spent 1988 with the Double-A San Antonio Missions (Dodgers) before pulling the plug on his relieving experiment, and his career.

He was 27 years old.

But who among us could resist the opportunity to dust off the old horsehide and take the mound one more time, give it another shot, when the Majors came calling again, and when we were still just 33 (almost 34) years old?

I don’t think I could.

And Tony Mack couldn’t, either, in the spring of 1995.

So there he was in Angels camp once again, with an eye toward augmenting his one-game stat line. He pitched well, too, to the tune of 1-2 with a 2.77 ERA during Spring Training.

Things were looking good.

And then, on April 2, just one day before Opening Day, the MLB Players Association suspended their strike.

The old Big Leaguers, the ones with the Big salaries were coming back.

On April 4, a slew of replacement players were optioned to the minors. One of those was Tony Mack, sent to Triple-A Vancouver.

But, hey, Mack was in baseball shape, and there was a minor league season to be played, so he went.

As the season unfolded and rosters swelled with the dudes who normally would have been making their push for The Show, though, Mack himself got pushed down to Double-A Midland.

But if he was ever worried about backlash for having been a replacement player, maybe from some longtime local fans who recognized him from his old baseball cards, well … that fear probably dissipated once he ambled back down to Texas, and Midland.

Because, if you take another look at that 1987 Midland Mack card a few paragraphs back, or the back of that same card down below …

… well …

You’ll see that guy was “Toby” Mack, not Tony.

Now you tell me … who doesn’t love a good error card?? Especially when it buys you a smidgen of anonymity.

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