Monday, April 14, 2014

(Not) Junk Wax: 1990 Pacific Senior League

I was one of the few people on the planet (and even fewer who were still in their teens) who was excited about the Senior Professional Baseball Association when its teams took the field in the winter of 1989.

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers SPBA Inaugural Season


I say I was excited about the Senior League at the time. But like most people, I didn't watch many games. In fact, I couldn't swear to watching more than one. And I don't remember a thing about it, other than that baseball was being played by ex-big-leaguers in the winter. That was good enough for me. But apparently not good enough for ESPN or anyone else to televise (or at least publicize) more than a handful of games.

1990 Pacific Senior League Curt Flood Commissioner #220


I picked up three Senior League card sets back in the day: the excellent woodgrain-bordered Topps set, a surprisingly decent effort by "Elite Baseball Cards," and a spotty affair from "T&M Sports." For some reason, the two Pacific Senior League sets managed to slip by me at the time, which made them perfect fodder for a couple o' recent (Not) Junk Wax box purchases.

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers St. Petersburg Pelicans


Pacific organized their set (for the most part) by team, in the old Fleer fashion. Taking another page from Fleer, they included a team (or league) logo sticker in every pack. I'm going to ramble about the cards and the set in extemporaneous fashion, while Pacific's set organization skills will allow you to enjoy something more structured for the visual portion of this post.

1990 Pacific Senior League Ron LeFlore St. Petersburg Pelicans #4
1990 Pacific Senior League Doc Ellis St. Petersburg Pelicans #15


The cards look and feel a little cheap. Pacific's second Senior League effort (which we will be looking at soon) was a colorful, high-gloss affair. This first effort... not so much. There's a fine line between silver and gray, and these borders look more like a dirty (almost brownish) gray than the shiny silver they were probably going for. The card stock has a grainy matte finish that doesn't help.

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers Winter Haven Super Sox


That said, I have pulled glossy cards from this set out of repacks. Information is sketchy, so I don't know if there's a separate "tiffany" set out there (maybe factory sets were glossy, while the cards in wax packs lack gloss?), or perhaps it's just a case of wildly inconsistent production quality. Whatever's going on here, I wish I were loaded down with glossy cards instead of these.

1990 Pacific Senior League Bill Lee Winter Haven Super Sox #28
1990 Pacific Senior League Ferguson Jenkins Winter Haven Super Sox #29
1990 Pacific Senior League Rick Wise Winter Haven Super Sox #31
1990 Pacific Senior League Cecil Cooper Winter Haven Super Sox #42


Matte or glossy, though, you just can't beat bonus cards like these. It's like extra innings. Free baseball. More cards of players I grew up watching, or who maybe retired just before I became a fan in 1980. And it was a pretty solid cross section of big-league talent that populated the eight SPBA rosters.

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers Gold Coast Suns


For the most part, Pacific's photo choices are pretty decent. You get mostly posed shots, but with just enough action to keep things interesting. It's a very '80s Topps feel, in terms of photo composition, although the use of lighting here is not up to that standard. (They managed to catch Earl Weaver's pack of cigarettes "concealed" beneath his jersey, though...)

1990 Pacific Senior League Earl Weaver MG Gold Coast Suns #56
1990 Pacific Senior League Luis Tiant Gold Coast Suns #77
1990 Pacific Senior League Bert Campaneris Gold Coast Suns #63
1990 Pacific Senior League George Hendrick Gold Coast Suns #61


The design is not half bad. They're reminiscent of 1987 Topps, in that the logos are featured over a diagonal turn in the border. The name plate color coordinates with each team's uniform, which is nice. I even find that I don't hate the rather remedial stars lined up on two sides of each card. That's probably because they help to mitigate against the muddiness of the "silver" borders.

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers Fort Myers Sun Sox


Geeze, there's a lot of space to fill in this post, isn't there? And, as you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven't exactly been in a writing mood lately. The muse comes and goes. I guess it doesn't matter that much. I mean, how many people out there are actually reading this, anyway?

1990 Pacific Senior League Amos Otis Fort Myers Sun Sox #83
1990 Pacific Senior League Dan Driessen In Action Fort Myers Sun Sox #105


But if you are still reading, and you see something you like, let me know. I got a fair number of dupes that I'll be happy to send your way. A few of the obvious guys are already set aside for various team collectors. (Major league teams that these guys played for, that is. I don't see many Fort Myers Sun Sox card blogs out there, for instance.) But anytime you see one of these (Not) Junk Wax posts, chime in with any needs/wants you may have. You'll be helping me out. I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what to dig up to send to you people...

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers St. Lucie Legends


As it turns out, the 1989-1990 season would be the only one to be completed by the SPBA. It may have been a failed experiment as a commercial venture. But for fans and collectors, it was one of the coolest ideas ever. And it must have been tons of fun for many of the players to have one more opportunity to compete against their peers.

1990 Pacific Senior League Bobby Bonds St. Lucie Legends #128
1990 Pacific Senior League George Foster St. Lucie Legends #114
1990 Pacific Senior League Vida Blue St. Lucie Legends #215
1990 Pacific Senior League Graig Nettles MG St. Lucie Legends #115


The league was rife with player movement. For example, Bobby Bonds took over for Graig Nettles as the Legends manager...

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers Bradenton Explorers


...while Nettles (and his brother) would move on to join the Explorers, under Clete Boyer. It was like fantasy league baseball come to life. It was like "what if?" scenarios playing out on spring training fields throughout Florida. It was one of the greatest ideas ever... in theory. There just weren't many people who ever really saw it take place in practice.

1990 Pacific Senior League Graig Nettles Bradenton Explorers #158
1990 Pacific Senior League Clete Boyer MG Bradenton Explorers #149
1990 Pacific Senior League Hal McRae Bradenton Explorers #133
1990 Pacific Senior League Al Oliver Bradenton Explorers #142


I mean, wouldn't you love to see a league like this sprout up again today? I know I'd love to see Jamie Moyer pitch to Jim Thome again. I'd love to see Omar Vizquel turn two again. Or Jason Giambi hit one out of the park (oh, wait, he's actually still gainfully employed in the majors, isn't he?). Manny Ramirez would have a place to go and be Manny. Maybe Vlad Guerrero would be out there. Maybe Julio Franco would want to play. It's never gonna happen, but you can see why this looked like such a great idea at the time.

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers West Palm Beach Tropics


Dick Williams' Tropics were the class of the league in its only full season, going 52-20 to easily outpace their Southern Division rivals. They lost, however, to the Northern Division champion St. Petersburg Pelicans (42-30) in the finals of a three-game, single-elimination tournament to determine the league's first champs.

1990 Pacific Senior League Dick Williams MG West Palm Beach Tropics #166
1990 Pacific Senior League Dave Kingman West Palm Beach Tropics #164
1990 Pacific Senior League Rollie Fingers West Palm Beach Tropics #161
1990 Pacific Senior League Al Hrabosky West Palm Beach Tropics #179


The Tropics were also the class of the league when it came to uniforms. Nothing captured the '80s retired-in-Florida vibe like these fabulous salmon and turquoise monstrosities, with a palm tree for a logo! Totally radical! (The Tropics also cornered the iconic facial hair in the bullpen demographic, as well.)

1990 Pacific Senior League Logo Stickers Orlando Juice


If the Tropics had the best unis, the Juice had the best logo. OJ! Splat! Now that's product placement...

1990 Pacific Senior League Jose Cruz Orlando Juice #188
1990 Pacific Senior League Bill Madlock Orlando Juice #214


Hey, that's a nice turtleneck that four-time batting champion Bill Madlock is sporting. Now that we've looked at each of the league's eight teams, let's see what else this set has to offer for my mini-collections... Well, not much. Four Turtlenecks (Rivers is my favorite) and one Doughnut.

1990 Pacific Senior League Doug Corbett Orlando Juice #193
1990 Pacific Senior League Marty Castillo Fort Myers Sun Sox #88
1990 Pacific Senior League Mickey Rivers West Palm Beach Tropics #163
1990 Pacific Senior League Rodney Scott West Palm Beach Tropics #177


As obscure as the SPBA may have been, this set in particular caused a minor stir at the time among collectors who were still glowing from the "excitement" of Billy Ripken's 1989 Fleer high jinks. Pacific seems to have been keeping a close eye on the ways of the Fleer Corp., as they... accidentally?... allowed this Homage to Fuck Face slip through "quality control."

1990 Pacific Senior League Jim Nettles St. Lucie Legends #126


Nettles denies having knowledge of the expletive at the time the photo was shot, instead blaming an unnamed teammate. Maybe. Pretty interesting coincidence that the bat was held at the perfect angle to display the message, though, isn't it?

Final Statistics
Base Set Completion: 220/220 (100%)
Logo Stickers: 10/10 (100%)

Coalition in this box was excellent, as it delivered the complete set with reasonably-distributed duplicates. Only one minor quibble: although I got a minimum of three of each of the logo stickers, I came nowhere near completing either of the (way too) large puzzles of Amos Otis and George Foster that were on the backs of these. Also, the machine that sealed the packs appears to have been overly-aggressive in its work, as many of the cards facing the fold suffered from very noticeable blunt trauma wounds.

1990 Pacific Senior League Dave Kingman "Blast From the Past" West Palm Beach Tropics #186


In all, this box delivered on the fun in the same way that the SPBA did, by providing a strange but welcome Blast From the Past. This box was not a bust.

7 comments:

  1. Loved the Senior League, but then I loved the XFL so what do I know. I bought all the sets at the time, but I don't think I ever busted any wax of it (and I think Pacific was the only one to actually do wax). I did watch the games, too (as many as they put on). Unfortunately, you never got the feeling anyone was taking it seriously--not the announcers, certainly, and not most of the players. I'm sure they were giving it their all but it was kinda like watching a very long old timers exhibition. No offense to anyone intended.

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  2. Wow, I knew nothing about any of this. Didn't know about the league; didn't know about the cards.

    Thanks for putting together such a great post with so many scans.

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  3. I like that set, will have to keep my eyes out for a box to bust open and yank my minis out.

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  4. I wouldn't mind seeing a return of the Senior League these days. I'd love to see guys like Mariano Rivera or Jamie Moyer pitch again.

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  5. I recently bought the Topps and the T&M sets for $1 each. I didn't realize that got me only halfway towards getting the complete run of SPBA sets. I'm surprised that I forgot the Pacific set since I have the Jim Nettles card somewhere.

    I remember the Senior League, and part of the problem with it is that the big names weren't the best players. Baseball-reference.com's write up backs me up on this... Some of the league leaders weren't the former all-stars, but were guys like Ron Washington, Tim Ireland and Juan Eichelberger.

    I think it's still a viable idea, but if I were the guy starting it up again, I'd make sure the business plan was based more on TV & merchandise than on attendance, and I might put it in Arizona instead of Florida... and have better uniforms and team names. "Super Sox"? Really?

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Very cool post. There was actually a book put out about the league by one of the players. I've forgotten who it was. Never saw a game. I'll take any Winter Haven Sox off your hands.

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  7. This makes me miss old-timers games. The Dodgers recently brought them back. Guys who can still play and a few who are long past their primes. But fans love to see them in person and back in uniform.

    Although a Tampa Bay Devil Rays old-timer's game might not be as interesting.

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