Mall Ballers: The Spokane Indians’ Brief Run of Baseball Card Brilliance
It’s a very busy time of year for me, on a personal and professional level. It can be tough to keep track of everything that’s going on, and I often feel overwhelmed. But every so often something comes along that requires immediate attention, something so hilarious and bizarre that it trumps all else. This is one of those things:
For the ’87, ’88 and ’89 seasons, the Spokane Indians team card set featured players posing at the local NorthTown Mall. I can say, without hyperbole, that these are the greatest Minor League team card sets of all time. With perhaps a little hyperbole, I can say that these are the best baseball cards of all time.
This noteworthy bit of decades-old absurdity was brought to my attention via the Indians themselves, who recently posted an article on the team website about just how these card sets came to be. The whole thing is well worth reading, so click HERE to read it. A few notable excerpts:
Rather than having the players and coaches pose at Avista Stadium, [the team] took the players to the NorthTown Mall – who sponsored the set – and had them pose at various merchants throughout the mall.
Manager Steve Lubratich, the man responsible for creating a lineup and managing a bullpen, is posed next to a cardboard cutout of Whitney Houston, arm draped over her shoulder – perhaps not the best way to command respect from his players. Pitcher Jay Estrada is casually leaning on a shelf full of women’s clothes, outfielder Greg Smith is all smiles next to a display of aquatic shampoo, and future major leaguer Dave Hollins can be found hanging out in the food court next to a tub of popcorn.
“At the time players were staying at the Gonzaga dorms and didn’t really have access to cars, so the chance to get out and explore the mall for the afternoon was well received,” said [former Indians general manager Tim] Leip in a recent interview. “All the merchants in the mall treated the players well and for some players it was their first time at a big mall.”
It was my first baseball card so I thought maybe that’s just how it was,” said 1988 outfielder Nikco Riesgo, who posed with a Spokane Indians pennant outside a sports store on his card. “It was a great way to meet the fans. We might have seen the whole city of Spokane that day, and we were treated like the Beatles. It was the perfect place for us to interact with people.”
Indians communications coordinator Bud Bareither was kind enough to send along the photos seen above, as well as those seen below. Please, continue to enjoy:
Being made aware of the existence of these baseball cards certainly brightened my day. I hope that it brightened yours as well. And, in related news, I am now $3 poorer.