Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Love the 80s

Click image for larger version

Well, with posters like this, who wouldn't?

I highly recommend clicking on this brilliant image and enjoying it in full, large format. Make sure to take note of every little detail* (including the late-80s "Flying Acorn" logo, which is one of my favorite Visalia logos of all time).

Then, read how the two pitchers in this classic shot fared after the jump.
The 1980s were quite good to Visalia; they challenged for the California League championship almost every year (although they went 0-5 in the championship series), enjoyed their most stable period of Major League affiliation (with the Minnesota Twins) before modern times, and saw a slew of quality prospects and future big leaguers come through town.

Two such quality prospects can be seen on this picture, taken in front of Visalia's historic Fox Theatre.

Willie Banks (left) was the Twins first pick in the 1987 draft; Johnny Ard (right) was their top pick in '88. Together, they were expected to form the backbone of the Twins staff for years to come. It didn't quite turn out that way.

Neither of them, however, disappointed in 1989 with Visalia. Banks' ERA was just 2.85, and he led the Cal League in both strikeouts (179) and wild pitches (22). His year in Visalia is best remembered, though, for the no-hitter he threw on May 24th against the Palm Springs Angels. A bat, which Banks autographed immediately after the game, currently rests in the new Hall of Fame Club at Recreation Ballpark.

Willie broke into the Majors in 1991, and was a bit player in the Twins' championship team (which is nothing to be ashamed of; most of us would sacrifice multiple limbs for a World Series ring). But although he managed to hang around with multiple clubs for the rest of the decade, he never became the big-time pitcher he was expected to be; after a brief comeback in 2002, he finished his career with a 33-39 record.

Johnny Ard also put together a solid 1989 season, with a 3.29 ERA. After continuing to impress at successive levels with a 93-mile-an-hour fastball and a slider-change combination, the Twins traded him to San Francisco at the '91 trade deadline for former Cy Young winner Steve Bedrosian. It was a classic young-top-prospect-for-established-get-us-over-the-hump-veteran move, and when Bedrosian made only six appearances for the Twins due to injuries, it looked like they may have gotten the short end of the deal. But Ard never made it to the Show at all; in 1993, while pitching for AAA Phoenix (yes, remember when Phoenix was a minor league city?), he came down with elbow trouble and didn't fully recover for three years. By that time, he was past his sell-by date. He pitched in independent ball for a season, but no Major League organization was interested anymore, and he retired after 1996.

All of that was in the future when Visalia's front office brilliantly conceived and executed this poster. Banks was "Big Daddy," Ard was "The Terminator," Lethal Weapon II was about to come out, it was still the 80s, and life was good. And thanks to this picture, it can stay that way.

*You get bonus points if you noticed the other movie on the Fox Theatre marquee. Again, this picture is just tremendous.


  1. 1980 and so many destinations! And where was I in 1980? I wasn't born yet)))

  2. Me too. I was born only in 1990 year. sad that I totally messied all these times