Tonight, I reached into an old shoebox filled with baseball cards in my closet.
I said I would write about the first player I pulled out.
It turned out to be the 1979 Topps card for former Cleveland Indian Dan Spillner. He’s pictured here in the totally unmemorable C cap that they used instead of the Tomahawk C from the mid 1970s and the not exactly PC Chief Wahoo who raised his ugly head in the mid 1980s.
This cap was the airlock between “Bad Ass” and “Is this racist?”
And he is in a nearly empty Cleveland Stadium (which could have been in mid game.)
He is rocking the 1970s stache but evidently has some problems shaving his neck.
He was 27 years old in 1979 and didn’t really make a big name for himself in 5 seasons with the Padres and Indians. He threw a one hitter for the 1974 Padres but at this stage, looked like a middle of the road pitcher.
The Padres traded him midway through the 1978 season for lefty reliever Dennis Kinney and sent Spillner to Cleveland.
In 1980, Spillner won a career high 16 games despite a 5.28 ERA. The next year he was moved to the bullpen and in 1982, found his niche.
He won 12 games out of the pen and for the first time in his career had a sub 3.00 ERA. (He finished with a 2.49 mark.) He also saved 21 games for a team that only won 78 games.
So he had a hand in 33 out of 78 wins.
He had a few good and a few not so good years after that and was a solid middle reliever for the White Sox in 1985 and just 33 years old.
But his career ended.
Not from injuries.
Not from personal problems.
His career ended because of collusion.
Honestly, owners never got enough crap from fans about collusion.
Owners decided the best way to stop salaries from increasing was to just not sign free agents.
They were found guilty of this. And all of the big problems surrounding baseball from the late 1980s to present can be directly linked to collusion.
Skyrocketing players salaries? Owners had to show they weren’t colluding anymore.
Ousting Fay Vincent and inserting conspirator Bud Selig? Vincent wouldn’t go along with the next attempt to lower salaries.
Over expansion? The expansion fees paid by cities was used to pay off collusion damages. They would have been better off moving two franchises instead of creating four.
The strike that cancelled the 1994 World Series? A result of the owner’s Plan B after collusion failed. And the players were entrenched because they knew the owners would rather collude than negotiate.
The Steroid epidemic? Baseball looked away because the sport was rebounding post strike, which would never have happened had the owners not colluded.
The Expos debacle? Their glorious 1994 season was cut short by the strike, who’s cause is linked to collusion.
The A’s and Rays stadium situation? There is no where to move them after the four team expansion.
And a lot of players were affected. The Jack Morris’s and Lance Parrish’s eventually found contracts. But players caught in the middle had to retire.
Dan Spillner was one of them. Not a big enough name to be offered a deal anyway yet too much of a veteran to take the minimum, he retired.
He eventually received a six figure settlement as part of compensation from the colluding owners.
Today he builds houses in Washington state.
He pitched 12 seasons in the big.
Not to be greedy FOR him, but he should have pitched more.