Let me try and explain what my bedroom looked like in the late 1980s. I had a table next to my bed and near the window. On the table were 26 piles of baseball cards, one for each team.
(Remember, the Marlins, Rockies, Rays and Diamondbacks didn’t exist then and the Expos were there instead of the Nationals.)
I tried to arrange each team with the baseball cards of all the current players on the roster. The Number One starter would be on the top. Because of the light coming in, the ace would be practically faded by the end of the season.
Now it was frustrating when players were called up from the minors because there would be no corresponding card to put in the pile.
That’s when Score’s “Rising Star” collection was so cool. There would be pile of players not yet called up from the minors yet just ready to be inserted into the piles on my table.
Hensley Meulens was included in that collection more than once. And Yankee fans all around the world did not realize it, but they were waiting for me to stick his card into the piles.
The player endearingly called “Bam Bam” was born in Curacao in 1967. He was an undrafted free agent when the Yankees signed him as a third baseman in 1985. In 1987, he suddenly became one of the Yankees top prospects after batting .300 and clubbing 28 homers in Single A ball. The Yankees were a bloating aging team and their fans were hungry for home grown young stars.
Meulens looked like he was going to be the next big Yankee star. In 1988 and 1989 he cooled off but managed a cameo in the Bronx, where is was clear he could not handle third base defensively.
In 1990, he was the MVP of the AAA International League and looked like he was reacu for his close up.
It never quite came to be. He would put up big numbers in AAA but bomb in the majors. He got chances in 1990, 1991 and 1992 but never shone. In 1993 he batted .170 in 61 plate appearances. The Yankees rebuilding was coming together but alas, it was going to continue without him.
Between 1994 and 2002, Bam Bam played all over the world. He starred for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, found his way back in the big leagues in Canada for the Expos, played for Ottawa, had a brief reunion with his former manager Buck Showalter in Arizona. Later he played in Korea, Mexico and represented the Netherlands in the 2000 Olympics before retiring in the Mexican league.
His coaching career took off not long after that. He coached the Dutch team in the 2004 Olympics and was a hitting coach in the Orioles and Pirates organizations as well as the Arizona Fall and Hawaii Winter league.
Eventually he joined Bruce Bochy’s coaching staff on San Francisco. He joined former Yankee teammates Dave Righetti and Roberto Kelly as the Giants went on to win 3 different World Series titles with Bam Bam as a coach.
He earned the World Series rings he never got with the Yankees as a coach for San Francissco. And while he will never make the Hall of Fame as a player, he was warded with the Order of Orange Nassau by Netherlands Queen Beatrix, making him a Knight, carrying the title “Sir.”
Those are a lot of honors for a player who had trouble making it to the piles of cards on my table.