Flashback Friday: Making Moves (1987)

The 1987 program of the Appleton Foxes.

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | February 21, 2014 10:49 AM ET

The 1987 Appleton Foxes were in their first year as an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Both the team and some of the players were playing pretty well by the time mid-June rolled around on the calendar.

However, as is the case in minor league baseball, there were promotions and injuries that caused roster turnover. All of the changes and a few other news items made it into Gary Shriver's Foxes Notes column for the June 14 edition of The Post-Crescent.

'Programs! Get your programs here!'

For the next few weeks Appleton Foxes fans will indeed need a program to identify their team.

A combination of injuries, promotions, and additions through selections made by the Kansas City Royals in last week's amateur draft has put the Foxes' roster in a state of flux.

Most of the uncertainty surrounding what the Foxes will look like the rest of the season centers around the pitching staff. Not only have left-handed starter Greg Hibbard and relief ace Chuck Mount been promoted to Fort Myers of the Class A Florida State League, but the Foxes also currently have four pitchers on the disabled list. They include Tom Gilles, with bone spurs in his elbow; Dennis Moeller, elbow; Jose Rodriguez, shoulder; and Joe Skodny, elbow.

That leaves the Foxes with seven hurlers who were originally on the staff at the start of the season; Ben Lee, Phil McKinzie, Luke Nocas, Mike Tresmer, Mike Butcher, Bil Gilmore, and Jim Willis.

The Foxes, who will carry 12 pitchers, plan to choose the other five from among Brian Meyers, Richie LeBlanc, Jeff Cruse, Dan Harlan, Shawn Pumphrey, Bill Cassidy and Gary Peters.

Harlan and LeBlanc have appeared in recent games.

"It will take a couple of weeks to sort all of this out," said Foxes Manager Ken Berry. "These guys will all be looked at, some of them here and some of them elsewhere. We will activate some of them, and some of them we just take a look at in practice."

LeBlanc comes from Louisiana Tech, Cruse from Eastern Kentucky; and Harlan from Lewis University. The three were draft selections while the others were picked up as free agents.

In addition, Carlos Maldonado was with the club briefly before being sent back to Sarasota in the rookie league.

Both Berry and Royals Director of Player Development John Boles are happy with the performance of the position players.

"I'm very happy with their play," said Boles. "It is our intention to give Appleton the best club possible. For example, we drafted a number of second baseman, but I don't think any of them could beat out Frankie Laureano.

"I don't know what will eventually be decided, but I'm happy with what I've got," said Berry.

There has been one recent change among the everyday players. Outfielder Antoine Pickett has been sent to Eugene, Ore. in the short-season Class A Northwest League. His place on the roster has been filled by outfielder Kent Headley from Wichita State University. This spring Headley hit .335 with Wichita State and was second in the nation in stolen bases.

The Foxes should also be bolstered in the near future by the return of catcher-third baseman Carlos Escalera. Escalera, who was originally thought to be out for the season after having surgery to repair ligament damage in his left thumb, may be able to return to action as early as two or three weeks.

"I hurt the thumb in the first game of the season," said Escalera. "I was sliding into second base and I slipped, everything falling on the thumb. At first, I thought it was just sprained, but after a month it didn't get any better."

The Royals sent Escalera to Dr. James Andrews, a leading orthopedic specialist in Birmingham, Ala., who is used by several major league clubs.

"He looked at the X-rays and right away decided it had to be repaired," said Escalera. "It was in a cast until this week. The doctor said that I can play catch again in two weeks."

Escalera has already been able to take batting practice, but he won't be activated again until he can catch again.

"When he's ready he'll take Brian Poldberg's (a coach who was activated because of injuries to other players)," said Berry. "But I need three catchers in case one goes down and I've pinch hit. I don't want to rush Carlos. He's the kind of player who wants to get into action, anyway."

  • Bill McKee, the majority owner of one of the proposed expansion franchises in the Midwest League has requested to move his operation from Kane County, Ill. to Rockford, Ill. There is still no indication that McKee has made progress on obtaining a player development contract with a major league team for the franchise.
  • The Appleton Foxes held their second annual baseball card show at Goodland Field Saturday. The show featured the trading and selling of cards and other baseball memorabilia.

    According to Russ Truettner, a member of the Foxes' board of directors who was in charge of the show, several hundred collectors attended the session and a case of cards, which went for $200 a couple of years ago, went for $1,400 at the show.

    Among the items that are now hot among collectors are plastic figures of baseball greats, which were produced over 20 years ago in Hartland, Wis. Some of these figures are now going for as much as $200.

    Truettner plans a second show in early August.
  • Appleton native Keith Gibson damaged some knee ligaments while umpiring on June 2 in the Class A Carolina League.

    Gibson, who is expected to return to umpiring soon, was hit by a foul tip while working the game between the Prince William Yankees and Winston-Salem, N.C. Cubs in Virginia.
  • The Minnesota Twins have sent former UW-Oshkosh star Rusty Kryzanowski to Elizabethton in the Class A Appalachian League. Kryzanowski, who started this season with Kenosha as a third baseman, will be converted to a pitcher.


The 1987 Foxes finished the season 71-69. They missed out on the Wild Card to the 72-67 Clinton Giants.

Head over to this post on Rattler Radio to see the full cover of the 1987 Foxes Program

Frankie Laureano had an amazing season as the Foxes second baseman in 1987. He hit .323 with 16 homers and 87 RBI in 139 games as a 19-year-old. Laureano stuck in the Royals organization and made it to Triple-A Omaha for six games in 1991.

The 1987 Foxes had six players make it to the major leagues. The lone position player to make it to the show was Harvey Pulliam. The five pitchers: Mike Butcher, Tom Gilles, Greg Hibbard, Carlos Maldonado, and Dennis Moeller.

Brian Poldberg appeared in two games as a pitcher when he was active on the Appleton roster. Poldbeg was the Foxes manager in 1988 and 1989.

The Chicago Tribune has more on the Bill McKee decision to go from Kane County to Rockford move here and follows up with this 1992 article here.

Check out all The Hartland Baseball Figurines at this page. (Watch out for the autoplay of Take Me Out to the Ballgame). My favorites are Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, Henry Aaron, and Minor Leaguer Dash Ornament.

Keith Gibson was a minor league umpire for six seasons, but stopped after the 1988 season. According to this Orlando Sentinel article from 1989, Gibson graduated from the Central Florida Criminal Justice Institute in May of that year. Appleton residents from the mid-80's may remember Gibson's father, who was in the city police department and retired from the force as a Deputy Police Chief in 1991.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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