This Thursday's Guest is Steve from the phenomenal White Sox Cards blog. I was really looking forward to this and was still blown away; I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I did.
For whatever reason, I became infatuated with Shawn Abner for a brief period in 1985. I was a sucker for the subsets in the Topps set that year and to me Shawn was the epitome of coolness, however misguided or misplaced that was at the time.
All I knew was that Abner was the number one pick in the draft and that impressed me enough that summer to hold Shawn’s Topps card with great admiration. In fact, that card still brings a smile to my face when I see it.
It probably helped that Shawn was part of the Mets system back then. My friends were abuzz about Strawberry and Gooden. I can’t say I blame them. They were two young players with bright futures and the skills to back them up, so when I saw that Shawn was going to be part of that and he was the number one pick, I was convinced that it would prove to be a winning combination.
While my friends were coveting cards of Clemens, Puckett, Eric Davis, Sandberg, Boggs and other stars of the day, I held on to Shawn Abner. Not only was he the high draft pick, but he had a kind face.
A few seasons had passed and I looked for Shawn on the Mets, but he was nowhere to be found. Unknown to me at the time, Abner had been traded to the Padres and never would see MLB playing time with the Mets.
I fell out of collecting, but I still watched games. Unfortunately, in the eighties there wasn’t interleague play yet and the team that I rooted for was in the American League. My path would not cross Shawn Abner’s again until I got back into card collecting.
By 1990, I had all but forgotten about Shawn. Then as I started buying packs again, I ran across his cards. It was a revelation to see that he was on the Padres! I had heard about the exciting young crop of players that San Diego was putting out on the field the past few years. Names like John Kruk, Joey Cora, Benito Santiago and the Alomar brothers immediately jump to mind.
Plus, there were names I was very familiar with, like Eric Show, Jack Clark and, of course, Tony Gwynn. Those were names that shaped my childhood, but I never knew that Shawn was among those names until I started collecting again.
I had a habit of latching on to players, as a child, for reasons that only made sense to me. I think in Shawn’s case, the deciding factor was his kind face. I can’t say that I remember watching Abner too much as a Padre, but I do recall thinking that good things happen when he’s involved.
1990 was smack dab in the middle of the overproduction period of baseball cards. As quickly as I found Shawn again, it seemed that he was popping up everywhere. This only made me happier. I found out that Abner was a light hitter, but he was a scrappy player that gave it his all. That only led to more admiration from my end.
I was a little disappointed and a little excited when Shawn moved to the Angels. I would get to see him more often. I did get to see him play six games against the White Sox in September 1991. Four hits in six games didn’t make much of an impression, but it was enough to sustain. All of Abner’s hits came in Angel victories against the Pale Hose. That only exaggerated the legend of Shawn Abner as a good luck charm, in my book.
After a Spring Training where I was still lamenting the late cut of John Cangelosi from the previous year, imagine my surprise when the White Sox signed the legendary Shawn Abner! The Sox opened against the team that cut him just a few weeks prior. The Sox swept the Angels to open the season and my stance of Abner as a good luck charm was cemented.
Shawn responded by having arguably his best season in the majors! He hit .279 and replaced Ozzie Guillen’s usual one homer per season with one of his own. Ozzie was out most of the year with a devastating injury when he collided with Tim Raines trying to catch a late inning pop up by the Yankee’s Mel Hall early in the season.
Abner finished up his career with the Sox, but out of mostly bad luck. Injuries kept him in the minors until his retirement.
When I think of Shawn Abner, I first think of the Padres. Then it quickly turns to the White Sox. Some people have labeled Shawn as the biggest bust of the entire draft process. I think that’s a bit harsh. Did he have a Hall of Fame career? Hardly. He did play in the majors from 1987 until 1992. Some number one draft choices never make it to the majors at all.
I’ll always smile when I think of Shawn Abner. He gave it everything he had and managed to have a little success in the majors, along with some great memories. Whether you’re a San Diego Padres fan or a Chicago White Sox fan, those two teams were better off for having Shawn Abner there as a player.