Down The Rabbit Hole With A 1977 TCMA Minor League Card

A recent package from Nick of the World Famous Dime Boxes blog included a card which became my oldest minor league card, beating out my 1979 TCMA Jackson Mets team set (which I wrote about seven years ago).

Say ‘Hi’ to Carman Coppol from the 1977 TCMA Lynchburg Mets team set.

I admit, I never heard of Carman Coppol before this card came my way, but now that I know a little more about him, the more I like this card.

Before I get into that, here’s the back of this card:

Carman Coppol was drafted in the 31st round out of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. I’m just familiar enough with E-Town to know it’s a Division III school, and I’m here to tell you that if you played D3 ball in the Mid-Atlantic, that playing professionally is, in and of itself, a pretty damn big accomplishment.

Coppol pitched three seasons in the Mets system and peaked in A-ball. According to the E-Town Blue Jays website, Coppol was inducted into E-Town’s Ira R. Herr Athletic Hall Of Fame in 1993. He was also named to the Middle Atlantic Conference’s Century Team (1974-1986 division) for baseball. Poking around that list of the best 82 baseball players from this D3 conference, I saw a couple of names that made it to the majors and another name that made me stop and Google in another direction.

That name that added to my research time was Lafayette College’s Jim Van Der Beek, which got me thinking “Wait… James Van Der Beek? Dawson’s Creek, Varsity Blues… THAT James Van Der Beek?” Sadly, I then realized that Lafayette’s Jim Van Der Beek falls into the 1912 – 1973 category, which would make Jim too old to play “Dawson”… But the actor is James Van Der Beek Jr., so maybe this Jim VDB is James Sr? …mayyyyyyyyybe….? At this point I’d already spent far too much time on what had been meant as a quick single-card post, so I’ll leave it to you to figure that out, if you want to.

The two legitimate names I recognized from the Century list were Messiah College’s Chris Heisey, who played with the Reds, Dodgers and Nationals…

…and Albright College’s Casey Lawrence, who pitched for the Blue Jays and Mariners, and is currently in Japan with the Hiroshima Carp.

One last guy who I thought would be on this list got me scurrying all over the internet. Gene Garber, who has over 200 MLB saves, is in the E-Town Sports HOF, is listed in several places as having gone to Elizabethtown High School and Elizabethtown College (as well has having grown up in a farm outside Elizabethtown)… and yet he is not part of that MAC Century team. How can this be?

I finally poked around enough that it dawned on me: Garber’s professional experience started in 1965, when he was 17 years old and continued until his age 40 season in 1988; however his E-Town College HOF page (such as it is) shows him as a member of the class of 1969. Garber must have attended college while pitching in the pros, so while he graduated from E-Town, he never pitched for E-Town. Even so… Graduating a four-year school in four years while playing professional baseball, that’s pretty damn impressive.

Since I wandered pretty far afield, my whole point here was that out of 82 best-of-the-century players from a D3 conference, I could only find two who had enough of a MLB career to appear on a card. I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed somebody, but it still underlines the fact that the deck is stacked against a player from one of these schools having a significant baseball career.

And now, getting back to the TCMA set – I *did* say up front that this was going down the rabbit hole – I took a peek at the checklist for the entire team, and there are some well-known names included: pitchers Neil Allen and Jeff Reardon and manager Jack Aker. Other names which jumped out at this 1970’s Mets fan are Butch Benton, Mario Ramirez (misspelled “Raminez” on his card), Randy Tate and Dave Von Ohlen.

So yes… quite a lot of research time coming out of one minor league card.

But before I go… A very big thank to Nick for sending me this card; he sent me many others (both in this package and in others I haven’t fully acknowledged), and I want him to know that they are all appreciated (just not publicly… yet)

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7 thoughts on “Down The Rabbit Hole With A 1977 TCMA Minor League Card

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that Garber card. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Garber without that full beard he’s rocking on his 1981 Donruss and 1981 Fleer cards.

  2. Sending people down rabbit holes is one of my favorite things to do as a blogger/trader. I had a feeling you’d latch onto Mr. Coppol when I added it to your stack. Happy he and the others I sent found a good home!

  3. Happy to find out I’m not the only one who can get lost in some obscure minor leaguer who never made it LOL. I’m fascinated by what could have been, perhaps…

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