Monday, November 23, 2009

#197 Byron McLaughlin



Who is this player?
Byron McLaughlin, relief pitcher, Seattle Mariners
The summer of 1980 was not a memorable one for Mariners' relief pitcher Bryon McLaughlin. He was hit hard on Opening Day, a preview of difficulties to come. When April ended, his ERA was 8.36. At the end of May it was 9.25. He improved somewhat over the summer, but his ERA still hovered over 6.00. He was given a few opportunities to start, but didn't perform well in that role either. On the pitching-starved Mariners that lost 103 games, he finished the year 3-6 record. After four years in Seattle, Byron was traded in December to the Minnesota Twins.

Originally signed by the Montreal Expos in 1973, The righthanded McLaughlin was released and also spent time with the Baltimore organization where he was similarly cut loose. The 1977 Mariners, in their first season, signed McLaughlin pitching out of Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican League and he made is major league debut in September of that year. He began the year in Seattle but bounced between the major leagues and Triple-A. Appearing mainly as a starting pitcher, he finished 4-8 with a highlight being a complete game, 10 strikeout performance against Chicago.

In 1979, McLaughlin was sent to the bullpen where he was given the closer role. Despite a high ERA, he led the team with 14 saves. He was poised to share the role in 1980 with Dave Heaverlo, but his poor start never allowed him to regain the position. He failed to make the Minnesota Twins in 1981 and returned to Mexico for two season. The California Angels signed him in 1983 and he briefly appeared with the Halos, pitching ineffectively. It would be the final season of his five year career.

His connections in Mexico would serve him well in the mid to late 1980s. Simply, he was part of a group that made a deal with Korean companies to manufacture cheap counterfeit sneakers for the Mexican market. The scheme would earn $750,000 a month as the fake Reeboks and Converse were sold in Mexico at 100% markup. Eventually the authorities caught up with him and he faced criminal charges of money laundering. McLaughlin posted bail, and with $2.5 million in an overseas account, skipped sentencing and fled the country. It is believed that McLaughlin is somewhere in France although his whereabouts have not been confirmed in almost twenty years.

Why I love this card
Two things that jumped out for me as a kid on this card. First, it looks as if McLaughlin is trying to stamp out the Mariners banner on the bottom of his card. Seeing how his 1980 season went, can't say that I blame him. Second, I love what appears to be the desert mountains in center field. After so many of the Spring Training shots appearing to be in a park, this one is different.

Something else....
Why hasn't McLaughlin been featured on America's Most Wanted yet?

14 comments:

  1. I always liked that card. That's bizarre what he ended up doing.

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  2. The picture was taken at Tempe Diablo Stadium. It's about 2-3 miles from Arizona State University. The Mariners trained there until moving over to Peoria, AZ in the mid-late 90s.

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  3. Matt

    Did they play Spring Training games there during that time?

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  4. Byron's family and my family grew up together on Malibu Road in Malibu, CA and we all had MANY happy years there. I even had the wind knocked out of me by one of his pitches (I was the catcher)...he was only about 9 at the time! Who knew :)

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  5. Byron married a French woman which is how he escaped extradition by US authorities. With regard to the fake Nikes, etc, he had nothing to do with their manufacturing, he only shipped containers to MX from Korea with the plan of selling them in the US market, not the MX market. Byron has also been involved in selling cocaine and check kiting.

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  6. I stand corrected. Thanks for the input.

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  7. I grew up with Byron McLaughlin in Malibu. He attended Malibu Park Junior High School (now Malibu High School) and Santa Monica High School. We played on the same Colt League baseball team together in 1970. I first met Byron when he was in my study hall class in 1968 at Malibu Park Junior High. He told me that he wanted to become a Major League baseball player. I saw the fire in his eyes and the passion he had for baseball. In other class at Santa Monica High School, he told me that he going to pitch in a major league game at Dodger Stadium. Ironically in April 1983 he pitched in the Freeway Series between the Angels and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium when played with the Angels. Byron had such a drive to become Major League baseball player as a boy and as a young man and he worked so hard to get there. He had so much potential if he just focused but hung around with the "wrong" crowd. The person Byron became was the person I did not know. But I just try now to reflect on the good memories that I had with him growing up.

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  8. I grew up with Byron McLaughlin in Malibu. He attended Malibu Park Junior High School (now Malibu High School) and Santa Monica High School. We played on the same Colt League baseball team together in 1970. I first met Byron when he was in my study hall class at Malibu Park Junior High. He told me that he wanted to become a Major League baseball player. I saw the fire in his eyes and the passion he had for baseball. In other class at Santa Monica High School, he told me that he going to pitch in a major league game at Dodger Stadium. Ironically in April 1983 he pitched in the Freeway Series between the Angels and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium when played with the Angels. Byron had such a drive to become Major League baseball player as a boy and as a young man and he worked hard to get there. He had so much potential if he just focused but hung around with the "wrong" crowd. The person Byron became was the person I did not know. But I just try now to reflect on the good memories that I had with him growing up.

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  9. I also grew up with Byron in Malibu, going to school with him and playing little league baseball with him when we were 9-12 years old. He was so focused on baseball, I think at that time he had a dozen baseball gloves. Spent some time at sleepovers at his house on the beach and I remember he had a big dog... he claimed that he had played catch with Sandy Koufax on the beach many times... no reason to doubt him.

    Hope he finds his way...

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  10. INDEPENDIENTEMENTE DE LOS ERRORES QUE HAYA COMETIDO, EN NUEVO LAREDO DEJO UNA BUENA IMAGEN, PUES FUE PIEZA CLAVE PARA OBTENER EL CAMPEONATO DE LA LIGA MEXICANA EN EL 77 CON LOS TECOLOTES DE NUEVO LAREDO.

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  11. De igual manera tambien lo recuerdo gratamente como una de los jugadores de mayor impacto para los Tecolotes en la temporada del '77. Aun recuerdo oir la radio, en la azotea de mi casa en Nuevo Laredo, "Nuevo Laredo Campeon! Nuevo Laredo Campeon!..." Aun tengo la pelota que me dio Chito Rodriguez, con el autografo de Byron, y el resto del equipo. Le deseo paz en su vida.

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  12. Above, translated:

    Similarly, I remember also pleasantly as one of the biggest impact players for the Owls in the season of '77. I still remember hearing the radio, on the roof of my house in Nuevo Laredo, "Nuevo Laredo Champion! Champion Laredo !..." Even I have the ball that gave me Chito Rodriguez, with Byron's autograph, and the rest of the team. I wish you peace in your life.

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  13. As far as I know now, Byron is still in France. Beginning in 1985 I worked with Byron for a couple of years in Southern California. After his years of baseball, he hated to travel. He had no friends in baseball and next to none outside of baseball. For Byron, everything was money and that is what got him into trouble with his transporting cocaine. He told me that he never was a user. His family connections along with a hefty bribe to a major official in Sacramento got him released without supervision from his trafficking problem and he delved into his next life. He became a deal maker, always looking for a way to make money without working. He had gotton into check kiting but began using credit cards which were eventually retained by the places where he attempted to use them. He worked with some butchers where he bought meat in quantities with a thirty day payment plan and then sold meat in poorer areas. Here Byron would have money coming in while the costs due would be delayed. Since he hated to travel he paid for my trip to Korea so I could contact some shoe manufacturers. I knew he wanted to import shoes into Mexico and then sell them in the US, since he claimed to already have buyers lined up, but I did not know that he planned to import fake Nike, Reebock, Puma, etc. By the time he actually began importing into Mexico he and I had gone separate ways but I heard that he had to flee the US and went to Africa where he was again arrested. His fake Rolex watch served as a bribe out of jail and he made his way into Europe and settle in France. He had his money in a Luxembourg bank and his French girlfriend, with whom he lived in Southern California, was of immense help to him since he spoke only English and Spanish. The US tried to extradict him from France and his quick marriage to Brigette was his savior. I doubt he will ever leave France because he dislikes travel and because he is on interpol watch. Byron NEVER has anything in his own name, even when he rented apartments in southern California, all bills and all agreements were signed for by others. His family also lost track of him and asked me for help in locating him when his mother had died. dcameron99@yahoo.com

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