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1971-1983 Charleston Charlies

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Mike Mendoza Charleston CharliesInternational League (1971-1983)

Born: 1971 – The Columbus Jets relocate to Charleston, WV.
Died: 1983 – The Charlies relocate to Old Orchard Beach, ME.

Stadium: Watt Powell Park

Team Colors:



The Charleston Charlies were a colorful (at times, blindingly so) Class AAA ballclub that made their home in West Virginia from 1971 through 1983.  From 1971 through 1976, the Charlies were the top farm club for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were a National League power at the time.  Many of the great stars of Pittsburgh’s 1970′s World Series teams came through Charleston, including Bruce KisonOmar Morena, Dave Parker, Rennie Stennett, Kent Tekulve and Richie Zisk.  Other top Charlies during the Pirates era included Tony Armas, Gene Garber, Art Howe and Willie Randolph.

Although the Pirates farm system was laden with future stars, the Charlies never won an International League title until the Houston Astros took over the parent club affiliation in 1977.  The Charlies won the Governor’s Cup for the first and only time that summer, sweeping the Pawtucket Red Sox in a best-of-seven championship series.

With the arrival of the Astros came fantastic (or grotesque, depending on your worldview) rainbow jerseys, modeled on Houston’s garish horizontal stripes of the late 1970′s/early 1980′s.  (See the photo of pitcher Mike Mendoza, circa 1979, above right).  The jerseys also featured a chest patch of the Charlies’ logo of a cigar-chomping baseball sporting a bowler hat.

Houston pulled out of town after the 1979 season and the early 1980′s were a time of turmoil and decline for the Charlies franchise.  By this time, Charleston (pop. 50,000) was the smallest Class AAA city in the country.  The Texas Rangers took over the affiliation in 1980 but stayed for just one season.  Then the Cleveland Indians were the parent club from 1981 to 1983.  Neither Texas nor Cleveland boasted particularly strong farm systems and their reigns in Charleston produced neither future Major League stars nor winning minor league ball clubs.

Behind the scenes, the Charlies long-time owner Bob Levine decided to sell the club after the 1981 season.  Levine, a junkyard owner, originally brought the team to town from Columbus, Ohio in 1971 and named it in honor of his father Charlie.  A stock drive to convert the Charlies to a community-owned club fell short, but the team’s long-time General Manager Carl Steinfeldt cobbled together enough backing to keep the team going in Charleston for the 1982 season.  But the team continued to lose money and Steinfeldt sold the Charlies to Maine attorney Jordan Kobritz at the 1982 Baseball Winter Meetings.

The Charlies played what amount to a lame duck season in Charleston in 1983 and then Kobritz moved the club to Maine in 1984 where it became known as the Maine Guides (1984-1987).  After several subsequent moves and re-brandings, the franchise once known as the Charleston Charlies plays on today as the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders.



International League Media Guides

International League Programs



1973-1982 Walla Walla Padres

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1979 Walla Walla PadresNorthwest League (1973-1982)

Born: 1973 – Affiliation change from Hawaii Islanders to San Diego Padres.
September 4, 1982 – The Padres relocate to Tri-Cities, WA.

Stadium: Borleske Stadium

Team Colors:



The Walla Walla Padres were the short-season Class A farm club of the San Diego Padres for ten summers from 1973 through 1982.  Walla Walla is a city of approximately 30,000 in southeastern Washington state.  Prior to the Padres arrival in 1973, the city hosted Northwest League baseball for four seasons under affiliations with the Philadelphia Phillies (1969-1971) and the Hawaii Islanders (1972) of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.

The original owner of the Walla Walla Padres was Verne Russell, who broadcast the team’s games on his local easy listening radio station KUJ.  In 1975, Russell sold both the station and the Padres to Jim Nelly.  Nelly converted KUJ to a Top 40 station and handed off the Padres to his wife, Pat Nelly, who ran the ball club as General Manager.  She erected a billboard on the outfield wall at Borleske Stadium that read “Peppermint Patty Loves Her Padres”.

Under Pat Nelly’s regime, the ball club had an unusually contentious relationship with the local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.  When Nelly finally sold the club in  1982 after years of poor attendance, Sunday Sports Editor Ed Clendaniel opined:

“Never in my life have I seen nor ever hope to see again a shoddier or less professional operation than the Walla Walla Padres since Pat Nelly took over as owner in 1975.”

Clendaniel wasn’t alone in his opinion.  Staff writer Skip Nichols regularly excoriated Nelly for her penny-pinching operation of the franchise, which included cancelling the team’s game broadcasts on KUJ in the late 1970′s.

Pat Nelly sold the club during the 1982 season to a Piscataway, New Jersey group fronted by a long-time baseball manager, executive and scout named Mal Fichman.  Fichman took possession of the club’s assets in early September 1982 and immediately moved the franchise to Richland, Washington, where it became known as the Tri-Cities Triplets (1983-1986).

Upon the departure of the Padres, Walla Walla immediately got a new, unaffiliated expansion team in the Northwest League for the 1983 season.  The new club was known as the Walla Walla Bears, but lasted only one season.  Pro baseball has never returned to Walla Walla since the demise of the Bears in late 1983.

Key Walla Walla Padres players included future Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith (1977) and Tony Gwynn (1981).  Other notables include the late Eric Show (1978), John Kruk (1981) and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams (1982).


==In Memoriam==

Pitcher Eric Show died on March 16, 1994 at age 37. (New York Times obituary).



Northwest League Programs


==Additional Sources==

“Walla Walla – Padre divorce took a very long seven years”, Ed Clendaniel, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, September 19, 1982.


Written by andycrossley

August 14th, 2014 at 3:17 am

1995-1997 Minot Mallards

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Minot MallardsPrairie League (1995-1997)

Born: 1995
Died: 1997

Stadium: Corbett Field

Team Colors:

Owners: Don Ziegler & Sharon Ziegler


The Minot Mallards were a low-level pro baseball team that played three summers at tiny Corbett Field in Minot, North Dakota during the mid-1990′s.  The Mallards name was a tribute to the old Minot Mallards of the Class C Northern League who played from 1958 to 1962.

The new Mallards were part of the independent (no Major League affiliation) Prairie League, which featured teams in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

During the 1996 season, the Mallards featured a pair of former Major League journeymen on the roster.  40-year old outfielder Darrell Brown last played in the Bigs twelve years earlier for the Minnesota Twins.  36-year old infielder Brian Giles had a journeyman career with the Mets and a few other teams in the early-mid 80′s.

Former Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres first basemen Rob Nelson played for Minot in 1995.  Aside from Brown, Giles and Nelson, no other Mallards players ever played a Major League game.

The Minot Mallards and the Prairie League both folded after the 1997 season.


Written by andycrossley

August 12th, 2014 at 12:17 am

1962-1978 Quad City Angels

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Quad City AngelsMidwest League (1962-1978)

Born: 1962 – Affiliation change from Quad City Braves.
1979 – Affiliation change to Quad City Cubs.

Stadium: John O’Donnell Stadium (8,500)

Team Colors:



The Quad City Angels were a long-time Class A farm club of the California Angels based in Davenport, Iowa.  This original version of the Angels played 17 seasons from 1962 until 1978.  In 1979, the ball club shifted Major League affiliations to the Chicago Cubs and was known as the Quad City Cubs from 1979 through 1984.  California then returned for a second tour as parent club from 1985 to 1991 and the Quad City Angels identity was revived for those years.  That second Quad City Angels team will be covered in a separate FWIL entry.

Key players to spend time in Quad City during the first Angels era included Dave LaRoche (1967-1968), Frank Tanana (1972), Jerry Remy (1973), Willie Aikens (1975), Carney Lansford (1976), Dickie Thon (1976) and Alan Wiggins (1978).  Future Tampa Bay Rays managed Joe Maddon played for the club as a 22-year old in 1976.

The Angels won Midwest League titles in 1968 and 1971.


==Quad City Angels Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
1976 7/2/1976 vs. Burlington Bees W 5-4 Program


==In Memoriam==

Alan Wiggins (Quad City ’78) died of AIDS on January 6, 1991.  Wiggins was the first Major League player reported to have died of the disease.



Midwest League Media Guides

Midwest League Programs


1977-1981 San Jose Missions

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San Jose MIssionsPacific Coast League (1977-1978)
California League (1979-1981)

Born: October 1976 - The Sacramento Solons relocate to San Jose, CA.
1982 -Affiliation change to San Jose Expos.

Stadium: San Jose Municipal Stadium

Team Colors:

  • 1977: Green & Gold



The San Jose Missions baseball teams of 1977 to 1981 were actual two separate franchises, but we’ve consolidated them into one FWiL entry for simplicity’s sake.  The original Missions of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League arrived in the fall of 1976.  The club was the former Sacramento Solons (1974-1976) of the PCL, who had a nice following in the capital city but didn’t have a regulation baseball stadium.  The Solons played at Hughes Stadium,  a 22,000-seat football stadium with a left field wall only 250 feet away from home plate.  (In 1974 the Solons had two right-handed hitters belt over 50 home runs).  Solons owner Bob Piccinini made arrangements to lease his club to Joe Gagliardi, a part-owner of the Class A San Jose Bees (1962-1976) of the California League who dreamed of bringing triple-A baseball to the Bay Area.   Once the deal was struck in October 1976 the Bees cleared out to make room for the Pacific Coast League club, now re-named the San Jose Missions.

San Jose MissionsThe Missions were an Oakland A’s farm club in 1977 and a Seattle Mariners affiliate in 1978.  Despite the organizational shift, Rene Lachemann managed the team for both seasons, both of which saw the Missions finish in last place.

At the end of the 1978 season Piccinini unloaded the Missions for a reported $175,000 to a truck driver from Utah named Dennis Job.  The Pacific Coast League team moved to Ogden, Utah for the 1979 season and became an Oakland farm club once again, nicknamed the Ogden A’s.

The single-A California League, which had a long relationship with San Jose dating back to the 1940′s, quickly stepped into the breach and put a new team into San Jose’s Municipal Stadium for the 1979 season.   The new ballclub retained the “Missions” name and a parent club relationship with the Seattle Mariners.  Key players that played for the Missions during the California League/Mariners era included Bud Black (1979 & 1980), Dave Henderson (1979) and the #1 overall pick in the 1979 amateur draft, Al Chambers (1980), who turned out to be a colossal bust.

Seattle withdrew its affiliation after the 1980 season, forcing the Missions to play their final season in 1981 without the benefit of prospects from a Major League organization.  Following the 1981 season the Montreal Expos took over San Jose’s California League affiliation and the ball club was re-branded as the San Jose Expos for the 1982 campaign.

As of 2014, billionaire Save Mart grocery baron and former Missions owner Bob Piccinini is part of the ownership group of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.



Pacific Coast League Media Guides

Pacific Coast League Programs

California League Programs