Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1946 Youngstown Gremlins

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Youngstown Gremlins ProgramMiddle Atlantic League (1946)

Born: 1946
Died: 1947 – Re-branded as the Youngstown Colts.

Stadium: Idora Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio was a fixture in the Class C Middle Atlantic League between 1939 and 1951.  The team identity changed every couple of years (Browns, Gremlins, Colts, A’s) and there was no baseball in the Steel Valley at all from 1942 to 1945, as the Mid-Atlantic went dark during the meanest years of World War II.  The local nine were known as the Youngstown Gremlins (the best name of the bunch, IMO) for only one season, when the Mid-Atlantic League came back to life in the post-war summer of 1946.

The Gremlins played at Idora Park, site of Youngstown’s historic amusement park.  The Jack Rabbit roller coaster loomed over right field.  The amusement park closed in 1984 following a devastating fire.

There’s no clear record online of whether the Gremlins had a Major League affiliation in 1946.  Between the unusual name and the fact that only one player from the club ever advanced to the Major Leagues, I’d hazard a guess that the team was independent.  Ace pitcher Johnny Kucab (12-1, 1.86 ERA) was the brightest light at the not-quite-young age of 26.  He would later pitch three seasons in the Majors for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1950-1952.

Another compelling figure was the team’s manager, Paul Birch.  Birch played some sporadic minor league baseball, but his better sport was basketball.  He starred at Duquesne University in nearby Pittsburgh and was playing for the Youngstown Bears in the National Basketball League (a forerunner to the modern NBA) in 1947 when he signed on to manage to Gremlins during the summer months.

Birch would later become Head Coach of the NBA’s Fort Wayne Pistons from 1951 through 1954.  Birch would resign his Pistons job under pressure in the fall out from the Jack Molinas point shaving scandal in 1954 and never worked in the NBA again.  Birch passed away in 1982.

 

==Links==

Youngstown Baseball Has a History Dating Back to 19th Century“, Vince Guerrieri, DidTheTribeWinLastNight.com

Middle Atlantic League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 15th, 2015 at 2:17 am

1943-1950 Racine Belles

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Racine Belles ProgramAll-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1950)

Born: 1943 – AAGPBL founding franchise.
Died: September 30, 1950 – The Belles withdraw from the AAGPBL.

Stadium: Horlick Field

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Racine (WI) Belles were charter members of the historic All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during the war summer of 1943.  The Midwest-based AAGPBL was founded by Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley when it appeared that the war and the military draft might imperil the continued operation of Major League Baseball.  The women’s league was originally conceived as a softball league in 1943, but evolved into a baseball competition through a series of gradual rules changes throughout the 1940’s.  The league used underhand pitching, for example, for its first few seasons.  Wrigley gave up the league after its first season when it became clear that Major League Baseball would survive the war.  But his gum advertising guru Arthur Meyerhoff took over management of the AAGPBL and kept it operating into the post-war era.

The AAGPBL found an audience in places like Racine – where Belles attendance would peak at a very respectable 102,413 fans in 1946 – and continued to operate until 1954.  The Belles won the first championship of the AAGPBL in 1943, defeating the Kenosha Comets.  They would win a second crown in 1946.

As late as 1947, Belles attendance topped 100,000, but interested declined rapidly in the summers that followed.  In 1949 attendance fell to 44,912 and the money-losing club was re-organized under the auspices of a non-profit organization the following winter.  Crowds continued to shrink (an estimated 30,000 admissions for the 1950 season) and Belles management announced it would withdraw from the AAGPBL in September 1950.

Rights to the Belles franchise and its players were later assigned to Battle Creek, Michigan under new management, though many of the Belles players declined to follow the club to Michigan.  The Battle Creek Belles played two further seasons, going out of business at the end of the 1952 campaign.

 

==Slideshow==

  • Racine Belles Yearbook
  • Racine Belles Program
  • Racine Belles Yearbook
  • Racine Belles Yearbook
  • Racine Belles Yearbook

 

==Links==

All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 11th, 2015 at 5:01 am

1919-1930 Pittsfield Hillies

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Pittsfield Hillies ProgramEastern League (1919-1930)

Born: 1919
Died: 1930

Stadium: Wahconah Park

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

The Pittsfield Hillies were a Depression-era minor league baseball team in the Berkshires region of Western Massachusetts.  They played in the Class A Eastern League and won league titles in 1919 and 1921.

 

==Downloads==

On July 3, 2004 former Major League pitcher and Ball Four author helped promote a vintage baseball game at Wahconah Park (still in use today as one of the oldest ballparks in America).  At the time, Bouton was part of a group trying to acquire an independent pro baseball team for Pittsfield, an effort that ultimately fell through.  The vintage game featured teams playing as the Hillies and their old Eastern League rivals, the Hartford Senators.  The exhibition attracted around 5,000 fans and was broadcast live on ESPN Classic with Bill “Spaceman” Lee as the color man.

Re-matches were played in Hartford later that July and back again at Wahconah in September.  You can still download a copy of the Wahconah Park Times game programs for these exhibitions at Bouton’s website here:

July 3, 2004 – Pittsfield Hillies vs. Hartford Senators vintage baseball game program

September 4, 2004 – Pittsfield Hillies vs. Hartford Senators vintage baseball game program

 

==Links==

Eastern League Media Guides

Eastern League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 2nd, 2015 at 4:23 pm

1982-1994 Beloit Brewers

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Beloit Brewers Midwest League (1982-1994)

Born: 1982
Died:
1995 – Re-branded as the Beloit Snappers.

Stadium: Harry C. Pohlman Field (3,100)

Team Colors:

Owner: Beloit Professional Baseball Association

 

The Beloit (WI) Brewers were the Class A Midwest League farm club of the Milwaukee Brewers from 1982 through 1994.  The franchise still operates today in Beloit, but has been known as the Beloit Snappers since a 1995 re-branding.

Since its founding in 1982, the Beloit ball club has been operated as a community-owned non-profit organization, known as the Beloit Professional Baseball Association.

Key ballplayers to come up through Beloit during the Brewers years included future Major League All-Stars B.J. Surhoff (Beloit ’85) and Greg Vaughn (Beloit ’87), 1992 American League Rookie-of-the-Year Pat Listach (’88).

 

==Links==

Midwest League Media Guides

Midwest League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 20th, 2014 at 7:17 pm

1963-1994 Spartanburg Phillies, Traders, Spinners & Suns

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Spartanburg PhilliesWestern Carolinas League (1963-1979)
South Atlantic League (1980-1994)

Born: 1963 – Western Carolinas League expansion franchise.
Died:
1995 – The Phillies relocate to Kannapolis, NC.

Stadium: Duncan Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

For more than three decades, Spartanburg, South Carolina was one of the first destinatons for young prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.  The city’s glory days as a Phillies farm club came in the mid-1960’s.  The Spartanburg Phillies won back-to-back Western Carolinas League titles in 1966 and 1967.  The 1966 Spartanburg club, featuring a middle infield combo of Larry Bowa and Denny Doyle, had a 91-35 record and was ranked #78 in the Top 100 minor league teams of all-time as chosen by the National Association in 2001.

Off the field, the Spartanburg teams of the mid-60’s were packaged and sold by Pat Williams, a young protégé of maverick promoter Bill Veeck and also of the Carpenter family that owned the Philadelphia Phillies.  Williams ran constant promotions and local fans responded.  In 1966, Spartanburg re-wrote the single season Class A attendance record.  Williams – a young man in his mid-20’s during his time in Spartanburg – would go on to become one of the mostly highly respected chief executives in the NBA, as General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.

Spartanburg PhilliesThe Phils enjoyed another run of league dominance in the early 1970’s, winning Western Carolinas League crowns in 1972, 1973 and 1975.  But by the 1970’s, both Williams and the crowds were long gone.  Attendance at Duncan Park during the 1970’s was frequently under 500 fans per night, reflecting the broader existential crisis in minor league baseball around the country during that era.

As the 1980’s dawned, the Western Carolinas League re-branded itself as the South Atlantic League.  Spartanburg continued its long-time relationship with the Philadelphia Phillies, but starting in 1981 the team adopted a series of new names.  The ball club was known first as the Spartanburg Traders (1981-1982), then the Spartanburg Spinners (1983) and finally the Spartanburg Suns (1984-1985).  Meanwhile, in 1984, the Most Valuable Players of both the American League (Willie Hernandez) and the National League (Ryne Sandberg) were former members of the Spartanburg Phillies.

In 1986 the team took back the traditional Spartanburg Phillies name.  Two seasons later, the Spartanburg Phillies won the 1988 South Atlantic League crown, which would prove to be the city’s final minor league championship.

By the early 1990’s, Duncan Park was badly outdated and no longer met the minimum Class A standards set by the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. Spartanburg’s attendance consistenly ranked last in the South Atlantic League by this point.   While numerous small mid-Atlantic cities were willing to help finance new ballparks to lure minor league baseball, Spartanburg didn’t show the political will to upgrade Duncan Park.  Late era owner Brad Shover entertained numerous offers for the team in the 1990’s before finally closing a deal with NASCAR team owner Larry Hedrick in late 1993.  Hedrick operated the Phillies for one lame duck season in Spartanburg in 1994 before moving the team to a new ballpark in Kannapolis, North Carolina in 199

At the time of the move in 1995, the Philadelphia Phillies and the city of Spartanburg had the 5th longest relationship between a Major League ballclub and a minor league community.  The former Spartanburg franchise plays on today as the Kannapolis Intimidators.

 

==Links==

Western Carolina League Programs

South Atlantic League Media Guides

South Atlantic League Programs

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