Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1978-1981 Springfield Redbirds

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Springfield Redbirds ProgramAmerican Association (1978-1981)

Born: 1978 – The New Orleans Pelicans relocate to Springfield, IL.
Died: November 11, 1981 – The Redbirds relocate to Louisville, KY.

Stadium: Lanphier Park

Team Colors:

Owner: A. Ray Smith

 

The Springfield Redbirds were a Class AAA farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals that played for four summers at Springfield, Illinois’ Lanphier Park.

Key future Major Leaguers who came through Springfield during this era included Leon Durham (1979-1980), Tom Herr (1978-1980), Terry Kennedy (1978-1979), Donnie Moore (1980-1981) and Ken Oberkfell (1978) among others.

The Redbirds won the 1980 championship of the American Association, with Hal Lanier as field manager.

Prior to the Redbirds final season in Springfield in 1981, team owner A. Ray Smith signed a six-year contract with the city of Springfield to lease Lanphier Park for $50,000 per season through 1986.  But at the end of that summer, smelling a sweeter deal in Louisville, Kentucky, Smith broke the lease and uprooted his club for the second time in five years.  The American Association owners voted 7-1 to allow the move in November 1981.  The city of Springfield responded with a lawsuit against Smith and the league in December.

Ultimately, Smith paid a six-figure settlement to the city of Springfield and was allowed to run off to Kentucky.  In Louisville, the Redbirds became one of the top minor league attractions of the 1980’s and the first minor league team to attract one million fans in a single season in 1983.  Springfield, meanwhile, received a Class A Midwest League farm club – the Springfield Cardinals – in 1982 to replace the departing Redbirds.  The Cardinals played from 1982 until 1993.

 

==Links==

American Association Media Guides

American Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

October 12th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

1977-1978 Calgary Cardinals

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Calgary Cardinals ProgramPioneer League (1977-1978)

Born: 1977 – Pioneer League expansion franchise.
Died: September 1978 – The St. Louis Cardinals pull their farm club from Calgary.

Stadium: Foothills Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Russ Parker

 

The Calgary Cardinals were a short-lived farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals that played in the Rookie level Pioneer League in 1977 and 1978.  The Cards entered the Pioneer League in June 1977 as one of two expansion clubs in the 6-team loop, alongside the Medicine Hat A’s.  The ball club was founded by Russ Parker, a local baseball lover who made his money selling photocopiers.

Johnny Lewis, the Cards’ manager in 1977, was the first African-American field manager in the history of the Pioneer League dating back to 1939.

Following the 1978 season, the Montreal Expos replaced the Cardinals as Calgary’s parent club.  The club was known as the Calgary Expos from 1979 until 1984.  After the 1984 season, team owner Russ Parker purchased the Class AAA Salt Lake Gulls of the Pacific Coast League and brought the club north to Foothills Stadium, where it became the Calgary Cannons in 1985.  The Expos and the Pioneer League left town to make way for the higher-level Cannons and moved to Salt Lake, meaning the two cities effectively swapped franchises.

 

==Links==

Pioneer League Media Guides

Pioneer League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

September 29th, 2014 at 12:40 am

2001 Baton Rouge Blue Marlins

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Baton Rouge Blue MarlinsAll-American Association (2001)

Born: 2001 – All-American Association founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 2001 – The Blue Marlins cease operations.

Stadium: Pete Goldsby Park

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

The Baton Rouge Blue Marlins were a deeply obscure independent pro baseball team that played in the doomed All-American Association during the summer of 2001.  Both the ball club and the league itself  folded at the end of one season.

The All-American Association was a six-team loop with teams in Albany (GA), Montgomery (AL), Winchester (TN) and Fort Worth and Tyler (TX) besides the Baton Rouge club.  The Blue Marlins did manage to win the first and only championship of the league in 2001, defeating the Albany Alligators.

The Blue Marlins were a flop at the box office, drawing just 16,616 fans for 36 home dates at Pete Goldsby Park.

Following the 2001 season, the All-American Association split apart, with two teams folding and the Texas clubs joining the independent Central League.  Baton Rouge and Montgomery joined the new Southeastern League, with Baton Rouge changing its name to the River Bats prior to the 2002 season.

30-year old pitcher Rick Greene, who made one appearance for the Cincinnati Reds in 1999, was the only Blue Marlins player to ever appear in the Major Leagues.

 

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Written by andycrossley

September 10th, 2014 at 1:46 pm

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:

Owners:

 

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.

 

==Links==

International League Media Guides

International League Programs

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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.
Died:
September 4, 1982 – The Padres relocate to Tri-Cities, WA.

Stadium: Borleske Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

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).

 

==Links==

Northwest League Programs

 

==Additional Sources==

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

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Written by andycrossley

August 14th, 2014 at 3:17 am