Senior Professional Baseball Association (1989-1990)
Born: 1989 – SPBA founding franchise.
Died: 1990 – The Super Sox cease operations.
Stadium: Chain of Lakes Park
Owner: Mitchell Maxwell et al.
The Winter Haven Super Sox were one of eight original franchises in the Senior Professional Baseball Association which began play in November 1989. League founder Jim Morley came up with the idea of a Florida-based pro league for players aged 35 and over and managed to launch the league in less than 12 months.
The SPBA offered generous salaries in the $5,000 – $15,000 per month range, so luring recently retired ex-Major Leaguers was not a problem. Future Hall-of-Famers Rollie Fingersand Ferguson Jenkinswere among the bigger names to join the league, along with former Baltimore Orioles skipper Earl Weaver.
The Super Sox were owned by 37-year old Broadway producer Mitch Maxwell, who went to school just outside Boston at Tufts University. True to their name, the Super Sox loaded their roster with former Boston Red Sox players, including Bill Campbell, Bernie Carbo, Cecil Cooper, Butch Hobson and Rick Wise. The ringmaster was player-manager Bill “Spaceman” Lee, pictured on the cover of the team’s yearbook (above right). Lee’s dual role lasted only seven games, before he was relieved of his managerial role. The Spaceman never belonged in management anyway. Extending the Red Sox fetish, the Super Sox also made their home at Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes Park, Boston’s long-time spring training home-away-from-home.
The Super Sox were the second worst team in the league with a 29-43 record. Attendance was also rough, with just 19,033 for the entire 36-game home calendar (529 per game) according to Kenn Tomasch’s SPBA retrospective over at Kenn.com.
After the 1989-90 season, owner Mitch Maxwell attempted to move his club to Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium. But the Chicago White Sox, who used the facility for their spring training, objected to a Senior League team playing in the facility. The Sarasota City Commission rejected a lease deal with the Super Sox by a 3-2 vote in May of 1990.
With the Sarasota move dead in the water, Maxwell folded the Super Sox shortly thereafter and bought the SPBA’s West Palm Beach Tropics franchise instead. But the league made it only one month into its second season before folding abruptly in December 1990.
“Senior Citizens” – Kenn Tomasch, Kenn.com.