Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1976-1977 Corpus Christi Seagulls

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Corpus Christi SeagullsGulf States League (1976)
Lone Star League (1977)

Born: 1976 – Gulf States League founding franchise.
Died: 1977 – The Lone Star League ceases operations.

Stadium: Cabaniss Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Terry Ferrell

 

Thanks to former Corpus Christi Seagulls pitcher Raymond Harrison for posting this great Polaroid shot from 1976 to the Fun While It Lasted Facebook Page.  (He also provided the “Win A Date With A Seagull!” news clipping below).   Without Raymond’s search through the attic, we might never have found an image for his obscure pro club.

The Seagulls were the best team in one of the wackiest leagues of the 1970′s.  The ball club was founded in the year of the bicentennial as part of the six-team Gulf States League, which had teams in Texas and Louisiana.  The Gulf States League was an oddball loop within “organized” minor league baseball.  Although part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, which governed the farm teams for all of Major League Baseball, all six teams in the Gulf States League played as independents.  They didn’t have Major League Baseball parent clubs and therefore they had to forage for whatever left over talent they could find.

The Seagulls coach was Leo Mazzone, who would later go on to great acclaim as a pitching coach with the great Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990′s and with the Baltimore Orioles in the 2000′s.  Under Mazzone, the Seagulls won the Gulf States League championship in 1976, as much by simply surviving until the end of the season as anything else.  The Baton Rouge club folded midway through the season.  The Seguin Toros club attracted national media attention when its spendthrift owner refused to shell out for hotel rooms during a series in Corpus Christi.  He demanded his players make a 250-mile round trip drive each night instead.  The players revolted by camping out on a public beach between games instead.

Corpus Christi Seagulls

The Gulf States League re-organized in 1977 as the Lone Star League with all of the clubs now based in Texas.  Once again it was a six-team league, classified as single-A ball by the National Association, but still without Major League parent clubs.  Mazzone returned and the Seagulls were the best team in the league again.  But shabby finances crippled the league for a second straight summer and the playoffs were cancelled.   The Lone Star League and the Seagulls  faded quietly into history thereafter.

The Seagulls had a combined record of 103-54 during their two seasons of existence.

 

==Links==

Gulf States League Programs

Lone Star League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

June 26th, 2014 at 3:04 am

1968-1976 Memphis Blues

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1975 Memphis Blues ProgramTexas League (1968-1970)
Dixie Association (1971)
Texas League (1972-1973)
International League (1974-1976)

Born: 1968
Died:  November 8, 1976 - The Blues franchise is revoked and later moved to Charleston, WV

Stadium: Tim McCarver Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Memphis Blues were the local minor league baseball club for the Bluff City from 1968 until 1976.  The Blues started out as the Class AA farm club of the New York Mets in the Texas League from 1968 until 1973.  (This included a one-year run in the Dixie Association in 1971, which was a temporary partnership of the Texas League and the Southern League, who played an interlocking schedule that summer.)

The Mets’ years didn’t produce an especially noteworthy roster of future Major League stars.  Jim Bibby, John Milner, Ken Singleton and Craig Swan were among the more successful Blues graduates of the era.  But the team was strong by Class AA standards, winning Texas League crowns in 1969 and 1973.

1975 TCMA Gary Carter Trading CardIn 1974 the Blues switched Major League affiliations to the Montreal Expos and made the leap from Class AA to Class AAA by jumping to the International League.   Future Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter was a standout for the 1974 Blues, belting 23 home runs and knocking in 83.  Warren Cromartie and Ellis Valentine came through town in 1975, headlining a bumper crop of prospects headed to Montreal.

In September 1975, team owner Dr. Bernard Kraus hired 31-year old former American League Cy Young Award winner Denny McLain as the Blues’ new General Manager.  McLain was (and still is, as of 2014) the last man to win 30 games in a single season (1968).  But he was an odd choice to run the business operations of the club.   McLain’s career was derailed in the early 1970′s partially by arm problems, but also by a well-publicized gambling addiction, get rich quick schemes, bankruptcy and numerous suspensions from Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.  Two months later, in November 1975, Kraus sold off the deep-in-debt Blues to Jerry Bilton of Kansas City, a high school friend of McLain’s.

Along with the management shake-up, the Montreal Expos also pulled out of town after two seasons.  The Houston Astros became the Blues’ parent club for the 1976 season.  Top players included Art Howe, Terry Puhl and Joe SambitoFloyd Bannister, the #1 overall pick in the 1976 amateur draft, also made one start for Memphis during his quick ascent to the Majors.

By the end of the 1976 season, the Blues franchise was in serious financial straits.  McLain departed and former owner Bernard Kraus briefly regained control of the team in September 1976, but was unable to secure new investors to recapitalize the insolvent ball club.  In November 1976, the directors of the International League revoked the franchise for failing to pay league debts.  The same month, the Blues were effectively moved to Charleston, West Virginia where they became the “new” Charleston Charlies, replacing another International League club of the same name that shifted to Columbus, Ohio earlier in the year.

Local businessman Avron Fogelman immediately began efforts to bring pro baseball back to Memphis.  Fogelman secured a franchise in the Class AA Southern League.  After a summer without baseball in 1977, Fogelman’s Memphis Chicks began play in 1978 and played until 1997.  Triple-A baseball returned in 1998 with the Chicks’ departure to Jackson, Tennessee and the arrival of the Memphis Redbirds expansion team in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Blues owner Dr. Bernard Kraus died of heart disease on November 9, 1978 at age 59.

1976 Blues field manager Jim Beauchamp died of leukemia on Christmas Day 2007 at age 68.

1974 Blues catcher and future Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter died of brain cancer on February 16, 2012.  Carter was 57.

 

==Downloads==

September 9, 1975 Memphis Chicks Hire Denny McLain Press Release

 

==Links==

Texas League Media Guides

Texas League Programs

International League Media Guides

International League Programs

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1984-1994 Winston-Salem Spirits

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Winston-Salem SpiritsCarolina League (1984-1994)

Born: 1984 – Re-branded from Winston-Salem Red Sox
Died:
1995 – Re-branded as Winston-Salem Warthogs.

Stadium: Ernie Shore Field

Team Colors: Purple & Green

Owner:

 

The Winston-Salem Spirits were a Class-A minor baseball team in the North Carolina city of Winston-Salem between 1984 and 1994.  The Spirits served as a farm team to the Boston Red Sox (1984), Chicago Cubs (1985-1992) and the Cincinnati Reds (1993-1994) during their 11-season run.  The Spirit won the Carolina League crown in 1986.

Key players that played at Winston-Salem during the Spirits era include: Mike Greenwell (1984), Jamie Moyer (1985) and Joe Girardi (1987).

The purple-and-green clad Spirits appear as one of the Carolina League opponents in the 1988 Kevin Costner classic Bull Durham.

 

==Links==

Carolina League Media Guides

Carolina League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

June 14th, 2014 at 8:25 pm

1995-1996 Newburgh Nighthawks

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Newburgh NighthawksNortheast League (1995-1996)

Born: 1995 – Northeast League founding franchise.
Died: 1996

Stadium: Delano-Hitch Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Newburgh Nighthawks were a low-budget independent pro baseball team that played in the Hudson Valley region of New York for two summers during the mid-1990′s. The Nighthawks were overshadowed in the area by the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League, who played at the brand new $8 million Dutchess Stadium in nearby Fishkill, which opened just a year before the Nighthawks formed in 1995.

By contrast, the Nighthawks played at Delano-Hitch Stadium, a small no-fills ballpark that was 70 years old.

During the Northeast League’s first season in 1995, former Major League pitcher Floyd Youmans pitched six games for Newburgh.  Ex-Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox outfielder Ron LeFlore was the team’s field manager in 1995.

In 1996, Newburgh featured 35-year old Ken Dixon, who won 11 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1986.  The 1996 Nighthawks also sent one player to the Majors – 26-year old pitcher Joel Bennett, who later had a cup of coffee with the Orioles (1998) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1999).  The ’96 Nighthawks team went 55-25 under new field manager Dan Shwam.  Newburgh lost to the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs in the Northeast League championship series.

Team owner Jeff Kunion shut down the Nighthawks after the 1996 season citing the inadequacy of Delano-Hitch Stadium and the city’s unwillingness to make improvements to it.  Two summers later, Newburgh briefly hosted a team in the independent Atlantic League – the Newburgh Black Diamonds – but they departed for Pennsylvania after only one season.  Pro baseball has never returned since.

 

==Links==

Northeast League Media Guides

Northeast League Programs

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1984-1986 Prince William Pirates

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Prince William PiratesCarolina League (1984-1986)

Born: July 11, 1983 - The Alexandria Dukes announce relocation plans to Woodbridge, VA.
Died: 1987 – Affiliation change to Prince William Yankees.

Stadium: Davis Ford Park Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

The Prince William Pirates were the Class A farm club of the Pittsburgh in the Carolina League from 1984 through 1986.  The ball club originated in 1978 as an expansion team in nearby Alexandia, Virginia known as the Alexandria Dukes.  The played in a truly crummy little stadium called Four Mile Run Park.  Midway through the 1983 season, Dukes President Eugene Thomas announced that his team would relocate to Prince William County, Virginia for the 1984 season, where local officials approved funding for a modern 6,000-seat ballpark.

Key players to come through Prince William during the Pirates era included Barry Bonds, who appeared in 71 games in 1985 in his first year of pro ball as a 1st round draft pick out of Arizona State University.  Future Major League All-Stars Bobby Bonilla (3B) and John Smiley (P) also played for the 1985 Prince William squad.  (Smiley would also return in 1986).

Heading the other direction, Joe Charbonneau wound down his injury-plagued career with Prince William in 1984.  Charbonneau was the 1980 American League Rookie-of-the-Year with the Cleveland Indians, but never played a full season in the Majors again.  At age 29, Charbonneau was the oldest player in the Carolina League in 1984.  He hit. 289 and earned a promotion to the Pirates Class AAA club in Hawaii, but retired at the end of the season.

Prince William’s working agreement with Pittsburgh expired after the 1986 season.  The team struck a new deal with the New York Yankees and returned in 1987 as the Prince William Yankees.   The franchise still exists today in Prince William County, but it is now known as the Potomac Nationals after several further name changes.

 

==Links==

Carolina League Media Guides

Carolina League Programs

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