International League (1988)
Born: January 1988 – Re-branding of the Maine Guides.
Died: 1989 – The Phillies relocate to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, PA.
Stadium: The Ball Park at Old Orchard Beach
Owner: John McGee, et al.
The Maine Phillies were the top farm club of the Philadelphia Phillies in the summer of 1988.
The franchise, based in the vacation hamlet of Old Orchard Beach, was formerly known as the Maine Guides from 1984 through 1987. The team re-branded as the Maine Phillies in early 1988 following a contentious two-year legal battle between Guides founder Jordan Kobritz and a Scranton, Pennsylvania group called Northeastern Baseball, headed by John McGee.
Kobritz agreed to sell the Guides from and their membership in the Class AAA International League to McGee in 1986 for $2 million. The contract also called for the transfer of the Class AA Waterbury (CT) Indians of the Eastern League from Northeastern Baseball to Kobritz – at least in Kobritz’s opinion. The original concept in 1986 was that McGee would take the Guides to Pennsylvania, where it would become the top minor league affiliate of the Phillies and become known as the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons in 1989, when a new $22 million triple-A stadium opened in 1989. Kobritz, meanwhile, would continue playing minor league ball at The Ball Park in Old Orchard Beach in the Eastern League with the former Waterbury franchise.
The deal started to go sideways in September 1986 when McGee’s group turned over the struggling Waterbury franchise to the Eastern League itself, as compensation for rights to the Scranton market. That meant that Kobritz could bid on the former Waterbury club, but wouldn’t have the exclusive option on the team he expected. (The former Waterbury franchise would eventually land in Williamsport, PA). Kobritz refused to move forward with the sale and filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in October 1986. Two sides battled in court for control of the franchise for the next year. Kobritz won the early rounds of litigation and held onto to control of the Guides for the 1987 season. But the tide turned on the Guides founder in a series of rulings in late 1987 and early 1988 that stripped his control of the franchise and the minor league territorial rights for Maine and awarded them to McGee. Kobritz took his appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lost his final battle in February 1988.
Finally in control of the ball club in January 1988, McGee dropped the Guides nickname and announced plans for the club to play on final lame duck season in Old Orchard Beach as the Maine Phillies. In 1989, the new stadium in Scranton would be finally be ready after construction delays and the team would finally move to Pennsylvania.
During their only season, the Maine Phillies finished in last place in the International League’s East Division with a 62-80 record.
Pro baseball never returned to Old Orchard Beach after the departure of the Phillies in 1988. The Ball Park fell into extreme disrepair in the 2000’s, but a community effort to renovate the 25-year old structure in 2009 led to the return of amateur/summer collegiate ball in the summer of 2011.
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