Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘South Atlantic League’ Category

1988-1993 Augusta Pirates

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1988 Augusta Pirates ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1988-1993)

Born: October 1987 – The Macon Pirates relocate to Augusta, GA
Re-Branded: 1994 (Augusta Greenjackets)

Stadium: Heaton Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners: 

South Atlantic League Champions: 1989

 

The Augusta Pirates were a Class A farm of the Pittsburgh Pirates for six seasons during the late 1980’s/early 90’s.  The franchise relocated from Macon, Georgia in 1988 after years of effort by Bill Heaton to bring pro baseball back to Augusta after a quarter century absence.  Heaton became a part-owner of the team and Augusta’s modest new minor league ballpark was named for him.

Notable Augusta players included Moises Alou (’88), Tim Wakefield (’89) and Esteban Loaiza (’92).

The club was re-branded as the Augusta Greenjackets in 1994 in keeping with a broader trend of minor league clubs carving out their own brand identities separate from the Major League parent clubs.

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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Written by AC

September 22nd, 2015 at 11:56 am

1987-1994 Charleston Wheelers

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Charleston Wheelers ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1987-1994)

Born: 1987 – South Atlantic League expansion franchise
Re-Branded: October 25, 1994 (Charleston Alley Cats)

Stadium: Watt Powell Park

Team Colors: Green & Blue

Owners:

South Atlantic League Champions: 1990

 

Charleston, West Virginia went without pro baseball for three summers after the Charleston Charlies pulled up stakes for Maine in late 1983.  The Charlies were a triple-A club just one step removed from the Major Leagues.  But by 1983, Charleston was the smallest Class AAA city in America by population. So it was little surprise that when pro ball returned with the formation of the Charleston Wheelers in the spring of 1987, local hardball fans had to accept a demotion to the Class A South Atlantic League.

The Wheelers were a “co-op” club that first season – a dreaded (if not entirely uncommon) status in minor league baseball at the time.  Without a true Major League parent club, the Wheelers cobbled a roster together with table scraps from six organizations. Nevertheless, the team finished with a respectable 66-72 record and the summer attendance of 97,563 counted for third best in the South Atlantic League.

Trevor Hoffman Charleston WheelersThe Wheelers had a two-year run as a Chicago Cubs farm club in 1988 and 1989. In 1990, the Cincinnati Reds replaced the Cubs and the Wheelers had their finest hour, sweeping the Savannah Cardinals to win the SAL championship.  The biggest name on the team was 22-year Trevor Hoffman.  Hoffman, of course, would go on to become one of the greatest closers in Major League history for the San Diego Padres.  But with the Wheelers in the summer of 1990, he was a weak-hitting infielder struggling to hang on in the Reds system. Hoffman would begin his conversion to pitching the following summer.

Wheelers attendance peaked at 185,389 during the 1991 season.  Wheelers’ box office declined sharply in the summers to follow, crashing to 110,118 in 1993. Shortly after the 1993 season ended, original owner Dennis Bastien unloaded the Wheelers in a three-way swap.  Bastien effectively traded the Wheelers to George Shinn (owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets) for the Class AA Nashville Xpress of the Southern League. Shinn then immediately sold the Wheelers back to a large consortium of Charleston businessmen, led by Wheelers  accountant Mike Paterno.  The new owners ran the club as the Wheelers for one final summer in 1994 before re-branding the team as the Charleston Alley Cats in 1995.

The former Wheelers/Alley Cats franchise continues to play in Charleston to this day.  After yet another re-branding in 2005, the club is known today as the West Virginia Power.

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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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 promoted 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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1985-1990 Sumter Braves

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Sumter Braves ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1985-1990)

Born: 1985
Relocated: 1991 (Macon Braves)

Stadium: Riley Park

Team Colors:

Owner: Atlanta Braves

 

The Sumter Braves were the Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves in the South Atlantic League during the late 1980’s.  It was a flush era for the Braves farm system and many of the future stars of Atlanta’s National League dynasty of the 1990’s came through Sumter on their way up the ladder.

Hall-of-Famer Tom Glavine went 9-6 in 26 starts for Sumter as a 19-year old in 1985.  Ron Gant and Mark Lemke split time at 2nd Base for that 1985 club.  Lemke returned in 1986 and belted 18 home runs, tops on the club.  Future All-Star David Justice, then 20 years old, add 10 homers and 61 RBIs.

Ryan Klesko and Mark Wohlers arrived in 1989.  Both returned to Sumter in 1990 as well and both would become key contributors to Atlanta’s 1995 World Series championship team.

Attendance was notably weak in Sumter throughout the Braves era.  The team rarely sold more than 200 season tickets and average crowds were well below 500 per night.  Following the 1990 season, the Braves pulled out and moved their Sally League farm club to Macon, Georgia.  Sumter got a new team, the Sumter Flyers, in the South Atlantic League for the 1991 season.  The Flyers served the Montreal Expos, but they last only one season before leaving town as well.

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Sumter Braves General Manager (1987-1990) Ed Holtz died of an aortic aneurysm on October 6th, 1995.  He was 65 years old.

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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Written by AC

July 4th, 2014 at 8:58 pm

1992-1995 Albany Polecats

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Albany Polecats ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1992-1995)

Born: 1992 – The Sumter Flyers relocate to Albany, GA
Moved: September 20, 1995 (Delmarva Shorebirds)

Stadium: Paul Eames Sports Complex

Team Colors:

Owner: Richard Holtzman

 

The Albany Polecats were a Class A farm club of the Montreal Expos (1992 & again in 1995) and Baltimore Orioles (1993-1994) for four seasons in the early 1990’s.   When team owner Richard Holtzman moved his Sumter (SC) Flyers ball club to Albany in late 1991 it marked the return of pro baseball to Albany after more than three decades absence, since the demise of the Albany Cardinals and the Georgia-Florida League in 1958.

Several future stars came through Albany during the Polecats era, particularly during the two seasons the club was part of the fertile Montreal Expos farm system.  Cliff Floyd and Ugueth Urbina (1992) and Vladimir Guerrero (1995) all became future Major League All-Stars.  Reliever Armando Benitez (1993) was the top product of the Orioles years and became a two-time All-Star in the Majors.

The Polecats never played especially well in Albany, posting a winning record only in the 1992 season (72-70).  Attendance was consistently disappointing and was the lowest in the South Atlantic League during the Polecats final season in 1995.  In September 1995 Richard Holtzman sold the team to a group led by Peter Kirk who were building a new ballpark in Salisbury, Maryland with the financial assistance of poultry baron Frank Perdue.  The team moved to Salisbury for the 1996 season and became known as the Delmarva Shorebirds.  The Shorebirds continue to operate today.

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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Written by AC

February 21st, 2014 at 10:25 pm