Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Southern League’ Category

1985-2014 Huntsville Stars

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1992 Huntsville Stars ProgramSouthern League (1985-2014)

Born: August 1984 – The Nashville Sounds relocate to Huntsville, AL.
Move Announced: January 10, 2014 (Biloxi Shuckers)
Final Home Game: September 1, 2014

Stadium: Joe W. Davis Stadium (10,488)

Team Colors:

Owners:

Southern League Champions: 1985, 1994, 2001

 

In the summer of 1984 Larry Schmittou, owner of the Class AA Nashville Sounds of the Southern League, purchased the Class AAA Evansville Triplets franchise and shifted it to Tennessee. The move effectively promoted Schmittou’s Nashville club to triple-A status, but left his original Southern League franchise homeless. The problem was solved when the city of Huntsville, Alabama agreed to construct 11,000-seat Joe W. Davis Stadium in time for the 1985 season.

Jose Canseco Huntsville StarsSchmittou’s re-christened Huntsville Stars club inked a player development contract with the Oakland Athletics in September 1984. Huntsville became a way station for the outstanding prospects that would later power Oakland’s World Series squads of the late 1980’s. Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Terry Steinbach all spent time in Huntsville on their way to Oakland. Canseco hit a grand slam in Huntsville’s first home game at Joe W. Davis Stadium on April 19, 1985. Canseco would go to win Southern League MVP honors in 1985 and Steinbach would win in 1986.

Huntsville won two Southern League crowns during the A’s era. Oakland also brought their Major League team to Alabama for exhibitions seven times during the 14-year relationship. The affiliation came to an end in 1998 and the Milwaukee Brewers became the Stars’ parent club the following season. The Brewers partnership would endure for the rest of the Stars’ stay in Huntsville.

The Stars won their third and final Southern League championship during the 2001 season. The Stars were about to open a playoff championship series against the Jacksonville Suns when the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred. The playoffs were cancelled and the Stars and Suns declared co-champions.

The Stars sold for the second time in October 2001. A group headed by New York attorney Miles Prentice paid a reported $6 million for the franchise, with a commitment to keep the team in Huntsville. But by the mid-2000’s Joe W. Davis Stadium was badly outdated. The facility lacked modern skyboxes and concessions areas were located outside view of the field. Prentice’s  group sold out to veteran minor league operator Ken Young in January 2014.. After a final lame duck season in Huntsville in 2014, the former Stars franchise moved to a new ballpark in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2015. The team is now known as the Biloxi Shuckers.

 

==Slideshow==

 

==Downloads==

2011 Huntsville Stars Media Guide

2012 Huntsville Stars Media Guide

 

==Links==

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

##

 

1980-1992 Knoxville Blue Jays

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Knoxville Blue Jays ProgramSouthern League (1980-1992)

Born: 1980 – Affiliation change from Knoxville Sox
Re-Branded: 1993 (Knoxville Smokies)

Stadium: Bill Meyer Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

Southern League Champions: None

 

The Knoxville Blue Jays were the long-time Class AA farm club of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The K-Jays were never big winners on the diamond, failing to win a Southern League crown in 13 seasons play. But the team did showcase future Major League stars such as Jesse Barfield (’80 and ’81), Jimmy Key (’83), Cecil Fielder (’84-’85), Fred McGriff (’84), David Wells (’84 and ’86), Pat Hentgen (’90) and Jeff Kent (’91).

Attendance was always a challenge in Knoxville during the K-Jays era. A 1989 visit by the Major League Blue Jays to Knoxville for an exhibition against the K-Jays attracted fewer than 2,000 fans to Bill Meyer Stadium.

The team was re-branded following the 1992 season, taking back the historic Knoxville Smokies name. The relationship with Toronto continued until 2003, when the St. Louis Cardinals replaced the Blue Jays as Knoxville’s parent club.

 

==In Memoriam==

K-Jays owner Neal Ridley died of cancer in September 1983. The team was sold to the Toronto Blue Jays in the wake of his death.

 

==Links==

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

###

 

Written by AC

September 26th, 2015 at 1:59 am

1962-1969 Lynchburg White Sox

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Lynchburg White Sox ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1962-1963)
Southern League (1964-1965)
Carolina League (1966-1969)

Born: August 26, 1962 – The Savannah White Sox relocate to Lynchburg, VA
Affiliation Change: Postseason 1969 (Lynchburg Twins)

Stadium: City Stadium

Owners:

Southern League Champions: 1964

 

In 1962, a Charleston, South Carolina attorney named Bill Ackerman moved his Charleston White Sox minor league baseball team 110 miles south to Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia.  The ballpark, opened in 1925, featured a shaded grandstand behind home plate that offered relief from the broiling Georgia sun and the occasional rain delay.  Down the left field line there was a stand of battered, uncovered bleachers exposed to the elements.  This was the colored seating section in Jim Crow Savannah.

Early in the 1962 season, the local chapter of the NAACP organized a picket of Grayson Stadium over the segregated facilities for fans, ballplayers and player wives.  The leader of the boycott was W.W. Law, a local mail carrier and state President of the NAACP in Georgia. White Sox officials fanned the flames by asking the local postmaster to fire Law from his job.

The civil rights battle spilled over into the team’s clubhouse and front office. 1962 Savannah White Sox had two African-American players: second baseman Don Buford and first baseman Grover “Deacon” Jones. During a South Atlantic League game in June 1962, Jones looked up from the field and saw his wife Virginia and Buford’s wife Alicia sitting in the whites-only section behind home plate. Savannah GM Tom Fleming implored the wives to move, but the women refused to leave.

Racial segregation in Savannah was hardly the exception in the South Atlantic League. The other league franchises in 1962 were in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.  But the tumult in Savannah was such that team owner Bill Ackerman was actively looking to move the team by early July.  Ackerman floated the possibility of returning to Charleston. But ultimately Ackerman left Savannah and departed for Lynchburg, Virginia with just eight games remaining in the 1962 regular season.

The ball club that alighted so unexpectedly in Lynchburg in August 1962 was far and away the best team in the Sally League.  28-year old Deacon Jones, the White Sox’ oldest regular player, tore up the circuit, hitting .319 with 26 homers and 101 RBIs.  The team’s best pitcher was 21-year old Dave DeBusschere (10-1, 2.49 ERA).  DeBusschere would spend parts of two seasons with the Chicago White Sox in 1962 and 1963. But he founder greater fame in the NBA, as an 8-time All-Star during as 12-year career with the Pistons and Knicks from 1962-1974. He was elected to the Pro Basketball Hall-of-Fame in 1983.

With a 92-47 record, the 1962 Savannah/Lynchburg White Sox won the Sally League regular season with ease. But they were upset by the 3rd place Macon Peaches in the playoffs.

Lynchburg hardball fans would get their championship two summers later. By 1964, the White Sox were firmly entrenched in Lynchburg. The South Atlantic League had re-branded itself as the Southern League at the start of the Freedom Summer.  The LynSox trailed the Birmingham Barons, fielding that city’s first racially integrated team in 1964, for virtually the entire summer. But a seven-game Lynchburg win streak at the end of the season brought the clubs nearly even.

A season-ending three-game series between the two clubs would decide the pennant.  Lynchburg was a hard slugging team. Dick Kenworthy (29 HRs,  97 RBI, .312 avg.) and Danny Murphy (24, 91, .286) provided the bulk of the power.  At 30 years old, Deacon Jones was knocking around in the minors, batting .299 with 11 homers and 62 RBI.  Even Lynchburg’s pitching ace, a converted outfielder named Manly “Shot” Johnston, could mash.  Johnston led the Southern League in wins (20-7, 2.46 ERA) and added 7 homers and a .292 average to boot.

Manly Johnston took the rubber for the first game of the series, an 8-1 Lynchburg rout. The victory teed up the LynSox to clinch the Southern League pennant with a win on September 8, 1964. A crowd of 2,941 turned out at City Stadium. It was over early. Lynchburg scored 9 runs and sent 13 batters to the plate during the 2nd inning. Deacon Jones homered twice in the 2nd inning alone as Lynchburg won 10-3 to clinch the pennant.

Following the 1965 season, owner Bill Ackerman moved his Class AA Southern League franchise to Evansville, Indiana.  The Class A Carolina League quickly filled the void, putting a franchise into City Stadium in 1966. The new club would be community-owned by the Lynchburg Baseball Corporation, headed by Calvin Falwell. The White Sox remained as parent club, meaning the Lynchburg White Sox name endured for four more summers through 1969.  The team became the Lynchburg Twins in 1970 following a change in Major League parent clubs.

Lynchburg has enjoyed pro baseball for 53 consecutive summers and counting since the Savannah White Sox moved to town in 1962.

 

==Links==

The summer the White Sox came to Lynchburg“, Ben Cates, The Lynchburg News and Advance, September 13, 2014

Carolina League Programs

Southern League Programs

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1993-1994 Nashville Xpress

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Nashville Xpress ProgramSouthern League (1993-1994)

Born: January 30, 1993 – The Charlotte Knights relocate to Nashville, TN.
Moved: Postseason 1994 (Port City Roosters)

Stadium: Herschel Greer Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

A complicated game of franchise musical chairs sparked by Major League Baseball’s 1993 expansion sparked the formation of the Nashville Xpress and the odd arrangement that saw long-time Nashville baseball impresario Larry Schmittou operating two separate franchises at Herschel Greer Stadium in 1993 and 1994.

With the addition of the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins to MLB in 1993, room was created for two additional Class AAA franchises in the minor league baseball ecosystem.  George Shinn, owner of the NBA’s Hornets and the Class AA Charlotte Knights of the Southern League, received one of the expansion berths.  His Knights would move up to the AAA International League in 1993.  Shinn negotiated a sale of his Southern League franchise to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who planned to move the ball club to the Big Easy.  But John Dikeou, the owner of the triple-A Denver Zephyrs club that was about to be displaced by the Major League Rockies in Colorado, also had his sights set on New Orleans. The Zephyrs won the right to move to Louisiana by virtue of playing at a higher classification and Shinn’s sale to Benson fell apart.

With the former Charlotte Knights franchise homeless, the Southern League faced an unwieldy line-up of nine clubs with just over two months to go before the start of the 1993 season.  The unbalanced schedule would leave one club idle each night. Every Southern League owner faced an economically devastating loss of 16 home dates. One of those imperiled owners was Huntsville Stars boss Larry Schmittou.  Schmittou also owned the popular Nashville Sounds triple-A franchise in the American Association.  Schmittou offered to operate the former Knights franchise in Nashville, squeezing in 70 Southern League home games while his AAA Sounds club was on the road.  League owners accepted the proposal on January 30th, 1993. The franchise would now be known as the Nashville Xpress and continue to serve as a farm club of the Minnesota Twins as it had in Charlotte.

The 1993 Xpress were a pretty strong club.  The team won the first half in Southern League’s Western Division with a 40-31 record.  They would finish the season 72-70 and lose to the Birmingham Barons in the first round of the playoffs.  Key players included pitchers Brad Radke, who would go on to win 20 games for the Minnesota Twins in 1997, and outfielder Marty Cordova who would named American League Rookie-of-the-Year two summers later in Minnesota.  Oscar Gomez (11-4, 3.08 ERA) earned Southern League Pitcher-of-the-Year honors, but would pitch just 10 games in the Majors.

In 1994, the Xpress were competitive once again. The club finished 74-66 under field manager Phil Roof.  Brad Radke returned and won 12 games to lead the pitching staff.  NBA superstar Michael Jordan visited Herschel Greer Stadium several times during the summer of 1994 as a member of the Birmingham Barons during his failed bid to establish a pro baseball career.  Off the field, the Xpress drew 135,048 fans which was the lowest figure in the Southern League in 1994. It was clear that the team’s co-tenancy with the Sounds at Herschel Greer was coming to an end.

In October 1993, Shinn sold the Xpress to baseball lifer Dennis Bastien.  Bastien was one of the last remaining “mom-and-pop” operators in minor league baseball – a man whose primary source of income was operating clubs. It was clear that the novel two-team arrangement in Nashville was coming to an end.  Bastien’s expressed goal was to move the franchise to Lexington, Kentucky in 1995.  When Lexington’s ballpark project dragged, Bastien set his sights on San Juan, Puerto Rico. Then it was Springfield, Missouri.

Ultimately, the Puerto Rico scheme fell through and Bastien moved the franchise to Wilmington, North Carolina in 1995 where it became the Port City Roosters.  Wilmington was yet another temporary solution.  The city did not have a suitable Class AA facility and the move was intended to be temporary until Springfield, Missouri’s ballpark was ready.  The Springfield deal later collapsed and the former Knights/Xpress/Roosters franchise move to Mobile, Alabama in 1997 where it plays on today as the Mobile BayBears.

 

==Links==

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by AC

August 22nd, 2015 at 1:05 pm

1976-1987 Charlotte Orioles

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Charlotte Orioles ProgramSouthern League (1976-1988)

Born: 1976 – The Asheville Orioles relocate to Charlotte.
Re-Branded: 1988 (Charlotte Knights)

Stadium: Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Charlotte Orioles were the long-time Class AA Southern League farm club of the Baltimore Orioles.  Promoted locally as “The O’s”, the ball club was owned by famed Southern wrestling promoter Jim Crockett Jr.

The Crocketts ran the O’s in true mom & pop style.  Charlotte’s ballpark, formerly known as Clark Griffith Park, was renamed Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Park in 1976 in honor of the family patriarch, “Big Jim” Crockett, who passed away in 1973.  While Jim Jr. and his brothers focused on the wrestling promotion inherited from their late father, sister Frances Crockett managed the O’s  business operations as one of the rare female General Managers of the era.  A retired wrestler named Klondike Bill handled the groundskeeping duties.

Cal Ripken Charlotte OriolesThe O’s won Southern League championships in 1980 and 1984.  19-year old future Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken Jr. played all 144 games (naturally) for the 1980 O’s championship team.  The 1980 captured the hearts of Charlotte, setting a city attendance record of 198,528 fans for the 72-game home schedule.  The Sporting News named Frances Crocker its Class AA Baseball Executive-of-the-Year.  In 1981, the O’s broke the local attendance record once again, drawing 211,161.

According to the site ripkenintheminors.com, the Charlotte police department sponsored a set of O’s trading cards in 1980, which were distributed one or two cards at a time to youth in the Charlotte community.  Today the orange-bordered Ca Ripken card from this set is generally thought to be most valuable minor league trading card in the world. In February 2014, a high grade Charlotte Orioles Police Ripken card sold at auction for $22,515.

The O’s fortunes took a turn for the worse on March 16th, 1985 when arsonists burned Crockett Park to the ground following a high school baseball game.  The Crockett family quickly erected a makeshift 3,000-seat facility (also known as Crockett Park) to salvage the 1985 season.

In October 1987, the Crocketts sold the team to George Shinn, owner of the Charlotte Hornets NBA expansion franchise due to begin play in 1988. Shinn re-branded the team as the Charlotte Knights.  The Knights upgraded to Class AAA status in 1993 and continue to play in Charlotte to this day.

 

==Slideshow==

 

==Charlotte Orioles Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other

1984

1984 4/12/1984 vs. Baltimore Orioles ?? Program

 

==Key Players==

 

==In Memoriam==

Outfielder Drungo Hazewood (O’s 1980) died of cancer at age 53 on July 28, 2013.

 

==Links==

The Lady is a Gem of a G.M.“, Ronald Green, Sports Illustrated, April 26, 1982

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

###

Written by AC

May 23rd, 2015 at 3:40 am

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