Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Texas League’ Category

1957-1961 Victoria Rosebuds

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Victoria RosebudsBig State League (1957)
Texas League (1958-1961)

Born: 1957 – Re-branded from Victoria Eagles
Moved: May 26, 1961 (Ardmore Rosebuds)

Stadium: Riverside Stadium

Major League Affiliations: 

  • 1957: Brooklyn Dodgers
  • 1958-1959: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 1960: Detroit Tigers
  • 1961: Baltimore Orioles

Owner: Tom O’Connor

Big State League Champions: 1957
Texas League Championships: None

 

The Victoria Rosebuds of the late 1950’s/early 60’s were a minor league outfit in southeastern Texas. The Rosebuds moniker was used though much of the first half of the 20th century to refer to the segregated city’s white amateur baseball teams. In 1957 Victoria’s Brooklyn Dodgers farm club in the Class B Big State League adopted the Rosebuds name. But the Big State League was on its last legs that summer. The circuit started the season with just six clubs and finished with only four. Victoria won the league’s final championship and then helped to seal the loop’s doom by defecting to the Class AA Texas League after the season.

Owner Tom O’Connor purchased the Shreveport Sports of the Texas League during the winter of 1957-58.  As part of the ramp up to the higher level Texas League, Victoria’s tiny Riverside Stadium got a makeover and expansion from 2,000 to 5,000 seats.  The Rosebuds also got much better prospects from their now-Los Angeles Dodgers parent club. Future Major League stars Tommy David and Frank Howard worked their way the minor league ladder in Victoria. Howard bashed 27 homers for Victoria in 1959. A lesser known future Major Leaguer, outfielder Carl Warwick, hit .331 with 35 home runs and 129 runs scored for Victoria and earned Texas League MVP honors that summer.

The Dodgers with drew their partnership after the 1959 season. The Detroit Tigers stocked Victoria’s roster in 1960 and installed Johnny Pesky as field manager. The Baltimore Orioles replaced the Tigers in 1961, but the Rosebuds spent less than two months in Victoria that summer.  On May 26, 1961 the team shifted in midseason to Ardmore, Oklahoma and finished out the season there as the Ardmore Rosebuds.  Weirdly, the Texas League’s Rio Grande Valley Giants promptly moved to Victoria and played out the rest of the 1961 campaign at Riverside Stadium as the Victoria Giants.

After a 13 year absence, the Texas League came back to Victoria for one summer in 1974 with the Victoria Toros club. A pair of independent teams – the Victoria Cowboys (1976) and a new version of the Victoria Rosebuds (1977) – made brief cameos at Riverside Stadium in the mid-70’s. The demise of the 1977-edition Rosebuds marked the end of the pro baseball era in Victoria, Texas.

 

Links

Big State League Programs

Texas League Media Guides

Texas League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

August 15th, 2017 at 7:40 pm

1971-2000 Shreveport Captains

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1987 Shreveport Captains ProgramDixie Association (1971)
Texas League (1972-2000)

Born: 1971
Re-Branded: 2001 (Shreveport Swamp Dragons)

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owners:

Texas League Champions: 1990, 1991 and 1995

 

The Shreveport Captains were a long-time entry in the Class AA Texas League.  The ball club hot potatoed through various Major League parent club relationship during the 1970’s, before settling into a long-time partnership with the San Francisco Giants in 1979.  Shreveport’s player development deal with the Giants would remain until the franchise left town in 2002.

The Captains didn’t win a whole lot at first.  Shreveport made it to the Texas League playoffs only twice in the first fifteen summers of play.  Not that Ark-La-Tex baseball fans didn’t get to see some compelling players come through town.  Former American League Cy Young winner Denny McLain drifted through for 12 starts in 1973, trying and failing to revive his dead arm and worse reputation.

1980 Shreveport CaptainsHeaded the other way on the developmental ladder, players like Tony Pena, Chili Davis, Terry Mulholland, Robby Thompson, Rod Beck and Keith Foulke came through town on their way to the Majors.

The Captains’ fortunes improved in 1986 when 5,000-seat Fairgrounds Field opened up adjacent to the Independence Bowl to replace dilapidated SPAR Stadium. Box office surged and, coincidentally or not, the team began to win. The Captains really hit their competitive stride in the 1990’s, going to the Texas League championship series five times between 1990 and 1997 and winning three times.

In June of 2000 longtime owner Taylor Moore sold the Captains to Mandalay Sports Entertainment,  the sports investment group founded by Hollywood Producer Peter Guber (BatmanFlashdance, Rain Man).  Mandalay took control at the end of the 2000 season and one of new management’s early moves was to re-brand the team as the “Shreveport Swamp Dragons”.

Mandalay’s in-house marketing guru was Jon Spoelstra, a long-time NBA executive whose books and workshops on ticket sales and consumer marketing were considered bibles within the sports marketing industry.  Spoelstra’s 2001 book Marketing Outrageously details, among other adventures, his tenure as President of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets in the mid-1990’s.  One of Spoelstra’s major initiatives with the Nets was an attempt to re-brand the team as the New Jersey Swamp Dragons in 1994.  In Spoelstra’s telling, the new identity gained approval of the NBA’s executive committee and up votes from 26 of the league 27 owners.  The lone “no vote?  The Nets own voting representative, David Gerstein, who got cold feet and deep-sixed the name change after the NBA had already spent $500,000 on international trade mark registrations.

So seven years later, Shreveport’s baseball team, now under the management of Spoelstra’s company, wound up with the New Jersey Nets’ sloppy seconds. Interesting to note that Marketing Outrageously was published in 2001, within months of the Captains identity switch to the Swamp Dragons.  But Spoelstra makes no mention of the re-purposing (or of Shreveport at all, for that matter) in the chapter of the book that deals with the Nets’ own dalliance with the Swamp Dragons concept.

Mandalay turned out to have little interest in Shreveport or in the city’s outmoded Fairgrounds Field.  One of Mandalay’s hallmarks was the construction of new, state-of-the-art stadiums for its properties. Following the 2002 season, the Swamp Dragons departed Shreveport for Frisco, Texas where city fathers approved construction of a $22.7 million, 10,000-seat new ballpark.  The former Captains/Swamp Dragons franchise plays on in the Texas League today as the Frisco RoughRiders.

 

==Links==

Texas League Media Guides

Texas League Programs

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Written by AC

October 17th, 2015 at 6:48 pm

1989-2007 Wichita Wranglers

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Jaime Bluma Wichita WranglersTexas League (1989-2007)

Born: 1989 – Re-branded from Wichita Pilots
Moved: 2007 (Northwest Arkansas Naturals)

Stadium: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners: Bob Rich Jr. & Mindy Rich

Texas League Champions: 1992 & 1999

 

The Wichita Wranglers were the last of several Texas League franchises that kept Class AA minor league baseball in southern Kansas for nearly four decades between 1970 and 2007. The Wranglers followed the Wichita Aeros (1970-1984) and the Wichita Pilots (1987-1988).  The club served as a farm team for the San Diego Padres from 1989 until 1994 and for the Kansas City Royals from 1995 until its demise at the end of the 2007 season.

Key players to pass through Wichita during the Wranglers era included Andy Benes (’89), Johnny Damon (’95), Carlos Beltran (’98), Alex Gordon (’06) and Zach Greinke (’06).

After years of declining attendance, long-time owners Bob & Mindy Rich moved the club to Springdale, Arkansas after the 2007 season. The franchise is now known as the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  Affiliated minor league baseball was gone, but the Wranglers were immediately replaced the Wichita Wingnuts, an independent team who took up residence at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in 2008 and continue to play there today.

 

Wichita Wranglers Memorabilia

 

Wichita Wranglers Video

2007 KNWA (Arkansas) news feature on the impending move of the Wranglers to Springdale, Arkansas.

 

Links

Texas League Media Guides

Texas League Programs

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Written by AC

September 20th, 2015 at 12:48 am

1968-1974 Amarillo Giants

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Amarillo Giants ProgramTexas League (1968-1970 & 1972-1974)
Dixie Association (1971)

Born: 1968: Affiliation change from Amarillo Sonics.
Moved: October 1974 (Lafayette Drillers)

Stadium: Potter County Memorial Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

  • 1968-1973: San Francisco Giants
  • 1974: Steve Daly

 

The Amarillo Giants were a Class AA farm club of the San Francisco Giants in the Texas League from 1968 through 1974.

Key prospects to come through Amarillo during the Giants era included:

  • Dave Kingman (Team best 15 home runs in 1970)
  • Chris Speier (66 RBIs in 1970)
  • Steve Stone (9 wins in 1970).
  • Gary Matthews (15 HR and 86 RBI for Amarillo in 1971)
  • Future National League Rookie-of-the-Year John Montefusco (8 wins in 1974)

The San Francisco Giants owned and operated the ball club directly from 1968 through 1973.  In 1974 the Giants sold the club to veteran minor league exec Steve Daly, who operated the team for its final season in Amarillo.  Immediately after the 1974 season concluded, Daly sold the team to a new owner who moved it to Lafayette, Louisiana where the team was known as the Lafayette Drillers (1975-1976).

After a one-year hiatus without baseball, the Texas League returned to Amarillo and Memorial Stadium with the formation of the Amarillo Gold Sox (1976-1982) in 1976.

 

==Links==

Texas League Media Guides

Texas League Programs

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1968-1976 Memphis Blues

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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: Blues 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 Sambito.  Floyd 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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