Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1971-1983 Charleston Charlies

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Mike Mendoza Charleston CharliesInternational League (1971-1983)

Born: 1971 – The Columbus Jets relocate to Charleston, WV.
Died: 1983 – The Charlies relocate to Old Orchard Beach, ME.

Stadium: Watt Powell Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Charleston Charlies were a colorful (at times, blindingly so) Class AAA ballclub that made their home in West Virginia from 1971 through 1983.  From 1971 through 1976, the Charlies were the top farm club for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were a National League power at the time.  Many of the great stars of Pittsburgh’s 1970′s World Series teams came through Charleston, including Bruce KisonOmar Morena, Dave Parker, Rennie Stennett, Kent Tekulve and Richie Zisk.  Other top Charlies during the Pirates era included Tony Armas, Gene Garber, Art Howe and Willie Randolph.

Although the Pirates farm system was laden with future stars, the Charlies never won an International League title until the Houston Astros took over the parent club affiliation in 1977.  The Charlies won the Governor’s Cup for the first and only time that summer, sweeping the Pawtucket Red Sox in a best-of-seven championship series.

With the arrival of the Astros came fantastic (or grotesque, depending on your worldview) rainbow jerseys, modeled on Houston’s garish horizontal stripes of the late 1970′s/early 1980′s.  (See the photo of pitcher Mike Mendoza, circa 1979, above right).  The jerseys also featured a chest patch of the Charlies’ logo of a cigar-chomping baseball sporting a bowler hat.

Houston pulled out of town after the 1979 season and the early 1980′s were a time of turmoil and decline for the Charlies franchise.  By this time, Charleston (pop. 50,000) was the smallest Class AAA city in the country.  The Texas Rangers took over the affiliation in 1980 but stayed for just one season.  Then the Cleveland Indians were the parent club from 1981 to 1983.  Neither Texas nor Cleveland boasted particularly strong farm systems and their reigns in Charleston produced neither future Major League stars nor winning minor league ball clubs.

Behind the scenes, the Charlies long-time owner Bob Levine decided to sell the club after the 1981 season.  Levine, a junkyard owner, originally brought the team to town from Columbus, Ohio in 1971 and named it in honor of his father Charlie.  A stock drive to convert the Charlies to a community-owned club fell short, but the team’s long-time General Manager Carl Steinfeldt cobbled together enough backing to keep the team going in Charleston for the 1982 season.  But the team continued to lose money and Steinfeldt sold the Charlies to Maine attorney Jordan Kobritz at the 1982 Baseball Winter Meetings.

The Charlies played what amount to a lame duck season in Charleston in 1983 and then Kobritz moved the club to Maine in 1984 where it became known as the Maine Guides (1984-1987).  After several subsequent moves and re-brandings, the franchise once known as the Charleston Charlies plays on today as the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders.

 

==Links==

International League Media Guides

International League Programs

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1997-1999 Durham Dragons

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1997 Women's Professional FastpitchWomen’s Professional Fastpitch (1997-1998)
Women’s Professional Softball League (1999)

Born: 1996 – WPF founding franchise.
Died: October 1, 1999 – The WPSL contracts the Durham franchise.

Stadium: Durham Athletic Park (2,006)

Team Colors:

Owner:

  • 1997-1998: Women’s Professional Fastpitch
  • 1999: Women’s Professional Softball League (re-branded)

 

The Durham Dragons were one of six founding franchises in Women’s Professional Fastpitch, a professional softball league that launched in the southeastern U.S. in the spring of 1997.  All six clubs were centrally owned by the Denver-based league, which was backstopped primarily by a three-year, $4 million title sponsorship from AT&T Wireless Services.

Each WPF franchise carried a 15-woman roster and had a $74,000 salary cap during the 1997 inaugural season.  Clubs typically played in softball-specific complexes or in aging minor league baseball stadiums.  The Dragons played at the 70-year old Durham Athletic Park, which had been unused for professional sports for two years since the minor league baseball Durham Bulls departed for a new state-of-the-art stadium in 1995.

The Dragons drew nearly 2,000 fans on the league’s opening night on May 30th, 1997, but attendance settled in the low hundreds soon afterwards.

Following the league’s second season in 1998, Women’s Professional Fastpitch re-branded itself as the Women’s Professional Softball League.  The Dragons played their third and final season under the WPSL banner in the summer of 1999.  On October 1, 1999, the WPSL contracted four of its six clubs and announced the league would re-organize in a barnstorming tour format for the 2000 season.

 

==Downloads==

1997 Women’s Professional Fastpitch Game Rules Quick Summary

1998 Women’s Professional Fastpitch League Brochure

1998 Women’s Professional Fastpitch Draft Selections

 

==Links==

Softball’s New Cachet Spawns a League of Pros“, Barry Jacobs, The New York Times, June 10, 1997

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Written by andycrossley

August 15th, 2014 at 12:48 am

1973-1982 Walla Walla Padres

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1979 Walla Walla PadresNorthwest League (1973-1982)

Born: 1973 – Affiliation change from Hawaii Islanders to San Diego Padres.
Died:
September 4, 1982 – The Padres relocate to Tri-Cities, WA.

Stadium: Borleske Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Walla Walla Padres were the short-season Class A farm club of the San Diego Padres for ten summers from 1973 through 1982.  Walla Walla is a city of approximately 30,000 in southeastern Washington state.  Prior to the Padres arrival in 1973, the city hosted Northwest League baseball for four seasons under affiliations with the Philadelphia Phillies (1969-1971) and the Hawaii Islanders (1972) of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.

The original owner of the Walla Walla Padres was Verne Russell, who broadcast the team’s games on his local easy listening radio station KUJ.  In 1975, Russell sold both the station and the Padres to Jim Nelly.  Nelly converted KUJ to a Top 40 station and handed off the Padres to his wife, Pat Nelly, who ran the ball club as General Manager.  She erected a billboard on the outfield wall at Borleske Stadium that read “Peppermint Patty Loves Her Padres”.

Under Pat Nelly’s regime, the ball club had an unusually contentious relationship with the local newspaper, the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.  When Nelly finally sold the club in  1982 after years of poor attendance, Sunday Sports Editor Ed Clendaniel opined:

“Never in my life have I seen nor ever hope to see again a shoddier or less professional operation than the Walla Walla Padres since Pat Nelly took over as owner in 1975.”

Clendaniel wasn’t alone in his opinion.  Staff writer Skip Nichols regularly excoriated Nelly for her penny-pinching operation of the franchise, which included cancelling the team’s game broadcasts on KUJ in the late 1970′s.

Pat Nelly sold the club during the 1982 season to a Piscataway, New Jersey group fronted by a long-time baseball manager, executive and scout named Mal Fichman.  Fichman took possession of the club’s assets in early September 1982 and immediately moved the franchise to Richland, Washington, where it became known as the Tri-Cities Triplets (1983-1986).

Upon the departure of the Padres, Walla Walla immediately got a new, unaffiliated expansion team in the Northwest League for the 1983 season.  The new club was known as the Walla Walla Bears, but lasted only one season.  Pro baseball has never returned to Walla Walla since the demise of the Bears in late 1983.

Key Walla Walla Padres players included future Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith (1977) and Tony Gwynn (1981).  Other notables include the late Eric Show (1978), John Kruk (1981) and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams (1982).

 

==In Memoriam==

Pitcher Eric Show died on March 16, 1994 at age 37. (New York Times obituary).

 

==Links==

Northwest League Programs

 

==Additional Sources==

“Walla Walla – Padre divorce took a very long seven years”, Ed Clendaniel, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, September 19, 1982.

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Written by andycrossley

August 14th, 2014 at 3:17 am

1995-1997 Minot Mallards

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Minot MallardsPrairie League (1995-1997)

Born: 1995
Died: 1997

Stadium: Corbett Field

Team Colors:

Owners: Don Ziegler & Sharon Ziegler

 

The Minot Mallards were a low-level pro baseball team that played three summers at tiny Corbett Field in Minot, North Dakota during the mid-1990′s.  The Mallards name was a tribute to the old Minot Mallards of the Class C Northern League who played from 1958 to 1962.

The new Mallards were part of the independent (no Major League affiliation) Prairie League, which featured teams in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

During the 1996 season, the Mallards featured a pair of former Major League journeymen on the roster.  40-year old outfielder Darrell Brown last played in the Bigs twelve years earlier for the Minnesota Twins.  36-year old infielder Brian Giles had a journeyman career with the Mets and a few other teams in the early-mid 80′s.

Former Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres first basemen Rob Nelson played for Minot in 1995.  Aside from Brown, Giles and Nelson, no other Mallards players ever played a Major League game.

The Minot Mallards and the Prairie League both folded after the 1997 season.

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Written by andycrossley

August 12th, 2014 at 12:17 am

1992-1993 Cincinnati Rockers

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Arena Football League (1992-1993)

Born: 1991 – AFL expansion franchise.
Died: October 1993 – The Rockers withdraw from the Arena Football League.

Arena: Riverfront Coliseum (15,500)

Team Colors: Green, Yellow & White

Owner: Ted Gregory

 

Short-lived entry in the Arena Football League active for two summers in 1992 and 1993.

Unusual among Arena Football teams of the era, the Cincinnati Rockers employed ex-NFL quarterbacks in both of their campaigns.  The starter in 1992 was gambling casualty Art Schlichter, twice banned from the NFL by Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  Schlichter found a revival of sorts in the Arena League, winning Most Valuable Player honors in 1990 as the signal caller for the league champion Detroit Drive.  It was a modest rebound – Schlichter was one of the highest paid players in the AFL in 1992, but that still only meant a salary of $40,000 annually.   The Rockers thrived at first with Schlichter under center in 1992.  The team went 7-3 and made the playoffs as Schlichter passed for 45 touchdowns.  But late in the season the former Ohio State star fell back into his old ways and was arrested for passing a bad check.  Schlichter left the team after the 1992 season and never played another down of pro football.  He spent much of the next decade in prison.

The Rockers tried to rebuild in 1993 around former NFL journeyman Blair Kiel at quarterback.  Unlike Schlichter, Kiel struggled to pick up the indoor game and ended up splitting time with Brent Pease, a former replacement QB for the Houston Oilers during the 1987 NFL strike.  Pease couldn’t rally the Rockers either, and the franchise regressed to a league-worst 2-10 record, matched only by the Rockers’ in-state rival, the Cleveland Thunderbolts.

Other former NFL notables who played for the Rockers included former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ira Hillary and ex-New England Patriots running back Tony Collins.

After a promising start at the box office in 1992, the Rockers’ attendance crashed through the floor in 1993.  Owner Ted Gregory, the late Cincinnati rib baron, shuttered the faltering club in late 1993.  Gregory later sold off the inactive franchise certificate to Connecticut investors and the ex-Rockers franchise became the Hartford-based Connecticut Coyotes in 1995.

 

==Cincinnati Rockers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992 5/30/1992 vs. Detroit Drive  W 37-34 Video
1993 7/3/1993 @ Tampa Bay Storm L 61-51 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Rockers owner Ted Gregory passed away on December 2, 2001 at age 78.

Ex-Rockers quarterback Blair Kiel died of a heart attack on April 8, 2012.  Kiel was 50 years old.

 

==YouTube==

Rockers inaugural game at the Riverfront Coliseum on May 30, 1992.  Art Schlichter leads the Rockers to a 37-34 upset over his former team, the Detroit Drive before 13,317 fans.

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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