Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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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Written by andycrossley

August 23rd, 2015 at 1:38 am

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 andycrossley

August 22nd, 2015 at 1:05 pm

1981 Chicago Fire

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Chicago Fire 1981American Football Association (1981)

Born: 1981 – AFA expansion franchise.
Folded:
Spring 1982

Stadium: Soldier Field

Team Colors: 

Owners: Bill Feda and Howard Miller

 

The 1981 Chicago Fire were a pro football outfit that competed in the summer-season American Football Association.  The club was a brand re-boot of the old Chicago Fire of the World Football League, resuscitating that team’s name, logo and helmet design (visible in the schedule poster top right).

Unlike the WFL, which made a brief go of challenging the NFL for elite talent in 1974 and 1975, the American Football Association was a decidedly minor league operation.  Club officials spotted an opportunity with the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, which wiped the Cubs and the White Sox off the map from early June to mid-August. WGN-TV, scrambling for summer sports programming during the strike, broadcast a Fire game from Soldier Field on June 27, 1981.  But lukewarm ratings led the pioneering cable superstation to cancel Fire broadcasts scheduled for later in the season.

The Fire won the AFA’s Western Division with an 8-4 record in 1981 and advanced to the league title game.  The Fire traveled to Charleston, West Virginia on August 30th, 1981 and lost to the defending league champion West Virginia Rockets 29-21.

As late as May 1982 Fire owners Bill Feda and Howard Miller were still trying to scrape together funds to play a second season in the AFA. But the team was in financial straits and the formation of the big-budget United States Football League on May 11th, 1982 drove a final nail into the coffin.  The Fire folded quietly shortly thereafter. The USFL’s Chicago Blitz would begin play at Soldier Field in the spring of 1983.  Ex-Fire General Manager Ron Potocnik would become (briefly) GM of the Blitz in 1984.

 

==Downloads==

1981 Chicago Fire Schedule & Results

 

==Links==

American Football Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

August 12th, 2015 at 3:02 am

1994 Las Vegas Posse

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Tamarick Vanover Las Vegas PosseCanadian Football League (1994)

Born: July 26, 1993 – CFL expansion franchise.
Folded: April 1995

Stadium: Sam Boyd Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Nick Mileti, Glenn Golenberg, Marshall Geller, et al.

 

Following the demise of the NFL-funded World League of American Football (WLAF) in September 1992, the cash-strapped Canadian Football League set its sights on an infusion of expansion fees from south of the border.  The venerable CFL held steady with the same eight-city Canadian membership from 1954 until 1987, when Montreal dropped from the league.  The remaining seven cities soldiered on into the 1990’s,

Two refugee franchises from the defunct, the Sacramento Surge and the San Antonio Riders, announced their entry into the

Canadian football was a tough sell in the States.  Canadian rules are substantially different, what with 12 v. 12 action, a 110-yard field, unlimited offensive backfield motion before the snap, and 3-down offensive possessions. Most of the cities involved in the CFL’s American adventure had also hosted USFL or WLAF in the recent past.

 

==Las Vegas Posse Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other

1994

1994 8/6/1994 vs. Baltimore CFL Football Club L 38-33 Program
1994 9/10/1994 vs. Shreveport Pirates W 34-21 Program
1994 10/7/1994 @ Baltimore CFL Football Club L 22-16 Program Roster

 

==YouTube==

The Posse visit the Toronto Argonauts on July 29, 1994.

 

==Links==

Giddyap, Posse“, Jack McCallum & Kelli Anderson, Sports Illustrated, September 5, 1994

Canadian Football League Media Guides

Canadian Football League Programs

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1969-1985 Flint Generals

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Flint Generals ProgramInternational Hockey League (1969-1985)

Born: 1969 – IHL expansion franchise.
Moved: 
July 9, 1985 (Saginaw Generals)

Arena: IMA Sports Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

IHL Turner Cup Champions: 1984

 

The Flint Generals were the long-time minor league hockey franchise for the auto-making city of Flint, Michigan.  The club derived its name from the city’s once close association with General Motors.  The Generals competed in the International Hockey League against a slate of Rust Belt opponents from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The Generals finest hour came in the spring of 1984.  The Generals swept the Toledo Goaldiggers in a best-of-7 series to win their first and only Turner Cup championship.

A little over a year later, the Generals left town after a dispute with IMA Sports Arena over weekend playing dates.  The Generals moved the Saginaw, Michigan in July 1985.  The franchise eventually folded in 1989 after four years in Saginaw.

 

==Slideshow==

 

==Flint Generals Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1969-70

1969-70 12/25/1969 @ Dayton Gems ?? Program

1972-73

1972-73 11/11/1972 @ Fort Wayne Komets ?? Program

1973-74

1973-74 2/9/1974 @ Toledo Hornets ?? Program
1973-74 2/10/1974 vs. Toledo Hornets ?? Program

1976-77

1976-77 11/28/1976 vs. Muskegon Mohawks ?? Program

 

==Links==

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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