Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘South Atlantic League’ tag

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 sold 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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South Atlantic League ProgramsSouth Atlantic League (1985-1990)

Born: 1985
Died: 1991 – The Braves relocate to Macon, GA.

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 andycrossley

July 4th, 2014 at 8:58 pm

1992-1995 Albany Polecats

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South Atlantic League (1992-1995)

Born: 1992 – The Sumter Flyers relocate to Albany, GA.
Died: September 20, 1995 – The Polecats relocate to Salisbury, MD.

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 andycrossley

February 21st, 2014 at 10:25 pm

1991 Sumter Flyers

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South Atlantic League (1991)

Born: 1991 – South Atlantic League expansion franchise.
Died: November 1991 – The Flyers relocate to Albany, GA.

Stadium: Riley Park

Team Colors:

Owner: Richard Holtzman

 

The Sumter Flyers were a One-Year Wonder in the Class A South Atlantic League.  The Flyers arrived in February 1991 several months after Sumter’s previous Sally League club, the Sumter Braves, left town for Macon, Georgia.

The Flyers’ owner Richard Holtzman was a Chicago real estate investor who owned numerous  minor league baseball clubs around the country during the late 1980’s and 1990’s.  Holtzman originally wanted to place his new club in Montgomery, Alabama, but when that didn’t pan out he fell back on Sumter, South Carolina’s Riley Park for the 1991 season.   The Flyers would serve as a farm team for the Montreal Expos.

The Flyers had a record of 64-75 during their only season in Sumter.  Twelve Flyers players eventually saw time in the Major Leagues, including – remarkably – nine members of the pitching staff.  The best known of the bunch were Rondell White and Shane Andrews, Montreal’s two first round selections in the 1990 Amateur Draft.  Andrews eventually played parts of seven seasons in the Majors from 1995 to 2002, including a 25-homer season for the Expos in 1998.  White played 15 seasons (1993-2007) and was a National League All-Star selection in 2003.

The Flyers drew 45,637 fans to Riley Park in 1991 for an average attendance of 702 per game.  Holtzman and team General Manager Scott Skadan told The Sumter Item that the ball club had a bad season financially and lost money.  When a sweeter deal became available in Albany, Georgia, Holtzman pulled out of Sumter and moved the team south in November 1991.

The franchise was know as the Albany Polecats from 1992 to 1995.  In 1995, Holtzman sold the club to Peter Kirk who moved the ball club to Salisbury, Maryland where it operates to this day and is known as the Delmarva Shorebirds.

 

==In Memoriam==

Flyers pitcher Kevin Foster, who won 10 games for Sumter in 1991 and later pitched in the Majors, died on renal cancer on October 11, 2008 at age 39.

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

February 21st, 2014 at 4:11 pm

1987-1996 Fayetteville Generals

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South Atlantic League (1987-1996)

Born: 1987
Died: 1997 – Re-branded as the Cape Fear Crocs.

Stadium: J.P. Riddle Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Charles Padgett et al.

 

The Fayetteville Generals were a Class A farm club of the Detroit Tigers in the South Atlantic League from 1987 through 1996.  When the club was formed it marked the return of pro baseball to the North Carolina city after a 31-year absence.

Notable future Major Leaguers who spent time in Fayetteville during the Generals era included Milt Cuyler and future All-Stars Travis Fryman and Jose Lima.

Tragedy came to Fayetteville in May 1990 when 19-year old Ronaldo Romero, pitching for the Gastonia Rangers, collapsed from a heart seizure in the visitor’s dugout after pitching two innings of a game against the Generals.  He was pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center a short time later.

Although J.P. Riddle Stadium was a new construction project in 1987, the minor league baseball industry was undergoing massive growth in the late 80’s and by the mid-1990’s the ballpark was consider non-compliant with the minimum standards for a Class A farm team.  In September 1995, team owner Charles Padgett informed the County Facilities Committee that the Generals had lost money in all nine seasons of operation.

The Generals era came to an end in 1997, when the Detroit Tigers left town and the Padgett family struck a new affiliation agreement with the Montreal Expos.  At the same time, the ball club was re-branded as the Cape Fear Crocs.  In June of 1999 the Padgetts sold the team for $3 million and the new owners announced plans to move the franchise to Lakewood Township, New Jersey in 2001.  The Crocs played out the 1999 season and one last lame duck summer in 2000 and then left town.  The franchise still exists today as the Lakewood Captains.

Pro baseball never returned to Fayetteville and the city no longer has a suitable facility, but J.P. Riddle Stadium now hosts the Fayetteville Swampdogs of the collegiate Coastal Plains League.

 

==In Memoriam==

Ex-Generals pitcher Jose Lima (1991) died of a heart attack on May 23, 2010 at age 37.

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 8th, 2014 at 2:10 am