Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1985-1990 Sumter Braves

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Sumter Braves ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1985-1990)

Born: 1985
Relocated: 1991 (Macon Braves)

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

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

1987-1992 Myrtle Beach Blue Jays / Myrtle Beach Hurricanes

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South Atlantic League (1987-1990)

Born: October 1986 – Florence (SC) Blue Jays relocate to Myrtle Beach.
Died: 1991 – Re-branded as Myrtle Beach Hurricanes.

Stadium: Coastal Carolina Stadium (3,500)

Team Colors:

Owner: Winston Blenckstone

 

This Class A farm club of the Toronto Blue Jays marked the first time that minor league baseball came to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Or, at least, near Myrtle Beach.  The Blue Jays played on the campus of Coastal Carolina University about 12 miles away from the Grand Strand.

The club was owned by Baltimore oxygen salesman Winston Blenckstone, who purchased the Sally League’s unloved Florence (SC) Blue Jays for $200,000 in October of 1986 and moved the club to Myrtle Beach.

The Blue Jays home debut on April 8, 1987 against the Savannah Cardinals drew a standing room-only crowd of 4,030, but attendance quickly settled in at less than a thousand a night.  Myrtle Beach’s attendance was among the worst in the South Atlantic League, just as it had been in Florence previously.  By April 1989, Blenckstone was frustrated and threatening to move his ball club if city leaders wouldn’t commit to a $2 million new stadium.  Blenckstone ultimately hung in for four more summers.  He re-branded the team as the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes in 1991, but that did nothing to change the club’s box office fortunes.  In late 1992, with stadium negotiations going nowhere, Blenckstone pulled up stakes and moved the franchise to Hagerstown, Maryland.

A number of notable Toronto prospects came through Myrtle Beach during the Blue Jays/Hurricanes era, including future American League Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen and first baseman Chris Weinke, who never made the Major Leagues but went on to win the Heisman Trophy eight years later as a 28-year old quarterback at Florida State

 

==Key Players==

  • Derek Bell
  • Carlos Delgado
  • Pat Hentgen
  • Mike Timlin
  • Chris Weinke

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Programs

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1985-1993 Charleston Rainbows

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Charleston Rainbows ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1985-1993)

Born: August 1984 – Charleston Royals re-brand as the Charleston Rainbows
Re-Branded: Postseason 1993 (Charleston RiverDogs)

Stadium: College Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Charleston (SC) Rainbows were a Class A farm club in the South Atlantic League (1980-Present) from 1985 to 1993.  The team was previously named for its Major League parent club and known as the Charleston Royals (1980-1984).  In December 1983, owner Ernie Passailaigue travelled to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville and returned convinced that the best operators in the minor leagues were turning towards distinctive local identities and merchandising for their ball clubs, rather than mimicking the brand of whichever Major League club happened to sponsor them in a particular year.  In August 1984, he announced the name change to the Charleston Rainbows, named for Charleston’s “Rainbow Row” of historic homes on East Bay Street.  One month later in September 1984 came a new working agreement with the San Diego Padres, who would be the Rainbows parent club for most of the next decade.

In the Rainbows first season in 1985, Charleston baseball fans enjoyed a full summer of watching two of the Padres’ top teenage prospects: the brothers Roberto and Sandy Alomar.  Sandy was 19 and Roberto just 17 at the time.  Sandy Alomar went on to win the American League Rookie-of-the-Year award in 1990 with Cleveland and played parts of 20 seasons in the Majors.  Brother Roberto debuted at age 20 in 1988 and played 17 seasons, earning election to the Hall-of-Fame in 2011.

In 1986, the Rainbows established what was then a Charleston pro baseball attendance record of 131,696 fans.  Under the Passailaigue’s, the club depended heavily on so-called “Buyout” nights, where local companies purchased all of the seats in the park at steeply discounted rates and distributed the tickets in the community, often at no charge.  This once-widespread marketing strategy pumps up announced attendance, but many operators believe it also conditions local fans to sit back and wait for free tickets to inevitably come available.

During the winter of 1987-88, the Passailaigue’s sold the Rainbows to another pair of brothers, Larry & Stuart Revo, for a reported $600,000 price tag.  The Revos already controlled two other minor league clubs, the Class AA Pittsfield Cubs of the Eastern League and the Class A Kinston Indians of the Carolina League.  The Revos’ limited partners in their baseball investments included the actor Bill Murray.  One of the Revos’ immediate changes was to reduce ticket prices, but also to cut back on the buyout night strategy to try to establish price integrity for Rainbows tickets.

The Rainbows – who were usually terrible – fielded a terrific team in 1988, finishing with the best record in the Sally League at 85-53.  The Rainbows were swept by the Spartanburg Phillies in the league championship series.  But attendance dropped to 56,909 fans, partly in response to the Revos’ tighter controls on the supply of free tickets.  Attendance wouldn’t get back over the 100,000 mark until the 1990’s.

After two years of ownership, the Revo brothers sold the Rainbows to New York investment banker Marv Goldklang in October 1989 in a deal reported at $800,000.  In 1992, the affiliation between the Rainbows and the San Diego Padres ended after eight seasons.  The Texas Rangers took on the affiliation for the summer of 1993, which would be the Rainbows final summer.  Prior to the 1994 season, the Rainbows re-branded as the Charleston RiverDogs.  College Park closed after the 1996 season, replaced by the modern Joseph P. Riley Jr. Ballpark in 1997.  As of this writing in 2013, the RiverDogs continue to thrive under long-time owner Marv Goldklang and his Goldklang Group.

 

==Key Players==

  • Roberto Alomar (1985)
  • Sandy Alomar Jr. (1985)
  • Carlos Baerga (1986-1987)
  • Jose Valentin (1988)

 

==Links==

South Atlantic League Media Guides

South Atlantic League Programs

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