South Atlantic League (1985-1993)
Born: August 1984 – Charleston Royals re-brand as the Charleston Rainbows
Died: Postseason 1993 – Rainbows re-brand as the Charleston RiverDogs
Stadium: College Park
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 (MA) Cubs of the Eastern League and the Class A Kinston (NC) 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.
- Roberto Alomar (1985)
- Sandy Alomar Jr. (1985)
- Carlos Baerga (1986-1987)
- Jose Valentin (1988)
Charleston Rainbows Sources
South Atlantic League Programs
Minor League Baseball Franchise Sales Tracker