Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1973-1978 Charleston Pirates & Charleston Patriots


Western Carolinas League (1973-1978)

Born: 1973
Died: 1978

Stadium: College Park

Team Colors:



The Pittsburgh Pirates had a single-A farm club in Charleston, South Carolina for six summers from 1973 to 1978.  The ball club played at College Park at the corner of Grove Street and Rutledge Avenue.  The team was a member of the old Western Carolinas League (1960-1979).

From 1973 to 1975 team was known as the Charleston Pirates, keeping to the convention of the era that minor league clubs adopt the same name and identity as their Major League parent.  In 1976 and 1977 the club was known as the Charleston Patriots in reference to the nation’s bicentennial and wore red, white & blue.  The Patriots continued to serve as a Pittsburgh Pirates farm team during this time and then reverted back to the Charleston Pirates identity for their final season in the summer of 1978.

Minor league baseball in general was in the doldrums during the 1970’s.  The two single-A circuits in the Carolinas – the Western Carolinas League and the Carolina League – both dwindled to near extinction by the middle of the decade.  By 1975, both loops were down to just four teams and the two leagues agreed to interlocking schedules to survive.

One front office notable of the era was Eva Smith who worked for the team in a variety of roles before earning a promotion to General Manager for the 1975 season.   Smith was one of only four female General Managers in all of Minor League Baseball in 1975 and served in the role again in 1976.   However, when a new team investor named Hammond “Ham” Hill wanted to take on the GM role for the 1977 season, Smith was demoted back to her previous position – office secretary.

A number of prominent players began their climb to the Major Leagues in Charleston during this period, including John Candelaria, Miguel Dilone, Dave Dravecky, Tony Pena, Pascual Perez, Willie Randolph, Eddie Whitson and Yogi Berra’s son, Dale Berra.


Ham Hill put the money-losing ball club up for sale and the Pirates pulled out of Charleston after the 1978 season. A local schoolteacher named Leon Gile inquired about buying the club and turning it into the first “teen-age owned and teen-age operated sports franchise in the world”.  Gile’s scheme involved selling shares of the club to the public for $0.37 each, with the requirement that 50.1% of the shares be held by teenagers.  Nothing ever came of the idea.

The city was without pro baseball in 1979.

After the 1979 season, the Western Carolinas League re-branded itself as the South Atlantic League.  Sally League ball returned to Charleston in 1980 and has continued for 33 seasons since, although the team’s name and Major League affiliation has changed numerous times.

College Park was last used for professional baseball in 1996.  Charleston’s new Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park opened the following year.



Charleston Pirates & Patriots Sources



Western Carolinas League Programs




1973 Anderson Tigers

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Western Carolina League (1973)

Born: 1973

Stadium: Memorial Stadium

Team Colors:



A rare scorebook from the 1973 Anderson (SC) Tigers, a single-A Detroit Tigers farm club from the old Western Carolinas League (1960-1979), a forerunner of today’s South Atlantic League.

Anderson is a small city (pop. 26,686 in 2010) nestled in the Northwest corner of South Carolina.  In the post-WW II era, Anderson has played host to minor league baseball sporadically, first from 1946 to 1954 at Nardin Field and later from 1970 to 1975 and 1980 to 1984 at Memorial Stadium.

During the 1970 to 1975 stretch, the Anderson entry in the Western Carolinas League was kicked back and forth by five different Major League parent clubs in six years, starting with the old Washington Senators in 1970 and moving through the Giants, Tigers, Mets and Rangers.  1973 was the only summer that Anderson’s team was affiliated with the Detroit Tigers.

Beginning in 1974, the Tigers built a remarkably rich farm system through the draft, developing home grown players such as Mark Fidrych, Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Steve Kemp and Kirk Gibson.  The backbone of the 1984 World Series championship team came up through the farm system.  Had Anderson hung on as a Tigers affiliate for a few more season, many of these stars probably would have passed through during their first season or two in the minors.

As it was, only three players on the 1973 Anderson Tigers ever saw Major League service time.  Pitcher Bob Kaiser was a 3rd round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians who never quite panned out.  He appeared in 5 games for Cleveland in 1971 and his Major League time was already behind him by the time he ended up back in A-Ball with Anderson in 1973.  Outfielder Dan Gonzalez was a Tigers 2nd rounder in 1972 and finally made it to Detroit at the end of the decade, appearing in just 9 games with big club in 1979 & 1980.

The ace of the Anderson Tigers staff was 19-year old rookie George Cappuzzello, who led the team with 9 wins and a stingy 2.85 ERA.  It took Cappuzzello eight seasons to claw his way to the Majors as a 27-year old rookie in 1981.  He saw time with Detroit in 1981 and the Houston Astros in 1982, before ending his career in the minors in 1984.

The last farm club to call Anderson home was the Anderson Braves of South Atlantic League, who left town after the 1984 season.  Anderson has been without pro baseball since, with the exception of the summer of 2007 when the Anderson Joes of the independent South Coast League came to town.  The Joes and the SCL folded after a single season of play.



Western Carolinas League Programs





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