Western Carolinas League (1968-1979)
Died: October 1979 – The Braves relocate to Anderson, South Carolina.
Stadium: Legion Stadium
The Greenwood (SC) Braves were a Class A farm club of the Atlanta Braves from 1968 to 1979 in the Western Carolinas League. The Braves won the league championship six times in twelve season (1968, 1969, 1971, 1976, 1978 & 1979), although part of this success is due to the fact that the struggling Western Carolinas League occasionally played with as few as four active teams during the 1970′s.
A number of prominent future Major Leaguers came up through Anderson during the Braves era, starting with Dusty Baker, who arrived as a lightly regarded 19-year old and 26th round draft choice during the Braves’ first season in 1968. Other notables included future National League MVP Dale Murphy (1975), future N.L. All-Stars Bruce Benedict and Glenn Hubbard (both 1976), pitcher Rick Mahler (1976), future Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian (1978) and Brett Butler (1979).
One of the most intriguing Greenwood Braves stars was converted pitcher Big Earl Williams who tore up the Western Carolinas League as a 20-year old in 1969. Williams hit .340 with 33 homers and 107 RBIs. Two years later Williams was National League Rookie-of-the-Year with Atlanta, despite an odd attempt by the Braves to convert him to a catcher, a position that the former pitcher had barely ever played before. In his first two seasons in the Majors, Williams bashed 61 home runs – only Johnny Bench was a more feared offensive threat among National League catchers. But a 1973 trade to Baltimore marked the start of a downward spiral for Williams, who clashed publicly with Orioles manager Earl Weaver and quickly fell into disfavor with teammates and fans. Although he never hit fewer than 10 home runs in seven Major League seasons, his bad reputation ran him out of the Majors by age 29. On June 12, 1978, Williams took the highly unusual step of placing a classified ad in The New York Times seeking Major League employment, but there we no takers and him finished his career in anonymity in Mexico in 1979.
In March 1971, the Atlanta Braves came into Greenwood at the end of spring training for an exhibition game that attracted 4,527 fans to Legion Stadium. But by the late 1970′s crowds dwindled to only 300 or so fans per game. In October 1979, the Braves pulled out of Greenwood and moved the club to Anderson, South Carolina for the 1980 season.