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Archive for the ‘Western Carolinas League’ tag

1970 Sumter Indians

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Western Carolinas League (1970)

Born: December 1, 1969 – The Monroe (NC) Indians relocate to Sumter, SC.
Died: 1971 – Affiliate change to Sumter Astros.

Stadium: Riley Park

Team Colors:

Owner: Joe Buzas

 

The Sumter Indians were a South Carolina minor league baseball team that played for only one season in the summer of 1970.  Sumter was a new addition to the six-team Western Carolinas League, replacing a faltering Indians farm club that split the 1969 season between the small North Carolina cities of Statesville and Monroe.  The Indians were the first pro baseball team to call Sumter home since the Sumter Chicks of 1949-1950.

Notable players included 18-year old third baseman Buddy Bell and 21-year old pitcher Jim Kern.  Both became Major League All-Stars for the Cleveland Indians and later for the Texas Rangers.

Attendance was miserable with fewer than 300 spectators per game for the first two months of the 1970 season according to The Sumter Daily Item.  Following the 1970 season the Indians withdrew from Sumter and were replaced by the Houston Astros for the 1971 season.  The Astros also lasted just one season and Sumter went without pro baseball again from 1972 until 1985.

 

==Links==

Western Carolinas League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

April 7th, 2014 at 3:03 am

1968-1979 Greenwood Braves

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Western Carolinas League (1968-1979)

Born: 1968
Died: October 1979 – The Braves relocate to Anderson, South Carolina.

Stadium: Legion Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

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.

 

==Links==

Western Carolina League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

November 28th, 2013 at 1:34 am

1973 Orangeburg Cardinals

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Western Carolinas League (1973)

Born: 1973
Died:1974 – Affiliation change to Orangeburg Dodgers.

Stadium: Mirmow Field

Team Colors:

Owner:

A cool-looking program from the obscure Orangeburg Cardinals of the old Western Carolinas League.  The Cardinals reside in our One-Year Wonders file, as the team lasted just a single summer in 1973.  The team’s name and the St. Louis Cardinals logo on the program cover would seem to identify the club as a low-level (single-A) farm club of St. Louis.  However, the typically reliable guys at baseball-reference.com identify the team as a co-op club. Rare today, co-op farm teams popped up occasionally back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Rather than have a single Major League parent club, multiple Major League clubs contributed players to the roster.  It was an arrangement of last resort and these loaner players were often held in low regard.  Co-op teams frequently finished near the bottom of the standings.  The 1973 Orangeburg Cardinals last place 50-72 record might lend some circumstantial support to baseball-reference.com’s identification of the team as a co-op operation.

Following the 1973 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers took over the Western Carolinas League farm club in Orangeburg.  The Orangeburg Dodgers also lasted just one season at Orangeburg’s Mirmow Field before pulling out at the end of 1974.  Pro baseball has never returned to the city.

The most notable figure involved with the team was field manager Jimmy Piersall.  Piersall was a talented outfielder in the Major Leagues from 1950-1967.  Although a two-time All-Star with the Boston Red Sox, his on-field abilities were overshadowed by his erratic behavior and public battle with mental illness.  Piersall was institutionalized in his early twenties during his time with the Boston Red Sox.  At the time, his troubles were attributed variously to a domineering father who pushed him to excel at baseball and to nervous exhaustion.  Today it is commonly understood that Piersall suffers from bi-polar disorder.  His story was turned into the autobiography Fear Strikes Out, later a movie with Anthony Perkins portraying Piersall.

Brian Merzbach over at BallparkReviews.com has some nice photos of Orangeburg’s Mirmow Field.  Brian points out that the field is rather nice (by 1970’s standards) and it’s somewhat surprising that pro ball had such a short stay there before rising stadium standards rendered the facility obsolete in the late 1980’s.

Back in the days of the Western Carolinas League (1960-1979), programs such as this represented a substantial portion of a team’s annual advertising revenue.  Today, the printed game program itself has become nearly obsolete.  But back in 1973, it was a simpler time and advertisers, such as this comically plainspoken Orangeburg chiropractor, just wanted get a simple message across…

 

==Links==

Western Carolinas League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

September 29th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

1975 Anderson Rangers

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Western Carolinas League (1975)

Born: 1975 – The Gastonia Rangers relocate to Anderson, SC.
Died:
1976 – The Rangers relocate to Asheville, NC.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Nichols

 

Rare game program for the Anderson Rangers, a South Carolina farm club of the Texas Rangers that lasted for just a single season in the summer of 1975.

Anderson played in the Western Carolinas League, a struggling low-A ball loop that dwindled to just four ball clubs in the summer of 1975.   Most of the Rangers players would be filtered out of the system long before coming close to their Major League dreams, but a few players from this ballclub did make their mark in The Show.

Jeff Byrd was a wild, 18-year old pitcher for Anderson in 1975.  Texas’ 2nd round draft choice in 1974, Byrd walked an eye-popping 104 batters in 141 innings in Anderson.  His Major League career was an unusual as his stats line.  At the young age of 20, Byrd started 17 games for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, posting a 2-13 record.  He never pitched in the Majors again and was out of baseball by the age of 23.

More successful was starting pitcher Jim Clancy.  Clancy lost a team-high 13 games for Anderson as a 19-year old.  Like Byrd, he joined the Toronto Blue Jays for their expansion season in 1977.  Clancy went on to win 140 games in a 15-year Major League career, highlighted by an All-Star selection with the Blue Jays in 1982.

Anderson’s pitching coach was a colorful character in Singin’ Ed Nottle, a career minor league player who later became a minor league/independent baseball institution during a four-decade managerial career that, once again, fell short of the Major Leagues by the slightest twists of fate.  Nottle endeared himself to baseball fans (and bar patrons) from Tacoma to New Haven for his habit of singing Rat Pack standards and even released an album, To Baseball With Love, in 1983.  The 37-year old Nottle even activated himself for a couple of garbage innings for Anderson in 1975.  He was more than twice the age of many of the Rangers’ young prospects that summer.

The city of Anderson, South Carolina had a rough stretch with minor league baseball in the early 1970’s.  Four different Major League clubs sponsored farm clubs at the city’s Memorial Stadium between 1970 and 1974, typically leaving after a single season.  After the Mets left town at the end of 1974, it looked like the city would be without baseball in 1975.   Then a Connecticut financial advisor named Fred Nichols purchased the Gastonia (NC) Rangers (1973-1974) in the Western Carolinas League.  The Texas Rangers were unhappy with the lighting at Gastonia’s Sims Legion Park and prevailed upon Nichols to find a new home for the farm club.  Nichols moved the Rangers to Anderson.

Nichols kept the Rangers in Anderson for only one summer.  After the 1975 season, Nichols moved his Western Carolina League franchise to Asheville, North Carolina.  Still a Texas Rangers farm club, the team was renamed the Asheville Tourists.

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Nichols lasted only two seasons as Asheville’s owner, selling out in 1977.  But the Tourists still thrive in the former Western Carolinas League, now known as the South Atlantic League since 1980.  In 2012 the Tourists completed their 37th season in Asheville.

Anderson, South Carolina has been largely left behind by professional baseball.  A South Atlantic League club, the Anderson Braves, played at Memorial Stadium from 1980 to 1984.  An independent club – the Anderson Joes of the South Coast League – played a single season in 2007 before going out of business.  Other than the Joes, Anderson has been without pro baseball for more than a quarter century.

 

==Downloads==

July 1975 Anderson Rangers vs. Salem Pirates Game Notes

 

==Links==

Western Carolina League Programs

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1973-1978 Charleston Pirates & Charleston Patriots

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Western Carolinas League (1973-1978)

Born: 1973
Died: 1978

Stadium: College Park

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

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.

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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.

 

==Downloads==

Charleston Pirates & Patriots Sources

 

==Links==

Western Carolinas League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

September 21st, 2012 at 2:26 pm