Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1984-2004 Greenville Braves

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Greenville BravesSouthern League (1984-2004)

Born: 1984
Moved: 2005 (Mississippi Braves)

Stadium: Greenville Municipal Stadium

Major League Affiliation: Atlanta Braves

Owner: Atlanta Braves

Southern League Champions: 1992 & 1997

 

This long-time Class AA farm club of the Atlanta Braves spent 21 seasons in the small South Carolina city of Greenville (pop. 58,548 in 1990).

Atlanta’s farm system was an embarrassment of riches for much of the Braves era in Greenville. As a result, local fans watched a procession of future Major League stars come through Municipal Stadium during the 1980’s and 1990’s:

  • Tom Glavine (Greenville ’86),
  • Ron Gant (’87),
  • David Justice (’87-’88)
  • Kent Mercker (’88)
  • Steve Avery (’89)
  • Ryan Klesko (’91)
  • Chipper Jones (’92)
  • Javy Lopez (’92)
  • Andruw Jones (’96)
  • Jason Marquis (’99-’00)
  • Adam Wainwright (’03)

Former Greenville Braves Tom Glavine (Class of 2014) and Chipper Jones (Class of 2018) were both elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on their first ballots.

The 1992 Greenville Braves (100-43) were the first team in Southern League history to win 100 games en route to the league title. Catcher Javy Lopez hit .321 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs. 20-year old shortstop Chipper Jones (.346-9-42) was a midseason promotion from Class A and lit up the Southern League in the season’s second half. Grady Little earned Minor League Manager-of-the-Year honors from Baseball America and The Sporting News.

In 2001, the National Association of Professional Baseball League named the 1992 Greenville Braves #23 in their ranking of the 100 Greatest Minor League Teams of all time.

Unlike most of their MLB brethren, the Atlanta Braves own their minor league farm clubs outright and have done so for decades. Beginning in the 2000’s, Atlanta systematically pitted their long-time farm clubs across the Southeastern U.S. against other rival communities across the region in a quest for brand new taxpayer-financed ballparks. Invariably, the long-time host cities lost these contests. Macon, Georgia lost their Braves farm club in 2003 after eleven seasons. Gwinnett County, Georgia poached the Braves’ triple-A team away from Richmond, Virginia in 2009. And Greenville lost the Braves to Pearl, Mississippi in the spring of 2004.

On April Fools’ Day 2004, Greenville officials announced that their effort to keep the Braves in town with the potential of an $18 million new ballpark had failed. The Greenville plan called for the Braves to share revenues on ticket, suite and sponsorship sales to fund the ballpark’s construction. Meanwhile, city officials in Pearl, a small (pop. 25,000) down-at-the-heels suburb of Jackson, Mississippi offered to foot the entire bill for $28 million, 8,500-seat new stadium. The Braves would play one final lame duck season in Greenville during the summer of 2004 and then leave town.

More than a decade after the Braves’ departure from Greenville, a 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek dissection of Braves’ stadium financing schemes spun a fascinating tale of the team’s move to Mississippi. It’s worth a read. In December 2015, the Moody’s Investor Service cut Pearl’s debt rating to junk bond status, citing the unfavorable financial terms of the 2004 ballpark deal.

Greenville, meanwhile, went ahead and built their new ballpark anyway and immediately found a replacement team for the Braves.  The Greenville Bombers, a Class A Boston Red Sox farm club in the South Atlantic League, began play in April 2005. Fluor Field at the West End opened in April 2006 and the Bombers changed their name to the Greenville Drive that same year.

 

Greenville Braves Memorabilia

 

Links

The Braves Play Taxpayers Better Than They Play Baseball“, Ira Boudway and Kate Smith, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 27, 2016

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

February 13th, 2018 at 6:37 pm

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