Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Southern League’ Category

1985-1990 Jacksonville Expos

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Jacksonville ExposSouthern League (1985-1990)

Born: 1985 – Re-branded from Jacksonville Suns
Re-Branded: 1991 (Jacksonville Suns)

Stadium: Wolfson Park

Major League Affiliation: Montreal Expos

Owner: Peter Bragan Sr.

Southern League Championships: None

 

Professional baseball was on life support in Jacksonville, Florida when Birmingham, Alabama car dealer Peter Bragan purchased the city’s Class AA Southern League franchise in 1984. The city had allowed 30-year old Wolfson Park to fall into disrepair. The park’s roof, which covered the entire, grandstand was rotting. Bragan recalled to The Florida Times-Union in 2004 that he often came to the stadium in the mid-1980’s to find homeless people sleeping in the bleachers.

Jacksonville’s ball club had been known as the “Suns” since 1962. But Bragan agreed to adopt the branding of the team’s Major League parent club, the Montreal Expos, for the 1985 season. Attendance was meager during the Bragan family’s first season – 82,907 fans for a 72-game home calendar.

But the Bragans set about fixing up Wolfson Park as best they could and Montreal began to stock Jacksonville with outstanding prospects. Attendance doubled to 164,772 in 1986 and continued to rise every year for the rest of the 1980’s. Future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson won eleven games for Jacksonville in 1987 while future National League MVP Larry Walker belted 26 homers. The Expos finished with the best record in the Southern League that summer at 85-59.

The Expos pulled out of Jacksonville after the 1990 season. The Bragans signed a new working agreement with the Seattle Mariners and restored Jacksonville’s traditional “Suns” identity for the 1991 season. Peter Bragan Sr. owned the Expos/Sun until his death in 2012. His family sold the Suns ball club to Ken Babby in 2015 for a sum in excess of $20 million. Peter Bragan Sr. paid $330,00 for the team in 1984. In November 2016, Ken Babby changed the name of the former Expos/Suns franchise to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

 

Jacksonville Expos Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Expos owner Peter Bragan Sr. died of heart failure on July 7, 2012 at the age of 89. Florida Times-Union obituary.

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 10th, 2017 at 8:00 pm

1965-1980 Montgomery Rebels

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Montgomery RebelsSouthern League (1965-1970)
Dixie Association (1971)
Southern League (1972-1980)

Born: 1965
Moved: October 1980 (Birmingham Barons)

Stadium: Paterson Field

Major League Affiliation: Detroit Tigers

Owners:

Southern League Champions: 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976 & 1977

 

The Montgomery Rebels were the Class AA farm club of the Detroit Tigers for sixteen seasons from 1965 until 1980. The Rebels dominated the Southern League during the 1970’s, winning five titles in a six-year span from 1972 through 1977.

Detroit had a rich farm system during this era. Future All-Stars such as Mark Fidrych, Steve Kemp, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker all spent time in Montgomery on their way to Detroit.

In October 1980, a group of investors led by Art Clarkson purchased the Rebels and move the team to Birmingham’s Rickwood Field. After the departure of the Rebels, Montgomery went without pro baseball for nearly a quarter century. The Southern League returned to Montgomery in 2004 with the arrival of the Montgomery Biscuits

The former Rebels franchise still exists today in the Southern League as the Birmingham Barons.

 

Montgomery Rebels Shop

Baseball in Montgomery by Clarence Watkins

 

Montgomery Rebels Memorabilia

 

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 18th, 2017 at 9:04 pm

1970-1988 Columbus Astros

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Columbus AstrosSouthern League (1970)
Dixie Association (1971)
Southern League (1972-1988)

Born: 1970
Re-Branded: January 1989 (Columbus Mudcats)

Stadium: Golden Park

Major League Affiliation: Houston Astros

Owners:

Southern League Champions: 1970 & 1986

 

The Columbus (GA) Astros were a long-time Class AA farm club of the Houston Astros.

The Astros won the Southern League championship in their first season in the summer of 1970. The club won a second league crown in 1986, despite finishing the first half of the season in last place and cycling through three field managers.

The 1980’s saw hard times for minor league baseball in Columbus. The team routinely lost money and played to tiny crowds at Golden Park. A classic mom-and-pop operation, the Astros employed only one full-time employee in its latter years. North Carolina businessman Steve Bryant purchased the franchise from local ownership in August 1988.  Five months later, Bryant re-branded the club as the Columbus Mudcats and beefed up the front office. Bryant moved the Mudcats to Zebulon, North Carolina in 1991.

 

Columbus Astros Memorabilia

 

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 7th, 2017 at 3:39 am

1985-2014 Huntsville Stars

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1992 Huntsville Stars ProgramSouthern League (1985-2014)

Born: August 1984 – The Nashville Sounds relocate to Huntsville, AL.
Move Announced: January 10, 2014 (Biloxi Shuckers)
Final Home Game: September 1, 2014

Stadium: Joe W. Davis Stadium (10,488)

Team Colors:

Owners:

Southern League Champions: 1985, 1994, 2001

 

In the summer of 1984 Larry Schmittou, owner of the Class AA Nashville Sounds of the Southern League, purchased the Class AAA Evansville Triplets franchise and shifted it to Tennessee. The move effectively promoted Schmittou’s Nashville club to triple-A status, but left his original Southern League franchise homeless. The problem was solved when the city of Huntsville, Alabama agreed to construct 11,000-seat Joe W. Davis Stadium in time for the 1985 season.

Jose Canseco Huntsville StarsSchmittou’s re-christened Huntsville Stars club inked a player development contract with the Oakland Athletics in September 1984. Huntsville became a way station for the outstanding prospects that would later power Oakland’s World Series squads of the late 1980’s. Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Terry Steinbach all spent time in Huntsville on their way to Oakland. Canseco hit a grand slam in Huntsville’s first home game at Joe W. Davis Stadium on April 19, 1985. Canseco would go to win Southern League MVP honors in 1985 and Steinbach would win in 1986.

Huntsville won two Southern League crowns during the A’s era. Oakland also brought their Major League team to Alabama for exhibitions seven times during the 14-year relationship. The affiliation came to an end in 1998 and the Milwaukee Brewers became the Stars’ parent club the following season. The Brewers partnership would endure for the rest of the Stars’ stay in Huntsville.

The Stars won their third and final Southern League championship during the 2001 season. The Stars were about to open a playoff championship series against the Jacksonville Suns when the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred. The playoffs were cancelled and the Stars and Suns declared co-champions.

The Stars sold for the second time in October 2001. A group headed by New York attorney Miles Prentice paid a reported $6 million for the franchise, with a commitment to keep the team in Huntsville. But by the mid-2000’s Joe W. Davis Stadium was badly outdated. The facility lacked modern skyboxes and concessions areas were located outside view of the field. Prentice’s  group sold out to veteran minor league operator Ken Young in January 2014.. After a final lame duck season in Huntsville in 2014, the former Stars franchise moved to a new ballpark in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2015. The team is now known as the Biloxi Shuckers.

 

Huntsville Stars Memorabilia

 

Downloads

2011 Huntsville Stars Media Guide

2012 Huntsville Stars Media Guide

 

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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1980-1992 Knoxville Blue Jays

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Knoxville Blue Jays ProgramSouthern League (1980-1992)

Born: 1980 – Affiliation change from Knoxville Sox
Re-Branded: 1993 (Knoxville Smokies)

Stadium: Bill Meyer Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

Southern League Champions: None

 

The Knoxville Blue Jays were the long-time Class AA farm club of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The K-Jays were never big winners on the diamond, failing to win a Southern League crown in 13 seasons play. But the team did showcase future Major League stars such as Jesse Barfield (’80 and ’81), Jimmy Key (’83), Cecil Fielder (’84-’85), Fred McGriff (’84), David Wells (’84 and ’86), Pat Hentgen (’90) and Jeff Kent (’91).

Attendance was always a challenge in Knoxville during the K-Jays era. A 1989 visit by the Major League Blue Jays to Knoxville for an exhibition against the K-Jays attracted fewer than 2,000 fans to Bill Meyer Stadium.

The team was re-branded following the 1992 season, taking back the historic Knoxville Smokies name. The relationship with Toronto continued until 2003, when the St. Louis Cardinals replaced the Blue Jays as Knoxville’s parent club.

 

Knoxville Blue Jays Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

K-Jays owner Neal Ridley died of cancer in September 1983. The team was sold to the Toronto Blue Jays in the wake of his death.

 

Links

Southern League Media Guides

Southern League Programs

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Written by AC

September 26th, 2015 at 1:59 am

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