Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Western Carolinas League’ Category

1979-1993 Greensboro Hornets

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Greensboro HornetsWestern Carolinas League (1979)
South Atlantic League (1980-1993)

Born: 1979 – Western Carolinas League expansion franchise
Re-Branded: 1994 (Greensboro Bats)

Stadium: World War Memorial Stadium

Major League Affiliations:

  • 1979: Cincinnati Reds
  • 1980-1984: New York Yankees
  • 1985-1987: Boston Red Sox
  • 1988-1989: Cincinnati Reds
  • 1990-1993: New York Yankees

Owners:

Western Carolinas League Championships: None
South Atlantic League Champions: 1980, 1981 & 1982

 

The Greensboro Hornets joined the Class A Western Carolinas League in 1979. Larry Schmittou owned the Class AA Nashville Sounds, along with a coterie of country music stars including Conway Twitty, Cal Smith and Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys. Under Schmittou’s management, the Sounds became one of the most popular and financially successful minor league baseball franchises in the country in the late 1970’s. Schmittou and his group turned their sights next on Greensboro, purchasing the Hornets as an expansion club for $25,000.

Schmittou, who remained in Nashville, installed Tom Romenesko as General Manager and the duo set out to replicate the Sounds success. The team ran promotions virtually every night in 1979. A Used Car Night drew 8,215 fans to World War Memorial Stadium. A visit by Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Feller attracted 5,000. On August 22, 1979, the Hornets broke the stadium attendance record when 12,602 fans showed up for a game.

Change was afoot in 1980. The Western Carolinas League re-branded itself as the South Atlantic League. The New York Yankees replaced the Cincinnati Reds as the Hornets’ parent club. The Hornets won the first of three consecutive South Atlantic League titles that summer. A Yankees prospect named Don Mattingly led the circuit with a .358 batting average.

The Hornets Major League affiliation shuffled several times during the rest of the 1980’s. Both the Reds and the Yankees would return for second stints in town. Schmittou’s group sold the Hornets for a reported $900,000 in 1989 to Raleigh, North Carolina businessman Steve Bryant.

Around the same time, the Hornets got embroiled in legal disputes with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and their owner George Shinn over the use of the “Hornets” moniker. Bryant appeared to prevail in a legal settlement in 1991 that allowed Greensboro to continue to use the name. Nevertheless, the team re-branded itself in 1994 as the Greensboro Bats.

By the dawn of the 1990’s the Yankees were back as Greensboro’s Major League sponsor. A teenage Derek Jeter appeared briefly for the Hornets in 1992 and then played the entire summer in Greensboro in 1993. Jeter made an astonishing 56 errors (!) for Greensboro at shortstop in 1993.

The former Hornets franchise remains in Greensboro and continues to play the South Atlantic League. The team moved into a new ballpark in 2005 and is known as the Greensboro Grasshoppers today.

 

Greensboro Hornets Memorabilia

 

Links

Western Carolina League Programs

South Atlantic League Media Guides

South Atlantic League Programs

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1964-1966 Rock Hill Cardinals

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Rock Hill Cardinals ProgramWestern Carolinas League (1964-1966)

Born: 1964
Affiliation Change: 1967 (Rock Hill Indians)

Stadium: Municipal Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner:

Western Carolinas League Champions: 1965

 

The Rock Hill Cardinals were a South Carolina-based Class A farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals for three seasons in the mid-1960’s.

During the summer of ’64 Rock Hill boasted twin pitching aces who dominated the Western Carolinas League. 21-year old Jim Cosman (12-1, 1.19 ERA) hurled complete games in 10 of his 17 starts and struck out 143 batters in 121 innings. 19-year old southpaw Steve Carlton was equally good (10-1, 1.03).  Both would be in the Majors by 1966. Carlton was elected to Cooperstown in 1994.

Another future Hall-of-Famer arrived in 1965 in 31-year old field manager Sparky Anderson. Carlton and Cosman moved up the ladder and Rock Hill fell back to last place in the eight-team loop during the season’s first half. But a 2nd half run earned the Cardinals a berth in the best-of-3 WCL championship series against the Salisbury Astros in August 1965. Rock Hill swept Salisbury two games to none to earn an unlikely crown.

Future Major League stars Willie Montanez and Mike Torrez played for Rock Hill in 1966. After the 1966 season, the Cleveland Indians replaced the Cardinals as Rock Hill’s parent club.

 

In Memoriam

Pitcher Jim Cosman (Rock Hill ’64) passed away on January 7, 2013 at age 69.

 

Links

Western Carolina League Programs

 

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Written by AC

December 27th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

1963-1994 Spartanburg Phillies, Traders, Spinners & Suns

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Spartanburg PhilliesWestern Carolinas League (1963-1979)
South Atlantic League (1980-1994)

Born: 1963 – Western Carolinas League expansion franchise.
Moved:
1995 (Kannapolis Intimidators)

Stadium: Duncan Park

Major League Affiliation: Philadelphia Phillies

Owners:

Western Carolinas League Champions: 1966, 1967, 1972, 1973 & 1975

 

For more than three decades, Spartanburg, South Carolina was one of the first destinatons for young prospects in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.  The city’s glory days as a Phillies farm club came in the mid-1960’s.  The Spartanburg Phillies won back-to-back Western Carolinas League titles in 1966 and 1967.  The 1966 Spartanburg club, featuring a middle infield combo of Larry Bowa and Denny Doyle, had a 91-35 record and was ranked #78 in the Top 100 minor league teams of all-time as chosen by the National Association in 2001.

Off the field, Pat Williams, a young protégé of maverick promoter Bill Veeck, promoted the Spartanburg clubs of the 1960’s.  Williams ran constant promotions and local fans responded.  In 1966, Spartanburg re-wrote the single season Class A attendance record.  Williams – a young man in his mid-20’s during his time in Spartanburg – would go on to become one of the mostly highly respected chief executives in the NBA, as General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Orlando Magic in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.

Spartanburg PhilliesThe Phils enjoyed another run of league dominance in the early 1970’s, winning Western Carolinas League crowns in 1972, 1973 and 1975.  But by the 1970’s, both Williams and the crowds were long gone.  Attendance at Duncan Park during the 1970’s was frequently under 500 fans per night, reflecting the broader existential crisis in minor league baseball around the country during that era.

As the 1980’s dawned, the Western Carolinas League re-branded itself as the South Atlantic League.  Spartanburg continued its long-time relationship with the Philadelphia Phillies, but starting in 1981 the team adopted a series of new names.  The ball club was known first as the Spartanburg Traders (1981-1982), then the Spartanburg Spinners (1983) and finally the Spartanburg Suns (1984-1985).  Meanwhile, in 1984, the Most Valuable Players of both the American League (Willie Hernandez) and the National League (Ryne Sandberg) were former members of the Spartanburg Phillies.

In 1986 the team took back the traditional Spartanburg Phillies name.  Two seasons later, the Spartanburg Phillies won the 1988 South Atlantic League crown. It was to be the city’s final minor league championship.

By the early 1990’s, Duncan Park was badly outdated. The venue no longer met the minimum Class A standards set by the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. Spartanburg’s attendance consistenly ranked last in the South Atlantic League by this point.   While numerous small mid-Atlantic cities were willing to help finance new ballparks to lure minor league baseball, Spartanburg didn’t show the political will to upgrade Duncan Park.  Late era owner Brad Shover entertained numerous offers for the team in the 1990’s before finally closing a deal with NASCAR team owner Larry Hedrick in late 1993.  Hedrick operated the Phillies for one lame duck season in Spartanburg in 1994 before moving the team to a new ballpark in Kannapolis, North Carolina in 199

At the time of the move in 1995, the Philadelphia Phillies and the city of Spartanburg had the 5th longest relationship between a Major League ballclub and a minor league community.  The former Spartanburg franchise plays on today as the Kannapolis Intimidators.

 

Links

Western Carolina League Programs

South Atlantic League Media Guides

South Atlantic League Programs

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1973-1974 Gastonia Rangers

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Gastonia RangersWestern Carolinas League (1973-1974)

Born: Affiliation change from Gastonia Pirates.
Moved:
1975 (Anderson Rangers)

Stadium: Sims Legion Park

Team Colors:

Owners:

Western Carolinas League Champions: 1974

 

The Gastonia Rangers were a Class A farm club of the Texas Rangers during the summers of 1973 and 1974. The team replaced the Gastonia Pirates entry (1963-1972) in the Western Carolinas League.

Gastonia won the 1974 Western Carolinas League championship by virtue of finishing in first place in both halves of the season, thus eliminating the need for postseason playoffs under the rules of the league.  Key future Major Leaguers to play in Gastonia during the Rangers early 70’s tenure included Mike Hargrove (1973) and Len Barker (1974).

Following the 1974 season, owner Fred Nichols moved the team to Anderson, South Carolina where it became the Anderson Rangers.  One factor in the move was the dim lighting at Gastonia’s Sims Legion Park, which failed to meet the minimum “foot candles” requirements (i.e. brightness) for Class A ballparks.

Following the Rangers’ departure in 1974, there was no pro baseball in Gastonia until the arrival of the Gastonia Cardinals in 1977.  In 1980, the Western Carolinas League changed its name to the South Atlantic League.  Gastonia hosted a series of South Atlantic League clubs throughout the 80’s and early 1990’s, including a later version of the Gastonia Rangers from 1987 until 1992.

 

Links

Western Carolina League Programs

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Written by AC

December 14th, 2014 at 1:34 pm

1970 Sumter Indians

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Western Carolinas League (1970)

Born: December 1, 1969 – The Monroe Indians relocate to Sumter, SC.
Affiliation Change: 1971 (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 AC

April 7th, 2014 at 3:03 am

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