Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1981-1987 Erie Cardinals

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Erie CardinalsNew York-Penn League (1981-1987)

Born: 1981 – The Auburn Americans relocate to Erie, PA
Moved: 1988 (Hamilton Redbirds)

Stadium: Ainsworth Field

Owners: 

New York-Penn League Championships: None

 

Professional baseball returned to Erie, Pennsylvania after a 13-year absence in the summer of 1981.  Beginning in 1976, local businessmen Dave Masi and Joe Castelli worked for five years to secure a franchise for Erie. Their break finally came in the summer of 1980. New York-Penn League President Vince McNamara gave the men an opportunity to operate his league’s rudderless franchise in Auburn, New York.  Operating without a Major League affiliation in 1980, their Auburn Americans were a “co-op” club, accepting low-level draftees from the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.

The arrangement was essentially a quid pro quo. In return for operating a dog in Auburn for one season, Masi and Castelli were essentially guaranteed an Erie franchise for 1981. This was long before the minor league baseball renaissance of the late 1980’s. The Auburn Americans drew 9,474 fans during the entire summer of 1980 – just 250 lonely spectators per game.

At the Dallas winter meetings in late 1980, Masi and Castelli landed an affiliation deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, who agreed to place their short-season single-A farm club in Erie for the 1981 season.  The relationship would prove to be unusually enduring. St. Louis stuck with the franchise through numerous name changes and relocations for the next quarter century until 2006.

The Cardinals stayed in Erie through the summer of 1987.  The team moved to Hamilton, Ontario for the summer of 1988 and wound its was through several subsequent purchases and relocations.  The franchise still exists in the New York-Penn League today, back in Pennsylvania as the State College Spikes since 2006 and currently affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Erie Cardinals Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Former Erie Cardinals owner Fred Alvord died on May 5th, 1991 at age 54.

Cards team ower/President W. Robert Chandler passed on October 20, 2009 at age 73. Erie Times-News obituary.

 

Links

New York-Penn League Media Guides

New York-Penn League Programs

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Written by AC

April 4th, 2012 at 11:35 pm

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