Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1985-1993 Charleston Rainbows

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Charleston Rainbows ProgramSouth Atlantic League (1985-1993)

Born: August 1984 – Charleston Royals re-brand as the Charleston Rainbows
Re-Branded: Postseason 1993 (Charleston RiverDogs)

Stadium: College Park

Major League Affiliations:

  • 1985-1992: San Diego Padres
  • 1993: Texas Rangers


South Atlantic League Championships: None


The Charleston Rainbows were a Class A farm club in the South Atlantic League (1980-Present) from 1985 to 1993.  The team was previously named for its Major League parent club and known as the Charleston Royals (1980-1984).  In December 1983, owner Ernie Passailaigue travelled to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville and returned convinced that the best operators in the minor leagues were turning towards distinctive local identities and merchandising for their ball clubs, rather than mimicking the brand of whichever Major League club happened to sponsor them in a particular year.  In August 1984, he announced the name change to the Charleston Rainbows, named for Charleston’s “Rainbow Row” of historic homes on East Bay Street.  One month later in September 1984 came a new working agreement with the San Diego Padres, who would be the Rainbows parent club for most of the next decade.

In the Rainbows first season in 1985, Charleston baseball fans enjoyed a full summer of watching two of the Padres’ top teenage prospects: the brothers Roberto and Sandy Alomar.  Sandy was 19 and Roberto just 17 at the time.  Sandy Alomar went on to win the American League Rookie-of-the-Year award in 1990 with Cleveland and played parts of 20 seasons in the Majors.  Brother Roberto debuted at age 20 in 1988 and played 17 seasons, earning election to the Hall-of-Fame in 2011.

In 1986, the Rainbows established what was then a Charleston pro baseball attendance record of 131,696 fans.  Under the Passailaigue’s, the club depended heavily on so-called “Buyout” nights, where local companies purchased all of the seats in the park at steeply discounted rates and distributed the tickets in the community, often at no charge.  This once-widespread marketing strategy pumps up announced attendance, but many operators believe it also conditions local fans to sit back and wait for free tickets to inevitably come available.

During the winter of 1987-88, the Passailaigue’s sold the Rainbows to another pair of brothers, Larry & Stuart Revo, for a reported $600,000 price tag.  The Revos already controlled two other minor league clubs, the Class AA Pittsfield Cubs of the Eastern League and the Class A Kinston Indians of the Carolina League.  The Revos’ limited partners in their baseball investments included the actor Bill Murray.  One of the Revos’ immediate changes was to reduce ticket prices, but also to cut back on the buyout night strategy to try to establish price integrity for Rainbows tickets.

The Rainbows – who were usually terrible – fielded a terrific team in 1988, finishing with the best record in the Sally League at 85-53.  The Rainbows were swept by the Spartanburg Phillies in the league championship series.  But attendance dropped to 56,909 fans, partly in response to the Revos’ tighter controls on the supply of free tickets.  Attendance wouldn’t get back over the 100,000 mark until the 1990’s.

After two years of ownership, the Revo brothers sold the Rainbows to New York investment banker Marv Goldklang in October 1989 in a deal reported at $800,000.  In 1992, the affiliation between the Rainbows and the San Diego Padres ended after eight seasons.  The Texas Rangers took on the affiliation for the summer of 1993, which would be the Rainbows final summer.  Prior to the 1994 season, the Rainbows re-branded as the Charleston RiverDogs.  College Park closed after the 1996 season, replaced by the modern Joseph P. Riley Jr. Ballpark in 1997.  As of this writing in 2013, the RiverDogs continue to thrive under long-time owner Marv Goldklang and his Goldklang Group.



South Atlantic League Media Guides

South Atlantic League Programs





1973-1978 Charleston Pirates & Charleston Patriots


Western Carolinas League (1973-1978)

Born: 1973
Folded: 1978

Stadium: College Park

Major League Affiliation: Pittsburgh Pirates



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. She returned 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.


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 hosted its last professional baseball game in 1996.  Charleston’s new Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park opened the following year.



Charleston Pirates & Patriots Sources



Western Carolinas League Programs





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