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1962-1997 Oklahoma City 89ers

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Oklahoma City 89ersAmerican Association (1962 & 1969-1997)
Pacific Coast League (1963-1968)

Born: 1962
Re-Branded: 1998 (Oklahoma RedHawks)

Stadium: All Sports Stadium

Major League Affiliations:

  • 1962-1964: Houston Colt .45s
  • 1965-1972: Houston Astros
  • 1973-1975: Cleveland Indians
  • 1976-1982: Philadelphia Phillies
  • 1983-1998: Texas Rangers

Owners:

American Association Champions: 1992 & 1996
Pacific Coast League Champions: 1963 & 1965

 

The “89ers” (1962-1997) is the best known appellation of Oklahoma City’s long-running Class AAA minor league baseball team. The team’s name derives from the Land Rush of 1899, the same frenzied appropriation and settlement of former Native American lands that inspired the University of Oklahoma’s “Sooners” nickname.

The team began play in 1962 as the top farm club of Major League Baseball’s Houston Colt .45s expansion franchise. The 89ers essentially took the spot of the Houston Buffs in the Class AAA American Association after the Buffs were displaced by the Colt .45s. The American Association disbanded after the 89ers debut season in 1962. The 89ers shifted to the Pacific Coast League in 1963 and won their first championship that summer, defeating the Spokane Indians in a seven-game series.

The 89ers would win another PCL championship in 1965. Major League’s baseball’s 1969 expansion round brought about a need for more Class AAA farm clubs. So the American Association was resuscitated and Oklahoma City moved back to the Midwest-based league.

The ball club fell on hard times during the mid-1970’s. The 89ers’ long-time affiliation with Houston ended in 1973. The lowly Cleveland Indians replaced Houston as the 89ers’ parent club from 1973 to 1975. Ownership changed hands four times between 1971 and 1978 as crowds dwindled at All Sports Stadium.

Oklahoma City 89ersA key moment in the club’s resurgence occurred in 1976. A new owner (Harry Valentine) and new parent club (Philadelphia Phillies) arrived on the scene that summer. Valentine gave the team’s advertising account to a local woman named Patty Cox of the Cox Advertising Agency. Cox’s firm created the 89ers’ ubiqituous “Goodtime Baseball” ad campaigns of the late 1970’s. The following summer, Valentine promoted Cox to General Manager, making her the first female GM in Class AAA ball. When Valentine decided to unload the club in 1978, Patty Cox put together a local ownership group to keep the team in OKC. Cox and her husband Bing Hampton would operate the 89ers for the next decade. Crowds grew from 172,996 in 1978 to 364,247 in 1985.

Cox and Hampton helped to engineer the team’s revival without the benefit of much winning. After winning the Pacific Coast League title in 1965, the 89ers endured a nearly 30-year drought before winning their next title in 1992. But, of course, some terrific ballplayers passed through town in the interim. J.R. Richard won 10 games for the 1972 89ers. Future Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg played the entire summer in OKC in 1981. Ruben Sierra came through as a 20-year old phenom in the Texas Rangers system in 1986. Sierra returned to town 14 summers later, by which time the 89ers had become the RedHawks, to launch an improbable late career comeback with the Rangers.

After the 1989 season, Jeffrey Loria bought the 89ers from Bing Hampton and Patty Cox Hampton for a figure variously reported as $3.8 or $4.6 million. It was 49-year old New York art dealer’s first baseball investment. He would later go on to own the Montreal Expos and Florida/Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball and infuriate baseball fans in two countries. Loria sold the 89ers for $8 million in 1993.

1997 marked the end of an era for Oklahoma City baseball in many ways. The American Association folded at the end of that season. The 89ers moved back to the Pacific Coast League and were re-branded as the Oklahoma RedHawks for the 1998 season. The ball club also moved out of 35-year old All Sports Stadium and into the new $34 million Bricktown Ballpark.

The former 89ers franchise still plays in OKC today. The team has been known as the Oklahoma City Dodgers since 2015.

 

Oklahoma City 89ers Shop


Baseball in Oklahoma City by Bob Burke

Oklahoma City 89ers Memorabilia

 

89ers Video

The 89ers defeat the Indianapolis Indians to claim the 1996 American Association crown. September 14, 1996.

 

In Memoriam

Field manager Grady Hatton (89ers ’63-’65) died of natural causes at age 90 on April 11, 2013.

Manager Jim Bunning (89ers ’76) was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996 and the U.S. Senate representing Kentucky in 1999. He passed away on May 26, 2017 at the age of 85.

Outfielder Danny Walton (89ers ’68-’69) was named The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year in 1969. He passed away on August 9, 2017 at age 70.

 

Links

American Association Media Guides

American Association Programs

Pacific Coast League Media Guides

Pacific Coast League Programs

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