The talk around MiLB Jerseys has been a Philly Cheesesteak jersey, but I think the Stockton Ports annual Asparagus Jersey is much cooler.
It’s that much cooler because asparagus really isn’t that cool (I don’t know any kid who likes to eat their green vegetables) and the Ports still rock the jersey regardless. A quick Google search shows that they’ve been doing this jersey for some years now, which is even better. They’ve made a green vegetable a tradition. That’s a hard feat to accomplish in my humble opinion.
The history of the Stockton Ports dates back to 1941 when the Stockon Flyers established as a member of the California League, as an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. During WWII, the league suspended play, and the Flyers became resurrected in 1946 as the Stockton Ports. That same year the Ports won their first pennant title. The next season (’47) the Ports would win 26 straight games on their way to winning a second consecutive California League Pennant, and the winning streak is still a California League record. The ’47 Ports are #98 on the list of the greatest 100 MiLB teams ever (per baseball historians Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright).
Following the ’72 season the Ports would disband and be resurrected in ’78 as an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, and during the 80s were the winningest team in all of Minor League Baseball. Another cool tidbit is that the Ports renamed themselves to the Mudville Nine in ’01 and ’02 in honor of the Ernest Thayer poem. As of 2005 they’re an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
The Ports have won league titles in 1946, 1947, 1963, 1965, 1969, 1980, 1986, 1990, 1992, 2002 and 2008.
Going through the 50’s MiLB team I can across the Columbus Jets, located in Columbus, OH from 1955-1970.
After Columbus had lost their Triple-A team to Omaha, the local businessman, Frederick Jones purchased Ottawa’s Triple-A team, moved it to Columbus and dubbed them the Columbus Jets, playing in the rebranded Jets stadium. In their first two years, they were affiliated with the Kansas City Athletics, and after two losing seasons became affiliated with the Pirates.
1962 was the most fruitful season for the Jets, featuring future Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Pat Gillick. With the Jets Stargell hit 27 home runs and 82 hits. Gillick however, was a career minor leaguer and retired following the 1963 season. He would go on to have successful front office jobs despite never playing in the majors. The Jets also feature 19-year old Bob Bailey, who belted 28 homers and drove in 108 runners en route to being named Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year.
Following the 1970 season, the director of Columbus Baseball Inc. sold the Jets back to the Pirates, citing a lack of interest in baseball from the community and the City of Columbus’s unwillingness to help fund improvements to the Jets slowly deteriorating stadium. Subsequently, the team was moved to Charleston, West Virginia and Columbus would be without a baseball team until 1977 with the arrival of the Columbus Clippers, who still play in Columbus to this day.
The Baseball world lost a great this week with the passing of former Yankee Steve Kraly. Kraly only played five games in the majors and five in the minors. He was more well known as the longtime broadcaster of the Binghamton Mets (a minor league affiliate of the Mets). Kraly played with the likes of Mickey Mantle and Lou Skizas with the Joplin Miners in 1950; which is the focus of today’s post.
Here you can see their 1950 Road Jersey from Ebbets.com:
It’s nothing fancy; the script is even in block form. However, the level of talent on the 1950 Miners more than makes up for the minimalism of this jersey. The minors compiled a 90-46 record over the season with Kraly posting a 2.79 ERA with an 18-6 record. On the offensive side, an 18-year-old Mickey Mantle led the way posting a line of .383/.638/.331 with 199 hits, 30 doubles, 12 triples and 26 homers. The 1950 season is considered to be the greatest season in the Miners history.
The Joplin Minors were founded in 1902 as a part of the Missouri Valley League, playing in that league until 1094. In 1917 the Minors joined the Wester League, playing until 1921 and then again in 1933. The most consistent incarnate of the Miners played in the Western Association from 1905-1911, 1914, 1922-1932, and then from 1934-1954.
The Miners held an affiliation mostly with the New York Yankees (1935-1942, 1946-1953), but were also affiliates of the St. Louis Browns (1933), the Red Sox (1936) and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954. The minors also had a notable exhibition game against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers in 1920.
Being an affiliate of the Yankees the Miners have a long list of notable alumni the most notable being, as stated before, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog.
Here you can see a picture of an 18-year-old Mantle courtesy of the Joplin Globe:
Seeing an 18-year-old Mantle play in Joplin was probably something a lot more special than anyone watching that season could have realized.
With the season upon us, many MiLB teams have been announcing their promotional days through social media. Most recently, the Albuquerque Isotopes announced that they’re going to have a Better Call Saul Day in the upcoming season.
Better Call Saul Day will occur on August 6th and afterwards the fans will have the opportunity to take home the jerseys with a silent auction.
Also, to Better Call Saul Day the Isotopes will have a Holly Holm day on April 16.
Breaking Bad has been a worldwide cult phenom and even inspired the spinoff Better Call Saul. The Isotopes are doing something fresh and incorporating a New Mexico-based showed into their uniforms. Rarely is a tv show filmed near where a team plays and the Isotopes are taking full advantage of that.
The Isotopes are the Triple-A Affiliate of the Colorado Rockies based in Albuquerque, New Mexico playing in the Pacific Coast League. Their nickname is an homage to the long-running Springfield Isotopes on The Simpsons. Despite having been in existence since 2003, the Isotopes are a modern incarnate of the Salt Lake City Bees, who played in the PCL from 1911 until 1984. Originally the Bees were called the Salt Lake City Skyscrapers but in 1914 the class-D Union Association (the league the Scrapers were a part of) folded and businessman Bill Lane brought the San Francisco Missions to Salt Lake City and dubbed them ‘the Bees’. The Bees moved to Hollywood following the 1926 season. However, another Bees team arose playing in the Utah-Idaho League from 1926-1928 winning the league title in ’28.
The third incarnate of the Bees was formed in 1939 and played in the Pioneer League winning League titles in 1946 and 1953. The Bees would return to the PCL in 1958 and won the league title in 1959 before again leaving the PCL in ’65. The Bees would join the Pioneer League and become the Salt Lake City Giants as affiliates with the Giants. In ’69, they returned to the PCL and became the Salt Lake City Angels a member of the California Angels. The team became the Salt Lake City Gulls following the 1975 season. In ’85, the Bees moved to Calgary and became the Calgary Cannons.
The Cannons stayed in Calgary from 1985-2003, holding affiliations with the Mariners, the Pirates, the White Sox and the Marlins. Over 400 MLB players donned a Cannons Jersey including the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Jim Abbott. In January 2001, he Cannons were sold by team owner Russ Parker to a group in Albuquerque, New Mexico citing six years of financial losses.
In 2003 the Albuquerque Isotopes were formed as an AAA affiliate of the Marlins (2003-2008) following the ’08 season, the Isotopes became affiliated with the Dodgers until 2014. The Isotopes are currently affiliated with the Dodgers.
When I’m not researching MiLB history, I work with databases, part of the is the infamous Sean Lahman Baseball Database, and that brought up ‘phantom players’ as one of the records that ended up being dropped from an earlier version I had was a dubbed ‘phantom player’. Sadly, I didn’t know what a phantom player was, so a quick google search brought me to the wiki page of a Phantom ballplayer. On that page there is a section titled ‘Real Players who never played’ and the first player listed is Al Olsen, who played for the MiLB San Deigo Padres, not to be confused with the current MLB Padres. The ’45 Solons and their cap are the focus of today’s post.
The Padres used a simple S for their cap, it’s not fancy nor stylish, it doesn’t even use the pinstripes that many teams had back then. It’s a cap that is simple in nature but is neat to look back on. Go to any baseball game today (whether it’s MLB or MiLB) and see the caps they wear. There will be a time when someone else looks back on the modern day hats and relishes the look they present to people.
The San Diego Padres were a MiLB that played in the PCL (Pacific Coast League) from 1936-1968. Their existence came the same year as the PCL in 1903, but they were called the Sacremento Solons. Despite finishing second in the first year of the PCL, poor attendance caused the Solons to move Tacoma following the 1903 season and become the Tacoma Tigers. The Tigers won the PCL pennant and finished high in the first half of the 1905 season. A second half collapse by the Tigers led them to be moved back to Sacremento and revive the Solons. Following the 1905 season, the Solons moved to Fresno and became the Fresno Raisin Eaters, returning to Sacremento in 1907.
The Solons were once again plagued by poor attendance moving to San Fransico in the middle of the 1914 season becoming the San Fransico Missions. Following the 1914 season, the Missions moved to Salt Lake City and became the Salt Lake Bees. Eight years later the Bees moved to LA and became the Hollywood Stars playing their games at Wrigley Field (no, not that Wrigley). When the LA Angels doubled the rent for the Stars in 1935, they packed their bags moved to San Diego and became the Padres.
Going back to Al Olsen, the cause of this post, played 15 seasons in the minors, twelve of with the Padres. Olsen posted a career ERA of 3.82 posting a record of 141-156 striking out 732 and posting 17 shutouts. Olsen’s phantom appearance came on May 16, 1943, when officials credited Olsen as a pinch hitter for the Red Sox. This NY Times article quoted Olsen as saying “It wasn’t me. I was a left-handed pitcher. I couldn’t hit my hat. Besides, I never played a game in the major leagues”.
While Star Wars Night has seemingly become a staple with MiLB teams, another staple among MiLB teams is to pay tribute to either the Military or to the local Fire/Police Department. One team, however, the Akron RubberDucks paid tribute to nurses working in the local hospital. Here is the jersey they wore
This is another unique jersey which I like, if you know a nurse (I know a couple), you know how hard they work each shift, sometimes going twelve hours without eating. Its cool for MilB teams to pay tribute to the people of the community, and with three hospitals in walking distance from their ballpark the RubberDucks pay perfect tribute to the community. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any pictures of the jersey in action.
The Akron RubberDucks have been in existence since 1980, when they began as the Lynn Sailors in Lynn, Massachussetts. The Sailors were the Double-A Affiliate of the Mariners from ’80-’82 then in ’83 they were affiliated with the Pirates. Following the 1983 season team owner Mike Agganis moved the team to Burlington, Vermont where they become the Vermont Reds, Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1988 the changed affiliation again, this time again with the Mariners, and briefly became the Vermont Mariners. During their stint in Vermont the Franchise made the playoffs every year and won the Eastern League TItle from ’84-’86.
The team moved to Canton, Ohio in ’89 and became the Double-A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, playing eight seasons at the Canton-Akron Indians. They made the playoffs for five straight years and won the regular-season title in 1992. But that was the extent of their success. The move excusively to Akron began in ’94 but wasn’t complete until the 1997 season when on Opening Day the Akron Aeros debuted. The name was a tribue to Judith Resnik who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger Diseaster. From 1997-2013 the Aeros played in Akron, winning 7 regular-season titles and 4 Eastern League Titles. Following the 2013 season the Aeros officially became the RubberDucks.
The RubberDucks have had numerous notable alumni including the likes of Sean Casey, Grady Sizemore, Charles Nagy, and Albert Belle.
MiLB teams are finding more and more ways to incorporate the surrounding community into their uniforms and a way to attract more fans to the games (or to show their support for the team). The Columbus Clippers are no exception to that, with Ohio’s 213th birthday coming up they pay tribute to the celebration with the following caps:
These hats are pretty cool; the first features the Ohio Flag and the second features the outline of the state of Ohio. I have family in Columbus, so I might have to swing by a game this season wearing one of these caps at the games. As a kid I frequented Clippers games, I remember seeing Daryl Strawberry when he played for the Clippers. I thought it was the coolest thing seeing a big leaguer up close at a Clippers games.
The Clippers have a storied history dating back to 1977. From 1977 until 1984 the Clippers played in Franklin County Stadium (following the ’84 season it became Cooper Stadium) winning the Governors’ Cup, the Internation League Championship, seven times in 10 appearances. The final game played at Cooper Stadium occurred on September 1, 2008, in front of a sellout crowd of 16,777-the largest audience in stadium history.
When the Clippers began playing in 1977, they were affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1979, they became affiliated with the Yankees, an affiliation which would last until 206. In 2007, they became affiliated with the Washington Nationals and following the 2008 season they became affiliated with Cleveland Indians-their current affiliation. The Clippers have won 10 Governors’ Cup in thirteen appearances as well they have won the AAA baseball title twice.
Having had a twenty-six-year affiliation with the Yankees, the Clippers have plenty notable alumni including Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Derek Jeter played for the Clippers in three seasons (1994, 1995, 1998) playing in 1598 games posting a line of .355/.411/.571 hitting 5 HRs, 61 RBIs and collecting 200 hits. Courtesy of the Clippers you can Jeter suited up in their uniform.
Rivera meanwhile played for the Clippers in ’94 and ’95 accumulating a record of 6-4 while posting an ERA of 3.95 with a 1.176 WHIP in 13 games (all of which were starts, not the relief that Rivera became famous for). In 61 IP he struck out 53 while giving up 32 runs and seven home runs. Here’s an image of Rivera when he played for the Clippers
Watching Jeter and Rivera play for the Clippers was probably a treat that people look back on a go man I saw them play in Columbus. If I had that’s what I’d be saying.
Happy 213th Birthday Ohio.