Staying in the state of Ohio, today’s MiLB is 1908 Akron Champs whom were members of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League and won the pennant that year; featured a photo of the team.
From 1908 until 1911 the Champs won four consecutive Ohio-Penn League Pennants. During this era, when a team won the Pennant they were nicknamed the Champs the following season hence the Akron “Champs”. As you can see from the photo above the team didn’t have a cap insignia and their jersey simply had the word Akron across it.
The Akron Champs played in Akron, OH as the main MiLB team from 1905 until 1920, starting out as the Akron Buckeyes when the Ohio-Penn League was formed the same year. In 1906, they changed their nicknamed to the Rubbernecks to reflect the top industry in the city of Akron. They would become the Champs for the four years of their Ohio-Penn League Pennant Run. In 1912, the club would move to the Class-B Central League and become the Akron Rubberman again reflecting Akron’s top industry. The following year the team joined the Interstate League and became the Akron Giants in homage to the NY Giants. The team didn’t play in 1914, came back in 1915 as the Akron Rubbernecks in the short-lived Buckeye League and then didn’t play for four years.
The team came back for one final year as the Akron Buckeyes in the International League. The Buckeyes feature Jim Thorpe who was one of just 5 players to hit 13–15 triples and tied for the team lead with 16 home run. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a picture of Thorpe playing baseball in 1920. At least for the Buckeyes, there are plenty of him playing for the NY Giants that year.
With the Tampa Bay Devil Rays playing in Havana this week, I thought I’d take a look at the once top minor league team based in Havana-the Havana Sugar Kings. The Sugar Kings existed for six years in Cuba, as an International AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The team played in prerevolutionary Cuba and served as a springboard for many Latin Americans into the MLB.
The Sugar Kings evolved from the Havana Cubans, a Class B affiliate of the Washington Senators in the Florida International League (from 1946 until 1953). Following the 1953 season, the Cubans were bought by a local businessman, renamed the Sugar Kings and joined the International League. Despite being only a minor league team, the Sugar Kings regularly drew crowds of 30,000, and many thought that they’d become Cuba’s first MLB team. The Sugar Kings brought plenty of talent, including Mike Cuellar, who later won a CY Young in the majors as well as 185 games.
In 1959, political tensions were high in Cuba. They country itself was on the edge of revolution, and the Sugar Kings achieved their greatest amount of success that season. The ’59 season featured a plethora of future major leaguers for the Sugar Kings, Mike Cuellar and Raul Sanchez were on the mound for the team. Then you had Elio Chacon and Cookie Rajos in the infield. Followed by Tony Gonzalez and Carlos Paula in the outfield. Here you can see their logo from 1959:
Here you can see the Sugar Kings Road Jersey from 1955 (courtesy of ebbets.com):
When the 1959 regular season ended, the Sugar Kings made a run that shocked the baseball world. In the first round, Havana shocked the Columbus Jets (who were in second place and considered a favorite to win the IL Championship), by sweeping them in four games. In the final series of the IL Championship, the Sugar Kings faced the Richmond Virginians, winning (and their only IL title) in six games. The victory would put the Sugar Kings in the Little World Series, which was considered to be the second marquee championship, only behind MLB’s World Series.
In the Little Word Series, the Sugar Kings faced the Minnesota Millers. The series drew crowds of 100,000+ in the final five games, in what is still the event’s all-time attendance record. The Sugar Kings quickly jumped to a 3-1 lead, but the Millers won the next two games, bringing the series to a game seven.
In game seven, the Millers held a 2-0 lead until the eighth before the Sugar Kings tied up the game. The Sugar Kings would win on a single in the bottom of the ninth Daniel Morejon, giving the Sugar Kings their first and last Little World Series victory.
The following season Fidel Castro would nationalize all U.S. owned businesses and the Sugar Kings would be relocated to New Jersey, ending Minor League baseball in Cuba permanently.
Over the weekend, I found an “Old Timers” jersey worn by the Lansing Lugnuts for sale on Craigslist. Here are the pictures attached in the posting:
Now growing up in Lansing I frequented games at Oldsmobile Park (it’s called Cooley Law Stadium now) and I never realized just how far back the Lugnuts franchise went. I also don’t remember seeing theme day jerseys at games, but there was always group nights as well as fireworks nights. But, these uniforms are cool. I’m a big fan of throwback jerseys; they ‘re by far the most refreshing kind of jersey to me. Even more so than Star Wars night, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m a history nerd.
Going back to the “Old Timers”, the Lugnuts franchise goes back to their inaugural year in 1955 when they were an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and called the Lafayette Chiefs. The following season they became affiliated with the Red Sox and became the Lafayette Red Sox. Following the ’67 season, the Red Sox moved the team to Waterloo, where they became the Waterloo Red Sox from 1958 -1968. In ’69, they became affiliated with the Royals and became the Waterloo Royals. Following the ’76
Following the ’76, the team once again became affiliated with the Cleveland Indians and became the Waterloo Indians winning the League in 1980 and 1986. One side note, throughout their entire franchise history the incarnates of the Lugnuts have been in the Midwest League.
One side note, throughout their entire franchise history the incarnates of the Lugnuts have been in the Midwest League.
In 1989, the team became the Waterloo Diamonds, affiliates of the Orioles and the Padres (I’m going to have to see how many times that’s happened in history, I doubt more than five). From 1990 until 1993 they were solely affiliated with the Padres. Following the 1993 season, they moved to Springfield and became the Springfield Sultans.
Finally, in 1995, the Lugnuts were born playing their home games at Cooley Stadium. From 1995-1998 they were affiliated with the KC Royals, then the Cubs from 1999-2004, and since 2005 they have been affiliated with the Blue Jays. Since their inception in 1995, the Lugnuts have won two league titles (1997 & 2003) as well as five division titles (1996 (2nd half), 1999 (1st half), 2008 (1st half), 2012 (2nd half), and 2015 (2nd half)).
The Lugnuts have numerous notable alumni, Brett Lawrie and Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately, I don’t remember seeing Beltran play as a kid going to the games which according to baseball-reference he played in seasons for the Lugnuts during years I attended games.
The one constant throughout all the years Ray has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers, it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But, baseball has marked the time.
-Terrance Mann, Field of Dreams
I think the first time I ever watched Field of Dreams was when I was about 12. I found myself most fascinated with the old uniforms which the actors wore. Yes, there was Shoeless Joe, but the old uniforms always stuck out the most to me. Research always leads to me find new minor league teams that I’ve never even heard of as well as owns that strike my curiosity.
This curiosity led to, most recently, the Columbus Red Birds. A St. Louis Cardinals Double-A/Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio (not to be confused with the Columbus Red Birds out of Columbus, GA) who wore the hat below during their 1933 Season.
As can you see the Red Birds wore the basic Cardinal design from that era (which makes sense given that they were an affiliate of St. Louis) which is a cool design. I find the retro designs (like this one) to be better than most of the logos that are worn today in the MLB (but, I am just a man with an opinion).
The Red Birds were an incarnation of Columbus’s first minor league ball team the Columbus Senators, who were founded in 1888 and joined the American Association in 1902. The Red Birds played in the American Association from 1931 through 1954. The Red Birds produced a number of MLB greats including Enos Slaughter and Billy Southworth. Slaughter batted .382 with 245 hits in ’37 as well as leading the Red Birds to pennant titles in ’33, ’34, ’37, ’41-’43 and ’50. While Southworth was the manager in ’32 for the Red Birds.
The best year for the Red Birds came in 193 as they plowed through the rest of the American Association to win the pennant while compiling a 101-51 record. The Red Birds had eight batters that year to go over the .300 mark. Burgess Whitehead, (.346/1 HR/120 H/49 RBI) Benny Borgmann(.340/2 HR/128 H/29 RBI), Nick Cullop (.313/12 HR/161 H/143 RBI), Jack Rothrock (.347/11 HR/173 H/94 RBI), Gordon Slade (.353/5 HR/55 H/30 RBI), Charley Wilson (.356/7 HR/62 H/46 RBI) and Andy High (.340/o HR/18 H/0 RBI).
The Red Birds were also led by ace Paul Dean who compiled a 22-7 record while posting 3.15 ERA with 222 Ks. Bill Lee wasn’t very far behind in that compiling a 21-9 record with a 3.79 ERA with 141 Ks.
Enos Slaughter is by far the most notable alumni of the Columbus Red Birds. Slaughter played 19 MLB seasons with four different teams during that time. The Cardinals from ’38-’42, the Yankees in ’54 and ’55, the KC Athletics in ’55 and ’56, and finally the Milwaukee Braves in ’59. He is most known for his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, specifically, he’s known for scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the ’46 World Series. As a major leaguer, he compiled a .300 batting average with 2,383 hits, 169 home runs and 1,304 RBIs. In 1985 he was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, below is a picture of him in ’48.
Photo: Courtesy of Wikepedia.com
The KZoo Growlers have a history of creating jerseys that stand out from the rest. First, they created a jersey that included hundreds of selfies from their fanbase. Now, they’re trying to top themselves with this emoji jersey.
You have until March 1st to vote online for which emoji you think should go on their uniform. The Growlers will choose the top 25 to be included on the uniform when they play against the Rockford Rivets on August 13. From the voters, the Growlers will choose one lucky winner to have the memorable jersey.
The Kalamazoo Growlers, based in Kalamazoo Michigan, are a part of the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league that has eighteen teams in it.
The Growlers were founded in 2013 taking the place of the disbanded Kalamazoo Kings of the Frontier League (the Kings went defunct in 2011). The Growlers nickname is a tribute to the Brewing heritage of Kalamazoo as well as the black bears that call Michigan home.
As well their mascot pays homage to Kalamazoo’s microbrewery history, as he is black bear named Porter. Originally he was named Barlee but the team lost the rights to the Hillsboro Hopps of the Northwest League.
The Growlers play their home games at Home Stryker Park and for their Salute to Selfie Night, which featured a jersey of selfies they received national recognition, including being named the Brand of the Year by BallPark Digest, you can see that jersey below.
Before the Growlers played in KZoo there were the Kalamazoo Kings who were a part of the Frontier League playing in KZoo from 2001-2011 winning the Frontier League Championship in 2005 (as well as the Norther Division Title) and the Northern Division Title in 2008. They were a brighter spot of baseball success for Kalamazoo as the Kalamazoo Kodiaks never finished higher than last place in the three years they played in Kalamazoo (’96-’98).