2-12-2015



The Prairie League (1995-1997)




There have been many independent minor leagues during the history of minor league baseball, however, as late as 1992 there were none in operation. During the 1993 season, two independents were started: the Frontier League with teams in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Northern League operating in the upper Midwest covering Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and the Canadian province of Ontario.


In 1994, five independent leagues played ball including three in the upper Midwest: Great Central (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota); North Central (Minnesota, South Dakota and Manitoba) and Northern (Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba). Beginning in 1995 eleven league attempted operation. Gone from the upper Midwest region was the Great Central, but the North Central (Minnesota and Illinois) and the Northern (Minnesota, Manitoba, Iowa, South Dakota and Ontario) remained.


Joining the upper Midwest leagues in 1995 was the Prairie. This site will cover the three years of its operation. Some source material was obtained from news items first published in the Aberdeen American-News which, of course, were originally directed toward Aberdeen (SD) baseball fans.



1995


Aberdeen Pheasants


In February 1995 the Aberdeen city commissioners approved the expenditure of $130,000 for improvements to Fossum Baseball Field which was built in 1975 on the northeast edge of the city (8th Avenue NE and Brown County Hwy 19) to replace Municipal Park which housed the original Aberdeen Pheasants (Northern League) from 1946-1971. Fossum had been used for Northern State University college games, Aberdeen youth baseball and amateur games. Its seating capacity was about 2,500 and it was named after Reedy Fossum who was a long-time manager and organizer of youth and amateur baseball teams in the city.











Fossum Field


The park's improvements were: two portable bleachers ($60,000), concrete pad for the bleachers ($20,000), wooden outfield fence, a storage area, backstop netting, a clubhouse, four bullpen mounts and practice field improvements. Twenty investors from the Aberdeen area capitalized the club and hoped for “a long term relationship with the city with some proceeds going to youth baseball.” The club's executive ownership committee consisted of Jeff Sveen, attorney; Keith Kusler; and Dr. Scott Berry.


Also in February, Rich Bosma was selected Aberdeen general manager. According to an article written by Eileen Briesch, Bosma contacted team investor Scott Berry about a job as the PA announcer at their home park. Over subsequent conversations, it became obvious that Bosma had the background to be the GM since he had a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and had played amateur ball in the city and for USD.


Bosma [Aberdeen American-News]


In early March, the team secretary-treasurer Sveen announced ticket prices for home games: season tickets (36 games) $155 for adults, $60 for children 6-12, $90 for children 13-17 and $375 for a family of two adults and their children; general admission $5 for adults, $4 for children 13-17 and senior citizens 60 and over and $3 for children 6-12. In April, a news report that 300 season tickets had been sold.









Sveen and Berry [Aberdeen American-News]



Flori [Aberdeen American-News]


By mid-March, the Pheasants (a nickname originally used for their teams in the old Northern League) named Bob Flori the field manager. His listed age in the news release was “50”, however BaseballReference.com showed his birth date as December 28, 1929, which would have made him 65 in March 1995. Flori played in class D in 1958-59 and and class A in 1966 for a few games each year as a catcher and outfielder. His resume included 19 years of experience in pro baseball, three years of coaching in colleges and three years as scout for the Yankees. In 1994, he was the assistant coach for the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League. He also managed a semi-pro team in St. Petersburg,


FL, for 14 years. Aberdeen's president of operations Art O'Bright worked with Flori in 1994 when he (O'Bright) was the public relations director for Winnipeg.





Flori expressed concern to reporter Briesch that his search for players to play for the Pheasants would be tough: “So many of the players that would be available to us are probably going to be replacement players for the strike [the major league players association was on strike until April 1995]. And this summer there are eight new independent leagues... The availability of players is just not there like it has been in the past. Hopefully they'll get the strike settled and things will get back to normal for both the major leagues and the minor leagues.”


Radio station KGIM (now ESPN 1420 radio) agreed to broadcast home game with the possibility that road games could be aired if the station could get a feed from other league cities. In late March, the club had chosen a logo which was created by Gary Heier who was a 38-year-old employee in the graphics and print shop at St. Lukes Hospital in Aberdeen.



Pheasants Logo


League representatives met in late Spring at the Aberdeen Holiday Inn to set ground rules for the season. President of the league was Dave Ferguson. The experienced Independent baseball operators at the meeting were Jack Nieboer of the Minneapolis Loons and representatives from Regina SK (Cyclones) and Saskatoon SK (Riot) who had all played in the North Central League in '94. Besides those three and Aberdeen, the other league cities at the meeting were from: Moose Jaw SK (Diamond Dogs), Minot ND (Mallards), Bismarck ND (Dakota Rattlers) and Brandon MB (Grey Owls).


League rules allowed each team to have a maximum of two players with class AAA or major league experience and required a salary cap of $50,000. Nieboor explained the salary cap: “The salary cap really dictates the number of former major leaguers you can have because they're not going to come and play for $700 a month.” The roster size for each team was 20 and the league was divided into two divisions – one for the Canadian teams and one for the ones from the United States.


Nieboor was also quoted by reporter Dave Vilhauer as saying: “The majors love independent minor leagues. They have no player developmental costs. We're developing the players. They come and scout us.”


On April 24, the Pheasants began to sign players for the season. They were announced by Art O'Bright but were selected and signed by manager Flori:


Chris Schmitt (LHP): drafted in 21st round of 1993 draft by the Brewers. Two years spent in class A.


Vic Baez (C): no pro experience except in summer and winter leagues. From the DR.


Gary Painter (RHP): four years of pro ball. Highest class played was AA. Pitched at Florida State.


Stewart Wilson (LHP-OF): played two years of college ball for Middle Georgia College. Was in a rookie league in 1994.


Steve Ruckman (3b): performed in college at Indiana State. Played in an Inde league in 1994.


Darryl Robinson (1b/DH): 10-year vet of pro baseball. Eight years in Royals organization with three in AA. A 2nd round draft pick.


Steve Hayward (RHP): was a college player at Seton Hall. Was taken in 28th round of '93 draft by the Red Sox. Played at high A for two seasons.


Travis Burley (RHP): played two years in rookie leagues. Had not played pro since '92.


Brad Gay (C): three years of pro baseball. Highest class played was high A.


Steve Phillips (OF): played baseball and football for U. of Kentucky. Four years of pro play with high A as highest class reached.


Chris Huff (util): played three years of college ball at Eckerd Colleage where Bob Flori managed. No pro experience.


Eddie Gerald (OF): six-year pro with experience in AA. Played in college at Ohio State.


Ken Tirpack (1b): three-year pro. AA was highest class reached.


Erick Bryant (RHP): three-year pro, but had not played (except amateur) since 1989 because of a car accident and subsequent surgeries. Played college ball at Cal State.


Darrin Reichle (RHP): had played for four years as a pro. The 1991 season (in AA) was the last one he performed.


Kris Quillan (RHP): pitched for Catawba College as a closer. No previous pro play.


Enrique Duncan (2b): four-year pro in rookie, Inde and low-A. Brother is Mariano Duncan.


Eric Parkinson (RHRP): six-year pro with experience in AA.


Bob Holley (SS): seven years of pro ball with AAA experience.


Miguel Sabino (OF): six-year pro in the US and two years in other countries.




At the end of May, the club started their spring training in Groton, SD, at Locke Field since Fossum field was unavailable because of the continuing re-construction to the park. Twenty-four players were invited for the 20-man roster. On the Pheasants wish list for additions to the improvements to Fossum were: a hitter's background on the top of the center field fence and adjustment of the lights from the adjacent softball field which were causing vision problems for first basemen.


Aberdeen added a coach to the club. Joe Calfapietra who played at Eastern College (St. David's, PA) had coached in the Northern League in 1994 at Duluth and earned his Masters in education. He had a great future in coaching at the college and independent baseball levels.


On June 1, Aberdeen played the Dakota club in an exhibition match winning 11-0. It was the first time the Pheasant players had been to Fossum Field. Attendance was 750. The same teams then traveled to Bismarck for two more practice games with the Rattlers winning the first 4-3 and the Pheasants defeating the home team in the third matchup 6-5 in ten innings


On June 9, Aberdeen opened the regular season in Brandon, Manitoba scoring 7 runs in the seventh inning to win going away 14-2. The starter was Gary Painter who held the Grey Owls hitless until the fifth inning and left after completion of that inning. Miguel Sabino and Steve Phillips each had four RBI. The Pheasants went on to win the other two games in Brandon 10-5 (on the excellent relief pitching of Steve Hayward and EB Bryant) and 4-0 (spearheaded by starter Chris Schmitt's 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball).


Appearing in game three was Groton, SD, native Dan Karst. He joined another South Dakota native (from Langford) – Trent Osborne who was added to the 20-man roster. They both had formerly played for Northern State University and amateur teams in the area. Karst replaced catcher Vic Baez and Osborne took the roster spot of infielder Enrique Duncan who both had passport problems when they attempted to enter Canada from the U.S (Both Baez and Duncan were citizens of the Dominican Republic.)


Third baseman Steve Ruckman never played a game for Aberdeen as he returned to the independent Frontier League for the season. Manager Flori was not happy about losing Ruckman and pursued possible legal action to try to get him back with the club. Darryl Robinson became the starting third baseman.


The Aberdeen club's second series moved the team to Regina, Saskatchewan for a three-game set at Currie Field. Again the South Dakotans offense proved too much for the Canadians as the Pheasants won 17-2, 7-3 and 7-1 for their sixth straight victory. In game one, Eric Parkinson was the starter giving up just two hits in five innings and he was relieved by David Morris who allowed the Cyclones one run the rest of the way. Ken Tirpack, Darryl Robinson and Eddie Gerard all had four hits and Steve Phillips hit a grand slam in the eighth to lead their 22-hit attack.


Gary Painter was the starter in game two and lasted seven innings allowing one earned run. Ken Tirpack was 3-for-4 with two RBI. In the series finale, Tirpack hit his third homer of the season and had three RBI while starter Darrin Reichie pitched seven strong innings.


For the Pheasants home opener, the club brought in former Northern League pitcher Bob (“Bullet Bob“) Turley who was 23-5 in 1949 for Aberdeen and went on to win a Cy Young award and World Series MVP for the Yankees in 1958. After Turley's dramatic entrance via a helicopter which landed in centerfield, the Pheasant went on to beat Regina 7-3 on Bob Holley's 2-for-4 night with four RBI. Chris





Bob Turley In Aberdeen [Aberdeen American-News]











Schmitt went into the sixth allowing two earned runs and reliever Steve Hayward kept the Cyclones in check for 2 2/3 innings giving up only one hit. Dan Karst and Trent Osborne were kept on the team for a chance to play before their South Dakota friends and relatives. They were cut after the game.


After a seven-game winning streak, Aberdeen lost 17-8 in game two of their first home series. Regina scored 13 runs in the sixth inning as their first ten batters in the inning all scored. After Eric Parkinson (3 ER in 5 innings), EB Bryant (3 ER without getting an out) and Stew Wilson (6 ER in 2/3 inn) were chased, David Morris held them to one ER over the rest of the game. Bobby Holley had two RBI and Eddie Gerald had three for the Pheasants. Enrique Duncan and Vic Baez played in their first regular season games. The Pheasants also won game three.


Staying in Aberdeen, the Pheasants won game one of a series v. Dakota (Bismarck, ND) narrowly 5-3 as starter Darrin Reichle lasted seven innings giving up one earned run. After reliever Stew Wilson allowed one run without retiring a batter, Kris Quillin closed the deal with two shutout innings. Eddie Gerald had three hits and had 19 for season to be second in the league in that category. The leader was Ken Tirpack with 20 safeties. Chris Schmitt pitched a complete game in the series' second game allowing ten hits and no runs. Robinson and Tirpack's one RBI each was all Aberdeen needed in their 2-0 victory.




Game Action At Fossum [Aberdeen American-News]


After not playing in Aberdeen's first eight games, Enrique Duncan came through in the final series game v. the Rattlers. He was 3-for-5, including a double and homer, with three RBI as the lead-off hitter. Catcher Brad Gay also came up big with four RBI during a 16-10 victory. Steve Hayward had the start and a bad day allowing five runs in five innings. EB Bryant also didn't pitch well giving up four in 1 1/3. David Morris pitched the eighth and ninth with only one run being charged against him.


On June 23, the Pheasants traveled to Minot, ND, for a three-game series and swept the Mallards (a nickname retained from the city's days in the old Northern League). In the first two games, Eddie Gerald hit grand slams and in game two Darrin Reichle pitched eight innings giving up one run in a 19-1 Aberdeen rout. The same teams then played in Aberdeen with another sweep for the Pheasants.


The Aberdeen club then traveled to Saskatoon for the first time and won a series there two games to one. In game three, Aberdeen native Kent Alm, who joined the team the week previous, had three hits and four RBI in a 19-2 Pheasants win.


On July 6, Aberdeen had a 21-2 record in first place by two games over Minneapolis. Shortstop Bobby Holley had a 23-game hitting streak going. S.D. Senator Larry Pressler spoke on the senate floor stating: “I also am proud, though not surprised, how the entire Aberdeen community has rallied behind the effort to return pro baseball to the area. The Pheasants are the talk of the town.” The team roster was placed in the Congressional Record.


In early July, manager Flori began to use relief pitcher Steve Hayward as his closer. On July 7, he came into a 7-5 game at Corbett Field in Minot with the tying runs on first and second with one out in the ninth. Hayward struck out Butch Smith (led league in HRs and RBI) and Brad Strauss who was batting .348 at the time. Gary Painter's win streak continued to seven with the win. The next night, the Pheasants won 16-2 with their eighth straight victory over the Mallards with Steve Phillips completing a statistical anomaly – a cycle.


At that point in the season, Aberdeen had hit 51 home runs and had allowed 12. Eddie Gerald took over the league home run lead with 12 and the league owners lifted a ban an trading players between league clubs, however, the number of players traded was limited to three.


After Aberdeen's victory in Bismarck on July 11, they had won ten straight and had a 27-2 record. Gary Painter's record stood at 8-0.


Finally, on July 14 the best teams in the league by far – the Pheasants (28-2) and the Minneapolis Loons (23-7) – met in Aberdeen for a three-game face off. Twenty years after the fact it appears the Loons may have broken league rules regarding the pro experience allowed by team players. In the series, Minneapolis used Juan Berenguer and Greg Olson (both with MLB experience) and Willie Tatum who played dozens of games in AAA. League rules allowed only two players with MLB or AAA experience. [Perhaps only two were on the 20-man roster at one time.]



Duncan [Aberdeen American-News]


Surprisingly, the Pheasants swept the series 16-7, 4-3 and 7-1. For game one, 2,178 fans crowded into Fossum Field and saw Eddie Gerald, Ken Tirpack, Bobby Holley and Steve Phillips homer once each. Phillips and Enrique Duncan each had three hits and Gerald had five RBI. Starter Steve Schmitt went

seven innings three hits, three walks and two earned runs. Greg Olson was the Loons' DH going 1-for-2.


Game two lasted 14 innings with neither team scoring after the third inning until the Pheasants manufactured the winning run in the bottom of the 14th. That run was scored by Miguel Sabino who had reached first on an infield error (by second baseman Jonckowski), got to third on another error (third baseman Mick Kern's bad throw to second after fielding an attempted sac bunt) and then scored on a wild pitch. Former major league reliever Juan Berenguer pitched two shut out innings for the Loons and future big league closer Kerry Ligtenberg was their starter. Attendance was 2,687.


The Sunday afternoon finale lengthened Aberdeen's league lead to eight games and was their 14th straight win. In the fifth inning after two outs, the Pheasants drew a walk and then had four straight hits scoring four runs. Gary Painter pitched eight innings for his ninth victory and Kris Quillin handled the ninth as he had not allowed a run in 12 innings. The total attendance for the three-game series was 6,146.



Coach Calapietra Calming Duncan [Aberdeen American-News]


An ejection “highlighted” the next series against the Dakota Rattlers. Enrique Duncan who had homered against Rattler pitcher Chris Rusciano in the second inning was hit by a slow curve ball with a runner on and no outs in fourth. Duncan overacted by slamming his helmet to the ground and pointed at Rusciano. After both benches cleared (no punches were thrown), plate umpire Ace Boschee ejected both Duncan and Rusciano based on a league rule which stated - as per Aberdeen manager Bob Flori: “If the batter comes off the dirt toward the mound and if the pitcher comes of the dirt toward the plate, they both are ejected.” As pointed out by observers, a pitcher does not use a curve with runners on base




for a purpose pitch. Later that inning, Aberdeen scored nine runs which led to a 19-0 win. Darrin Reichle pitched nine shutout innings for his seventh victory.


Starting pitcher Gary Painter was interviewed by the American-News and was quoted: “This is the first winning team I've been on in pro ball. It's really a different feeling. The last five years the teams I've been on have pretty much been in the cellar, so I went out there thinking 'Well, we're probably going to loose so I'll just try to do as well as I can individually. But with the Pheasants, I know that if I do my job well, we're probably going to win and that's the way every one of our guys approaches the game. It's a lot more fun when you're winning – that's true no matter if you're in Little League or in pro ball.” He was a replacement pitcher with the MLB A's during spring training because of the player's strike. He did not allow a run in 11 innings pitching against other replacement players. He was released after the strike ended.




Painter [Aberdeen American-News]


Since the Pheasants did not hire a pitching coach for the season, manager Flori asked Painter to help the younger club hurlers with pitching tips. Painter said: “I really enjoy that. It's a good felling to know they respect what I have to say. And I'm learning a lot from the other guys too. You can never stop learning in this game – if you're ready to stop learning, you might as well give it up.”


At the mid-point of the season the Aberdeen club finally filled their 20th roster spot with left hander Scott Diez. At age 33, he was the oldest Pheasant and was a roommate of Darrin Reichle's during spring training as Milwaukee Brewers replacement players. After they were released, manager Flori asked Diez to sign on with Aberdeen, however, he choose to play in Taiwan which he did for six weeks but left after only getting one game appearance. He was the club's second player with AAA experience (the other being Bobby Holley).


Diez stated to American News writer Mike Zimmer: “After being on a small island with 21 million people, it's nice to see some wide-open spaces and breathe some fresh air. I've heard nothing but good things about Aberdeen and about the guys on the team.” Before 1995, Diez had not played pro since 1991 and had spent the succeeding three years as a scout for the Marlins and Indians and an instructor at the Bucky Dent Baseball School in Florida. “I'm not here to make a lot of money or to get signed by an organization.” Diez said. “I'm starting broadcasting school in September so I'm here to enjoy a couple of months of small-town baseball and to have some fun. When you get a little older, you learn to appreciate opportunities like this.”


On July 21, after winning 17 straight games, Aberdeen lost in Minot 4-3 at Corbet Field in front of 985 fans. Dave Morris got the start for the Pheasants and pitched a complete game allowing four runs. However, against three Mallard hurlers, Aberdeen could only muster the three runs. After the game, the Pheasants were 34-3 and the Mallards 12-26.


In late July and early August Gary Painter picked up his 10th and 11th victories in-a-row which were his last ones in a Pheasants uniform. In a game against the Minneapolis Loons he did not allow a hit until one out in the fifth inning and pitched three more innings thereafter giving up only four hits and no runs. The Loons' starter Kerry Ligtenberg went the distance allowing only one run. As August began, Painter retired 15 straight Brandon batters from the third to the eighth innings and finished eight innings giving up three hits and one run. After the game, Aberdeen released reliever Erick Bryant who had requested the action for family reasons.


Until very late in the year, Gary Painter was limited to watching games from the bench because of a sore elbow. He never pitched professionally again.


Also in early August, Mike Zimmer interviewed Darryl Robinson who was signed by the Pheasants as a 1b/DH, but had to play third base after Steve Ruckman abandoned ship a day before the season began. “I was drafted as a third baseman but that was a long time ago,” said the 27-year-old. “I played third for five years in pro ball, but before this year I haven't played it since 1989 or 1990 [actually, he played 59 games at third in 1991]. It's taken a little while to get to used to third again, especially my arm. I haven't done this much throwing for a few years, so I've had a sore arm for most of the season.”



Robinson [Aberdeen American-News]


Because of their torrid start (45-5, .900), Aberdeen club officials and local sportswriters began to wonder if they were on the verge of setting some kind of baseball record. The American News stated that the minor league best record (by percentage) was set in 1884 by the Union Association's St. Louis Maroons at .832. The problem with that research was that the Union Association has been considered a “major” league that year (or not – more on that later). A review of The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball showed ten minor league teams who had finished a complete season with winning percentages over .790. Through 1994, they were:






League

Class

Year

W-L

Pct

Veracruz

Mexican

I  

1938

40-9

0.816

Paintsville

Appalach.

R

1979

52-13

0.800

Uriangato

Mex Cent

A

1975

55-14

0.797

Enid

Western

C

1922

104-27

0.794

New London

Eastern

B

1918

46-12

0.793

Corsicana

Texas

D

1902

87-23

0.791

Great Falls

Pioneer

R

1989

53-14

0.791

Charlotte

No Car

C

1902

44-12

0.786

Topeka

Western

--

1887

90-25

0.783

Newark

Central

--

1888

83-23

0.783



The record, as of 2014, was a rookie league team (the Nationals) in the Gulf Coast League who had a 49-9 (.845) record in 2013.


Also, at this point in the season, some Aberdeen locals wondered if the Pheasants should try to join the independent Northern League in 1996. However, that league had five of the largest attendance averages of the 58 independent teams in 1995. St. Paul, Winnipeg, Sioux City and Sioux Falls were averaging more then 2,600 fans per game which was more seats then Fossum Field could comfortably house.


During the Pheasants' August 12 game in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, manager Flori had a problem finding nine players to place on the field. Two bench-clearing altercations caused the ejections of Darryl Robinson (he was also suspended for the next two games), Eddie Gerald, Brad Gay, Stew Wilson and Kris Quillin. Maguel Sabino was also lost when he sustained a severe groin pull in a pushing match which made him doubtful for the remaining games of the season. The Diamond Dogs starting pitcher Mike Richardson, who hit two Aberdeen batters following home runs (thus instigating the battles) also was run.


Flori replaced Gerald with RP Steve Hayward in right field, Sabino in center with RP Scott Diaz, Bobby Holley moved to third base with Chris Huff taking over at short, Vic Baez took over for Gay at catcher and SP Darrin Reichle became the DH for Wilson. When Hayward was called to pitch, RP Dave Morris went to right. All of those defensive moves nearly cost the Pheasants a win as, through eight innings, starter Chris Schmitt had only allowed one run on two hits. Schmitt walked the first batter in the ninth and then was taken out with a bad finger which required calling in Morris to pitch. He walked his first batter which was followed by and infield single to load the bases. Hayward then came in and Morris went to right.


Hayward's first batter grounded to shortstop Huff whose throw pulled Enrique Duncan off second and a run scored. The next batter hit a bloop to center scoring run number three. Hayward then got the next two batters. With two out and the score 7-3, Moose Jaw's Mack Steele lined a ball down the right field line that career pitcher Morris misplayed scoring three runs. Now the score was 7-6 with the tying run on third and the crowd of 2,000 exploding. The next batter grounded out and the game was infamous history. Aberdeen's record at that point was 48-8 (.857).


Rumors circulated in mid-August that shortstop Bobby Holley would retire from pro baseball at the end of the season. On August 17, he was in the mist of a 18-game hitting streak and had gotten a hit in 58 of the 60 games the Pheasants had played to that point. He was hitting in the number two position of the batting order and told American News reporter Mike Zimmer: “I don't care how good you are, you're nothing but a nameless face in this lineup. I've been a number four or five hitter my whole career. But this lineup is full of four or five hitters. So somebody had to hit in the two hole.” He began the season with a 23-game streak and then later a 16-game one.




Holley [Aberdeen American-News]


The 28-eight-year-old Holley added: “I'm taking a lot more pitches this year than I did as a four or five hitter and that helps a lot. By the time I get two strikes on me, I've pretty much seen every pitch the guy has and I'm ready to hit anything he throws.” He was to be married after the season and planned to settle in Corona, CA, where he owns and operates his own baseball school and is a substitute teacher. “The dream of getting to the major leagues is still there for every one of us.” Holley said. “But right now my greater dreams are to get married and start a family.”


When thinking about retiring, he stated: “There couldn't be a better way to end a career. Playing with a bunch of down-to-earth guys that you really enjoy being around and winning the way we have, it's hard to describe how enjoyable this summer has been. To be in the history books of baseball is not something that everyone has the opportunity to do. Now all we have to do is keep winning, get the record and win the championship.”


On August 5 the league schedule forced the Pheasants into a 14-game stretch without a day off. It began with an eight-day, three-city 1,700-mile road trip.


After an unusual home loss to Dakota (Bismarck) on August 16, the Pheasants record was 50-10 (.833) which was still better then any other “minor league” professional team's record in history but they had won only five of their last ten. The losses of Painter and Sabino were costing them (pitchers Darrin Reichle and Stew Wilson were used also as hitters). However, there was good news the next day as they defeated Dakota and clinched at least a tie for the American (United States) division title.


Even in an August 21st article, the American-News was using the “major” league St. Louis of the Union Association record of .832 as the mark Aberdeen had to match. However, was the Union really a major league? From wikipedia: “Although the league is conventionally listed as a major league, this status has been questioned by a number of modern baseball historians, most notably Bill James. The league had a number of major league players (on the St. Louis franchise, at least), but the league's overall talent and organization was notably inferior to that of the two established major leagues. James found that the contemporary baseball guides did not consider the Union Association to be a major league either. The earliest record he could find of the Union Association as a major league was in 1922.


“For example, the league's only "star" player, Fred Dunlap, led the league in batting average with .412 (86 points higher than his second-best season and 120 points higher than his career average), on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, total bases, and home runs (with just 13, typical for the era). After the league folded, Dunlap never hit more than .274 or more than 10 home runs until he retired in 1891, another measure of the inferior quality of the Union Association.

Of the 272 players in the Association, 107 (39.34%) never played in another major league, while 72 (26.47%) played very briefly (less than 300 at bats and/or 50 hits) in other major leagues, and 79 (29.04%) had longer careers but little success in other major leagues.”


Like some sports records, the designation of “best winning record” depends on the point of view of the researcher. This author considers the 20th Century United States record of Paintsville (.800) in the 1979 rookie Appalachian League to be the mark that Aberdeen was to better. The American-News also used that as a more reasonable goal in their August 21 article and they determined that the team could only loose two more games in the season to better the .800 record.


The local newspaper also stated that it had the best record of any Aberdeen Pheasants team ever. The Northern League 1947 club finished with an 82-36 (.694) record and the 1964 championship team had an 80-37 (.684) mark. Of course, teams have to be also rated on the quality of their opposition. It is very doubtful that anyone would consider the 1995 Aberdeen team to have better players then the Cal Ripken Sr.-led Pheasants of 1964 and other Aberdeen teams of the old Northern League.


At the end of Aberdeen's final regular season home stand, they went into a hitting slump going 23 innings without scoring a run and lost three in-a-row. Bobby Holley, however, continued to hit having a 25-game hitting streak through August 24 having gotten hits in 65 of Aberdeen's 67 games to that point.


After a home victory over Minneapolis, the Pheasants held a 53-13 record. The Loons then forfeited their final three regular season home games giving Aberdeen a 56-13 (.812) mark which did set a record for a 20th century “minor league” team albeit one that could be construed as “backed into”.


Minneapolis was forced into the forfeitures because the University of Minnesota raised the rent on Siebert Field where the Loons played. The higher rent was no longer affordable. Manager Flori explained further: “(The Loons) asked us about playing one game here (in Aberdeen) and then forefeiting the last two. But we decided that we either play all three at their place or we don't play at all. “ [More about Minneapolis' financial problems is included on this site's section on the Loons.]


Flori continued: “I'm not thrilled about our guys having a week off (before the playoffs), but we'll have to deal with that.” However, he was elated about the club's final record: “It's a great feeling. To set a record like that is just unbelievable. When I put this team together I knew we had a chance to dominate this league, but to go 56-13 is hard to believe.”


The Pheasants final attendance was 40,036 which was third in the league.


Final League Standings (divisions combined):


Tm

W

L

W-L%

GB

Aberdeen Pheasants

56

13

.812

--

Minneapolis Loons

43

26

.623

13

Moose Jaw Diamond Dogs

44

28

.611

13.5

Regina Cyclones

40

30

.571

16.5

Dakota Rattlers

30

42

.417

27.5

Saskatoon Riot

26

45

.366

31

Minot Rattlers

24

47

.338

33

Brandon Grey Owls

19

51

.271

37.5


The first round of the playoff schedule pitted the two top teams (Moose Jaw and Regina) from the Canadian division against each other and the two top clubs from the U.S. (Aberdeen and Minneapolis) playing. The winners would then play for the league championship.


Regina beat Moose Jaw in three games in their first series.


Aberdeen defeated Minneapolis two games to none. In game one, Lee Heath singled in Ed Gerald with the winning run in a 5-4 victory as the Minneapolis team was considered the “home” team even though they played in Aberdeen. Gary Painter returned to the mound lasting five innings giving up 4 runs on seven hits and two walks. Relievers Diez, Guillin and Hayward did not allow a run. Ken Tirpack was the offensive hero hitting a three-run homer.


The Pheasants won game two 7-1 on Darrin Reichle's complete game six-hit performance. Stew Wilson hit a grand slam in the sixth and was two-for-three with five RBI.


In the finals, Aberdeen lost in four games to Regina. In the first game at Regina's Currie Field, the Cyclones won 9-4 as they got to starter Eric Parkinson. They then blew past the Pheasants 7-4 in the second game. Starter Gary Painter pitched his final pro game walking four and hitting a batter in 5 2/3 innings and the Pheasants committed two errors.


The finals then returned to Aberdeen where the home team won game one 6-1 on the back of Darrin Reichle's complete game one-hitter. He struck out 15 and walked only one. The game followed a long trip home which included a bus breakdown just 50 miles outside of Regina. The club had to spend a night in a convenience store in Weyburn while they waited for another bus and they arrived in Aberdeen only two hours before game time. But, it was all for naught as Aberdeen then dropped game four to hand Regina the playoff championship.


The league's All Star team included seven Aberdeen players: Ken Tirpack, Enrique Duncan, Bobby Holley, Eddie Gerald, Brad Gay, Chris Schmitt and Darrin Reichle. Reichle was chosen Pitcher of the Year and had the season's most wins (14). Gary Painter won the ERA crown (2.23) and Bob Flori was picked as manager of the year.


Steve Phillips ended the 1995 season in the Yankees organization at AA playing in 11 games.


Aberdeen final statistics:


Name

YrsPro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Pos

Bobby Holley

7 / AAA

68

334

288

67

110

26

1

13

64

8

7

46

29

0.382

0.467

0.615

SS

Kent Alm

0

6

26

21

5

7

2

0

0

5

0

0

5

4

0.333

0.462

0.429

3b

Ken Tirpack*

3 / AA

69

309

275

63

108

27

3

20

72

3

0

34

35

0.393

0.460

0.731

1b

Dan Karst

0

3

11

11

1

5

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

2

0.455

0.455

0.455

DH

Ed Gerald#

6 / AA

67

307

273

75

96

20

2

23

77

18

0

34

53

0.352

0.423

0.692

OF

Steve Phillips*

4 / A+

69

332

279

57

86

21

1

17

72

3

2

53

79

0.308

0.419

0.573

OF

Brad Gay

3 / A+

63

262

228

43

70

23

0

11

52

2

1

34

39

0.307

0.397

0.553

C

Enrique Duncan

4 / A-

58

280

263

64

88

19

0

10

39

14

3

17

36

0.335

0.375

0.521

2b

Miguel Sabino?

6

56

246

210

48

55

10

3

3

25

9

2

36

41

0.262

0.370

0.381

OF

Chris Huff

0

50

172

140

30

28

3

0

1

18

13

1

32

42

0.200

0.349

0.243

2b/SS

Darryl Robinson

10 / AA

65

301

290

47

93

13

1

6

40

0

1

11

19

0.321

0.346

0.434

3b

Lee Heath#

0

9

37

37

7

11

3

1

0

5

3

1

0

10

0.297

0.297

0.432

OF

Victor Baez

0

25

55

51

10

6

3

0

0

5

1

0

4

11

0.118

0.182

0.176

C

Trent Osborne

0

3

8

8

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0.125

0.125

0.250

3b

Darrin Reichle#

5 / AA

19

9

2

0

0

0

0.222

0.222

P/DH

Stewart Wilson*

1 / R

58

168

40

12

0

3

0.238

0.363

DH/OF

Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

E.B. Bryant

3 / A

0

0

10.32

8

0

0

0

0

11.1

15

13

13

3

5

4

1.77

Travis Burley

2 / R

0

0

9.00

2

0

0

0

0

3

5

3

3

1

3

5

2.67

Scott Diez

AAA

1

2

0.33

7.11

6

1

0

0

0

12.2

17

10

10

1

7

7

1.90

Steve Hayward

2 / A+

4

1

0.8

2.74

19

1

0

0

8

46

36

16

14

0

21

64

1.24

David Morris

1 / I

1

1

0.5

5.72

18

2

1

0

1

45.2

69

37

29

5

17

29

1.88

Gary Painter

4 / AA

11

0

1

2.23

12

12

2

0

0

84.2

64

27

21

2

21

74

1.00

Eric Parkinson

6 / AA

10

2

0.83

2.71

15

15

3

0

0

109

103

45

33

6

35

69

1.26

Ed Puig*

10 / AAA

0

2

0

7.71

2

2

0

0

0

14

22

12

12

1

10

2

2.29

Kris Quillin

0

3

1

0.75

2.16

23

2

0

0

7

41.2

38

12

10

1

12

32

1.20

Darrin Reichle

5 / AA

14

0

1

2.77

16

16

1

0

0

107

100

40

33

10

30

86

1.21

Chris Schmitt*

2 / A

11

3

0.79

2.65

17

16

3

1

0

125

109

50

37

6

37

74

1.16

Stewart Wilson*

1 / R 

1

1

0.5

6.85

14

2

0

0

1

23.2

31

19

18

3

11

8

1.78





What happened to?:

Victor Baez – The backup catcher played one more year in independent (Frontier) baseball in 1996.

Bobby Holley – did not play pro ball in 1996, but was in 33 games for Moose Jaw in 1997. Thereafter he was the owner of Spectacular Events and Hardball Warehouse (since 2001) in the Atlanta area. He also has been a baseball instructor, coach and Atlanta Braves scout.

Darryl Robinson – played the 1996-97 seasons with Minot in the Prairie League. His final pro year of 1998 was in Independent baseball (Atlantic League). Robinson returned to affiliated ball as a coach for the Lancaster JetHawks from 2009 to 2014. He also is the Saints Sports Academy's Director of Player Development. He serves as the lead instructor. The academy is located in the Twins Cities (MN) area.

Miguel Sabino – never played pro ball after the 1995 season.

Scott Diez did not play pro after 1995. In 2002, he ran a "Baseball Intense" camp specializing in pitching instruction, mini-sessions and coaching clinic in South Florida. Currently, he coaches freelance in Fort Lauderdale with the focus on pitching. He also has been a scout for the Marlins.

David Morris – pitched for Green Bay in 1996 for his final pro year.

Gary Painter – ended his pro career in 1995.

Eric Parkinson – the 1995 season was his final appearance as a pro player.

Kris Quillion – played his final professional season in 1996 for Southern Minny.

Darrin Reichie – pitched his final pro games in 1995.

Chris Schmitt – ended his career in class high A in 1996.



Regina Cyclones



Regina, Saskatchewan, had a population of about 180,400 in 1996 and is the capital of Saskatchewan Provence. The city had professional baseball teams in the Western Canada League in 1909-10, 1913-14 and 1919-21. They entered an independent league (North Central) in 1994 and adopted the nickname “Cyclones” because their city was destroyed by Canada's worst cyclone in 1912. The owner was Chris Ferguson (his brother Dave owned the Saskatoon franchise).

The team played at Currie Field which had a capacity of 1,000 and was located at Mt. Pleasant Sports Park off Winnipeg Ave. It was named after legendary coach Gord Currie who spent many seasons coaching High School athletics, Regina Ram Football and amateur baseball during the 50's,60's and 70's. Its dimensions were 300-400-300 and, during the 1995 season, they drew 49,223 which was second in league attendance.




Currie Field



Regina had the best record in the North Central League in 1994 and seven of their players returned for 1995. However, their 1995 roster still had limited affiliated minor league experience. Their player/manager Jason Felice had ten seasons under his belt with two partial years in AAA and Tommy Griffith played four seasons including some games in the AAA Mexican League. Other then that, two position players (Brett Feauto and Pat Lussier) had experience in low A and one (Shawn Sanderfer) had a season in rookie ball. Four other position performers had played in Inde baseball.

The pitching staff's experience was worse. There was only one player (Tommy Taylor) who had risen to AA and he only pitched seven games for the Cyclones. Three other pitchers had one season each in rookie ball and three others had pitched one year in Inde leagues.




Felice

Even with their lack of playing experience, the Regina club won the playoff championship and finished in fourth place (40-30) in the combined divisions standings. They were in second place in the Canadian Division's regular season but were the hottest league team at the end of the season. Prior to their meetings with the Aberdeen Pheasants in the playoff finals, they had lost five of six to the Pheasants with the most recent being on June 18. Manager Felice won the North Central League triple crown in 1994. the 33-year-old started the '95 season just as their manager, but after the team got off to a poor start, he played regularly hitting .394 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI.

Regina Leader-Post sportswriter Murray McCormick said this of Felice: “He's amazing. They came back from that first road trip to Aberdeen and Felice was beside himself. He said 'There's no way we can compete with Aberdeen with the club we have right now. We have to make changes'. And he was right. They made changes and they are a different team.”

After he started playing, he talked club management into acquiring outfielder Tommy Griffith in a trade with Moose Jaw and DH Daryl Burrus from Saskatoon. Griffith hit .330 with 12 HRs and 24 stolen bases and Burrus had a .336 average with 15 doubles and 7 homers. The also traded for lefty Pete Southall who balanced their formerly all-right handed starting staff.

After the first couple of games in the playoff finals, Aberdeen manager Bob Flori said of Regina: “They are a better ball club then when we saw them in June. How in the world they were able to get three quality players from teams that they were supposedly competing against for a division title is beyond me, but they are definitely improved.”

Regina's starting pitchers were: Jason Chandler (3.99 ERA, 1.49 WHIP), Marco Contreras (6.61, 191), Glen Hoffman (3.96, 1.27), John Najar (5.68, 1.67) and Southall (4.06, 1.77). The main relievers were Kevin Ehl (32 g, 2.02, 1.26), Tim Salado (23, 2.55, 1.25) and John Bretza (20 g, 7.67, 1.89).

The catchers were Steve Drent (.281) and Shawn Sanderfer (.203). At first was Burris (.336) who also hit at the DH position. The second base regular was Cory Wafer (.273) although he split the season between Regina and Saskatoon. Jeremy Heider (.244) apparently (complete fielding stats are not available) also played at second. It is assumed Heider was also positioned at shortstop for many games. Jayson Gravengoed (.316, 17HR) was the starter at third base and it is believed that Jim Cafferty (.188 ) backed up third and short.

Felice (the team's only League All Star) and Griffith anchored the outfield along with Joey Arnold (.282), Ray Palagyi (.203) and Joshua Smaler (.345). Greg Sheppard was (.324) was a dependable DH and extra first baseman. It is also assumed that all of the other outfielders tasted DH duty.

The Cyclones were third in league hitting with a .298 average and third in pitching with a 4.92 ERA. Their attendance was the second-best in the league at 49,223.



Final Regina statistics:



Name

YrsPro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Pos

Jason Felice

10 / AAA

61

272

241

55

95

15

1

23

80

10

2

31

18

0.394

0.463

0.751

OF

Tommy Griffith 2tms

4 / AAA

66

310

275

72

91

13

0

12

32

24

9

35

50

0.331

0.406

0.509

OF

Joshua Smaler

0

69

307

281

62

97

19

0

4

43

20

5

26

35

0.345

0.401

0.456

OF

Greg Sheppard

0

58

235

210

46

68

5

1

6

39

1

1

25

43

0.324

0.396

0.443

DH/1b

Daryl Burrus* 2tms

0

66

254

235

35

79

15

1

7

38

7

2

19

39

0.336

0.386

0.498

1b

Jayson Gravengoed

0

69

281

253

52

80

17

0

17

56

1

3

28

63

0.316

0.384

0.585

3b

Joey Arnold

0

69

285

255

43

72

13

1

4

35

16

7

30

41

0.282

0.358

0.388

OF

Cory Wafer#  2tms

1 / I

68

277

249

51

68

7

4

1

25

23

5

28

43

0.273

0.347

0.345

2b

Ray Palagyi

1 / I

56

190

158

17

32

7

0

2

14

3

2

32

32

0.203

0.337

0.285

OF

Steve Drent

1 / I

62

220

203

33

57

9

0

8

44

3

1

17

55

0.281

0.336

0.443

C

Patrick Lussier  2tms

3 / A-

9

21

17

2

3

0

0

1

2

0

0

4

4

0.176

0.333

0.353

1b

Jeremy Herider#

0

42

174

156

20

38

9

0

0

15

6

4

18

24

0.244

0.322

0.301

SS/2b

Jim Cafferty

1 / I

25

97

85

9

16

2

1

0

8

2

0

12

10

0.188

0.289

0.235

3b/SS

Shawn Sanderfer#

1 / R

21

79

74

7

15

4

0

2

6

1

2

5

17

0.203

0.253

0.338

C

Brett Feauto*

1 / A-

14

50

47

7

9

2

2

1

6

2

0

3

17

0.191

0.240

0.383

OF

Ryan Hamilton

0

8

15

15

2

2

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

2

0.133

0.133

0.133

OF

Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

John Bretza  2tms

0

0

2

0.000

7.67

20

3

0

0

0

54

83

54

46

4

19

50

1.89

Jason Chandler

1 / R

9

2

0.818

3.99

14

13

3

1

0

90

108

53

40

7

27

49

1.49

Steve Connolly

0

1

2

0.333

4.32

10

0

0

0

0

16

23

11

8

1

0

12

1.38

Marco Contreras

0

3

6

0.333

6.61

15

15

1

0

0

81

114

68

60

12

42

54

1.91

Kevin Ehl

1 / I

3

1

0.750

2.02

32

0

0

0

13

35

34

12

8

1

11

40

1.26

Glen Hoffman

1 / I

7

2

0.778

3.96

14

14

0

0

0

88

94

46

39

13

19

56

1.27

John Homan*

1 / R

3

2

0.600

5.76

19

4

1

0

2

45

47

37

29

4

22

30

1.52

Johnny Najar

0

4

7

0.364

5.68

15

12

2

1

0

76

79

60

48

10

48

87

1.67

Tim Salado

1 / R

4

2

0.667

2.55

23

0

0

0

0

35

33

13

10

0

11

21

1.25

Pete Southall  2tms

0

5

10

0.333

4.06

17

16

1

0

0

106

135

67

48

3

53

68

1.77

Tommy Taylor

6 / AA

1

3

0.250

4.88

7

5

1

1

0

27

31

21

15

1

15

21

1.66

Scott Veeder

0

4

1

0.800

4.40

11

5

0

0

0

45

60

32

22

6

21

24

1.80

Tony Velesquez

0

0

0

9.53

3

0

0

0

0

5.2

11

6

6

1

4

3

2.65

Rob Weber

1 / I

0

0

11.12

3

0

0

0

0

5.2

9

8

7

1

6

4

2.65







What happened to?:

Jason Felice ended his playing career in 1995, but managed two more years in Inde ball. Thereafter there is no record of his involvement in baseball. All told, he batted .292 with 3,018 at bats in 871 games in affiliated minor leagues and independent ones. His Inde manager record was 137-83.

Greg Sheppard joined the affiliated minor leagues in 1996 and played there through 1999 reaching high A. In 2000 he was back in independent baseball for his last year.



Minneapolis Loons



After a year in the then-defunct independent North Central League, club ownership (playright Roger Nieboer) moved the team to the Prairie League in 1995. Also returning were nine position players including manager Greg Olson who had played professionally for 13 years with four years as an Atlanta Braves catcher. Besides Olson, five had affiliated minor league experience including Willie Tatum a 7-year pro who reached AAA.

The only affiliated experienced pitchers were Juan Berenguer (oh, what a background he had!) with 21 seasons including 12 in the major leagues and Ernie Castro a one-year player in class A. Bergenguer joined five other pitchers who returned from the 1994 staff including future MLB relief star Kerry Ligtenberg.


Olson




Berenguer



The Loons (nickname based on Minnesota's state bird) played in the University of Minnesota-owned Siebert Field, located at the intersection of 15th Avenue SE and 8th Street SE in Minneapolis, which was also the home of the baseball Gophers. Built in 1971, it had a capacity of about 1,500 and its field dimensions were 330-365-390-365-330. Numerous Minnesota State High School League baseball tournament games, three NCAA Regional tournaments (1974, 1977 and 2000) and six Big Ten Tournaments (1984, 1986, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004) were played there.


Siebert Field



The Loons played in a the huge Minneapolis-St. Paul market competing with the MLB Twins and the independent St. Paul Saints. In 1994, the Saints outdrew the Loons 10-to-1. Stew Thornley, in his book Baseball in Minnesota, described the lengths the club went to draw fans: “The Loons tried to match the Saints in on-field antics and even found a few new ones, such as a between-innings dunk tank sponsored by the Culligan water-conditioning company. In the middle of the second inning, the dunk tank was wheeled into foul territory behind third base. The Loons' promotion director, Paul Pruitt, then hollered, 'Hey, Culligan Man'. (Manager) Olson, dressed in a Culligan uniform, came out of the first-base dugout and climbed onto the seat in the dunk tank. A fan had a chance to throw balls at the lever the released the seat. Whether the fan was accurate or not, Olson ended up soaked, as the team's mascot, Louie the Loon, hit the lever to immerse the manager. Still in his dripping-wet uniform, Olson took his spot in the third-base coaching box for the bottom of the second inning.

“(Radio) play-by-play announcer Ryan Lefebvre [now doing play-by-play for the Royals] found different spots to work from, including a perch part way up one of the light towers for one game. Lefebvre also once convinced (the mascot) to let him don his costume and then went on the field with an unchoreographed routine, confounding Pruitt, who didn't realize this wasn't his regular loon.” However, the reason that attendance increased in 1995 was probably more due to the fact that the Loons obtained a license to sell beer that season.

Thornley describes differently (then the Aberdeen American-News) the problem the team had in finding a place to play by at the end of the season: “The Minneapolis Loons were unable even to finish their 1995 season at home. In a dispute over lease payments, the University of Minnesota locked the Loons out of Siebert Field, causing the Loons to cancel their final regular-season series and play all their post-seasons game on the road.” [The American-News had stated that the University had raised the rent. Perhaps the rent payments were in arrears?]

Pitchers who started for Minneapolis were Russ Fandel (16 starts, 3.94 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), David Jones (15, 5.32, 1.69), Kerry Ligtenberg (15, 2.73, 1.17), Tom McCormick (9, 4.33, 2.02) and Stevins Spurgeon (14, 2.94, 1.18). The heavy-used relievers were Erick Nelson (33 games, 5.68, 1.63), Chad Weisner (33, 3.02, 1.22), Berenguer (26, 0.82, 0.76) and John Ettel (16, 5.79, 2.14). The staff was second in league ERA at 3.72.

The team's batting average was third in the league at .298. Catching was shared between Rocky Boyce (.257) and Mike Vogel (.343). At first was Will Tatum (.313) with Vogel the apparent back-up and at second base was Mike Oster (.291). Third base was the domain of Mickey Kerns (.281) and the main shortstop was Sean McKamie (.322). Jeff Jonckowski (.248) backed-up the infielders. [Jonkowski is the son of the U. of Minnesota Basketball's Williams' arena PA announcer Dick Jonckowski.]

Outfield regulars were Paul Jackson (.317), Bob Kneefe (.286) and Jesse Ziebarth (.254). Back-ups were Ernie Castro (.291), Brian Sutter (.293) and Pat Wright (.324). Without the availability of fielding stats, it is not know who the prime DHs were.

The club's league All Star was Berenguer, but Ligtenberg led the circuit in strike outs. The Loons were fifth in attendance at 32,351. [The cross-town Saints drew 258,000.]



Final Minneapolis stats:

Name

Yrs Pro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Pos

Willie Tatum#

7 / AAA

62

271

211

60

66

15

3

12

53

9

0

60

33

0.313

0.465

0.583

1b

Michael Vogel*

5 / A+

44

160

137

27

47

9

0

6

25

2

1

23

19

0.343

0.438

0.540

C/1b

Paul Jackson

2 / I

67

289

252

59

80

10

0

10

55

11

8

37

55

0.317

0.405

0.476

OF

Sean McKamie

5 / A+

66

298

264

66

85

12

1

9

39

18

5

34

31

0.322

0.399

0.477

SS

Pat Wright#

1 / I

44

199

182

45

59

8

1

7

42

3

4

17

36

0.324

0.382

0.495

OF

Brian Sutter#

0

12

46

41

7

12

1

1

1

6

1

1

5

7

0.293

0.370

0.439

OF

Mike Oster?

1 / I

62

212

189

27

55

8

0

0

23

1

2

23

15

0.291

0.368

0.333

2b

Jesse Ziebarth

1 / I

58

211

181

32

46

4

1

1

13

8

4

30

46

0.254

0.360

0.304

OF

Bob Kneefe*

1 / I

65

249

224

34

64

6

2

0

22

9

4

25

33

0.286

0.357

0.330

OF

Ernest Castro*

1 / A

33

147

134

18

39

7

0

5

25

1

1

13

16

0.291

0.354

0.455

OF

Rocky Boyce

1 / I

52

183

167

18

43

3

2

1

22

2

1

16

28

0.257

0.322

0.317

Mickey Kerns

3 / A

64

264

249

42

70

12

2

12

56

7

3

15

47

0.281

0.322

0.490

3b

Jeff Jonckowski

1 / I

51

158

145

18

36

6

1

1

22

5

1

13

23

0.248

0.310

0.324

Inf

Greg Olson

13 / MLB

5

11

9

1

1

1

0

0

2

0

0

2

0

0.111

0.273

0.222

DH

Name

Yrs Pro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

Juan Berenguer

21 / MLB

2

3

0.400

0.82

26

0

0

0

9

33

23

6

3

0

2

32

0.76

John Ettel?

0

0

2

0.000

5.79

16

0

0

0

0

18

25

16

12

2

15

14

2.14

Russ Fandel

1 / I

8

5

0.615

3.94

16

16

2

0

0

102

97

49

45

16

30

81

1.24

David Jones

1 / I

5

7

0.417

5.32

15

15

1

0

0

88

107

66

52

4

42

49

1.69

Bob Kneefe*

1 / I

0

0

0.00

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

1.00

Kerry Ligtenberg

1 / I

11

2

0.846

2.73

17

15

4

1

0

108

101

41

33

7

26

100

1.17

Tom McCormick

1 / I

5

1

0.833

4.33

12

9

0

0

0

54

79

39

26

3

30

35

2.02

Erick Nelson*

1 / I

1

0

1.000

5.68

33

0

0

0

0

44

56

33

28

2

16

35

1.62

Stevins Spurgeon

0

7

4

0.636

2.94

15

14

1

0

0

104

101

47

34

6

22

61

1.18

Chad Weisner

1 / I

4

2

0.667

3.02

33

0

0

0

1

47

38

16

16

5

20

33

1.22

What happened to?

The Loons franchise left Minneapolis, but stayed in the league for 1996.

Willie Tatum finished the 1995 season in the Mexican League, but never played pro ball again.




Kerry Ligtenberg was mentioned to the Braves by manager Olson and they worked out a deal so Kerry could enter affiliated baseball. The story was that the Braves gave the Loons six dozen baseball bats and two dozen baseballs for him. Ligtenberg pitched in the Braves minor league system for 1 ½ seasons and then was called up in 1997. In 1998, he had 30 saves for the major league club. He pitched MLB ball for eight seasons (1997-2005 for 386 g, 3.82 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), and then in the minors through 2006. After one year (2009) with the St. Paul Saints, he became their pitching coach.

Erick Nelson was a starting pitching in the affiliated minor leagues in 1997-98 in classes A and AA. He returned to an Inde league in 1999 where he ended his pro career.





Moose Jaw Diamond Dogs



The last time the southern Saskatchewan city of Moose Jaw had professional baseball teams were in 1909-11, 1913-1914 and 1919-1921 in the Western Canada League. In 1995, the city's population was about 33,000 and they played at Ross Wells Park located at Caribou St E. and Ross Crescent (3rd Ave.). the book Leagues of Their Own: Independent Professional Baseball, 1993-2000 describes the park as follows: “(a) band box of a park with limited seating capacity, tiny club houses and extremely inviting outfield distances.” It also had wooden bleachers installed in the late 1980s. [It should be mentioned that Jon Stott the author of Leagues of Their Own incorrectly described Aberdeen's Fossum Field in his book. His description was that of the park before its upgrades.]
















Ross Wells Park



A visiting amateur baseball pitcher, Alex Tufts, recently described other features of the park: “Moose Jaw’s visiting bullpen is delicately tucked diagonally back and down the first base line from the visitors’ dugout. The unique fenced-in plateau bullpen adheres to the archaic nature of Ross Wells Park and provokes an old-time baseball feel from the restless bullpen pitchers who can be found demolishing sunflower seeds and gazing into the stands during games. The convenient positioning of this bullpen allows for close proximity to the rest of the team while also remaining out of the range of angrily-hurled bats and helmets. Not to be distracted by the lavish bullpen seating, Moose Jaw is not a place that ought to be deemed pitcher-friendly. A field where balls soar up and over the outfield fence and ERA’s seem to commit some sort of baseball-ritual suicide, the park has tended to be unkind to pitchers in the past. Batted balls appear to leave the park frequently with significant force, disappearing into the backdrop of tall trees and initiating debates regarding the distance of said homeruns.”

The Diamond Dogs club was owned by Murray Brace who author Stott described as “an almost frenetically energetic promoter.”

The club was managed by 31-year-old Mike Brocki who had played three years (1987-89) in affiliated classes A and AA as a second baseman. In 1986, he was a first team All-American at Cal State - Dominguez Hills. Including Brocki, the team had six position players with minor league experience including three with AAA games under their belts (Tommy Griffith, Randy Kapano and Ted Williams). Griffith played 23 games for the Diamond Dogs after they traded for him with Regina. Williams had played nine years in affiliated ball and Kapano performed for six.






Brocki



The pitching staff was not so experienced as only four hurlers had played in affiliated systems and two those were only in rookie ball. Still, for a first-year franchise, the roster was well-stocked and the team reported the the number one attendance figure in the league – 75,345. Author Stott's comments: “Whether the league represented paid admissions is debatable. (Owner) Brace freely admitted distributing hundreds of free tickets for each game counting on making profits through increased concessions sales.”

The main first baseman was Alonso Mendoza (.289), positioned at second was Scott Douglas (.282), at third All Star and future major leaguer Shawn Wooten (.373), and at short was manager Brocki (.402). Mark Steele (.312), Rocky Padilla (.183 for 23 games after the trade with Regina) and Randy Kapano (.390) also played infield positions at one time-or-another (lack of fielding stats makes specifics impossible).

The outfield was patrolled by Kyle Billingsley (.258), Brian Cornelius (.403), Grittith (.259) and Williams (.316). Catching was in the hands of Matt Paulson (.337) and Lee Torres (.195 in 29 games as he split the season with the Diamond Dogs and Saskatoon). Other players who may have caught (they had minor league experience there) were Griffith, Kapano and Wooten.

Cornelius won the league batting, runs and hits titles and he was also a league All Star. Wooten was also named to the All Star team. The team's BA was .321 which was first in the league.

The club's starting pitchers were Mike Richardson (18 starts. 4.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP), Brett Lagerblade (14, 4.56, 1.44), Jason Batcha (12, 7.56, 1.67) and Brett Paptist (9, 4.16, 1.34). Relievers were Mark Brincks (26 games, 4.88, 1.31), Ron Matthews (24, 6.36, 1.76), Dan Bushar (17, 4.34, 1.79), Scott Patrick (16, 2.25, 1.35), Scott Englehart (13, 4.93, 1.57) and Tom Gilles (11, 8.92, 1.88).

The team ERA was 5.40 which was fifth in the league. The small dimensions of their home park was certainly the main cause of the high ERAs and high team batting average.

Final attendance was 75,345 which was league-best.



Final stats:



Name

Yrs Pro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Pos

Mike Brocki

3 / AA

70

311

259

81

104

13

1

5

35

33

4

52

16

0.402

0.502

0.517

SS/2b

Randy Kapano

6 / AAA

36

157

136

36

53

13

1

12

57

6

3

21

28

0.390

0.471

0.765

3b

Brian Cornelius*

6 / AA

71

333

308

82

124

19

1

20

73

23

4

25

30

0.403

0.447

0.666

OF

Shawn Wooten

2 / A

52

219

201

38

75

12

2

11

55

3

2

18

26

0.373

0.425

0.617

3b

Tommy Griffith 2tms

4 / AAA

66

310

275

72

91

13

0

12

32

24

9

35

50

0.331

0.406

0.509

OF

Matt Paulsen

0

53

183

169

25

57

12

0

1

18

5

4

14

20

0.337

0.388

0.426

C

Mack Steele

0

55

222

205

39

64

7

2

2

42

11

2

17

27

0.312

0.365

0.395

2b/SS

Alonso Mendoza

2 / R

69

292

263

54

76

16

1

9

49

9

3

29

29

0.289

0.360

0.460

1b

Ted Williams#

9 / AAA

60

283

266

56

84

9

0

3

28

39

5

17

35

0.316

0.357

0.383

OF

Scott Douglas

1 / I

63

208

188

30

53

6

0

0

15

5

4

20

37

0.282

0.351

0.314

2b 

Kyle Billingsley*

0

60

234

213

27

55

10

0

7

39

1

1

21

59

0.258

0.325

0.404

OF

Craig Fritz

0

22

71

65

14

17

3

0

0

3

1

1

6

15

0.262

0.324

0.308

Tim Murray 2tms

0

18

62

58

6

16

4

0

0

12

1

1

4

12

0.276

0.323

0.345

Lee Torres 2tms

0

53

175

162

18

40

5

0

1

19

5

4

13

25

0.247

0.303

0.296

C

Rocky Padilla 2tms

1 / I

62

220

204

25

40

5

2

0

14

11

2

16

26

0.196

0.255

0.240

SS 

Terry Marak

0

2

7

7

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0.000

0.000

0.000

Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

Morgan Adams

0

0

0

0.00

1

0

0

0

0

1.1

2

0

0

0

0

1

1.50

Brett Baptist

2 / R

6

3

0.667

4.16

12

9

2

1

1

67

70

32

31

4

20

47

1.34

Jason Batcha

0

7

6

0.538

7.56

17

12

0

0

0

66

79

64

56

12

32

34

1.67

Mark Brincks

3 / A+

8

6

0.571

4.88

26

4

1

0

4

62

55

41

34

6

27

66

1.31

Dan Bushar

0

1

1

0.500

4.34

17

2

0

0

1

29

25

19

14

2

27

26

1.79

Scott Englehart

1 / I

3

0

1.000

4.93

13

3

0

0

0

38

40

24

21

2

20

32

1.57

Rich Faulks

1 / I

1

2

0.333

9.90

5

5

0

0

0

20

32

23

22

3

10

16

2.10

Tom Gilles

0

1

1

0.500

8.92

11

5

0

0

1

39

52

43

39

9

22

25

1.88

Brett Lagerblade*

0

6

1

0.857

4.56

18

14

2

1

0

92

103

55

47

8

30

63

1.44

Ronald Matthews

2 / R

3

2

0.600

6.36

24

0

0

0

1

52

62

45

37

10

30

47

1.76

Scott Patrick

2 / I

2

0

1.000

2.25

16

0

0

0

2

20

19

9

5

2

8

13

1.35

Mike Richardson

1 / A-

6

6

0.500

4.25

20

18

6

1

1

137

138

69

65

22

41

81

1.30

Lee Torres

0

0

0

0.00

2

0

0

0

0

2.1

1

0

0

0

0

1

0.43



What happened to?:



Mike Brocki did not play nor manage in pro ball after 1995. From 1996-2005 he was the owner of RBI Batting Cages and in 2005-06 was the varsity baseball coach at Rowland High School. He then became owner of Line Drive which provides private baseball and softball lessons. All of those activities were in the Chino Hills, CA, area.

Alonso Mendoza played in Inde ball through 2000 capping off eight seasons (422 g, 1,488 abs) with a .275 average.

Ted Williams ended his professional career with one game in the Texas League in 1995. He had played for ten years, eight in affiliated ball, all told he hit .250 in 967 games and 3,561 at bats.





Dakota Rattlers



The franchise played their games in Bismarck, ND, which hosted professional baseball in the Dakota/North Dakota Leagues (1922-23) and the old Northern (1962-64 and 1966). It is the capital of North Dakota and its population in 1990 was 49,250 with the outlining areas probably doubling that figure.






Municipal Park





They played at Municipal Park (II). Amateur baseball had been played at the site on Washington Street since 1921 (the Dakota Leagues probably played there too). The original Municipal Stadium was a wooden structure that stood where center field is now. The grandstand burned to the ground in 1971 and the park underwent a $50,000 face lift with the most obvious change being a 900-seat concrete grandstand with roof. In the early 1990's, Washington Street, which runs on the east side of the ballpark, needed to be widened and the old ballpark took up a lot of land that was needed to widen the

street. Therefore, the park was turned around 180 degrees with center field moved to home plate and home plate moved to center. The concrete grandstand was completely demolished and a new one built in time for the 1992 season. The current (2014) ticket booth and entrance to the ballpark were dedicated in memory of Brad Hetland during the 2005 American Legion baseball season. Hetland was a participant in the Bismarck American Legion baseball program with the Scarlets in 1996 and the Governors during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

The Prairie League did not grant a franchise to Bismarck until mid-April so its organization was formed very quickly with John King being named GM. According to author Jon Stott, in his book Leagues of Their Own: “The...organization experienced difficulties in mid-season. GM John King mysteriously abandoned his position taking with him souvenir merchandise and part of the night's gate receipts and leaving behind unpaid tax invoices and bills from local suppliers.” King had a history of strange behavior with another case outlined below.

From Stew Thornley's Baseball in Minnesota (referring to the 1994 Minneapolis Millers): “The Millers front office got off to a late start and was still struggling to get organized as the season began. Following the resignation of the team's general manager, Bill Williams, John King was appointed to the post only a few days before the team's first game and abruptly resigned two weeks into the season...King, after resigning in late June, gave his version of events to [Minneapolis] Star Tribune reporter Rachel Blount. King said the team's equipment was inadequate and that he ordered a batting cage for the Millers but had to send it back because they couldn't afford it. He blamed a recent loss in Mason City on a shortage of pitchers after the Millers left three pitchers behind because there was no room for them on the team bus.” Apparently King had no logical explanation to the press when he left Bismarck with gate receipts and team merchandise in 1995.

The team's announced season attendance was only 28,042 which was seventh in the league and mostly explains its lack of revenue. Dave Gilbertson was the team's director of promotions having been hired by his father and other owners of the team. He wrote the book Baseball in the Badlands which detailed his experiences during 1995-96. The following are excerpts:

there is much we don’t know when we sit down in the metal bleachers to watch a ballgame. The personal and often heartwarming stories of young men with a dream, the chaotic lives of those men off the ball field, and stories of general managers disappearing in the middle of the night with the gate receipts from the previous night’s game, leaving a 19-year-old college freshman to fend off bill collectors.


"On July 16, 1996, Rob Halasy, right-handed pitcher for the Dakota Rattlers of the Prairie League, walked into United Printing on Front Street in Bismarck, North Dakota. As director of promotions, I oversaw the release of the 1996 edition of Dakota Rattler baseball cards. The rest of the team was in Austin, Minnesota playing the Southern Minny Stars. Halasy was injured and had stayed in Bismarck for treatment on his ailing right arm. He had been asking, without fail, every single day since he arrived in Bismarck for this, his second season with the Rattlers, when the baseball cards would be done. I kept assuring him that they would be coming out soon and not to worry. He decided that the usual allotment of fifty cards given to each player would not be nearly enough. He had family and friends at home in Brooklyn, New York, that would like to see his face on an actual baseball card, so he ordered an extra one thousand baseball cards of himself. Partly because he was injured and partly to assure him that the cards were, indeed, on the way, I invited him to United Printing to view the final proofs of the cards before they went to print. As he walked in, his eyes twinkled and a grin appeared on his face. He was a child on Christmas morn. I showed him the proof of his first professional baseball card. The picture was dominated by Halasy, grinning from ear to ear, assuming the usual pitcher’s pose in his pinstriped Dakota Rattlers uniform. It was at that point, as he was admiring his very own baseball card, that he said it. It caught me off guard, but renewed my confidence in professional baseball and its much-maligned athletes. What did he say? What was it? 'Look at this part of the card, right across my uniform, it’ll be perfect for me to autograph.'

"It was at this point that I immediately wished I could speak to Mr. Phil Rizzuto to assure him there is a place where they still play baseball on real grass. There’s still a place where the players don’t bother with what their agents tell them, or how much money someone will pay for their signature. Mr. Rizzuto, that place is Bismarck, North Dakota. It could, however, be Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Austin, Minnesota; or Aberdeen, South Dakota. In none of these places do the professional ballplayers worry about catching their chartered airplane or how to spend seventy five dollars per diem on meals.

“The ballplayers in each of these cities wonder how the next month’s rent will be paid, what their batting average or earned run average has reached, and where the next meal will come from. Rob Halasy is one of these players, as is Boo Moore and Dan Halpern. These players play because they love the game of baseball. Their dreams are simple: to play major league baseball. Millions of children grow up with these very same dreams putting them to sleep at night, but these players have come tantalizingly close to fulfilling those dreams. This fact makes it much more cruel when each eventually realize the dream will stay just that: a dream. They want to know the smell of a major league locker room, the feel of major league dirt beneath their cleats, to see a major league stadium filled with 60,000 people, and to hear those 60,000 cheer wildly for them. They dream every waking minute what it feels to put on major league, New York Yankee pinstripes and hear the announcer say, just as he does for Ruben Sierra, 'Now starting in right field for your New York Yankees . . .'

"Dreams were made and crushed, re-made and crushed again. Aberdeen first baseman Craig Dour summed the experience best in saying, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had in baseball. The fans in each park are what I will remember. The people were just so great.” In the end, it is these memories which will last. The kids who chased foul balls at every game will reminisce to their children about those two idyllic summers. Baseball was in town and they met their heroes, whether they be Boo Moore, Dan Halpern, Ray Moon or Brett Muche. For the players the dream has lived and is now dead. For the children, the dream still lives. The sport is certainly bigger than Bismarck, and it will go on. For the small town fans in an isolated part of the Upper Midwest United States, however, the national pastime will again be enjoyed only through television and the distant radio. The fans will no longer be able to sit on top of the uncomfortable metal bleachers of Bismarck Municipal Ballpark, taking in a professional baseball game, looking out on the horizon where a North Dakota sunset is in full bloom. For Bismarck baseball fans, the sun has set and darkness has covered the soul."

The manager of the team was also John King, who if his middle initial is “W”, played one year in affiliated ball in 1980 as mainly a catcher in class A ball and had much success as an athlete at Brown University. It is not known who replaced King when he left the team, the city and apparently baseball.

King found two pitchers with minor league experience with Chris Rusciano reaching the highest level of class A with three years pro experience. The only other hurler from affiliated ball was Tobias Price who played in rookie leagues for two seasons and an Inde league for one. Otherwise six pitchers used during the season had one year of independent baseball and six were rookies to the pros.

Four position players on the roster had affiliated pro experience, one had an Inde ball background and ten had no prior pro experience. Considering this, the club did quite well finishing fourth at 30-42.

Rusciano started 13 games for a 5.29 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. However the best starter was Bismarck native Dave Prosser (14, 3.67, 1.53) and the other two main starters were Dan Slater (16, 4.08, 1.59) and Mike Angileri (9, 3.81, 1.66). Trey Draper (12, 5.94, 1.67) also was used as a starter.

Relievers were Brandon Bogges (22 games, 3.61, 1.51), Keith Brown (13, 4.66, 1.66), Alex Diaz (17, 5.51, 1.80), Price (7, 8.76, 1.95), Scott Smith (8, 10.67, 2.79) and Todd Zweifelhofer (11, 4.91, 1.91). The Dakota staff was fourth in the league with an ERA of 5.15.

Rookie Brandon Mather (.244) was the starting catcher and his backup was Brett Muche who hit very well (.429) with only 14 at bats. At first was Dan Helpern (.300), Joe Jelinek (.250) was the second base starter, Jim Larkin (.251 was stationed at third and Tommy Dong (.339) was the starting shortstop. Pitcher Diaz (.272) also played some at third and Bren Pehser was used at second. First base backups were Malcolm Cepeda (.234 – son of Orlando), Eli Robinson (.204) and Jermaine Swinton (.274).

Outfield regulars appear to be Ray Moon (.304), Boo Moore (.348 – used often at DH as he was the league All Star there) and Mike Zirngibl (.300). Backups were Cepeda, Mike Casey (.292), Swinton and Roger Walker (.278). The Rattlers team hitting finished fifth in the league with a BA of .287.

Attendance was 28,042 which was next-to-last for the league.



Final Stats:

Name

YrsPro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Pos

Brett Muche

0

7

18

14

4

6

0

0

0

1

0

0

4

1

0.429

0.556

0.429

C

Boo Moore

0

71

317

279

58

97

22

0

20

82

4

2

38

53

0.348

0.426

0.642

DH/OF

Tommy Dong

0

46

215

192

44

65

7

1

3

23

19

3

23

33

0.339

0.409

0.432

SS

Mike Casey

0

54

212

185

36

54

6

0

3

13

9

4

27

39

0.292

0.382

0.373

OF

Jermaine Swinton

4 / A

23

97

84

13

23

4

1

3

8

1

0

13

34

0.274

0.371

0.452

1b/OF

Mike Zirngibl

1 / I

61

267

240

37

72

5

2

2

28

23

3

27

54

0.300

0.371

0.363

OF

Dan Halpern

0

72

320

290

43

87

6

4

7

51

5

4

30

38

0.300

0.366

0.421

1b 

Roger Walker

0

27

89

79

10

22

1

0

1

8

0

0

10

17

0.278

0.360

0.329

OF

Malcolm Cepeda

1 / A-

30

92

77

12

18

3

1

0

6

4

0

15

17

0.234

0.359

0.299

1b/OF

Alex Diaz

1 / I

54

189

169

31

46

10

0

3

21

0

0

20

27

0.272

0.349

0.385

3b/P

Ray Moon

2 / R

70

305

289

35

88

19

1

1

47

17

4

16

34

0.304

0.341

0.388

OF

James Larkin

1 / A+

50

193

171

25

43

5

0

6

29

4

3

22

34

0.251

0.337

0.386

3b/SS

Joseph Jelinek#

2 / A

55

211

192

21

48

6

1

0

16

4

1

19

33

0.250

0.318

0.292

2b/SS/3b

Eli Robinson

3 / R

16

57

49

5

10

3

0

0

6

0

0

8

13

0.204

0.316

0.265

1b

Brandon Mather

0

50

186

176

21

43

8

0

1

13

0

1

10

33

0.244

0.285

0.307

C

Tony Curro

0

5

17

14

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

3

0.071

0.235

0.071

Bren Oehser

0

10

40

37

8

6

3

0

0

7

0

0

3

6

0.162

0.225

0.243

2b 

Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

Mike Angileri

1 / I

2

3

0.400

3.81

13

9

0

0

1

59

60

40

25

6

38

49

1.66

Brandon Bogges

1 / I

2

4

0.333

3.61

22

2

0

0

4

42

50

23

17

2

14

29

1.51

Keith Brown

1 / I

2

3

0.400

4.66

13

0

0

0

2

19

22

15

10

3

10

13

1.66

Alex Diaz

1 / I

2

5

0.286

5.51

17

5

0

0

1

50

68

45

31

3

23

40

1.80

Trey Draper

0

3

4

0.429

5.94

15

12

0

0

0

69

88

49

46

4

28

48

1.67

Jason Forster

0

0

1

0.000

###

5

0

0

0

0

6

22

20

16

3

6

4

4.20

Robb Halasy

0

0

0

###

5

0

0

0

0

9

19

15

12

1

7

7

2.69

Jason Poole

0

0

1

0.000

###

3

0

0

0

0

10

21

13

13

2

7

4

2.71

Paul Prendergast

0

0

0

###

2

0

0

0

0

0

6

3

2

0

2

0

12.00

Tobias Price*

3 / R

0

0

8.76

7

0

0

0

0

12

10

15

12

1

14

8

1.95

David Prosser

1 / I

8

4

0.667

3.67

16

15

1

1

0

##

##

53

44

4

48

61

1.53

Chris Rusciano

3 / A

2

7

0.222

5.29

15

13

2

1

0

85

##

74

50

9

44

83

1.80

Dan Slater

1 / A

8

8

0.500

4.08

19

16

8

0

0

##

##

71

58

7

44

58

1.59

Scott Smith

0

0

0

###

8

0

0

0

0

14

20

19

17

1

20

14

2.79

Todd Zweifelhofer

0

1

2

0.333

4.91

11

0

0

0

0

14

19

13

8

1

9

12

1.91

What happened to?:



John King – still searching

Tobias Price played in 1996, 1998 and 2000-01 in inde ball.

Jermaine Swinton entered high class A in 1996-97 and then played in inde leagues through 2003.









Saskatoon Riot



Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, had professional franchises in the Western Canada League (1910-11, 1913-14, 1919-21) and the Independent North Central League in 1994. The city is located in central Saskatchewan and was the largest in the province with a population in 1996 at 193,700 with an outlying population of about 30,000.

The Riot played at Cairns Field located at 1202-1244 Ave. P South roughly one block south off 11th St. North and it was named after James Cairns – an early 20th century city leader and sports enthusiast. The seating area held in excess of 5,000 fans and its dimensions were 335-400-335. A park of the same name was located at Idylwyld Drive and 26th St. from 1913 to 1963 when it was torn down.






Cairns Field



The manager was George “Boomer” Scott who played in the minors from 1962-65 and 1980-84 and in the majors during the 1966-79 seasons hitting .268 with 271 homers in 2,034 games. He had managed the Minneapolis Millers in the North Central League in 1994. The club owner was Dave Ferguson.




Scott



During the season, the Saskatoon club went through 30 position players and 14 pitchers as they attempted to right their ship. Eight players played for them and other league Canadian teams. Four also played for their owner's brother's team – Regina.

Reviewing the past records of all the players who were on their roster at one-time-or-another reveals that one had AAA experience, three made it to AA, seven to A and two had played at the rookie level. In addition, the manager's son, George Jr., played in the team.

The club pitchers had the seventh worse ERA in the league with a 5.55. Pete Southall (4.23) had 15 starts, Mark Mueller (5.27) had 10 and Marty Reinhart (6.59) had 18. Mike Pierce (3.82) had only five starts before being traded and Robby Alexander (4.58) was used mostly as a starter (6 times in 10 games.

Trevor Skjerpen (4.71, 30 g) was the most-used reliever, Jim Marchesi (5.83, 26) was next and Vladimir Perez (4.96, 18) was third. David May (2.41, 12) had good success and Dennis Jones (17.72, 12) did not.

The Riot's team batting average (.247) was the worst in the league. Darryl Brinkley (.200) was the starting catcher. Jeff Dormuth (.211) and Chad Melin (.111) backed him up.

At first base was Daryl Burrus (.360) in 31 games, Tim Mitchell (.118) played in five and it is hard to pinpoint other players at the position without complete fielding stats. Second was manned by Don Fletcher (.203) for 20 games and Cory Wafer (.264) played there approximately 36 times.

Saskatoon's main shortstop in 1995 was Duane Stelly (.157) who played in 30 contests and Skip Hopgood (.163) got into 18. Third was the domain of Brian Heather (.225). Other infield backups appeared to be Ed Campaniello (.100), Tony Mack (.190) and Rocky Padilla (.205).

The starting outfield mix appeared to have been Ed Herrera (.251), Andre Johnson (.279), Scott Jr. (.307) and Kory Wilmer (.289). Moterboat Jones (.257), Padilla, Donny Jones (.323) and Pat Lussier (.200) were the backups.

The franchise had an attendance of 38,711 (fourth in league).



1995 Statistics:



Name

YrsPro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

TB

POS

Jim Long

0

3

14

10

3

2

0

0

0

2

0

0

4

0

0.200

0.429

0.200

2

George Scott Jr

1 / I

57

247

215

37

66

8

0

2

22

8

4

32

21

0.307

0.397

0.372

80

OF

Daryl Burrus* 2tms

0

66

254

235

35

79

15

1

7

38

7

2

19

39

0.336

0.386

0.498

117

1b

Andre Johnson

3 / A+

39

159

140

37

39

7

0

11

34

18

1

19

27

0.279

0.365

0.564

79

OF

Ed Campaniello

0

5

14

10

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

4

1

0.100

0.357

0.100

1

2b

Cory Wafer# 2tms

1 / I

68

277

249

51

68

7

4

1

25

23

5

28

43

0.273

0.347

0.345

86

2b/3b

Donny Jones

4 / A+

9

32

31

3

10

1

0

1

5

0

0

1

7

0.323

0.344

0.452

14

OF

Patrick Lussier 2tms

3 / A-

9

21

17

2

3

0

0

1

2

0

0

4

4

0.176

0.333

0.353

6

OF

Ken Powell

5 / A+

2

9

8

1

2

0

1

0

2

0

0

1

2

0.250

0.333

0.500

4

OF

Kory Witmer*

1 / I

69

271

256

27

74

17

0

4

39

4

2

15

24

0.289

0.328

0.402

103

OF

Mike Pierce 2tms

0

48

136

127

16

35

9

0

5

28

1

2

9

26

0.276

0.324

0.465

59

P

Tim Murray 2tms

0

18

62

58

6

16

4

0

0

12

1

1

4

12

0.276

0.323

0.345

20


Don Fletcher

0

20

69

59

8

12

0

3

0

7

0

1

10

20

0.203

0.319

0.305

18

2b

Jeff Dormuth

1 / I

8

22

19

2

4

1

0

0

1

0

0

3

2

0.211

0.318

0.263

5

C

Joe Elias

0

13

41

34

3

6

0

0

0

3

0

0

7

8

0.176

0.317

0.176

6

OF

Motorboat Jones

8 / AA


19

76

70

11

18

3

1

4

12

1

1

6

11

0.257

0.316

0.500

35

OF

Brian Heather

3 / A

67

267

236

33

53

8

0

9

34

5

5

31

56

0.225

0.315

0.373

88

3b/SS

Darryl Brinkley

1 / I

45

150

130

10

26

2

0

1

13

0

0

20

49

0.200

0.307

0.238

31

C

Ed Herrera

2 / A+

55

218

203

19

51

7

1

1

13

0

2

15

24

0.251

0.303

0.310

63

OF

Lee Torres 2tms

0

53

175

162

18

40

5

0

1

19

5

4

13

25

0.247

0.303

0.296

48

C/3b

Jay Bacani?

0

12

43

37

6

7

0

1

0

1

0

0

6

7

0.189

0.302

0.243

9


Tony Marrillia?

0

51

183

179

22

46

6

0

1

16

4

1

4

20

0.257

0.273

0.307

55

DH

Bill Klaibur?

0

7

26

25

3

6

0

0

1

5

1

0

1

7

0.240

0.269

0.360

9


Scott Hopgood

0

18

56

49

7

8

1

0

1

2

0

0

7

13

0.163

0.268

0.245

12

SS/2b

Duane Stelly*

0

30

102

89

15

14

3

1

1

5

1

0

13

25

0.157

0.265

0.247

22

SS/2b

Rocky Padilla 2tms

1 / I

62

220

204

25

40

5

2

0

14

11

2

16

26

0.196

0.255

0.240

49

OF/SS

Anthony Mack

0

6

22

21

3

4

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

5

0.190

0.227

0.190

4

3b

Chad Melin

0

5

19

18

3

2

1

0

0

4

0

0

1

4

0.111

0.158

0.167

3

C

Timothy Mitchell*

2 / R

5

17

17

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

0.118

0.118

0.118

2

1b

Eric Jones

0

9

19

18

1

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

1

7

0.056

0.105

0.056

1



Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

Robby Alexander

1 / I

4

2

0.667

4.58

10

6

3

0

0

53

55

28

27

8

17

39

1.36

Darryl Bruce

2 / I

0

1

0.000

7.04

5

0

0

0

0

7.2

9

6

6

0

3

4

1.57

Mark Czarkowski*

6 / AAA

0

3

0.000

9.41

4

3

0

0

0

22

38

23

23

4

7

9

2.05

Daniel Jess

0

0

1

0.000

10.38

3

1

0

0

0

4.1

8

8

5

0

7

3

3.46

Dennis Jones*

8 / AAA

0

0

17.72

12

1

0

0

1

10.2

19

24

21

0

26

7

4.22

Jim Marchesi

3 / R

5

1

0.833

5.83

26

7

1

0

2

80.1

110

71

52

11

31

59

1.76

David May

0

2

0

1.000

2.41

12

0

0

0

0

18.2

20

5

5

2

13

17

1.77

Mark Mueller

0

2

6

0.250

5.27

20

10

0

0

0

68.1

75

53

40

8

31

37

1.55

Vladimir Perez

8 / AA

1

2

0.333

4.96

18

2

0

0

6

32.2

38

20

18

1

10

31

1.47

Mike Pierce 2tms

0

4

4

0.500

3.48

12

11

1

0

0

75

71

36

29

3

29

49

1.33

Marty Reinhart

1 / I

3

11

0.214

6.59

18

18

2

0

0

95.2

136

80

70

5

52

44

1.97

Daniel Saucedo

0

0

1

0.000

6.75

5

1

0

0

0

18.2

24

17

14

3

14

10

2.04

Trevor Skjerpen

2 / A

3

6

0.333

4.71

30

2

0

0

1

57.1

59

36

30

2

36

49

1.66

Pete Southall 2tms

0

5

10

0.333

4.06

17

16

1

0

0

106

135

67

48

3

53

68

1.77



What happened to?:




Daryl Brinkley went on to have a very successful minor league carrier playing in affiliated ball from 1995 to 2006 including 11 years at the AAA level. He then performed in independent leagues from 2007-2009. All told, he played in 1,582 games and had 5,996 at bats for a .326 batting average. He came very close to having played in the majors when the Orioles recalled him on September 10, 2001, however, Brinkley was stranded in Australia (where he was playing baseball) due to the September 11 terrorist attacks. By the time Brinkley was able to return to the United States, the Orioles had instead recalled another player.

Brinkley managed in an independent league in 2010 and is an instructor presently at the Bobby Valentine Sports Academy in Stamford, CT.

Andre Johnson continued to play in independent leagues through 2001 ending his pro carrier after ten seasons.

George Scott Jr. did not play pro ball after the 1995 season.

George Southall got into affiliated ball at the A+ level in 1996, but it was his last year as a player.

George Scott Sr. managed the Massachusetts Mad Dogs from 1996-1999, and the Rio Grande Valley White Wings of theTexas-Louisiana League in 2001. He had also coached the Roxbury Community College baseball team from 1991-1995. He ended his baseball career managing the Berkshire Black Bears of the Northern League in 2002.

Scott died July 28, 2013, in his hometown of Greenville, MS, at age 69. Although a cause of death was not announced, Scott had serious diabetes for several years. "In losing George Scott, we have lost one of the most talented, colorful, and popular players in our history," said Red Sox vice president/emeritus and team historian Dick Bresciani. "He had great power and agility, with a large personality and a large physical stature. He could light up a clubhouse with his smile, his laugh, and his humor – and he was the best defensive first baseman I have ever seen..."



Minot Mallards



The baseballreference.com site shows Minot's 1995 nickname as “Rattlers”, however that was the nickname of Bismarck's (Dakota) entry in the league.

The “Mallards” name was a carry-over from the years of pro ball in the mid-20th Century. The city of Minot, ND, is located in the north central part of the state and had a population of about 34,500 in 1990. Professional baseball teams throughout its history were in an early Northern League in 1917, the North Dakota League (1923) and the Northern League (1958-60 and 1962).

The Prairie League Mallards played at the same field that the Northern League club played – Corbett Field which was built in 1935 with a roof added to the grandstand in 1947. The area around the park is now residential on three sides with a parking lot located on the one side. Its dimensions are currently 310 feet down each line, 400 feet to center and 350 to the power alleys. The dugouts are at the bottom of the grandstand on either side and the dressing rooms can be accessed from the dugouts. [To see a photo of Corbett Field, you may visit the website: http://www.digitalballparks.com/ ]

Two interesting features: 1) Behind a blue door in the dugout area, are the locker rooms and a small dormitory. When a player couldn't afford a place to stay, they were able to board inside the ballpark for free. This cut down on a lot of the expenses of the team and the players themselves; 2) There are eight rows of bright orange seats behind home plate in the grandstand. They were removed from Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, former home of the Orioles, after that park was destroyed in the late 1990s. The city of Minot was able to get major league seating at a low price.

The club's player-manager was Mark Hebbeler who played baseball in college at the University of Cincinnati (he is a Cincinnati native) where he received a Liberal Arts B.S. in 1988. He also obtained a B.S. in Industrial Engineering at Central State University in 1992. He played in independent leagues during the summers of 1993-1994 and the 1995 season was his first opportunity as a team manager.

How did their roster stack up? They had five pitchers with professional affiliated experience with three having reaching A ball. There was one pitcher who play professionally for 13 years and in the major leagues from 1986-90 – Rob Nelson. However, he had been a first baseman throughout those years and, in this 76 big league games, hit .178 in 152 at bats. Strangely, he never appeared at the plate for the Mallards and failed in his comeback attempt as a pitcher.

Willie Ansley was the senior pro position player with six seasons including three in AAA. Otherwise, only one other player played affiliated ball having made it to class A.

Based on team ERA, the Mallards pitching staff was the worst in the league with a 6.82 mark. Clint Minear (6.63) had 17 starts and he was followed by Mark Matthews (15, 3.57), Marcus Robinson (12, 8.47) and Tim Ploeger (9, 9.45). Ken Osterkamp (9.49) made more relief turns then starts (7 to 5), but the main relievers were: Steve D'Aguila (25 games, 6.42), Kevin Nelson (21, 3.27), Rob Nelson (21, 10.54), Phil Johnson (15, 7.13) and Joe Host (13, 6.35).

Minot was sixth in hitting with a .280 average. At catcher were Casey Woodall (.218), Mark Gabbard (.147) and LJ Archambeau (.150). The main first baseman was Butch Smith (.350), at second was LaVonn Banks (.247), manning short was Steve Seda (.295) and at third was Brad Strauss (.335). Derek Smith (.252) and manager Hebbeler (.256) were apparently the main infield reserves.

Outfield starters listed in order of at bats were: Gary Collum (.320), Geoff Clark (.304), Willie Ansley (272) and Brian Amstutz (.308).

The Mallards drew 31,666 fans which was sixth-best in the league.





1995 Stats:



Name

YrsPro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Pos

Butch Smith?

0

70

303

277

50

97

13

0

25

75

1

1

26

87

0.350

0.406

0.668

1b/P

Brad Strauss*

1 / I

71

310

278

52

93

12

2

13

57

25

4

32

61

0.335

0.403

0.532

3b

Augie Gonzales*

0

37

158

131

23

36

7

1

3

19

4

1

27

20

0.275

0.399

0.412

OF/P

Steve Seda?

0

40

161

139

19

41

5

1

2

17

0

3

22

12

0.295

0.391

0.388

SS

Geoff Clark*

1 / I

45

180

158

16

48

10

0

2

17

5

2

22

28

0.304

0.389

0.405

OF 

Curt Parham

0

13

47

41

4

12

4

0

1

5

0

0

6

11

0.293

0.383

0.463

1b 

Willie Ansley (2tms)

6 / AAA

29

126

107

20

27

2

2

4

15

6

2

19

18

0.252

0.365

0.421

OF

Gary Collum

2 / A

71

340

319

62

102

13

2

4

29

47

7

21

36

0.320

0.362

0.411

OF

Brian Amstutz?

0

23

84

78

8

24

6

0

0

6

1

0

6

16

0.308

0.357

0.385

OF

Roland Fletcher?

0

22

67

53

14

9

0

0

0

4

2

0

14

19

0.170

0.343

0.170

DH

Derek Smith#

1 / I

47

182

163

21

41

2

0

1

18

9

5

19

27

0.252

0.330

0.282

SS

Casey Woodall

0

45

167

147

13

32

5

0

3

13

0

0

20

21

0.218

0.311

0.313

C

Mark Hebbeler?

2 / I

26

92

86

12

22

3

0

0

3

1

1

6

9

0.256

0.304

0.291

3b/2b

LaVonn Banks?

1 / I

69

309

287

47

71

8

0

2

24

14

7

22

34

0.247

0.301

0.296

2b 

Steve D'Aquila

1 / I

28

10

10

1

3

1

0

1

3

0

0

0

3

0.300

0.300

0.700

P

Todd Holverson?

0

11

35

33

4

7

0

0

0

1

0

1

2

9

0.212

0.257

0.212

Mark Gabbard?

1 / I

26

83

75

4

11

2

0

1

9

0

0

8

20

0.147

0.229

0.213

C

L.J. Archambeau?

0

19

65

60

4

9

0

0

0

6

0

0

5

15

0.150

0.215

0.150

C

Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

Jeffrey Carew

4 / R

0

2

0.000

8.35

4

4

0

0

0

18

25

17

17

7

9

4

1.855

Steve D'Aquila

1 / I

2

5

0.286

6.42

25

0

0

0

0

33

37

26

24

9

22

23

1.752

Augie Gonzales

0

2

0

1.000

4.80

6

0

0

0

0

15

17

9

8

3

8

19

1.667

Joseph Host*

0

0

0

6.35

13

0

0

0

0

22

24

19

16

3

23

24

2.074

Phil Johnson

1 / R

0

4

0.000

7.13

15

4

0

0

0

35

38

37

28

2

31

18

1.953

Mark Matthews?

1 / I

7

7

0.500

3.57

15

15

4

1

0

106

110

52

42

10

20

79

1.226

Clint Minear*

3 / A-

3

7

0.300

6.62

18

17

2

1

0

107

140

91

79

20

47

89

1.742

Kevin Nelson

0

4

2

0.667

3.27

21

3

0

0

6

52

56

24

19

2

27

27

1.586

Rob Nelson*

13 / MLB

1

1

0.500

10.54

21

1

0

0

1

35

52

45

41

9

31

14

2.371

Ken Osterkamp*

1 / A+

0

5

0.000

9.49

12

5

0

0

1

30

42

35

32

10

17

18

1.945

Tim Ploeger

5 / A+

1

6

0.143

9.45

15

9

0

0

0

60

76

66

63

16

47

57

2.05

Joe Renner?

0

0

0

6.75

3

1

0

0

0

6.2

10

7

5

0

2

3

1.8

Marcus Robinson?

0

3

6

0.333

8.47

18

12

0

0

1

73

95

82

69

12

54

43

2.032

Butch Smith?

0

0

0

13.50

2

0

0

0

0

2

2

4

3

0

1

3

1.5



Where are they now?:

Willie Ansley did not play pro ball after 1995


Rob Nelson ended his pro career with the 1995 season. Besides his major league appearances, he had played 13 years in the minors including eight years in AAA. All told, he appeared in 1,168 games and had 4,684 at bats (one year in the Mexican League not included) hitting .251 with a .359 OBP and .455 slugging. He fielded .988 as a first baseman. Later he founded Hit One Deep Enterprises which is a private baseball instruction company based in Temple City, CA.

Mark Hebbeler did not manage or play again professionally after '95. From 1999 to 2003, he was the marketing manager for FKI Logistex and from 2004-2014 he had a similar position with Anest Iwata USA in the Cincinnati area . Since summer 2014, he has been the V.P. Of Sales and Marketing for Createx Colors in CT. In a 2011 interview with Products Finishing Magazine, Hebbelar said: “Many years ago, after college, I played and managed baseball in an emerging independent professional baseball league called the Frontier League. So really, my first love is and always will be baseball. Being from Cincinnati, it is kind of abnormal not to play baseball. There are so many great players from here, and a lot of us still play in many of the men’s senior leagues in town. The competition is a lot stronger then you would think since in the ‘Nati we are all taught to play like Pete Rose!”



Brandon Gray Owls




Brandon, Manitoba, is located in the Southwestern area of the province and is its second largest city with a (1996) population of 38,500. The city's professional baseball history began in 1908 as a member of the Northern League and then the Western Canada League in 1919-11. They then joined the newer Northern League in 1933-34.

The Grey Owls played at Westbran Stadium (the name came both from its being on the west end of Brandon and Brandon’s location in western Manitoba - shortened to “West Man” by locals). It was constructed in 1987 (as per the Brandon Sun) and had a seating capacity of over 3,000. It is located at Hilton Ave. and 19th St. North and was renamed “Andrews Field” in late 2006.


Westbran (Andrews) Stadium



Beginning the year as manager was Greg McVey who had a bachelor's degree from Saint Joseph's College (Ind.) in 1992 and a master's in Sports Management from Miami University (Ohio) in 1993. At the time he was with Brandon, he also was head coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College. He had no previous experience in professional baseball as a player or manager.




McVey

Replacing McVey in early July was Bryan Clutterbuck who had played ten years in the pros including 34 MLB games as a pitcher for the Brewers. He had been managing in the North Central League (22 games) before it folded.




Clutterbuck



McVey started with a team of very limited professional experience. Of the position players, only four had an affiliated pro past. Not including Willie Ansley, who only appeared in five Grey Owls games, there were one with “A” experience and two who had played in rookie leagues.

Without including Clutterbuck, two pitchers (one in A+ and one in rookie ball) played in affiliated ball. Considering the inexperience it is rather surprising that the staff's ERA was 6th best in the league at 5.48. Those with the most innings pitched were Ken Smyth (5.01 ERA in 12 starts), Jim Hodgson (7.60, 12), Mike Pierce (3.48, 11), Andy Opray (6.50, 6), Ricky Bennett (6.70, 5), Clutterbuck (4.34, 5), Tom Masterman (3.80, 4), Shawn Ohman (6.85, 4) and Scott Ryder (2.88, 4).

Relievers included Vince Eastman (4.88, 28 games), Brian Heil (3.15, 32), Andy Moffat (4.69, 24), John Bretza (7.67, 20) and Brandon Boettner (5.19, 13).

The main catcher was Tom Keller (.282) with Keivi Baker and Jeremy Lewis as his backups. Baker and Lewis apparently played more often at other positions.

First base was shared between Curt Underwood (.327) and Butch Bucher (.227). At second was Scott Hlady (.283) with the possible backup of Henry Schelb and Chris Coste. Third base was the domain of future MLB player Coste (.255) and Jamie Hodgson (.236). Completing the infield were shortstops Greg Baker (.230), Bobby Hunt (.234) and Kyle Krzmarzick (.276). Hlady and Krzmarzick probably played other positions.

The main outfielders were Ben Murray (.244), Keivi Baker (.230), Kendrick Davis (.283), Lewis (.247), Le McAfee (.309), Matt Ostrum (.337), Toby Ricard (.278) and Schelb (.198).

The last-place club's attendance was 24,557 which was the worst in the league.

Brandon player Chris Coste wrote about his time with the 1995 club (after the North Central League folded in July) in his book The 33-Year-Old Rookie. Excerpts:




Coste



“My former manager Bryan Chutterbuck called to tell me that he had just been offered the top job for the Brandon, Manitoba, Grey Owls for the Prairie League and wanted me to be his third baseman...The Grey Owls, losers of 45 of their first 53 games, were the worst team in the league, if not the world, and with a month left in the 1995 season, new ownership had hired Bryan to turn things around...

“I didn't know what to expect when I arrived at the stadium in Brandon. The word chaos springs to mind. For one thing, the proud new ownersof the Grey Owls had somehow neglected to inform the current manager that his resume was about to be outdated. They showed the same consideration to a number of players who were also being shown the door. In fact, these poor guys didn't learn of their fate until after they'd already loaded their bags on the team bus for a road trip. What a scene: me and the other new recruits watching our predecessors having to retrieve their stuff from the bottom of the bus in order in order to make room for us...

“Our first road trip took us to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to face the second-best team in the league...Our roster consisted mostly of younger players like me who had little or no professional experience. Moose Jaw, on the other hand, was made up primarily of older athletes with several years' professional experience...the contest was an utter mismatch and we wound up losing 15-5...The next two games were carbon copies, leaving us gasping for breath with an 8-51 record...

“Next it was back to the States to face South Dakota's Aberdeen Pheasants. In contrast to their nonthreatening name, they were the best team in the league was a staggering 45-4 record. Again we were laughably outmatched although somehow we managed to steal one the three games. Our road trip over, the revamped Brandon Grey Owls got on the bus for the 18-hour trek home. There we would get to play our first six games in front of the hometown fans.

“A 1-5 road trip to Moose Jaw and Aberdeen isn't anyone’s idea of fun, but I took comfort to the fact that at least the Prairie League appeared to be stable. The Diamond Dogs sold out all three of their games and Aberdeen was equally impressive attracting almost four thousand fans a night [sic]. I was also pleased by the caliber of talent: Most rosters included several players who'd made it as far as AA or AAA, plus two or three former major leaguers...Just as important, maybe more so, the front offices seemed to know how to promote and market their teams. They'd put on great shows between innings with promotions like the bat spin and the mascot race as well as timely music and funny announcers. I couldn't wait to see what Brandon would have.

“Um...not much. Only 750 fans turned out for our return home, which, I was told, far exceeded the usual attendance. The game felt more like a Sunday church softball league than a professional baseball game. The few spectators who’d were there seemed to be more into hockey (referring to umps as “refs” on occasion) and barely made any noise. But, then did a team with a 9-53 record really have a right to expect more support.”



1995 Stats:

Name

YrsPro/HC

G

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

TB

Pos

Tom Keller

0

67

268

227

35

64

8

4

6

42

3

2

41

59

0.282

0.392

0.432

98

C

Matt Ostrum

0

22

89

83

13

28

5

2

1

13

3

1

6

19

0.337

0.382

0.482

40

OF

Curt Underwood*

A

27

112

104

12

34

7

0

2

10

4

1

8

12

0.327

0.375

0.452

47

1b

Kyle Krzmarzick

0

25

100

87

12

24

2

1

1

9

2

1

13

17

0.276

0.370

0.356

31

SS/2b

Willie Ansley(3 tms)

5 / AAA

29

126

107

20

27

2

2

4

15

6

2

19

18

0.252

0.365

0.421

45

OF

Ben Murray

0

58

259

225

41

55

8

1

1

20

21

3

34

56

0.244

0.344

0.302

68

OF

Scott Hlady

0

49

157

145

23

41

4

1

0

13

7

3

12

21

0.283

0.338

0.324

47

2b/3b

Todd Fisher

0

24

52

45

6

10

1

0

0

3

3

1

7

7

0.222

0.327

0.244

11

DH

Mike Pierce

0

48

136

127

16

35

9

0

5

28

1

2

9

26

0.276

0.324

0.465

59

P/DH

Leland McAfee

1 / R

26

95

94

16

29

7

1

0

5

9

2

1

4

0.309

0.316

0.404

38

OF

Toby Ricard

0

25

113

108

12

30

3

1

1

11

9

4

5

21

0.278

0.310

0.352

38

OF/3b

Kendrick Davis#

0

37

131

127

9

36

6

1

0

10

6

8

4

15

0.283

0.305

0.346

44

OF

Keivi Baker#

0

64

263

239

25

55

8

4

0

20

22

12

24

54

0.230

0.300

0.297

71

OF/C

Butch Bucher

0

15

48

44

4

10

0

0

0

4

1

0

4

8

0.227

0.292

0.227

10

1b

Jamie Hodgson

0

53

159

148

17

35

7

2

1

17

5

0

11

31

0.236

0.289

0.331

49

3b

Greg Baker

0

41

160

148

18

34

4

0

1

7

4

2

12

27

0.230

0.288

0.277

41

SS 

Jeremy Lewis

0

28

102

97

14

24

3

0

1

13

4

2

5

14

0.247

0.284

0.309

30

OF/1b/C

Chris Coste

0

24

97

94

12

24

7

0

0

13

2

1

3

10

0.255

0.278

0.330

31

3b/2b/C

Bobby Hunt

0

55

185

175

16

41

4

0

0

12

15

6

10

29

0.234

0.276

0.257

45

SS

Henry Schelb

1 / I

27

86

81

8

16

4

1

1

7

1

0

5

24

0.198

0.244

0.309

25

OF/2b

Purvis Cowens

0

8

29

27

0

3

0

0

0

0

1

0

2

5

0.111

0.172

0.111

3

OF/3b/1b

Name

YrsPro/HC

W

L

W-L%

ERA

G

GS

GF

CG

SHO

SV

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

Ricky Bennett*

0

1

5

0.167

6.70

10

5

0

0

0

44

56

41

33

6

13

29

1.56

Brandon Boettner

0

1

5

0.167

5.19

13

2

0

0

0

34

41

24

20

3

19

27

1.73

John Bretza

0

0

2

0.000

7.67

20

3

0

0

0

54

83

54

46

4

19

50

1.89

Bryan Clutterbuck

10 / MLB

1

1

0.500

4.34

5

5

0

0

0

29

26

18

14

4

7

14

1.14

Vince Eastman

0

1

1

0.500

4.88

28

1

0

0

3

48

46

32

26

3

33

42

1.65

Todd Grieff

0

0

3

0.000

####

3

3

1

0

0

10

22

16

15

2

3

6

2.50

Trevor Harvey*

0

0

2

0.000

4.09

4

1

0

0

0

11

14

6

5

0

5

10

1.73

Brian Heil?

0

2

6

0.250

3.15

32

0

0

0

5

45

42

26

16

3

23

35

1.42

Jamie Hodgson

0

1

7

0.125

7.60

14

12

0

0

0

66

102

70

56

12

39

33

2.13

Tom Masterman

0

2

1

0.667

3.80

4

4

1

0

0

23

28

16

10

0

12

14

1.69

Andy Moffat

0

4

2

0.667

4.69

24

1

0

0

1

55

56

36

29

2

38

49

1.69

Shawn Ohman*

2 / R

1

2

0.333

6.85

4

4

0

0

0

22

38

19

17

4

7

14

2.02

Anders Opray

1 / I

0

5

0.000

6.50

10

6

0

0

0

44

63

38

32

4

9

31

1.62

Mike Pierce

0

4

4

0.500

3.48

12

11

1

0

0

75

71

36

29

3

29

49

1.33

Scott Ryder

4 / A+

1

2

0.333

2.88

4

4

0

0

0

25

18

10

8

2

6

17

0.96

Ken Smyth

0

2

5

0.286

5.01

12

12

1

0

0

73

97

51

41

2

26

64

1.67



What ever happened to:



Bryan Clutterbuck – pitched 11 seasons (4 in AAA) in the minors for 187 games completing 1.105 innings allowing 1,182 hits with a 4.04 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. For the Brewers in 1986 and 1989, he completed 124 innings allowing 141 hits and 32 walks with 67 strike outs. His ERA was 4.21 with a 1.40 WHIP. He has been the president of collegeconnectsports.com since 2010. [website could not be found in January 2015].

Chris Coste was probably the most successful Prairie League player after 1995. He played minor league ball through 2007 with 8 years in AAA. He was in 1,029 games hitting .298 with a .351 slugging. As a major leaguer with the Phillies from 2006-9, he appeared in 256 games batting .282 with a .440 slugging playing at first base and catcher. He ended his big league stay with Houston in 2009 getting into 43 games with a .204 average. In 1997, he published his book Hey... I'm Just the Catcher and in 2008 his book The 33-Year-Old Rookie was released.

Born in Fargo, ND, Coste is now an in-studio analyst during Phillies Pregame Live and Postgame Live shows. He also appears on Daily News Live. More importantly, Coste is currently the head baseball coach at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.




1996



--More to come--



Sources:

baseball-almanac.com

baseball-reference.com

The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball-2nd edition; Edited by Lloyd Johnson/Miles Wolff (pub:Baseball America, 1997)

Total Baseball - 6th edition edited by Thorn, Palmer et al (Total Sports, 1999)

wikipeda.com

Aberdeen-American News (Aberdeen, SD)

Various educational and business-oriented websites

Baseball in Minnesota by Stew Thornley (2006, Minnesota Historical Society Press)

Baseball in the Badlands: Stale Beers and Stale Careers by Dave Gilbertson (United Printing, 1999)

League of Their Own: Independent Professional Baseball: 1993-1999) by Jon Stott (McFarland, 2001)

The 33-Year-Old Rookie by Chris Coste (Ballantine, 2008)