Major League Fun With Minor League Teams…..


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I’ve been a baseball fan for a LONG time.

There’s a picture somewhere in the family archives of a sunburned, flat-topped Johnny Foster on his 6th birthday, holding a cake with a half dozen candles while looking over the right shoulder of his #6 Rocky Colavito jersey.

I went to my first major league baseball game with the Cub Scouts and we sat in right field of cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, about 3 light years from home plate.

But that was just fine with me because I got to look at the back of Rocco Domenico Colavito (Rocky Colavito) the entire game.

Don’t knock “The Rock!”

While living in Mansfield, OH and working in radio, I saw a number of Indians baseball in person.

Frankly, it was probably some of the lousiest baseball being played in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

But I didn’t care because it was all of the associated sights and sounds that made it fun to be there,

Long time Tribe radio voice Herb Score said upon his retirement that he was witness to more “bad baseball” than probably anyone else in that same general era.

Baseball is a game best savored in person.

For me, if you can’t be there in person, then listening on the radio is the best option.

TV games seem to drag.

But a good radio announcer can call the action and you can “see” what’s going on as the game is being played.

I was most fond of Joe Tate when he called Indians games.

Joe would proclaim, “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day for baseball!” as grey, wind-swept clouds raced off chilly Lake Erie in mid-April, powdering the stands with snow flakes.

Current play-by-play guy Tom Hamilton calls a walk-off home run as well as anybody.

And I tuned my ears as a kid to hear Jimmy Dudley and Bob Neal call games for Cleveland.

But, for me, it’s not just the major leagues that I like.

The minors can be a lot of fun and in most of the cozy stadiums, you’re close to the action and you don’t need to secure a loan to get a beer and a hot dog.

Nearby Indianapolis has the Indians and it’s a great entertainment value and their fireworks show are superb.

But these minor league teams also have some great nicknames and mascots.

While we’re in Indiana, to my northwest are the Ft. Wayne TinCaps in tribute to Johnny Appleseed who spent his latter years there and is buried nearby.

Why TinCaps?

For the metal cooking pot John Chapman reportedly donned while planting apple trees throughout the Midwest.

We used to have a junior high school and a shopping center named after Johnny Appleseed in my home town of Mansfield, Ohio.

You gotta love the Montgomery (Alabama) Biscuits.

Team owners picked the name from a contest involving fans.

They liked the potential marketing and pun possibilities.

When opposing swatters are at the plate, fans chant , “Hey, butter, butter, butter!”

The team shoots biscuits into the stands with an air cannon and the team colors?

“Butter and Blue”.

In Pennsylvania,  fans cheer for the Altoona Curve, named for nearby “Horseshoe Curve”.

This 2,315 foot loop in the Pennsylvania railroad tracks in the Allegheny Mountains is more than just a “bend in the road”.

It might be one of the best curves in baseball.

Further west, the Las Vegas 51s play minor league baseball.

They’re named for nearby Area 51 of UFO fame and the team logo includes the face of an alien.

I also like Connecticut’s Hartford Yard Goats.

“Yard Goats” is rail yard slang for switch engines or terminal tractors which move engines about in rail centers.

In Binghamton, New York, the Mets have a farm team called the “Rumble Ponies”.

How did that come about?

In 2016, the team asked fans to nominate nicknames.

Fans suggested the Bullheads for the big catfish in the nearby Susquehanna River.

Others called for The Gobblers, The Stud Muffins, and in a tribute of sorts to nearby Triple City, “The Carousel Capital of the World”,  nominations were also made for the Rocking Horses and the Timber Jockeys.

They settled on Rumble Ponies.

Sounds like a cowboy version of “West Side Story”.

In Batavia, New York, the New York-Penn League team used to be called The Clippers, the Indians, the Pirates and Trojans.

In 1998, another fan poll suggested the team be known as the Muck Dogs.

They have 3 mascots; Maxwell T. Chomper, assisted by Homer and Slider.

I like the Auburn (New York) Doubledays, named in honor of Abner Doubleday, the Civil War general  credited with creating the national past-time.

Their mascot is Abner.


And, Corpus Christi has a “catchy” names for it’s minor league team.

The “Hooks” because the city is closely associated with fishing.

Then there’s the home of  The Master’s tournament, Augusta, Georgia.

When a golfer wins that prestigious event, they re awarded a special piece of clothing made of green material.

That’s why the Class A minor league baseball team is known as the Augusta GreenJackets.

Play ball!

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