Excellent Adventure Day # 97
Sailing with the Tide
We didn’t know it at the time but the Erie Sailors were a team in a period of transition when we saw them in 1991, That season and the season before it the Sailors were, like a handful of other clubs, a “co-op” minor league team. These teams were mostly made up of players who either hadn’t been drafted out of college or had been but were then released. Most of the time these teams were not very successful on the field and the ’91 Sailors finished 37-41 that year, though the team did make the playoffs.
But the next year, everything changed in Erie. The expansion Florida Marlins needed a place for their first crop of draftees to play even before they started playing themselves the next year. Erie was chosen and for one summer, like Bend, Oregon where Sue and I wound up, the town got big league attention…check out some of the links below.
The team lasted just one more season in Erie, however and then the franchise relocated to Fishkill, New York where they continue to play as the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Here are a few photos of the scorecard and rosters from that Sunday evening’s game between the Pittsfield Mets and the Erie Sailors. It was a wild game with the teams trading the lead all night until home runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings finally gave the Sailors the win.
Like many co-op teams, the Sailors were built to be try to be competitive at their level but not stocked with future major league talent. In fact, not a single member of the 1991 Erie Sailors ever got to the Major Leagues and only five of them got as far as Double-A. The most successful hitter on the Sailors was second baseman Rick Juday who had four hits the night we were there. The Michigan State product lasted just two more years in professional baseball, though, calling it quits in 2003.
The team’s best pitcher was the starter we saw, Mike Lynch, who got a shot with the Florida State League’s Winter Haven Red Sox the next season but left the game after that.
Here’s an interesting story from the Miami Herald about the first team in the Miami Marlins history, which played in Erie the following year in 1992. Interestingly, the starting pitcher for the Erie Sailors in their first game was also named Lynch, but this time it was John Lynch who went on to become a longtime safety in the NFL and is now the GM of the San Francisco 49ers.
An even more interesting story comes from the South Florida Sun Sentinel during that historic 1992 season itself. Two cool tidbits to look for, one is the reference to a home run that was supposedly hit by Babe Ruth over the smokestack you will see in Friday’s video that includes Erie. The other references the GM of the Erie Sailors of that era, who also happened to be one my earliest employers when he managed a nightclub where I DJed in Syracuse in the early 80s.
Finally, perhaps you are interested in some early Erie Sailors.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of another “Double Day” on the Excellent Adventure. We saw games in two Ontario cities that have long since lost their New York-Penn League teams, Hamilton and Welland.
I also want to clarify the new plan for the Low Mileage Tour I outlined yesterday. Each day, there will be some version of a daily recap like this one with a look at some of the baseball artifacts from the stop we made that day in 1991. The video, however, will be rolled into a weekly video that will feature all of our stops through Wednesday of each week and come out on Friday afternoon. A look at Ainsworth Field and the Erie Sailors will be part of this Friday’s video.