Since the origin of this work was the 2008 championship season of the St. Louis Cardinals’ current New York-Penn League affiliate, the Batavia Muckdogs, it also seems a fitting place to begin my in-depth looks at the Cardinals organization’s six highest-level franchises over the last 25 years.
The Cardinals organization joined the NY-Penn League in 1981, historically using the club as the initial stopping-off point for their recent college draftees. They first located their club in Erie, Pennsylvania, where they remained for seven years, not once making the playoffs.
Though the original focus of this series was the last quarter century, I am including the records from the first three Erie seasons for completeness. The farther one goes back in time, the closer one gets to an aggregate .500 mark. The overall win rate of the Cardinals in the league over their entire history is .492.
|25 year record||84-08||0.488||921||966||3|
|Ten year record||99-08||0.479||360||391||1|
|State College||2006||0.520||39||36||3||Mark DeJohn|
|New Jersey||2005||0.487||37||39||4||Mark DeJohn|
|New Jersey||2004||0.547||41||34||2||Tommy Shields|
|New Jersey||2003||0.425||31||42||5||Tommy Shields|
|New Jersey||2002||0.513||39||37||3||Tommy Shields|
|New Jersey||2001||0.461||35||41||5||Brian Rupp|
|New Jersey||2000||0.408||31||45||6||Jeff Shireman|
|New Jersey||1999||0.395||30||46||8||Jeff Shireman|
|New Jersey||1998||0.453||34||41||4||Jose Oquendo|
|New Jersey||1997||0.473||35||39||3||Jeff Shireman|
|New Jersey||1996||0.373||28||47||5||Scott Melvin|
|New Jersey||1995||0.461||35||41||3||Luis Melendez|
|New Jersey||1994||0.573||43||32||1||WC||Roy Silver|
|Glens Falls||1993||0.481||37||40||3||Steve Turco|
|Erie||1981||0.595||44||30||2||Roger Freed/Sonny Ruberto|
WC = won championship
L1 = lost in first playoff round
For the 1988 season, the Cardinals took their NY-P entry to the Great White North, Hamilton. Ontario. While they would remain there only five seasons, the fifth and final in 1992 was most memorable. Chris Maloney’s club put together the best record in the entire Cardinals system in at least the last 25 years.
That club won 56 and lost just 20 (.737), but fell in a one-game first-round playoff. 65,584 fans came out in 1992 to see the Redbirds. The team and league’s co-lead in wins were shared by then-future MLB pitcher T.J. Mathews and long-since forgotten Dave Oehrlein. Oehrlein also paced the league with 99 strikeouts.
Following is the subset of Cardinals system records over the last decade and quarter century held by this franchise. While the NY-P entry has experienced two excellent individual seasons, the overall picture is less positive. Their 17 losing seasons in the last 25 is the poorest across the system and their total of three playoff appearances is tied for the fewest. The complete list for all clubs is in the initial article of the series.
Cardinals system records
|Last ten years (1999-2008)||Level||Mark||Record||Years||Club|
|Best single season||club||0.622||46-28||2008||Batavia Muckdogs (SS-A)|
|Most league championships||club||one||4-way tie: Mem/PB/QC/Batavia|
|Last 25 years (1984-2008)||Level||Mark||Record||Years||Club|
|Best single season||club||0.737||56-20||1992||Hamilton Redbirds (SS-A)|
|Most losing seasons||club||17||Bat/SC/NJ/GF/Ham/Erie (SS-A)|
|Fewest playoff appearances||club||three (tie)||92,94,08||Bat/SC/NJ/GF/Ham/Erie (SS-A)|
Upon leaving Hamilton, Glens Falls, New York served as a one-year stopping point for the franchise in 1993, as the new ballpark in Sussex, New Jersey was not ready. The club drew a league-best 78,725, but finished third in their division.
The new New Jersey Cardinals got out of the gate quickly, taking the organization’s first New York-Penn League title in 1994. They would not even reach the playoffs again until winning the crown in 2008, however.
Among the many skippers to have led the club over the years was Jose Oquendo in 1998. It remains “Secret Weapon’s” only regular-season managing experience in professional baseball. More recently, he has managed in winter ball and for Team Puerto Rico.
In fact, look again at the early managers of the franchise. Including Oquendo, six of the former New York-Penn skippers are employed by the Cardinals today. They include Steve Turco, Joe Rigoli, Maloney, Dan Radison and Joe Pettini. I find that quite amazing.
In recent years, the facilities in New Jersey had begun to fall behind standards and ownership sold the franchise to a Pennsylvania group prior to the 2006 season. The buyers also owned the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Double-A club. The New Jersey Cardinals became the State College Spikes for 2006. The ballpark, located on the Penn State University campus, was brand new.
The handwriting was on the wall from the very start and the new owners formally strengthened their ties with Pittsburgh as soon as the Cardinals Player Development Contract (PDC) expired. In came the Bucs and out went the Cards following that one season in State College.
The Cardinals wanted to remain in the league for 2007 and beyond. After considering several destinations, they took over for the departing Philadelphia Phillies in Batavia, New York. While this is their first affiliation with the Cardinals, Batavians are most familiar with the New York-Penn League as the town is the only original member of the circuit, founded in 1939.
The 2008 Muckdogs capped a 46-20 season by taking the league championship, the first to be celebrated locally since 1963. It was the best record in the Cardinals system at any level in the last 15 years.
In recent years, local ownership has been on tenuous financial footing, but established a promising management agreement with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings that is heading into its second year. In terms of supplying players, the Cardinals are committed to Batavia through the 2010 season, having extended their Player Development Contract last fall.
The club’s manager all the way back to their final season in New Jersey in 2005 is veteran minor league skipper and former Cardinals major league coach Mark DeJohn. “DJ” will return for his fifth consecutive season in 2009, extending his own franchise record.