Starting this series was an offshoot of a single event, the Batavia Muckdogs’ 2008 New York-Penn League championship season. That led to a look at system-wide records over time, which opened up the opportunity to look at each level of play across the Cardinals system.
In doing so, the top six minor league levels seemed right, as they are the consistent measures over time. Yet this work also enabled me to fully appreciate the handful of managers that have revolved among the Cardinals affiliates over the years.
In order to have a complete view of the minor league managers, I realized I needed to have a snapshot of the complex short-season rookie leagues as well. Hence the creation of this previously-unexpected report.
Florida-based rookie leagues – 1964 through 1976
In 1964, the Cardinals placed a team in what was called the Sarasota Rookie League. All four league clubs played their games in Sarasota. The next season, the league evolved to six teams, renamed the Florida Rookie League, with games in Bradenton as well as Sarasota. George Kissell’s club finished fifth.
A third name change in three seasons occurred in 1966 as the Gulf Coast League came into existence. Down to five clubs and a 48-game schedule, Kissell’s team finished in fifth. Cardinal Wayne Dees led the league in hits with 48.
In the five years from 1967 through 1971, the Cardinals finished last every other year with only one first-division finish (second in 1968). 1972 and 1973 brought an unusual situation as the Cardinals had two clubs in the same league! Perhaps it watered down the talent too much as neither the Cardinals nor the Red Birds were in contention either season. Hector Eduardo of Ken Boyer’s Cardinals hit six home runs in 1973 to pace the GCL.
Cardinals in Calgary – 1977 and 1978
After another last-place finish in 1975 and a fourth-place return the next season, the Cardinals left the Gulf Coast League. For 1977 and 1978, the Cardinals moved far north and west to the Pioneer League. In their first season, the Calgary Cardinals were led by league leaders Jim Reeves with a .376 batting average and future major leaguer Ty Waller with 96 hits and 77 runs scored.
During the next ten seasons, from 1979 through 1988, the Cardinals’ lowest classification team was Johnson City of the rookie-level Appalachian League.
Six years in Arizona – 1989 through 1994
In 1988, the Arizona League began play, modeled after the Gulf Coast League, still operating without the Cardinals. While the GCL was up to 12 teams, the Arizona League began with just four. The Cards joined the Arizona League in season two, 1989, as it expanded to six teams.
In 1990, Cardinal Jonas Hamlin led the Arizona League in hits (76), home runs (8) and runs scored (45). The next season, Steve Cerio topped the league in hits (80), home runs (9) and RBIs (47). In 1992, there were more Cardinals offensive leaders. Not-yet Super Joe McEwing paced the league with 55 runs while teammate Brian Rupp batted .386, had 80 hits and drove in 40, all Arizona League bests.
While there was plenty of hitting, there wasn’t consistent winning. Since its inception, the Arizona League Cardinals hovered around .500 until 1993. That year, Roy Silver’s Cardinals finished in second, just three games out.
The Cards saved their best for last as 1994 signaled both the end of the Cardinals’ involvement in the Arizona League as well as their only season atop the standings, achieved in their sixth year.
Once again, offense led the way for Scott Melvin’s club. Darren Tawwater hit five home runs, Nate Dishington had 36 RBIs and Jose Lugo’s 70 hits all led the Arizona League in 1994.
Back to the GCL again – 2007 to present
This time, the Cardinals stayed away from the complex rookie leagues for a dozen years until their return to the Gulf Coast League in 2007. Those first two teams struggled badly in the won-loss column (.376), though Cuban émigré and outfielder Ryde Rodriguez was named a 2008 GCL All-Star.
The Cardinals plan to continue to use the GCL in place of Johnson City as the first stopping point for Dominican and Venezuelan graduates as well as many June high school draftees.
Veteran scout Steve Turco is returning to managing after a ten-year absence from the bench to lead the 2009 Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
Only during their brief two-year stay in the Pioneer League did the Cardinals participate in a league with a playoff format. In terms of the regular season, the Cardinals have one first-place finish from 25 clubs over 23 seasons since 1964.
Their cumulative won-loss record is 668-737 (.475), with their best run during the Arizona League years. From 1989 through 1994, those Cardinals won at a .526 clip (172-155).
|Record all clubs||64-78, 89-94, 07-08||0.475||668||737||1||0|
|25 year all clubs||89-94, 07-08||0.489||213||223||1||0|
|10 year all clubs||07-08||0.376||41||68||0||na|
|GCL/FRL/SRL record||64-76, 07-08||0.453||425||514||0||na|
|Arizona League record||89-94||0.526||172||155||1||na|
|Pioneer League record||77-78||0.511||71||68||0||0|
|Gulf Coast||2008||0.309||17||38||5||na||Enrique Brito|
|Gulf Coast||2007||0.444||24||30||4||na||Enrique Brito|
|Calgary (Pioneer)||1978||0.536||37||32||3||Johnny Lewis|
|Calgary (Pioneer)||1977||0.486||34||36||4||Johnny Lewis|
|Gulf Coast||1976||0.529||27||24||4||na||Dave Ricketts|
|Gulf Coast||1975||0.327||17||35||7||na||Fred Koenig|
|Gulf Coast||1974||0.563||27||21||5||na||Tom Burgess|
|Gulf Coast Cardinals||1973||0.455||25||30||7||na||Ken Boyer|
|Gulf Coast Red Birds||1973||0.518||29||27||4||na||Le Roy Thomas|
|Gulf Coast Cardinals||1972||0.458||27||32||5||na||Bobby Dews|
|Gulf Caost Red Birds||1972||0.397||23||35||6||na||Julio Gotay|
|Gulf Coast||1971||0.377||20||33||7||na||Tom Burgess|
|Gulf Coast||1970||0.533||32||28||5||na||Tom Burgess|
|Gulf Coast||1969||0.389||21||33||7||na||Tom Burgess|
|Gulf Coast||1968||0.557||34||27||2||na||George Kissell|
|Gulf Coast||1967||0.439||25||32||6||na||George Kissell|
|Gulf Coast||1966||0.417||20||28||4||na||George Kissell|
|Florida Rookie||1965||0.466||27||31||5||na||George Kissell|
|Sarasota Rookie||1964||0.500||30||30||2||na||Fred Koenig|