6/10/2020 - Phillies Minor League History - The Huron Phillies
Time Period - 1965 to 1968
Venue : Memorial Ball Park
City : Huron, SD
Franchise History :
The Huron Phillies began play in the Northern League in 1965 and were an affiliated franchise thru the 1968 season. In 1969 the Chicago Cubs took over the affiliation and played two seasons. There hasn’t been an affiliated professional baseball team in Huron since.
Pro baseball was initially played in the city by the Huron Packers who played in the Dakota and South Dakota League from 1920 to 1921.
A form of pro baseball returned with a team called the Huron Elks and Jims in 1954, they played in the Basin League which was a semi pro organization with a mixture of amateurs and professionals. In 1960 league rules were changed to limit three professionals per team, in 1961 it was reduced to two and in 1962 none were allowed. The league was one of the precursors for the collegiate summer ball leagues of today. The Huron Club played in the league thru the 1962 season, the Basin League folded after the 1973 season.
In 1994 the independent North Central Professional League fielded a team in Huron called the Heaters however the league disbanded after a year and a half of operation.
The Stadium the Phillies played in : Memorial Ball Park
The ballpark was built in 1950 and was financed by donations from an organization called the Huron Sertoma Club which is a non-profit community service club. It’s located on 4th Street NE and Jersey Street NE but locals will tell ya the easiest way to find it is to find “the Pheasant” and look across the street ... Huron has the world’s largest Pheasant statue ( 28 feet high - 22 tons ) that was built in honor of folklore of a giant pheasant that reportedly roamed the area in the early 1880’s 😳.
Field dimensions are pretty standard at 320 ft to left, 350 to center and 320 to right however it’s the amphitheater style seating in the grandstand that makes the park unique. I’ve copied in the following excerpt describing the seating area as written by Eric and Wendy Pastore on their website Digitalballparks :
“We've never seen anything that comes close to a configuration that looks like this. Built into hilly berms, the grandstand is a long cascading metal set of seating, built onto a concrete base. Staircases come off the grandstand onto four rows of stonework that make for tiered picnic areas.”
I’ve also posted a few pictures of the stadium from Eric and Wendy’s website.
The stadium continues to be in use today, amateur teams utilize the field.
The Seasons :
Northern League ... Manager : Joe Lonnett ... 31-35, 3rd place ... Attendance: 44,001.
17 year old RHP Billy Champion made his pro debut going 7-3 with a stellar 1.20 ERA in 13 games ( 10 starts, 75 IP ). Champion went on to pitch in 8 big league seasons beginning with the Phillies in 1969, he also pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers.
20 year old catcher Mike Compton also made his pro debut playing in 44 games, he would go on to play in the majors for the Phillies in 1969 and 1970 and later became a long time coach and coordinator in the Phillies minor league player development department.
Northern League ... Manager : Joe Lonnett ... 32-35, 3rd place ... Attendance: 35,110.
19 year old outfielder Larry Hisle made his pro debut and posted a .433 batting average with 3 homers and 13 RBIs in 21 games ( 68 AB’s ). He would debut in the big leagues in 1968 with the Phillies and would play in 14 major league seasons with the Phillies, Twins and Brewers - was one of my early favorite players ...
18 year old infielder John Vukovich also made his pro debut posting a .257 average in 67 games ( 271 PA’s ). “Vuke” went on to play in the big leagues for parts of 10 seasons beginning in 1968 with the Phillies and also played for the Reds and Brewers. He became a legendary Phillies coach after his playing days concluded.
Northern League ... Manager : Joe Lonnett ... 27-40, 6th place ... Attendance: 40,242.
22 year old outfielder Raymond Starnes was second in the loop in batting average with a .348 mark in 198 AB’s ... he played 7 seasons in the Phillies minor league organization with his last three at AA level Reading followed by one season in 1973 in the Mexican League before retiring.
18 year old infielder Toby Harrah made his pro debut playing in 63 games, he would go on to play in 17 major league seasons beginning in 1969 with the Washington Senators, moving with them to Texas to become the Rangers and also playing for the Indians and Yankees.
17 year old 1B Andre Thornton also made his pro debut appearing in 19 games. The Phoenixville, PA product went on to play in 14 big league seasons from 1973 to 1987 with the Cubs, Expos and Indians becoming a multi time American League All Star.
Northern League ... Manager : Dallas Green ... 26-43, 5th place ... Attendance: 17,554.
Dallas Green made his pro managerial debut and had a couple standout players on his squad playing in their initial pro seasons who would become world champions on his 1980 big league Phillies squad ...
17 year old Greg Luzinski led the league in home runs with 13 and RBIs ( 43 ) in 57 games ( 212 AB’s). Greg would debut in the big leagues in 1970 with the Phillies and play 15 major league seasons ( 11 with Phillies and 4 with the White Sox ) amassing 307 HR’s and 1,128 RBIs ... he now owns the vest BBQ place in CBP 🤓
17 year old Manny Trillo played in 35 games and posted a .261 BA in 92 AB’s ... he would go on to debut in the big leagues in 1973 with the Oakland A’s and play in 17 major league seasons with the A’s, Cubs, Phillies, Indians, Expos, Giants and Reds.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️