• Steve Potter

6/19/2020 - Phillies Minor League History - The Johnson City Phillies


Time Period - 1957 to 1960


Venue : Keystone Field


City : Johnson City, TN


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Franchise History :


Professional baseball in Johnson City dates back to 1910 when the Johnson City Soldiers franchise was born, they played in the then newly formed Appalachian League as an independent team from 1911 to 1914. The league ceased operations till 1921 and the Soldiers were again a member thru the 1925 season. The league’s third iteration began in 1937 with the Soldiers once again an independent team member thru the 1938 season.


In 1939 the Johnson City Cardinals were formed as an affiliate of the St Louis Cardinals ... the initial Johnson City pro franchise agreement lasted thru the 1955 season. In 1956 the Appalachian League went on a one year hiatus but when the 1957 season opened the Phillies entered into an affiliation agreement with the Johnson City franchise. They played as the Phillies thru the 1960 season. The Cardinals once again fielded an Appalachian team in Johnson City for the 1961 season.


The New York Yankees came to Johnson City in 1964 moving their affiliation with the Harlan Smokies from Harlan, KY there. The Johnson City Yankees played as an affiliated member of the Appalachian League thru the 1974 season.


In 1975 the St. Louis Cardinals retuned as the franchise affiliate and have fielded a team in Johnson City since as members of the Appalachian League ... an ongoing 45 year arrangement ... it’s a 63 year marriage when factoring in the Cardinals presence from 1939 to 1955 and 1961 ... that’s impressive!


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The Stadium the Phillies teams played in :


The original Keystone Park Field was built in 1908 and became the home of the Johnson City Soldiers pro baseball team in 1910 .... it was rebuilt in 1956 and intended as the home of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise that had been in the city since 1939 ... the field was previously renamed as Cardinals Field in 1949.


During the 1970’s the stadium was renamed again as Howard Johnson Field after a local government official.


Field dimensions are 346 to LF, 370 to CF and 305 to RF ... there was a hill in play in RF up to the fence that inclined on a 45 degree angle, it was removed in 2010 when the field was remodeled.


The stadium is located at 111 Legion Street and remains in use as the the home of the Johnson City Cardinals. Ballparks Digest describes it as an intimate ball park with no frills and seating very close to the field. There is a small grandstand area with a cover and the seating is primarily benches ... old school style of watching baseball.


Stadium naming rights are attached now, it’s presently referred to as TVA Credit Union Ballpark.


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The Seasons :


1957


Appalachian League (D) ... Manager : Ben Taylor ... 46-23, 2nd place ... Attendance: 20,712.


18 year old short-stop Bobby Wine made his pro debut ... he played in 54 games and accumulated 232 plate appearances ( 202 AB’s ) posting a .337 batting average with 11 doubles, 6 triples, 6 home runs and 42 RBIs ... he went on to play in 12 major league seasons beginning in 1960 with the Phillies and Expos and later became a big league coach, manager (Atlanta -1985), scout and baseball operations executive in a very successful career.


19 year old LHP Chris Short went 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA in 15 games (99 IP) in what was also his first year in professional baseball. Chris went on to play in 15 big league seasons with the Phillies and Brewers ( 1959 to 1973 ) appearing in 501 games.


1958


Appalachian League (D) ... Manager : Eddie Lyons ... 47-24, 1st place ... Attendance: 14,286. League Champions.


18 year old infielder George Williams finished third in the league in batting average (.361) in 230 AB’s ... he played in parts of three major league seasons ( 1961-1962, 1964 ) with the Phillies, Colt 45s and Kansas City Athletics appearing in 59 games.


19 year old first baseman Danny Cater led the league in home runs ( 14 ) and RBIs ( 68 ) and Total Bases (153) while hitting .345 in 261 AB’s . He went on to play in 12 major league seasons (1964-1975) with the Phillies, White Sox, Athletics, Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals.


18 year old RHP Dennis Bennett posted the second best ERA in the league (1.52 in 77 IP) in his first pro season posting a 7-3 record in 13 games. He later pitched in seven big league seasons beginning in 1962 with the Phillies, Red Sox, Mets and Angels.


1959


Appalachian League (D) ... Manager : Eddie Lyons ... 36-31, 3rd place ... Attendance: 17,751.


17 year old RHP Ray Culp made his pro debut appearing in 4 games ... he would go on to play in 11 big league seasons (1963 to 1973) with the Phillies, Cubs and Red Sox. He won 14 or more games in six of those seasons and won 17 twice (1969 & 1970 with Boston). Culp appeared in 322 major league games and tossed 22 shutouts.


1960


Appalachian League (D) ... Manager : Benjamin Tompkins ... 29-40, 5th place ... Attendance: 10,355.


19 year old infielder Billy Sorrell made his pro debut appearing in 64 games and posting a .298 batting average in 225 AB’s, he stole 21 bases which was the second highest total in the league. Sorrell would go on to play in 3 major league seasons (1965,1967 & 1970) with the Phillies, Giants and Royals and two seasons in Japan (1972 & 1973) with the Hankyu Braves.


Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️


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