For the especially nostalgic Minor League Baseball fan, 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year when it comes to turn back the clock or throwback nights. Some of the most notable of those promotions—including several anniversary-related events, and one of baseball’s best traditions—are highlighted in this week’s Promotions Watch.
During our March 15 look at Back to the Future nights, we noted the unique approach taken by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Low Class A; Midwest League). During its turn at the promotion, the team will wear replica Appleton Foxes uniforms from 1985—the year the film was released. In doing so, the Timer Rattlers are not only honoring a popular film, but celebrating the franchise’s long and storied history.
Even without the Back to the Future tie-in, many teams are incorporating throwback jersey nights into their promotional schedules. The Portland Sea Dogs (Class AA; Eastern League) will be among the first to do so when they celebrate the year 1995 as part of Throwback Thursday on April 23. The Sea Dogs will take the field wearing replicas of the teal uniforms they sported as an affiliate of the Florida Marlins as part of a busy night that includes an appearance from Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, as well as a 1995 team photo giveaway for the first 1,000 fans. That promotion will mark the first of five Throwback Thursday nights from the Sea Dogs.
Another team that will recall its 1990’s look is the Jacksonville Suns (Class AA; Southern League). As part of Breast Cancer Awareness night on May 15, the Suns will don red pullover jerseys that feature the logo used by the team throughout the 90’s. The jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit the Patience Assistance Foundation.
The month of May will also feature a unique throwback night from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High Class A; Carolina League), who will honor a brief period in the city’s baseball history on June 6 by wearing Myrtle Beach Hurricanes jerseys. As Myrtle Beach’s entry in the Class Low-A Sally League, the Hurricanes came to be in 1991 after playing the 1987-1990 seasons as the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays. With no new ballpark on the horizon, the Hurricanes relocated after the 1992 season and became the Hagerstown Suns. The Pelicans will wear the Hurricane jerseys for one night before auctioning them off.
Speaking of the Hagerstown Suns, the team will wear throwback jerseys every Saturday this year as part of the celebration of their 35th season. The Suns have yet to release the jersey’s official design, but from running the Hagerstown Suns’ Fan Club’s blog—the Fan Club sponsors the promotion—I can reveal this detail: The uniforms will be a modern twist on a design from the team’s past. Following the final Saturday home game on August 29, the jerseys will be available for auction.
Another Sally League club using throwback jerseys to celebrate a significant anniversary is the Asheville Tourists. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Tourists moniker, the team is hosting six throwback jersey giveaways at McCormick Field. Each giveaway highlights a significant season in Asheville’s baseball history, beginning with the 1915 uniform top on May 2, followed by 1954 (May 30), 1961 (June 13), 1968 (July 11), 1984 (July 25), and 1994 (August 15). Every jersey will be available to the first 1,000 fans in attendance.
Continuing with a focus on Low Class A squads, two Midwest League teams are hosting weekly throwback promotions to keep an eye on. The Peoria Chiefs will don throwback jerseys every Sunday. Described by the team as looking like “1980’s powder blue St. Louis Cardinals jerseys,” the uniform tops will be auctioned off during the team’s final Sunday home game on August 30. In honor of their 25th season, the Kane County Cougars are rolling back the clock on their ticket prices. Beginning in June, the Cougars will offer 1991 pricing—including $3 berm tickets, $4 reserved seats, and $5 box seats—every Thursday as part of their Throwback Thursday special. As a one-day promotion, the Bowling Green Hot Rods will sport Bowling Green Barons jerseys on May 29. The Barons were members of the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League from 1939-1942.
While these promotions at the lower levels should be kept in mind, fans looking for vast throwback offerings will find the Triple-A level to be a true haven this season. This makes sense, given that the International League and its western counterpart, the Pacific Coast League (PCL), are full of teams and cities with rich baseball traditions.
A team that is heavily promoting the nostalgia factor is the PCL’s Nashville Sounds. On every Thursday this season, the Sounds will host Throwback Thursday, during which they will wear 1940 Nashville Vols jerseys. This not only honors the 75th anniversary of the Vols’ Southern Association championship, but commemorates the Sounds’ inaugural season at First Tennessee Park, which is built on the site of the Vols’ home, the historic Sulphur Dell. Throwback Thursdays will also feature concession discounts, including $2 soft drinks.
Elsewhere in the PCL, several teams are incorporating throwback jersey nights or weekends on their promotional slates. The Albuquerque Isotopes will once again wear throwback jerseys as part of the popular Dukes Retro Night on July 25, while Omaha Storm Chasers are planning a similar promotion with Omaha Royals Night on August 1. Two teams will honor clubs from their respective cities’ past in weekend long promotions. The Tacoma Rainiers will sport 1979 Tacoma Tugs jerseys on May 2, followed by Tacoma Cubs (1966-1971) uniforms on May 3. Each uniform top will be auctioned off following its respective game. On July 11 and 12, Reno Aces will honor the 1948 Sunset League champion Reno Silver Sox with limited edition jerseys. The jerseys worn by the team will be auctioned off on July 11, when the first 1,000 fans through Aces Ballpark’s rotunda entrance will receive their own replica.
In the International League, several teams are featuring throwback jerseys on their promotional schedules, including the Rochester Red Wings. The Red Wings will sport 1971 uniforms as part of their Turn Back the Clock promotion on May 17. Also included in the promotion—which honors the Red Wings’ 1971 Governors Cup victory—are $5 tickets and 50-cent hot dogs. The Red Wings’ regional rival Syracuse Chiefs will wear throwback jerseys as part of a 1980’s-themed Throwback Thursday promotion on July 30. Elsewhere in the circuit, the Norfolk Tides will sport Norfolk Tars uniform tops on June 15 and August 3. The Tars were the city’s entry in the bygone Piedmont League, winning that circuit’s title six times from 1934-1953. During these promotions, the Tides will also sell hot dogs, popcorn, and soft drinks at 50-cents apiece.
Finally, this post would not be complete without a mention of Minor League Baseball’s ultimate history-related promotion. On May 27, the Birmingham Barons (Class Double A; Southern League) will head to the city’s historic Rickwood Field to host the 20th annual Rickwood Classic.
Some of the details for this year’s event were highlighted back in January, but the day features a lot of elements that will appeal to nostalgic fans. Both the Barons and their opponents—the Jacksonville Suns—will don replica 1948 jerseys, which repeats the theme that was employed during the first Rickwood Classic. In addition, former big leaguer Darryl Strawberry will appear as the guest of honor.
Rickwood Field opened in 1910 and went on to become one of baseball’s most storied ballparks. This year’s Rickwood Classic begins at 12:30 p.m.