Around Minor League Baseball this season, many teams will honor their history through throwback or turn back the clock nights. This has been a trend for years—in fact, we did a roundup of similar promotions in 2015—but 2016 will be a particularly busy year. This edition of Promotions Watch looks at the most notable throwback nights this season, a slate that includes specialty jerseys, weekly promotions, and giveaways.
Turn back the clock nights are popular for fans of all ages, as teams not only use them to honor a bygone era, but incorporate them into social media offerings. The best example of that this year is the Columbus Clippers (Class AAA; International League), who are looking for fan participation for their Throwback Thursdays, as the team will post jerseys for voting on social media.
Some Throwback Thursdays are honoring a particular season. The Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are bringing back the weekly promotion, which this year will pay tribute to 1978. On every Thursday game at First Tennessee Park, the Sounds will wear replica jerseys from the 1978 season. The Sounds were established as a Class AA Southern League team in 1978, playing out of Herschel Greer Stadium.
The Altoona Curve (Class AA; Eastern League) will wear their 1999 uniforms as part of the Throwback Thursday special at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Along with bringing their former mascot, Steamer, out of retirement, the Curve will offer Thirsty Thursday specials, discounts for college students, and reduced pricing on hot dogs, tickets, and sodas. The jerseys worn on Throwback Thursday will be auctioned off on September 1 to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.
Another weekly special to watch comes from the Lancaster JetHawks (High A; California League), who are celebrating their 20th season. The JetHawks will honor the occasion with 20th Anniversary Monday, which will feature throwback prices on tickets, plus player jersey t-shirt giveaways for four dates: April 18, May 16, June 6, and August 1. There will also be jersey giveaways on select Saturdays, and a hat series that will include three generations of JetHawks caps.
As they celebrate their 40th season, the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) have several promotions in the works. Along with Anniversary Mondays—which include retro caps and much more—the Drillers are planning several jersey giveaways. The most notable of those giveaways is the Ivan Rodriguez jersey on June 23. Rodriguez, who played for the Drillers in 1991, will be on hand as the Drillers induct him into their Hall of Fame.
For some teams, turn back the clock nights are yearly traditions. The Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are once again hosting Dukes Retro Night. On June 10, the team will revive the Dukes name, which was used in Albuquerque for much of the 20th century—most recently by a Pacific Coast League franchise that played at Albuquerque Sports Stadium from 1972-2000. Dukes Retro Night is part of a busy evening at Isotopes Park, as the Isotopes will also host an induction ceremony for the Albuquerque Professional Baseball Hall of Fame and hand out 3,000 mesh caps.
For this year’s edition of one of the best traditions in baseball, the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) will return to Rickwood Field on June 1 for the annual Rickwood Classic. As they face the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Barons will welcome back former Birmingham A’s pitcher and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. This year’s classic—which will honor Hall of Famers from all eras of Birmingham baseball—will see the Barons take the field in 1967 Birmingham A’s jerseys.
The Norfolk Tides (Class AAA; International League), are reviving their turn back the clock nights, as they are set to honor the Norfolk Tars on June 21 and August 8. Turn back the clock nights also feature discounts throughout Harbor Park, including 50-cent hot dogs.
Once again, the Tacoma Rainiers will host throwback weekend at Cheney Stadium. Over the weekend of May 14-15, the Rainiers will pay tribute to both the Tacoma Giants and the Tacoma Tigers. The team was known as the Giants when it was established in 1960, and played as the Tigers from 1980-1994. Both uniforms will be available via silent auction, the proceeds of which will benefit Metro Parks Tacoma and Puyallup Cal Ripken Baseball.
For one night, the Salem Red Sox (High A; Carolina League) will pay tribute to the Salem Buccaneers. On August 13, the Red Sox will wear Buccaneers as part of their annual Turn Back the Clock promotion. Buccaneers was the name of the team from 1987-1994.
A year after celebrating their 35th season with a specialty jersey, the Hagerstown Suns (Low A; Sally League) are at it again this year. On Saturday nights, the team will wear throwback jerseys to celebrate their 10th season as an affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
While jerseys are the typical route for most teams, there are some offerings that deviate from retro uniforms. In a promotion we’ve already covered, the Harrisburg Senators (Class AA; Eastern League) are introducing The One & Only World Famous, Life Sized Bobblehead Hall of Fame to FNB Field. The life sized bobbleheads are being introduced in conjunction with the team’s 30th anniversary, and the unveilings will be accompanied by appearances from former Senators such as Vladimir Guerrero and Cliff Floyd. Each life sized bobblehead will have its own replica giveaway.
The Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League) have an anniversary of their own this season, which is the 85th year for Modern Woodmen Ballpark. On August 20, the River Bandits will hand out replicas of the heralded ballpark, which first opened as Municipal Stadium in 1931.
For a promotion that combines giveaways with specialty jerseys, fans should check out what the Salt Lake Bees (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have in store. The team is planning two throwback nights this season, the first of which will take place on April 29, with the second unfolding on August 19. The first throwback night will be a tribute to the Salt Lake Gulls, a Pacific Coast League franchise that played in the city from 1975-1984. For the final throwback promotion, the Bees will play under their former name—the Salt Lake Buzz—and hand out bobbleheads of former Buzz and current Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz. Ortiz was a member of the Buzz—as the Bees were known from 1994-2001—for parts of the 1997-1999 seasons.
Finally, this rundown would not be complete without a promotion from one the minors’ most storied franchises. This season, the Reading Fightin Phils (Class AA: Eastern League) are celebrating 50 seasons as a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate.
As one of the longest pairings in the minors, the connection between Reading and the Phillies is steeped in tradition. The Fightin Phils are emphasizing that heritage on their promotions schedule this year, which features numerous 50th-season related giveaways. Among the items fans should look out for include golden bobbleheads of past Reading players, a card series giveaway, and a 50th season jersey. The Fightin Phils and the Phillies are tied with the Lakeland Flying Tigers (High A; Florida State League) and the Detroit Tigers for the longest affiliation of any minor league team.
Throwback nights make a good time at the ballpark, as they honor the tradition of baseball within certain cities and resonate with today’s fans.