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23. 1992 Greenville Braves
Record: 100-43
Southern League (Double-A)

By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians

(photo courtesy of Greenville Braves)

In becoming the Southern League’s first 100-game winner, the 1992 Greenville Braves were led by a cluster of future major leaguers. Most notable of the group was a part-time shortstop and a full-time catcher who went on to become mainstays on a major league dynasty.

The town of Greenville, located in the Piedmont region of South Carolina, joined the ranks of pro ball in 1907. Here, a team called the Edistoes went 25-28 in the Class D South Carolina League before dropping out of the league in July. The next season, Greenville was a charter member of a new Class D circuit, the Carolina Association. In their first season, led by a young “Shoeless” Joe Jackson who won the batting title (.346), the Spinners finished second - a thin one-half game behind Greensboro. The team remained in the league four more years, a stay which included a championship in 1910.

In 1919, Greenville began a 12-year sojourn in the Class C South Atlantic League, their first of four separate stays in the league. The highlight of the first visit to the Sally was a pair of pennants in 1926-27 and a second half title followed by a playoff championship in 1930. After the latter season, the league disbanded and Greenville found themselves in the short-lived Class D Palmetto League in 1931. Following a 37-39 mark in a truncated campaign, the town was without a pro team until 1938, when the Spinners rejoined the Sally, which itself had been reconstituted two years earlier. In the second installment, which lasted until 1942, the Spinners finished in the first division once over the five-year span.

Following World War II, Greenville played its final two episodes in the Sally, which sandwiched two short forays in the Tri-State League. In 1946, the Sally, now a Class A loop, featured a new Spinners club which finished third. After a drop to fifth, Greenville finished third in 1948 and defeated Columbia in the playoffs to win the championship. Following a sixth place campaign in 1950, Greenville dropped down to the Class B Tri-State League. After a pair of second division finishes, the city dropped out of baseball when the league folded in 1952, re-emerging in a new Tri-State in 1954. Following a second half title in 1955, Greenville left the league for good. Six years later, the team returned to the Sally for the fourth and final time. After a pair of so-so performances, the team dropped out of the league for good.

The 1992 Braves won the first half of the pennant with a 49-23, .681 record, a comfortable 11 games ahead of Jacksonville. In the second half, the Braves were even more dominant, going 51-20, .718, 16-˝ ahead of Charlotte. Greenville went on to defeat Charlotte, three games to none before dispatching Chattanooga, three games to two to win the championship. Overall, the team finished on top in several key batting categories including: average (.266), runs (709), hits (1,258) and home runs (130). The pitching staff was equally dominant, finishing with top marks in ERA (2.64), strikeouts (1,010) and shutouts (24).

The team was managed by 42-year-old Grady Little, one of the most successful minor league pilots of the last twenty years. Little, a native of Abilene, TX, was a minor league catcher in the Braves and Yankees organizations from 1968-73, reaching as high as the AA Eastern League. He started his coaching career in 1974 with the Yankees’ West Haven club in the Eastern League, but was out of baseball from 1975-79, working in the cotton business in Texas. Little returned to baseball in 1980 as manager of Baltimore’s Appalachian club in Bluefield. He managed for the Orioles through 1984, skippered Toronto’s Carolina League affiliate at Kinston in 1985, then joined the Atlanta organization for a ten-year stay. Little’s teams won five titles and he finished his managerial career with a 1,054-983, .539 record. In addition to Greenville, he won championships at Hagerstown (Carolina) in 1981, Kinston in 1985, Pulaski (Appalachian) in 1986 and Richmond (International) in 1994. In 1992 he earned Manager of the Year honors from Baseball America and The Sporting News. After managing Richmond to a second place finish in 1995, Little was bullpen coach for the National League West Division champion San Diego Padres. From 1997-99 he was bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. Last year he became bench coach for the Cleveland Indians, a position he still holds. In 2000 he managed the Indians for 13 games while Charlie Manuel was absent on medical leave.

Javy Lopez
(photo courtesy of Greenville Braves)

From the batters box, the ’92 Braves were led by their hard-hitting catcher, Javy Lopez (.321-16-60). This performance garnered him All-Star honors and he repeated the feat in the International League the following year. Lopez joined Atlanta for good in 1994, just in time in to be part of the Braves’ pennant machine. While in the big leagues, he was named to two All-Star teams (1997-98), the second based on his 34-homer season.

In mid-season, a young shortstop joined Greenville from Class A Durham (Carolina). In 67 games, Larry Wayne (Chipper) Jones, the first player selected in the 1990 June draft, batted an impressive .346, while collecting 37 extra base hits in only 266 at bats. Despite his brief stint, he was named to the Southern League All-Star team while also being selected Double-A player of the year. In 1993, Jones batted .325 for Triple AAA Richmond (International), picking up another slew of awards. After sitting out the 1994 season with an injury, he joined the parent Braves in 1995. So far, the high point of his stellar major league career occurred in 1999, when he batted (.319-45-110) and was named National League Most Valuable Player.

Also chipping in at the plate were outfielders Mike Kelly (.229-25-71) and Mel Nieves (.283-18-76). Kelly went on to play 327 games for the Braves, Reds, Devil Rays and Rockies (1994-99), batting .241 while Nieves played in 458 contests for the Braves, Padres, Tigers and Reds (1992-98), hitting .231 with 63 home runs.

The Greenville Braves top pitcher was Nate Minchey (13-6) who finished tied for the league high in wins while finishing second (2.30) in the ERA race. Despite this success, he never excelled in the majors, going 3-7, 6.75 for the Red Sox and Rockies (1992-97). He currently is pitching for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League. Minchey was assisted by top relief pitcher Andy Nezelek (9-2) and, in part-time roles, Pat Gomez (7-0, 1.13), Kevin Coffman (6-0, 2.13) and Brian Bark (5-0, 1.15) also contributed greatly to the team’s success.

Left-handed reliever Pedro Borbon (8-2) pitched briefly for Atlanta in 1992-93 and for the full seasons of 1995-96. He earned one save in the 1995 World Series. After being on the Disabled List all of 1997 and much of 1998, Borbon pitched for Los Angeles in 1999 and is in his second year with Toronto. His father, also Pedro Borbon, was a right-handed reliever in the majors for 12 years (1969-80) and was a bullpen mainstay for Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of the 1970s, appearing in three World Series. In 1972 he relieved in six of the Series’ seven games.

In the remaining years of the 20th century, Greenville earned two more playoff spots. The Braves won the championship in 1997, but was bounced in the first round in 2000.

The 1992 Greenville Braves, paced by a pair of future Atlanta All-Stars, won the pennant with a dominating performance. In doing so the team set two league records. No other Southern League team, past or present, has been able to better the Braves’ total of 100 wins or their winning percentage of .699.

1992 Southern League Standings
TEAM W L PCT GB TEAM W L PCT GB
EAST WEST
GREENVILLE 100 43 .699 - CHATTANOOGA 90 53 .629 -
CHARLOTTE 70 73 .490 30.0 HUNTSVILLE 81 63 .563 9.5
JACKSONVILLE 68 75 .476 32.0 MEMPHIS 71 73 .493 19.5
ORLANDO 60 82 .423 39.5 BIRMINGHAM 68 74 .479 21.5
CAROLINA 52 92 .361 48.5 KNOXVILLE 56 88 .389 34.5

1992 Greenville Braves batting statistics
BATTER POS GP AB R H BI 2B 3B HR BB SO SB BA
Mike Bell 1B,P 121 421 57 107 63 23 5 9 55 75 1 .254
Jose Olmeda 2B,SS,3B 106 341 54 84 33 22 4 2 38 50 12 .246
Mike Mordecai SS 65 222 31 58 31 13 1 4 29 31 9 .261
Ed Giavanola 3B 75 270 39 72 30 5 0 5 29 40 4 .267
Tony Tarasco OF,2B 133 489 73 140 54 22 2 15 27 84 33 .286
Mike Kelly OF,1B 133 471 83 108 71 18 4 25 65 162 22 .229
Mel Nieves OF 100 350 61 99 76 23 5 18 52 98 6 .283
Javy Lopez C 115 442 63 142 60 28 3 16 24 47 7 .321
Aubrey Waggoner DH,OF 90 237 51 64 45 14 3 14 70 81 21 .270
Ed Alicea OF,2B 102 315 49 74 33 13 8 5 47 55 13 .235
Pat Kelly 3B,2B,SS,OF 98 325 44 81 36 12 2 0 26 55 11 .249
Eduardo Perez C,1B 91 275 28 63 41 16 0 6 24 41 3 .229
Chipper Jones SS 67 266 43 92 42 17 11 9 11 32 14 .346
Preston Watson P 48 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 .000
Don Strange P 48 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000
Andy Nezelek P 46 7 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 0 .143
Judd Johnson P 43 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .250
Pedro Borbon P 39 7 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 4 0 .143
Nate Minchey P 28 19 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 .105
Dennis Burlingame P 26 15 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 .133
Ramon Caraballo 2B 24 93 15 29 8 4 4 1 14 13 10 .312
Scott Taylor P 22 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .000
Brian Kowitz OF 21 56 9 16 6 4 0 0 6 10 1 .286
Brad Woodall P 21 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
Donnie Elliott P 19 9 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 .111
Mike Hostetler P 16 8 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 .125
Greg McMichael P 15 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
Marcos Vasquez P 14 8 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .125
Brian Bark P 12 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000
Pat Gomez P 8 6 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500
Kevin Coffman P 6 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333
Steve Swail C 5 14 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 5 0 .214
Jeff Treadway 2B 4 11 1 5 1 2 0 0 2 1 0 .455
Hector Roa 2B,3B 2 9 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 3 0 .333
Tim Gillis 3B,1B 2 7 1 3 3 0 1 0 1 2 0 .429
Lee Heath OF 2 4 2 1 3 0 0 1 1 1 1 .250
Darren Ritter P 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 143 4722 709 1258 643 237 53 130 526 923 168 .266

1992 Greenville Braves pitching statistics
PITCHER W L PCT G GS CG SH SV IP H BB SO ERA
Nate Minchey 13 6 .684 28 25 5 1 0 172 137 40 115 2.30
Andy Nezelek 9 2 .818 46 4 0 0 1 108 87 23 114 2.26
Dennis Burlingame 9 9 .500 26 25 3 2 0 152 137 62 84 3.09
Pedro Borbon 8 2 .800 39 10 0 0 3 94 73 42 79 3.06
Pat Gomez 7 0 1.000 8 8 1 1 0 48 25 19 38 1.13
Donnie Elliott 7 2 .778 19 17 0 0 0 104 76 35 100 2.08
Judd Johnson 6 0 1.000 43 0 0 0 2 68 56 14 40 1.71
Kevin Coffman 6 0 1.000 6 6 1 0 0 38 23 16 33 2.13
Mike Hostetler 6 2 .750 16 13 1 0 0 81 78 23 57 3.90
Marcos Vasquez 6 4 .600 14 14 1 0 0 73 81 30 38 4.30
Brian Bark 5 0 1.000 11 11 2 1 0 55 36 13 49 1.15
Don Strange 5 3 .625 48 0 0 0 18 60 43 19 58 2.40
Greg McMichael 4 2 .667 15 4 0 0 1 46 37 13 53 1.36
Preston Watson 4 6 .400 48 1 0 0 6 73 58 36 81 1.96
Brad Woodall 3 4 .429 21 1 0 0 1 39 26 17 45 3.20
Darren Ritter 1 0 1.000 1 0 0 0 0 4 3 1 6 4.50
Scott Taylor 1 1 .500 22 4 0 0 1 39 44 18 20 6.69
Mike Bell 0 0 ---- 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0.00
Totals 100 43 .699 143 143 14 24 33 1255 1022 422 1010 2.64