Top 100 Teams
Eastern League (Double-A)
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
This is the 28th article in a series of the 100 greatest Minor League Baseball teams. See “Top 100 Teams” for archived stories
| Jim Tracy (L) and Cliff Floyd. |
(photo courtesy of Harrisburg Senators)
In the past 50 years, only three teams in the Class AA Eastern League have played better than .680 ball. The first two played in Reading in 1953 and 1983, with the latter being included in the top 100. The third played 10 years later in Pennsylvania’s state capitol as a farm team of the Expos.
The city of Harrisburg, located in south central Pennsylvania, has a long and storied involvement with the national pastime. At the dawn of the minor leagues, in 1883, Harrisburg placed a team in the Interstate Association, claimed by some to be the forerunner of today’s International League. After a second place finish (43-33), Harrisburg played half a season in the Eastern League the following year, disbanding on July 4 with a 16-25 record. Other 19th century baseball stopovers included short stays in the Atlantic Association (1890), Pennsylvania State League (1893-95) and Atlantic League (1900). Harrisburg’s best season occurred in 1894, when a team called the Senators won the first half title, only to lose a disputed title game with Pottsville.
In 1904, another team called the Senators joined the brand-new Tri-State League. Operating as an independent league from 1904-06, the circuit joined the National Association in 1907 as a Class B loop. During its eleven-year existence, the team won titles in 1912 and 1914, the latter finishing with a classy 78-32, .709 record. Following the 1914 season, the league disbanded.
The next year, a team from Harrisburg joined the elite International League, albeit as a replacement franchise. In July, enduring fierce competition from a Federal League club, Newark elected to finish out the season in Harrisburg. The following year, with the team returned to Newark, Harrisburg fielded another replacement franchise, this time for Troy in the Class B New York State League. After a last place finish in 1916, the team lasted just two months in 1917 before disbanding with a 11-41 record.
Seven years later, Harrisburg joined the New York-Pennsylvania League, a Class B loop in its second year of existence. During its twelve-year stay, the club, also known as the Senators, won titles in 1927, 1928 and 1931. After a pair of second division finishes, the team dropped out of the league after the 1935 season.
Just before America’s full-scale involvement in World War II, Harrisburg gave pro ball another try, placing a team in the Class B Interstate League in 1940. In ten years of play (1940-42, 1946-52) the Senators, as a farm team of the Pirates, won a flag in 1941 with a sparkling 81-43, .653 record. Following the war, after seven years spent mostly in the second division, the Senators left the league following the 1952 season.
A long 35 years later, the Senators placed a team in the Class AA Eastern League as an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During its first year, in 1987, the club won all the marbles, beating Vermont, three games to one in the playoff finals. After a division crown in 1989, the club signed a working agreement with the Expos. This paid off with another title in 1991. Two years later, the club was poised for another.
| Joey Eischen |
(photo courtesy of Harrisburg Senators)
The 1993 Senators started quickly, and after April 28, never looked back. The team started 35-9 and continued to dominate even after such early-season standouts as Cliff Floyd, Rondell White, Joey Eischen, Kirk Reuter and Gabe White were promoted to AAA Ottawa. In the end, the Senators ran away with the flag, finishing 19 games ahead of Canton-Akron. In the post-season playoffs, the Senators dusted the Albany-Colonie Yankees, three games to one in the first round. In the finals, Harrisburg dropped the first two to Canton-Akron before roaring back to take the last three and the pennant. Collectively, the team had the league’s best batting mark (.278), scored the most runs (802) and stole the most bases (187).
The Senators were managed by one-time Cubs (1980-81) outfielder Jim Tracy. He had begun his managerial career in 1987 with the Cubs’ Peoria affiliate in the Midwest League. That team became the subject of Joseph Bosco’s book “The Boys Who Would Be Cubs” published by Morrow. In 1993, Tracy was named The Sporting News’ and the Eastern League’s Manager of the Year and piloted the National League team in the mid-season Class AA All-Star Game. After managing AAA Ottawa (International) in 1994, Tracy was bench coach for Montreal for four years. He is now manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers after serving two years as the team’s bench coach.
The Senators’ roster was liberally sprinkled with future Montreal Expos. The team was anchored by Floyd, who divided his time between first base and the outfield. Floyd (.329) finished second in the batting race, and won the other two legs of the Triple Crown by hitting the most home runs (26) and collecting the
most RBI (101). Outfielder Glenn Murray also poled 26 home runs for the Senators, tying Floyd for the league lead. Other fine seasons were posted by Rondell White (.328), Oreste Marrero (.333) and, in a part-time role, Curtis Pride (.356).
Several of the Senators won mid-season or post-season honors. Floyd was named first baseman on the Eastern League, National Association Class AA and Baseball America Class AA All-Star teams, was the league’s MVP and Rookie of the Year, Topps’ Eastern League Player of the Month for May, USA Today Baseball Weekly’s Minor League Player of the Week for July 7-13, Baseball America’s Class AA Player of the Year and capped his season by being chosen the Topps/National Association Minor League Player of the Year. Floyd’s major league career has been plagued by injuries, but he hit .303-11-49 in 69 games for Florida in 1999.
Rondell White was named outfielder on the Eastern League, National Association Class AA and Baseball America Class AA All-Star teams. Eischen was voted the league’s Pitcher of the Year and was named to Baseball America’s Class AA All-Star team. Pitcher Gabe White made the All-Star team and outfielder Pride was chosen the league’s Topps Player of the Month for June. Floyd, Rondell White and Eischen all played in the Class AA All-Star game.
Floyd, White, Marrero and Pride all saw action with the Expos before the end of the 1993 campaign. Floyd joined the big league club late in the season and stayed through 1996, when he was traded to Florida. White also joined Montreal in 1993 and has had several solid seasons, including a .270-28-82 campaign in 1997. Marrero became the third Senator to help the Expos in 1993 when he debuted on August 12. In 32 games, he batted .210. On September 14, Pride, after a stint at AAA Ottawa, joined his fellow Senators north of the border, going 4-for-9 in ten games.
Pride is the first totally deaf major league player since Dick Sipek played for Cincinnati in 1945. He was with Montreal, Detroit, Boston and Atlanta from 1993-98 with a .257 average in 304 games. In 1996 he received the Tony Conigliaro Award as the major league player “who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of Conigliaro.”
From the hill, Harrisburg was led by Eischen (14-4) and Miguel Batista (13-5). Eischen, who finished with the most wins and best percentage (.778) was converted to a reliever and pitched in 71 games for the Expos, Reds, Dodgers and Tigers. After a handful of games for the Pirates, Marlins and Cubs, Batista joined the Expos in 1998, becoming a premier setup man. Part-time starter Ugueth Urbina (4-5) relinquished his role to become Montreal’s top flight closer. The team finished with a league best 3.48 ERA and 1,056 strikeouts.
Kirk Rueter (5-0), who was traded by Montreal to San Francisco in 1996, had the third best winning percentage among all major league starting left-handers since 1980. His career record, after the 2000 season, was 81-48, .628, trailing only Randy Johnson (.653) and Andy Pettitte (.645)
In addition, Shane Andrews, Derrick White, Archie Corbin, Rick DeHart and Yorkis Perez all have played in the majors. Andrews was Montreal’s regular third baseman in 1996 and 1998 and is now with the Cubs.
The Senators continued their winning ways as they repeated in 1994. After a plunge to the cellar in 1995, the club rebounded to win four titles in row beginning in 1996. The 1999 pennant was particularly dramatic, as Milton Bradley hit a game-winning grand slam in the final inning of the deciding game, bringing the crown home.
The 1993 Harrisburg Senators won Baseball America’s prestigious Bob Freitas Award for Class AA, symbolic of long-term success and stability in baseball operations. In addition, Harrisburg was named Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year for its excellence on the field, adding to its worthiness as a member of the minor’s top 100.
|1993 Eastern League Standings|
|1993 Harrisburg Senators batting statistics|
|Matt Rundels||OF20,3B9,SS5, 2B2||34||117||27||40||17||5||0||6||14||31||8||.342|
|1993 Harrisburg Senators pitching statistics|