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Looking Back: The Nashville Express

May 12, 2014

During the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Herschel Greer Stadium became the home for two baseball franchises. When the Charlotte Knights moved up from Double-A in the Southern League to the Triple-A in the International League prior to the 1993 season, it left a vacancy in the league.

Triple-A (American Association) Nashville Sounds owner Larry Schmittou offered Greer Stadium as a temporary solution. The Nashville Express came into existence. The Express would schedule home games during the Sounds road trips. Nashville fans would be able to see baseball nearly every day.

It marked the first time in 21 years that two minor league teams shared a city. Baseball America presented its assessment of the two-team experiment when in its "Top 10 happenings in minor league baseball." The Nashville pair of teams topped the list.

"I regard it as the perfect summer," said Schmittou in an interview with the Tennessean. "Actually, by having two teams we have eased some of our problems in terms of seasonal help. We can schedule off-days and provide full-time employment over the summer for a number of people. "We'll be under a microscope a little bit, but that has more pluses than minuses. We are going to attract a lot of attention-things like the Baseball America mention. If we do well, and I hope we do, it can only be a feather in our cap."

The new Nashville Xpress went 40-31 to take the first half western division title, but the Minnesota Twins' farm team fell to 32-39 in the second half and were swept in best-of-five playoffs by the eventual league champion Birmingham Barons. Phil Roof managed the Express. The Express drew 179,000 fans that season.

Rich Becker was the team's only All-Star batting .287, stealing 29-of-36 base attempts, drew 94 walks and scored 93 runs. The team was led in home runs by Marty Cordova with 19, but struck out a league-leading 153. Oscar Munoz did not make the All-Star team, but was named the Most Valuable Pitcher with an 11-4 record and a 3.08 ERA. He struck out 136 batters in 139 innings. Other members of the Express starting rotation include: Brad Radke (2-6, 4.62), Todd Ritchie (3-2, 3.66) and Eddie Guardado (4-0, 1.24).

In 1994, the team went 74-66 under Roof, but did not claim a crown in either half. They drew 135, 048 fans. The Express led the Southern League with a 3.40 ERA and had two of the top six prospects in the circuit-LaTroy Hawkins (#2 prospect, 9-2, 2.33) and Marc Barcelo (#6 prospect, 11-6, 2.65).

The pitching staff also featured Rich Garces (4-5, 3.72), Radke (12-9, 2.66), and Erik Schullstrom (1-2, 2.63 and eight saves). Catcher Damian Miller hit .268 and went on to a career best of all 1994 Express position players The offensive star was second baseman Mitch Simons who hit .317 to tie for second in the SL batting for average. Simons also stole 30-of-39 base attempts.

Also in 1994 Michael Jordan, who was in his first retirement from the NBA Chicago Bulls, played in the outfield for the Birmingham Barons a rival of the Express. If Jordan had been promoted to Triple-A, he would have played for Nashville the White Sox top farm club.

The next season the temporary housing situation was resolved when the Express moved to Wilmington, N.C. and became the Port City Roosters.

Traughber's Tidbit: In 1999, the Sounds posted the longest winning streak in minor league baseball by accumulating 15 straight victories from June 2 to June 20. The streak included four consecutive series sweeps and saw Nashville outscore their opponents, 110-61. The 15-game winning streak is the longest in Sounds history.

If you have any comments or suggestions, contact Bill Traughber via email.