From Chapter 5:

1977-1982: Front Office Follies


The financial report made for a happy Christmas, but as the winter went on, there were signs that all was not well in the front office. In February, Pete Brown, voice of the Wings for the past eight seasons, resigned. It was revealed that the popular Brown was to be dismissed as a full-time employee at the end of the upcoming season as an “economic move.” He was offered a job as part-time assistant general manager and radio broadcaster, but the 51-year-old Brown wanted to concentrate on full-time broadcasting.

Word of friction between Drew and Farrell (who made the Brown move) made the rounds of the hot stove league. There were observers that made much of the fact that Farrell didn’t aggressively push Drew for the International League’s General Manager of the Year award, or that the Wings’ president failed to introduce Drew at the annual shareholders meeting.

None of those developments made the bombshell in March easier to predict. Drew, the well-respected general manager, announced his resignation, for personal reasons, effective Oct. 31, 1981. At 43, the breakup of his marriage, the death of a younger brother, and other family problems made him feel it necessary to leave the area. Although many thought the behind-the-scenes clashes with Farrell to be the the real cause (within a week of his announcement, predictions of Farrell as the next Wings’ GM were in print), that idea was publically denied by Drew. Columnist Greg Boeck stated, “Except for Morrie Silver, no man who has molded Red Wing history has been accepted, or as popular, with the fans as Bob Drew.”

As spring training kicked off, optimism was at a high level for the 1981 squad. It was universally accepted that the Orioles’ farm system had finally rebounded after the 1976 free agent/expansion draft storm. Most league observers rated the Wings no worse than co-favorite with Columbus to win the International League pennant.

There were strengths everywhere: a surplus of quality outfielders, strong defense up the middle, good power, and solid front-line pitching. Dallas Williams would start in center, with rookie Drungo Hazewood in right. In left field Edwards had the choice of returnees John Valle and Mark Corey (a strong spring got him one final shot), or three minor-league veterans acquired in trades: Mike Hart (a switch-hitter who had batted over .300 in each of his last three minor-league seasons), Chris Bourjos or John Hale (a lefty who hit 27 homers with Indianapolis). Bobby Bonner was expected to anchor the infield at shortstop, flanked by the highly-touted Cal Ripken Jr. at third (wearing #5, which he would undoubtedly have to give up if and when he made it to Baltimore, as it was Brooks Robinson’s number) and Tom Eaton at second base. Eaton led the Southern League in fielding in 1979, and stole 52 bases for Charlotte in 1980. First base afforded a number of combinations, although Dan Logan, who had 13 homers in Charlotte after his failure in Rochester, was penciled in as the starter, with Tom Chism and Hale as reserves. Ed Putman was initially expected to do the bulk of the catching after spending most of ’80 at first base, with defensive specialist Dave Huppert in relief.

The pitching staff had seven players who had appeared for the Wings the year before, led by Mike Boddicker. Larry Jones returned to join Boddicker in the starting rotation, along with Charlotte grads Brooks Carey (12-9, the only lefty in rotation), Don Welchel (9-12, 2.90) and Tom Rowe (combined 10-9 with Rochester and Charlotte). The bullpen was experienced, headed by Steve Luebber, Jeff Schneider, and Pete Torrez, along with newcomer Jim Umbarger, a veteran of four major-league seasons.

The long-awaited rejuvenation of the Orioles’ farm system meant that a number of previous Wings were out of jobs. That was a positive sign for the organization, but the wealth of prospects also meant that Baltimore would expect the youngsters to play ahead of the veterans in Rochester. (Valle, who led the team in home runs in 1980, would start the year on the DL with a “sore thumb,” due to the numbers game.)

There were, it was said, three mandates from the Orioles to Doc: play Huppert, play Hazewood, and don’t pinch hit for Bonner. Nonetheless it was still considered to be the most talented team since the championship squad in 1976. Boddicker boldly stated that they might be good enough to win 100 games.

The Red Wings would open the year at Silver, which, despite the ongoing debate as to its future, was still described as “the Fenway [Park] of the minor leagues.” The players sported new red hats, undershirts and stirrup socks, and 80-year-old John Bogart, a pitcher for the 1927 and 1928 Rochester nines, was present to throw out the first ball. The crowd of 9,476 saw the Wings scratch out a 13-inning, 6-5 win against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Down 5-2 the Wings rallied for single runs in the final three innings to send the game into extra frames. Ripken marked his debut with a home run, while Hazewood went the opposite route, fanning four times. Don Fischer and John Clemens called the action on radio station WPXN, with guest long-time New York Yankee voice Mel Allen present to do the opening lineup on both the radio and the Silver Stadium PA.

Ripken started strong, with hits in his first four games, but of greater surprise was the special RCB board meeting called to reconsider the resignation of Bob Drew. It was expected that a committee would be proposed to explore the reasons for Drew’s departure, and see what would be necessary to keep him in Rochester. Considered “one of the best GMs we’ve ever had” by one long-time board member, few believed that his reasons for leaving were as he stated. Farrell was caught in the middle — under fire for his suggestions of a new stadium, as well as his refusal to rule out taking the general manager position himself. It was quite a shock when the result of the meeting was announced: by a 25-to-1 margin, with two abstentions, the board voted to accept Drew’s resignation.

Less than two weeks later it was revealed that the meeting was spurred by Drew’s desire to withdraw his resignation. But his request reportedly came with a demand of total autonomy for the general manager’s position. The message was that he couldn’t work with Farrell and wanted to answer only to the board of directors as a whole. Farrell reportedly threatened to resign if the board backed Drew. The plan was seen as a bold attempt to change the very structure of Rochester Community Baseball, one in which the powerful, unpaid, honorary office of president was balanced by the paid, professional position of general manager. Experiences in recent seasons only served to underscore the problems that could evolve when a determined president was matched with an equally-strong general manager.

It was apparent that it would take something extraordinary to focus attention back on the team. When that something came, it was not only extraordinary, but unprecedented in the history of professional baseball. On Saturday, April 18 and a good part part of Easter Sunday, April 19, Rochester and the Pawtucket Red Sox played 32 innings of baseball without deciding a winner.

The game started at 8 p.m. at McCoy Stadium and was finally suspended at 4:07 a.m. with the score tied 2-2, after eight hours and seven minutes. The contest should have been halted at 12:50 a.m., the curfew listed in the IL constitution, but the umpires and all other officials had no such provisions in the manuals at hand. It was not until 3:45 a.m. that league president Harold Cooper was reached (and awakened) on the phone by the Red Sox general manager, who, in a near-panic, stated, “They won’t stop the game!” Cooper finally got the crew chief on the phone in the middle of the 32nd inning and ordered, “Call the damn game after this inning.”

It almost didn’t even go beyond nine. The Wings took a 1-0 lead into the last inning but the PawSox pushed across a run to tie. Rochester tallied another run in the top of the 21st, but the home squad again countered. An apparent game-winning home run in the bottom of the 26th was kept in the park by heavy winds that had moved in.

There were a number of notable performances in the game, which surpassed a June 14, 1966 contest in which the Miami Marlins beat the St. Petersburg Cardinals in 29 innings. Perhaps the most noteworthy was Huppert, who caught 31 of the 32 frames before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the 32nd. Umbarger pitched the final 10 innings, allowing only four hits and striking out nine. The offenses sputtered as the game lengthened, (“a rally became a two-out walk,” joked Luebber) as the teams combined for 59 strikeouts. Thirteen dozen baseballs were used and the crowd of 1,740 was down to 23 when the game was finally called (although attendance fluctuated as local bar patrons who heard what was happening came out as the game progressed).

Following his four innings of relief work, Red Sox pitcher Luis Aponte went home after the 19th inning, only to be confronted by his angry wife, who, when told he was at the ballpark, accused him of lying. Bob Drew, serving as radio commentator on the road, called the entire game, with help from disabled pitcher Pete Torrez. Wondering if there were still listeners in Rochester as the game entered the early-morning hours, Drew requested his audience to telephone the station, and over 600 called in. Drew and Torrez stood from the 15th inning on, in order to keep warm in the 45-degree darkness, and had to deal with a press box that lacked restroom facilities.

During and after the historic game, Red Wing players had their own thoughts and recollections about their trip to the “Twilight Zone.” Floyd Rayford, who had been recently added, complained that by 4 a.m., opposing pitchers were throwing curve balls that seemingly broke six feet. When Umbarger came into the clubhouse, Schneider, one of several players who had previously left the game, greeted him by asking, “Jeez, you guys still playing? We have already showered, dressed, had a few beers, gone to sleep and gotten back up and have hangovers already.”

The marathon, which was scheduled to be finished the next time the Wings were in Pawtucket (June), did not keep the two teams from meeting again later in the day for their scheduled game. That game, which started at 2 p.m., looked to be headed for extra frames until a Red Sox home run in the bottom of the ninth mercifully snapped a 3-3 tie. Because of an injury to Putman, Huppert had to catch the entire game for the Wings, making it 40 innings he had spent squatting behind the plate over the last 20 hours.

The Wings limped back to Rochester after the 3-6 road trip. Ripken and Bonner sparked the club in the first two games of the homestand. Ripken belted three round-trippers in a 6-3 win over Charleston, while Bonner had a grand slam and seven RBI the next night in a 16-9 slugfest. Ripken continued his hot streak, at one point hitting five home runs in 21 at-bats, pushing his season totals to seven home runs in 19 games, tops in the league. Multiple player moves were discussed and carried out during the homestand. Allan Ramirez (16-8, 2.29 for Charlotte in 1980) was brought up, Hazewood (.100, 20 strikeouts in 60 at-bats) and Welchel sent down, and catcher Putman (at his request) traded to Richmond. Pitcher Mike Torrez and catcher Kevin Kennedy were activated and placed on the roster. The moves left the Wings under the roster limit. Rayford was expected to stay in Rochester, but he had been assigned to Charlotte just two days before when the Rochester roster was full, and could not be moved again for a total of 10 days.

Yet the shifts did little to stop the Wings. After its eighth straight win, a 14-4 romp over Toledo, Rochester found itself in first place for the first time since 1976. The Wings went on to close out the 10-game homestand with 10 wins (coming from behind in six), a 16-8 record, and a spot on top of the league standings.

One other and more notable move was made during the homestand. On April 29 Bob Drew was fired after a failed bid to keep his job. Earlier in the month Drew finally hinted that conflicts with Farrell had caused his resignation. That piece of information prompted the board of directors on April 15, in a move solidly showing support for Farrell, to officially accept Drew's resignation. Drew then met with Farrell and several board members, telling them that he had a change of heart and wanted to remain. When the board of directors met on April 29 to deal with the question, it was reported to them by Wally Lord (neither Drew or Farrell were present), that Drew had 10 conditions in order to return, including one that would have him report directly to the board, not the president. Vice President Harvey Anderson pulled a letter from his pocket that he intimated was Farrell’s resignation letter, making it clear that the choice was one or the other: Farrell or Drew, but not both. The majority of the board were at the very least hoping that Farrell and Drew could continue working together through the remainder of the season, but Anderson’s declaration made it clear that that was not possible. A board member made a motion to fire Drew effective immediately, and by a vote of 12 for, five against, and one abstention (17 board members were absent), the motion was carried and Drew was out of a job.

The beginnings of the Wings’ hot streak helped overshadow the political maneuvering. No one expected the team to continue the torrid pace, but the level of talent suggested the streak was not a total fluke. Edwards’ squad hit 15 home runs and averaged over 10 runs per game on the homestand. Logan and Ripken each had seven homers for the season, and leadoff man Williams had stolen 14 bases in 17 attempts. Most importantly, the roster moves had solidified, rather than fragmented the team. The prospects had been given their chance, with the experienced backups waiting patiently (placated by Edwards), and when the rookies struggled, Edwards moved the veterans into the lineup.

The roster was not quite settled, as Bonner was called up after an injury in Baltimore. Ripken was moved to shortstop, while Rayford, finally cleared to be activated, was slotted at third. Corey, off to a slow start after his encouraging spring, was loaned to Springfield of the American Association. Outfielder Keith Smith, the American Association batting champ in 1979 at .350, came in return. Ripken had a bit of trouble in his first games at short (four errors in four games), and fans, spoiled by the glove wizardry of Bonner, got on him for his physical and mental miscues at the new position. Nonetheless the offense was strong enough to overcome any lapses in the field and, due mainly to a 14-4 record at Silver, the Wings continued in first place through the middle of May.

Away from home was another story. A road trip sparked a six-game losing streak that saw a shakeup in the pitching staff. Bullpen ace Luebber went up to Baltimore, temporarily leaving the squad with no right-handed reliever until Cliff Speck was brought in from Charlotte. The Wings came home with only one victory in eight tries, sinking to fourth place and close to .500.

The Rochester baseball community did not suffer any lack of intrigue while the Wings were out of town, as the Drew case refused to die. This time it was someone with financial influence putting pressure on the Wings: Ray Sorg, president of the Monroe County Food Merchants Association, a stockholder and sizable sponsor of the Red Wings. He was at the heart of a growing legion of Drew fans, many of whom had been spotted at the ballpark wearing buttons in support of the former GM. Sorg demanded the reinstatement of Drew, backed by the unspoken threat that the association’s sizable advertising dollars (close to $80,000) would be withdrawn for 1982. But he was not given the opportunity to speak to the full board of directors by the nine-member executive committee. Nor would the board, against Farrell’s recommendation, allow Drew a chance to state his case.

The final resolution of the matter occurred in less than a week. It was decided that the board would settle the question at a meeting on May 22 that had originally been scheduled to deal with the stadium issue. Sorg held a press conference beforehand and “respectfully asked” that the board consider reinstating Drew. Drew himself was invited to address the board after claiming his views were “misrepresented;” — he had no conditions to return. By this time 2,976 supporters had signed petitions protesting Drew’s removal, and many of those fans lined the entrance to Locust Hill Country Club, where the meeting was being held.

The board voted 23-0, with three abstentions and nine absent, “not to reopen the matter” of Drew’s employment, although it did not entirely close the door by stating he could possibly come back in a different capacity. Front office assistants Bob Goughan, Bill Terlecky and Chris Findlay were named to run the team for the remainder of the season.

For his part Drew was a gracious loser, declaring the issue dead and asking supporters to continue to back Red Wing baseball. Unfortunately the fiasco, labeled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Community Baseball” by one columnist, overshadowed the board’s unanimous vote to renovate Silver Stadium.

What distraction the front office in-fighting caused to the players is unknown, but the announcement came on a day the Wings suffered their seventh loss in eighth games. Manager Edwards had to leave the team when his father died of cancer in West Virginia.

The Wings looked to right their ship by returning home for their longest stretch of the season at Silver, but instead slumped closer to the .500 mark. (The homestand was marked by a verbal flap between Terlecky and the San Diego Chicken over the number of fans in the stands for one of the Chicken’s appearances.) Injuries mounted. Hustling outfielder Bourjos, the team’s hottest hitter, was hurt in a collision with Williams. Bourjos fractured his left shoulder blade while Williams separated his right shoulder and stretched ligaments in his right knee. Pitcher Ramirez went on the disabled list so the Wings signed veteran right-hander Steve Grilli after his release from Syracuse. Shortstop Bonner was returned to the Wings.

Ripken single-handedly kept the team from dipping below .500 on the last day of May in a wild 12-9 win over Pawtucket. He tied the game at seven in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run home run. The PawSox pushed across two in the top of the tenth, but the Wings rallied to tie at 9-9 on a two-run triple by Hart. After two more men got aboard, Ripken smashed another out of the park, for back-to-back three-run home runs and the win. The pair of round-trippers gave Ripken 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 46 games. In his next official plate appearance (after the Orioles exhibition game in which the Wings triumphed 7-5 in front of 10,438), Ripken homered in the second inning, officially giving him three home runs in three consecutive at-bats.

The Wings continued to struggle on the road. In an effort to get the big bats into the order, Edwards put together a lineup that had Ripken at short, Rayford at third and Bonner at second. But neither these moves, nor the news that the Orioles’ radio network would broadcast Wings’ games due to the strike by major-league players, could rouse the Wings from their slumber. Since the 10-game win streak the team was 12-21. A team that was, on paper, one of the most talented since 1976, was showing no signs of jelling either on or off the field. Most of the focus was in the clubhouse, where Williams admitted “the enthusiasm isn’t there.... There’s no dissension, but the way we’re going we’re not going to win.” In need of a veteran to step forward as a leader, the team instead seemed content to ride Ripken to a .500 record.

That’s not to say that all the problems were off the field. Catching was a sore spot (Kennedy and Huppert supplied little offense and the latter had only thrown out three of 22 base stealers), the left-handed power hadn’t developed, there was no speed on the roster, and while the middle infielders were marvelous in the field, they weren’t hitting. Both Bonner and Eaton was hovering around .200, and Bonner was in the midst of what would become an 0-for-39 skid that would take him below that mark. The pitching had solidified, in one stretch allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of 14 games, but due to poor hitting the team won only seven of those contests. In late June infielder LaRue Washington was picked up from Triple-A Denver and replaced Eaton at second, while Rayford was moved behind the plate. Outfielder John Shelby was also added from Charlotte.

Even the resolution of the suspended 32-inning contest with Pawtucket failed to live up to expectations. Ripken appeared on national television the morning the game resumed, but anyone looking for more drama was disappointed as the final chapter in the 65-day wait to finish the game only lasted 18 minutes. Speck and Grilli, pitchers who had not even been with the Wings at the time of the game, couldn’t record an out in the bottom of the 33rd as the Sox scored on a bases-loaded hit by Dave Koza. (Grilli was miserable after the game, but undoubtedly perked up when his hat made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame).

The game was notable for two other reasons. Centerfielder Williams’ alarm clock failed to go off and he missed the team’s flight out of Rochester. He found a later flight that went into Boston, where he was picked up by Assistant GM Terlecky, who drove him to the ballpark.

Williams also suffered in the statistical column. The end of the game finally allowed performances to be added to the players’ season totals. Off an 0-for-13 performance, Williams’ average plummeted from .281 to .265. Ripken’s average dipped from .302 to .295 due to his 2-for-13 batting line, while Drungo Hazewood, no longer with the team, dropped below the .100 mark. On the positive, Umbarger’s 10 shutout innings finally went into the books, lowering his earned run average by more than a half-run, to 3.73.

The season’s halfway mark was reached with the Wings at 34-36. Since the 10-0 run, the team had gone 18-28, and while Edwards pointed his finger on the unsettled roster, the Wings’ skipper placed most of the blame on the overcrowded outfield situation. There were seven quality outfielders, but as Edwards said, “you can only play three at a time. I don’t think any of them had a chance to get in there and get anything going.” The surplus also left the Wings thin in the infield.

Yet Edwards was still convinced that his team could turn it around. However there were those following the team that put the knock on Edwards himself. The critics were picking at his moves (or lack of) — his infatuation with the bunt, his habit of staying with pitchers for too long and failure to pinch hit in crucial situations — as well as his ability to motivate. A closer look would see a team hitting .237, with six genuine Triple-A players (Bonner, Chism, Eaton, Huppert, Kennedy and Rayford) having awful years at the plate. There was a lack of experience on the pitching staff, which didn’t have veterans in the mold of Kerrigan, Luebber, Wiley or Hartzell that the team had enjoyed in recent years. Also left unsaid was the fact that Edwards was walking the eternal farm club tightrope between winning and developing players.

At least attendance was up, as a July 2 Fireworks Night crowd of 14,818 — the largest in four years — attested, although the Wings downplayed the effect of the major league strike. Away from the faithful followers on Norton St., however, the team continued to falter. A early-July nine-game road trip was disastrous and suggested the pitching staff was on the verge of total collapse. The starters were struggling — Jones had not won since May, Carey was serving up gopher balls at an alarming pace and Boddicker was clearly not the pitcher he was a year ago. The bullpen was being chewed up. Rochester lost six straight during the trip, dropping to fifth place, and had to use designated hitter Chism on the mound twice in three nights.

Injuries continued to mount. Pitchers Torrez, Speck, Schneider and Grilli were all nursing sore arms and Bonner had to go on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring. Further roster moves also occurred — in the space of nine days the Wings cut two of their catchers, Kennedy and Huppert. Kennedy, who with five seasons in Rochester was the senior Wing, asked for his release. The team signed veteran receive Harry Saferight, who had been let go by Richmond. Hurler Nate Snell was called up from Charlotte to bolster the staff. With the rookie Shelby a pleasant surprise in center, Keith Smith was loaned to Tidewater.

The squad dropped as low as sixth place (on the occasion of its 19th one-run loss), but was not out of playoff contention as five teams hovered around .500 in search of the final two playoff spots. As August began the team showed improvement in all areas. Speck won his first three starts after joining the rotation, new contact lenses helped Chism raise his average over 50 points, and Rayford finally started to hit.

Rayford’s rejuvenation sparked a mini-controversy, as Saferight was a better receiver and was given some credit for the pitching staff turnaround. Edwards solved the problem by installing Rayford at third, and again moving Ripken to shortstop.

The Wings moved within three games of the break-even mark (56-59) on Aug. 9, but the same day learned they were losing the services of Ripken and Schneider. Ripken (.288, 23, 75) left the team leading the league in total bases and the Wings in every offensive category except triples. Schneider was the team’s bullpen stopper, with a 5-1 record and 13 saves. In their place the O’s sent down Wayne Krenchicki and Steve Luebber, both riding the pine in Baltimore. The 2 1/2-game hold on the final playoff spot looked iffy, especially with 16 of the final 25 games on the road, where the Wings were 22-33.

Edwards’ troops rode a six-game win streak to the .500 mark, but promptly went reversed itself and went on a six-game skid (which included a loss in their 20th extra-inning game of the season) which left them tied with Charleston for the fourth playoff spot.

It was a chaotic year for a team that looked more like the disastrous ’79 squad rather than the team that broke camp with hopes of a pennant. A look at the roster found six players — one-quarter of the team — that had played on that embarrassing 53-86 club. Outfielder Mike Hart was a living example of the confusion; he was sent to Toledo, but unsure if it was permanent or a loan. He was the 35th player to come or go and he was bitter about it: “I don’t understand whey they [Baltimore] screwed up this club. It started right at the beginning. We had too many people. You can’t blame Doc. Consequently, people were sitting and getting stale. I’ve never seen as many changes made on a club, and for no real reason.”

One columnist called them the Rent-A-Wings, and questioned whether or not Baltimore’s trigger finger was too itchy. The Red Wings’ stretch run would be made with three rusty players from Baltimore (Krenchicki, Luebber and Dave Ford, the latter just demoted), three players in their 30s (Luebber, Grilli and Saferight) and the big gun (Ripken) in Baltimore.

Yet all was not lost. Williams had already broken the Rochester modern-era season mark for stolen bases (Ora Burnett, 41 in 1944) and Shelby continued to pleasantly surprise. The rookie centerfielder hit for the cycle in a game against Syracuse. Chism continued his late-season surge, and despite all the ups-and-downs the franchise was looking at potentially the third-highest attendance mark ever, helped by a crowd of 14,147 for the season’s third appearance of the San Diego Chicken.

Perhaps no one felt the pressure as much as Edwards. When Orioles’ General Manager Hank Peters came to town in late August, rumors hinted the manager’s job was in jeopardy. Peters’ line on the Wings was that the vets didn’t do their jobs, and that pitching had not lived up to expectations. Even those critics who felt that Edwards had flaws as a bench manager, or in handling pitchers, felt he deserved another year with a freer hand and stable roster.

The morning of Aug. 30 found the Wings tied for fourth with Pawtucket, but a crucial doubleheader sweep that night at cellar-dwelling Toledo (Chism two homers in the opener, Carey his 10th win in the night cap) put the team 1 1/2 games ahead of the Sox. The season’s final three games would match the Wings against Pawtucket at Silver.

The team clinched a tie for the last post-season spot the next night on a two-hit shutout by Boddicker, his 10th victory. The next night 10,008 faithful saw the Wings secure the final spot with a 3-2 win. A 1-0 loss in the season finale cost Rochester an above-.500 mark, but the team did win three of its last four while only scoring seven runs, a tribute to a pitching staff that went 9-4 with a 2.43 ERA down the stretch. The 69-70 Wings would meet a Columbus team that had finished 19 games ahead of them during the regular season. The Clippers, winners of their third consecutive pennant, would likewise try to capture a third straight Governors’ Cup.

Rochester adjusted its post-season roster. Krenchicki, Ford and Luebber went back to Baltimore. Saferight was placed on the disabled list, outfielder Mike Young brought up from Charlotte and former Wing Larry Doby Johnson acquired on loan from Evansville. Despite the changes, Rayford boldly predicted a series win in four games against the mighty Clippers. Oddly enough the Wings were again the only IL team to have much luck against Columbus, with a 9-11 record for the season, and a 20-20 mark over the last two years.

The best-of-five series began at Silver, but rain forced two postponements, and wet grounds pushed the series back a third day. The rainouts allowed Boddicker to pitch the opener, won by the home team 3-2 on a bases-loaded, one-out single by Chism in the bottom of the ninth.

The Clippers suggested the final four games be played in Columbus, but the Wing front office refused, despite a fourth off-day forced by wet grounds. When Game Two was finally played, the Wings raced to an 8-0 lead, partly on a Bourjos grand slam, then watched Columbus climb to within two on a six-run sixth inning. With the score 9-6, league home run champ Steve Balboni was retired with the bases loaded in the ninth to end the game.

The series shifted to Columbus where the Clippers broke open a close 3-2 game with seven runs in the eighth to post a 10-2 win. The same day Boddicker, slated to pitch a potential fifth game, was recalled to Baltimore. But with 10-game winner Carey, 3-0 against Columbus on the season, scheduled to pitch next, it was hoped that a decisive contest would not be needed.

However Carey was rocked for six runs and nine hits in a little over six innings, and the Clippers cruised to a 7-0 triumph that set up a one-game, winner-take-all situation. With Boddicker’s absence, Edwards had little choice but to start Larry Jones, who had not started since July 1 and been suffering from a case of pneumonia.

Jones battled courageously, striking out nine in seven innings of work. A Rayford solo home run in the seventh tied the game at one and pushed it into extra innings. But the Clippers managed a run in the bottom of the 10th to complete their series’ comeback and eliminate the Wings. After the game Williams, Shelby and Bonner were recalled to Baltimore.

It had been a bizarre year, with the Drew controversy, the tantalizing 10-0 streak that put the Wings in first, and the 33-inning marathon. The near-upset of Columbus, which did go on to capture its third consecutive playoff championship (in a shortened three-game series), reinforced the fact that this Red Wing squad did have some talent. The maligned Edwards finished a distant second in voting for league Manager of the Year, while Cal Ripken Jr. was the Rookie of the Year and all-star third baseman ahead of batting champ Wade Boggs of Pawtucket. Ripken also finished second in the MVP voting, behind Brett Butler of Richmond.

Dallas Williams padded his team record in steals to 51 and led the team in hits (146). Dan Logan took advantage of Ripken’s recall to tie him for the team lead with 23 home runs, but Ripken remained the leader in average (.288), RBI (75) and runs (74). John Shelby hit .264 after his recall and showed some pop in his bat with 21 doubles and a team-leading eight triples.

Mike Boddicker and Brooks Carey led the disappointing staff with 10 wins apiece, while Carey had the lowest earned run average of the starters at 3.42. Boddicker and Tom Rowe each had eight complete games, while Jeff Schneider had 13 saves.

Once again, off-season news focused on business issues. The initial word was positive: attendance of 359,704, and an estimated profit of over $100,000. There were over 20 applicants for the general manager job, but accompanying them, the ever-present whispers of Farrell’s desire for the job.

The Farrell scuttlebutt were not new. As far back as March it was predicted he would take the reins as general manager and Wally Lord would succeed him as team president. It was this unstated but well-known desire by Farrell that added more fuel to the fire for those who opposed him.

Discussion continued on the plans to renovate Silver; however in July the Wings had been left a bit red-faced when a bill by state Senator Fred Eckert passed, one which offered $150,000 toward a feasibility study as part of the $40 million package for a downtown convention center. The legislation provided for up to $2 million in state aid — the state’s Urban Development Corporation would put $1 for every $2 RCB would contribute. The embarrassing part was that the Wings were totally unaware that the bill even existed.

Things only got more disconcerting in the fall. Doc Edwards was left in limbo and at the end of September, unsure of his future in Rochester, took the managing job at Charleston. Among those mentioned as possible replacements were Jim Frey, Jimy Williams and Gene Michael.

More troubling than the treatment of Edwards (which mirrored the replacement of Frank Robinson) were rumors of a fight for control of Rochester Community Baseball. A dissident group, headed by Sorg and Richard Huggler (holder of 800 shares), was formed in the discontent of the Drew affair, but the group’s main item of contention was Farrell’s plan to change the corporation to “not-for-profit,” which would have certain benefits in funding the stadium renovation.

In mid-October the “Shareholders Committee,” as the dissident group labeled itself, announced its own slate of directors. The candidates included just one of the current RCB leadership — Anna B. Silver — and in fact, only five of the current 36 board members were listed. But when Silver kicked in 6,200 shares (Silver had 5,447; her daughter Naomi 840), the committee claimed to have the support of between 11-12,000 shares of the 21,000 traceable from the original 42,000 shares. Frank Horton tried to head off the conflict, which he called the “worst crisis since St. Louis pulled out in ’56,” but a six-hour meeting between the current board and the dissidents produced no compromise.

A day later Silver resigned as vice president of Rochester Community Baseball. She stated her opposition to the proposed change in corporate structure, calling it “premature.” She also explained her objections to what she considered “grandiose” plans for renovation (Farrell had estimates ranging up to $8 million) and further revealed that she had turned down an offer to sell her shares, the largest single chunk of RCB. This was part of a proposed deal in which Farrell would resign if Silver liquidated her holdings.

The “Proxy Fight” was officially on.

The struggle for control of the Red Wings put RCB in a crisis state. The news from other fronts likewise turned to the negative. State Senator Eckert was angry with the situation since it jeopardized the proposed state aid for the stadium renovation. RCB was still operating without a permanent general manager (Farrell finally announced himself out of the running in November) or field manager. By the start of baseball’s annual winter meetings in December, three candidates had already turned down the manager’s position.

Not only were those two critical positions unfilled, the team also needed players. Prospects were not good for 1982 and acting general manager Bob Goughan went on record that the outlook was for a sixth-place team.

In January, after announcing a profit of $117,836, Farrell shocked all concerned by submitting his resignation. He acknowledged that the proxy fight was a key factor in his decision, but revealed he had planned to leave the previous January, and only the challenge of the stadium renovation kept him on. Farrell was upset by the fact that he had been cast as the bad guy in the whole episode, stating it “just hasn’t been any fun [since the announcement of the Proxy Fight].”

His announcement received greater attention than the glowing financial news. The profit was an all-time high for RCB, topping the previous record of $113,772 in 1966. For the first time in the corporation’s history, both assets and stockholders’ equity were over $1 million.

Farrell’s resignation changed nothing in the eyes of the Shareholders Committee. Two days prior, it was in court to force (unsuccessfully) RCB to hold its annual meeting on the usual January date, instead of a recently-announced, pushed-back date of Feb. 27. Another conference between the two groups, this time arranged by Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Tom Mooney, ended with an upset Mooney walking out.

That meeting was called when Silver offered the existing board six seats if the current leadership would step down. Management would not, said Treasurer Larry Edwards, accept any compromise based on capitulation. Edwards furthermore questioned the leadership capabilities of the Shareholders Committee and suggested that a victory by the dissident group could cause the loss of baseball in Rochester.

Estimates put the number of votes for the dissidents at a solid 9,000, with 10,000 signed proxy votes in their favor. The outcome would center on the proxies. The Shareholders Committee claimed that once the absentee ballots were signed they could not be changed, while current management held that the proxies could be transferred before the annual meeting. The board felt confident it could get shareholders to switch back, feeling the voters had been misled, or confused about the facts.

Management continued in a business-as-usual atmosphere. Canteen was signed to a five-year concession deal, and a similar deal inked with Rochester’s Channel 31 WUHF-TV to televise as many as 30 games over those five seasons. Four local businesses were persuaded to split costs of a new $100,000 36’ x 24’ electronic scoreboard in right field.

On Jan. 13, 42-year-old former minor league catcher Lance Nichols was named manager of the Wings. Nichols, a veteran of 10 years in the minors (531-676 record), spent time in the Montreal and St. Louis organizations, before managing the previous four years in the Orioles’ chain, the last two at Single-A Miami. He was described as a “hard-working disciplinarian.” The Wings were unaware of the selection prior to the announcement — as farm director Giordano pointedly stated, “With whom are we going to consult? You have no president and no general manager.”

As the date of the shareholder vote neared, issues and positions were made public. The current board wanted to convert Silver Stadium to an all-purpose stadium, while the dissidents wanted Silver to remain primarily for baseball. For the renovation, management wanted to go “not-for-profit,” maintaining that it would be easier to secure funds. The Shareholders Committee wanted to keep the “for-profit” status, with plans to put the stadium and land into a charitable trust, which would allow for donations to help fund the renovation, which they estimated at approximately $2 million. The issue of Farrell vs. Drew was also still part of the mix. The dissidents claimed Farrell had formed a nucleus of cronies to run the club, shutting others out, including Drew. Current administration remained solid in their contention that Drew had an unacceptable list of demands under which he would return to his job.

The votes were cast on Feb. 28, but it was almost a week until the results were announced. The incumbents were tentatively given a slim 194-vote advantage, 16,604 to 16,410, although there was still disagreement on the 3,337 share votes that had been changed from support of the Shareholders Committee back to the current management. Whichever group was ultimately given credit for those votes would be in control of Rochester Community Baseball.

The battle was far from over. Current management, which up to the last minute offered the Shareholders Committee board seats, rescinded the deal once its victory was announced. Wallie Lord was named as interim president, but a lawsuit by the Shareholders Committee to overturn the changed proxies was still a possibility. In mid-March the Shareholders Committee announced plans to try another proxy fight in 1982 should the lawsuit fail. Nor did the announcement mean the dissidents were giving up: in April they received a preliminary court injunction halting certification of the Feb. 27 vote.

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