From Chapter 9:

1995-1996: The Final Season(s)


While stadium concerns took center stage, attention also focused on the Wings’ relationship with the Orioles. Major-league expansion in 1998 would bring two new Triple-A franchises and Bowie, Maryland, the site of Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, was a clear favorite for one of the teams. Should that happen, the Oriole brass had already told the Wings that they would prefer to hook up with Bowie, situated just 30 miles from Baltimore.

The news was not treated as negatively as perhaps expected, despite the fact that the affiliation had produced 21 winning seasons in 35 years. More changes had recently occurred in Baltimore, with both the manager and general manager purged. New leadership actively traded minor-league prospects for major-league veterans. Departing over the winter in separate deals were pitcher Joe Borowski and outfielder Curtis Goodwin; also let go were Paul Carey and Rod Robertson. New Orioles’ skipper (and ex-Red Wing) Davey Johnson told a Baltimore newspaper that would take several years to get the farm system back in gear. Baseball America agreed, ranking the O’s farm system 24th among the 28 teams and noting that “The Orioles are going for broke at the expense of their farm system.”

Lost as well was pitching coach Claude Osteen, who took a Double-A position in the Dodger’s organization. His replacement was Ross Grimsley, who pitched in the majors for five different teams over 11 seasons and had spent 10 years as a minor-league coach. His naming came the same day that the returns of Marv Foley and Butch Davis were made official.

Baltimore’s Director of Player Development Syd Thrift did, however, ink a number of Triple-A vets who were six-year free agents. And it was hoped that the signings and trades at the major-league level would grant more stability in Rochester.

It was expected that the 1996 Wings would have to win with pitching. The brightest of the few Oriole prospects was Rocky Coppinger. With a 95 mile-per-hour fastball and a 6’ 5”, 220-lb. build, the right-hander reminded many of Red Sox ace Roger Clemens. Many expected him to be in Baltimore by mid-season, but new O’s GM Pat Gillick (also a former Red Wing) hoped to have him spend the entire year in Rochester.

The rest of the rotation featured Rick Krivda (6-5 3.19 in a half-season with the Wings), Brian Sackinsky, Oscar Munoz and Garrett Stephenson. Sackinsky seemed fully recovered from off-season elbow surgery. Munoz saw some action with Minnesota in 1995 and Stephenson was moving up from Bowie, where he was 7-10, 3.64.

The bullpen featured a mix of organizational players and off-season acquisitions. Lefty Don Florence was one of Thrift’s prize pick-ups. The lefty had a 0.96 ERA in 41 games for the Norfolk Tides and a 3-0, 1.50 mark in 14 games with the New York Mets. Keith Shepherd, another free agent signing, was joining his eighth different organization. An injury-marred 1995 was overlooked because of his talent for throwing in the high 90s. Jim Dedrick returned, along with Bowie grads Doug Harris and Aaron Lane.

The outfield was stacked with Triple-A vets. Joe Hall came over from Toledo where he went .320, 11, 47. Jarvis Brown was a prototype center fielder and leadoff man. Returning for his fourth season in Rochester was Mark Smith. The three starters would be adequately backed by Keith Gordon (.264 at Triple-A Indianapolis) and Greg Blosser (40 homers for Pawtucket in 1993-94.) Blosser was also expected to DH. Jim Wawruck would start the year on the disabled list.

The infield featured the only non-pitching prospects: Scott McClain, Billy Owens and B.J. Waszgis. McClain would start at third. After his mid-season demotion from Rochester the year before, he hit .278, 13, 61 in 70 games with Bowie, earning Baltimore’s Minor League Player of the Year honors. Owens had 17 home runs and 91 RBI for the Baysox and was given the first base job. Catcher Waszgis would be the only starter without Triple-A experience, coming off a .250, 10, 50 year in Double-A.

The middle of the diamond featured the stabilizing influence of Brad Tyler (2B) and Eddie Zosky (SS). Zosky, once hailed as the Toronto Blue Jays’ “shortstop of the future,” had spent all or part of the past six seasons in the International League. He still possessed exceptional defensive skills and was expected to bat second in the lineup. Clay Bellinger (.274 with Triple-A Phoenix) would provide reserve help in the infield while Cesar Devarez would back up Waszgis.

The Red Wings would start the year at Silver Stadium, which would see its last Opening Day. Director of Stadium Operations Gene Buonomo experienced no major problems in readying the field for competition, although admitting that he’s “been putting Band-Aids on everything for years.” Ticket sales were brisk for the game, but not as brisk as the winds, as the April 4 opener versus Charlotte was called due to cold and snow. The game scheduled for the next day was postponed as well.

The cancellations brought into question the wisdom of the International League’s policy of rotating home openers. While Rochester was in a long stretch of unseasonable (but not unusual) early April weather, Charlotte was seeing temps in the 70s. The Red Wings had opened at home in ’95 and ’96 and both were canceled; in fact three of the past four Rochester home openers had to be postponed due to weather.

The field was finally playable on April 6. A doubleheader was scheduled, but by the time the second game was to start the temperature was 28 degrees and so the nightcap was postponed. The official paid crowd was 8,146, but in reality only about 4,700 braved the elements. The Wings marked the final Silver Stadium opener by having the ceremonial first pitches thrown out by nine fans, each born in one of the years the franchise had captured a Governors’ Cup championship.

Unfortunately the game was a 4-1 loss, the Wings ending their run at Silver with a 41-27 record in openers. Starter Coppinger and relievers surrendered only one hit, but allowed nine walks. (Two days later official scorer Len Lustik reversed a call, adding another hit to the Knights’ total.) Befitting the second “final season” at Silver, the uniforms featured a “Final Season — The Sequel” patch on the right sleeve, and on the left, a patch with the logo of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the minor leagues’ umbrella organization.

A doubleheader scheduled for the next day was likewise cancelled by cold and snow. A weeknight game was played in 30-degree temperatures, convincing the Wings to change the following contest to an afternoon start. A win on April 10 closed out the abbreviated homestand with three wins in four games. The victory also gave the franchise its 8,000th win (against 7,480 losses) since joining the league in 1885.

Taking the show on the road provided no improvement in the weather, as the Wings’ first road series was in Syracuse. Two more cancellations marred the trip, but the lone win pushed Rochester into first place. The road outfits featured a slight change; the players had decided to wear their red-billed “home” hats during their final road series of 1995, and so the two-color hat became the team’s sole headgear for 1996.

The cancellations played havoc with Foley’s pitching rotation and wore on his bullpen. In a loss in Richmond, outfielder/DH Blosser, who hadn’t pitched since high school, was seen warming up in the bullpen. Two nights later Sackinsky was recalled to Baltimore, leaving the Wings with nine pitchers. With Munoz suffering from a stiff elbow, pitching coach Grimsley said he might activate himself.

There was no pitching help coming, at least right away. The Wings did add a player, but it was veteran major-league outfielder Luis Polonia, giving Gordon a ticket to Bowie. Sackinsky came back after a week, but his addition cost Shepherd, who had four saves in six appearances. Rochester did add lefty reliever Steve Dixon from the Mets’ organization and in early May, journeyman major leaguer Tom Edens was signed to a Triple-A contract.

Fortunately the offense was clicking. In an April 24 doubleheader sweep at home against Syracuse, Mark Smith went 6-for-7 with five RBI. Strong starts by Bellinger, Owens and Devarez helped the team lead the league in average.

Yet it was the weather that continued to warrant the most attention. Due to all the cancellations (five of the first nine home dates), subsequent games were played in less-than-ideal conditions. One game was played in front of less than 200 fans, leading one long-time observers to call it “by far” the lowest crowd ever at Silver. In the first month, the highest temperature recorded during a game at Silver was 52 degrees. Actual attendance in those nine dates was only 9,665.

That total was almost matched during the May 6 exhibition game against Baltimore. A crowd of 9,302 saw the O’s tie the all-time series at 13-13-2 with an 11-9 win. The healthy crowd netted the Wings about $85,000 from tickets, parking and concessions and impressed Baltimore officials, who had been tepid in their interest in coming to Rochester in recent seasons. The O’s left with pitcher Krivda; a day later the Wings added reliever Jimmy Myers from Baltimore and right-hander Archie Corbin, signed out of the Mexican League.

After dueling with Pawtucket for first place, a stretch of poor defensive play and a power drought in mid-May dropped the Wings in the standings. On May 11, Luis Polonia, who threatened to leave the team if not promoted to Baltimore, was recalled, with outfielder Tony Tarasco and pitcher Shepherd coming from Baltimore. The recall left Mark Smith extremely frustrated, as he was leading the team in hitting, home runs, slugging percentage and steals, and tied for the top spot in RBI. Relievers Doug Harris and Aaron Lane were demoted to Bowie to make room. Smith was finally recalled a week later, further compounding the Wings’ offensive problems.

The pitching situation continued to be uncertain as well. Sackinsky was expected back, but calcium growth on his right elbow ligament made his return date unknown. Corbin was promoted, with Estaban Yan sent down from Baltimore. The Wings also added free-agent reliever Brian Shouse. Shepherd moved to the starting rotation, Foley’s attempt to find someone who could bolster the efforts of Coppinger, Munoz and Stephenson.

There were continued questions about the offense as well. The team had the IL’s best batting average through the end of May, but were second-to-last in runs scored. Tarasco was bothered by tendinitis in his right shoulder and his return to the outfield was delayed; in the meantime he could only DH. Owens had a string of injuries, the last to his knee, threatening his season. Bellinger, who had his average up to .362 in May but had since dropped below .300, was installed at first base. A loss on the first day of June dropped the team below .500.

Due to the number of postponements, the Wings played nine consecutive games against Thruway rival Syracuse in early June. Wins in seven catapulted the team past the Chiefs into second place. During the stretch Rochester picked up infielder Bien Figueroa, who had been playing in the Mexican League after his release from the Colorado Rockies. Also added was reliever Todd Frohwirth; returning from Baltimore were Corbin and an impatient Smith. Leaving the team were Coppinger (to Baltimore) and Blosser (cut). Coppinger (6-4, 4.19) had a league-best 81 strikeouts in 73 innings. Blosser (.235) was a major disappointment.

Smith had eight hits in his first nine at-bats, pushing his average over .400. His efforts were contagious. One June 15 at Silver, the Wings were down 9-0 in the fifth inning, with the Clippers’ starter nursing a no-hitter. Fifteen batters and nine hits later, the Wings were in front by the score of 10-9. The Wings twice lost leads, before winning in the bottom of the 10th, 14-13.

Smith’s stay was short, as once again he was promoted, with outfielder Brent Bowers up from Bowie to take his spot. Injuries and other roster shifts kept Foley’s lineup card changing. Jeffrey Hammonds came down in the wake of Smith’s recall and Jim Wawruck returned from the disabled list. Jarvis Brown, who except for one exceptional week, had been mired in a season-long slump, was cut, and Tarasco placed on the DL. In the infield, the versatile Figueroa played first base for the first time in his career, joining Bellinger and Tyler as temporary solutions for the continued absence of Owens.

But the primary problem continued to be pitching. Coppinger had been the workhorse and helped keep the bullpen from overuse. His absence strained the relief corps. A stretch of seven consecutive losses dropped the team back into third.

At the halfway point the team was 34-37. Pre-season expectations had been for pitching to carry the team, yet the unsettled rotation hampered the team. Nor were things expected to improve. Munoz went on the DL and Yan’s ineffectiveness as a starter forced Foley to move him to the bullpen, with Florence taking his spot in the rotation. Those moves left Stephenson the sole member of the original rotation, with the remainder consisting of three former relievers (Dedrick, Shepherd, Florence) and Edens, who had been out of baseball at the start of the season.

That the team was still in the hunt for a playoff spot was seen as a testament to Foley, as well as steady veterans Hall, Bellinger and Zosky, all of whom were free-agent acquisitions. Myers had been a reliable closer and catchers Devarez and Waszgis formed an effective receiving duo. Hall was the team’s sole representative on the Triple-A All-Star Game.

Just prior to the all-star break in early July, Rochester unexpectedly took three of four from first place Pawtucket, returning the team to over the break-even mark, and bringing it within a game-and-a-half of Syracuse and Pawtucket.

The flow of players in and out of town, and on and off the disabled list continued. Zosky, who had been on a hot streak at the plate, hurt his hamstring. His absence, combined with a sidelining injury to Figueroa, forced the shift of Bellinger to shortstop. When Jeff Huson’s rehab assignment ended, the Wings were left with just four infielders, including Owens. The latter was slumping and still bothered by his knee, however, and Foley turned to Waszgis at first base, who made his Triple-A debut at that position.

The pitching staff was affected as well. Sackinsky returned from the DL, and Krivda from Baltimore; their additions were countered by the retirement of Frohwirth and recall of Shepherd. Krivda was present for only one start, as he and Stephenson were soon to go to Baltimore. Calvin Maduro came up from Double-A, but the O’s had to go outside the organization for other replacements, signing Will Flynt from the Mexican League and Matt Grott, who had been cut by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Flynt, a career reliever, made a start in his Rochester debut. Less than a week later Florence was hit on the elbow by a foul ball off the bat of Hall and was placed on the DL, Edens was released and Dedrick sent down to Bowie. The struggling Jimmy Haynes came down from Baltimore.

Hammonds was recalled to take Haynes’ place in Baltimore, bringing changes to the outfield. Wawruck had to go on the DL, necessitating the return of Keith Gordon. Still it left the team with only three outfielders: Hall, Bowers and Gordon. By the beginning of August the Wings had dropped into fourth place. The team was still within reach of a playoff spot, but had to play 25 of its last 34 games on the road.

Continued poor play into the season’s last full month left little reason to hope for a reversal of fortunes Yet finally were made some roster shifts that looked to bolster the club. After a week of uncertainty waiting for his visa to arrive, the Wings inked former Syracuse slugger Domingo Martinez to a contract. He had hit 62 home runs for the Chiefs from 1991-1993 and hit .320, 18, 91 in the Mexican League for 1996. Brent Cookson, another power hitter, was received from Pawtucket for “future considerations.” His batting line for the season was .271, with 19 homers and 50 RBI.

Another series of changes revolved around the pitching staff. The Wings lost Corbin and Yan to recall, but regained Shepherd and Stephenson. Marginal contributors Flynt (DL), Dixon (cut) and Grott (demoted) were also subtracted. Replacements included a mixture of youth (Todd Revenig and Nerio Rodriguez in short recall stints), and veterans (former Wing Jeff Williams, who in 1996 pitched in Taiwan and Mexico; and 33-year-old Dennis Powell, another Mexican League import).

Martinez went on a hitting streak that raised memories of Sam Horn circa 1990. Dubbed “Senor Swat,” the right-handed slugger moved into the lineup at first base and cleanup. In his first nine games he had 21 hits in 38 at-bats (.553) with six home runs (some of considerable distance) and 25 RBI. The offense was averaging nine runs a game since his appearance, not only fueled by Martinez but also Bowers, McClain and Hall. As Syracuse faded (helped by a 17-1 drubbing administered by the Red Wings on Aug. 15), the Wings dueled with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for second place and the last playoff spot.

The morning of Aug. 16 found the two teams tied, with a three-game series in Rochester next on the schedule. In the first game, the Red Wings rallied from a 4-2 deficit with four runs in the fourth and held on for a 6-5 win. The deficit was 3-0 the next night, before the offense kicked in for a 7-4 win. Six runs in the eighth inning of Game Three erased a 3-2 Red Baron lead, giving the Wings come-from-behind victories in all three games, and a three-game hold on second with 17 to play.

During the series Bowers (.325 in 49 games) was recalled to Baltimore. The O’s moved quickly, adding another former Mexican League performer, Drew Denson. Denson was another sizeable power hitter. In 1994 he hit 30 home runs for Triple-A Nashville and his career minor-league total placed him third on the active list, which was headed by Martinez.

The euphoria of the sweep was quickly erased. After an off-day, the IL-west leading Clippers captured a doubleheader from the Wings in Columbus, cutting the Rochester lead to a mere game. The lead fluctuated between a half game and 2 1/2 games, but was down to one when the Wings returned for the final regular-season homestand at Silver Stadium. During the road trip the team lost catcher Gregg Zaun in a trade at the major-league level. Melvin Rosario came up from Bowie to take his place; accompanying him was outfielder Rolando Avila.

The Wings would close with six dates against last place Ottawa, the first three at home. Special promotions were scheduled for all three games. In the first, 10,067 suffered through little suspense as the Wings tallied 10 runs in the first three innings en route to a 11-3 win. The offense continued to produce the next night, a 7-3 win in front of 10,515.

The lead over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was two heading into “The Final Game” at Silver on Friday, Aug. 30. The Wings removed the batting cage along the right field line and added special bleacher seating, allowing for a packed crowd of 12,756, the largest since 14,147 showed in 1981. Each fan was given a protective sleeve for the special final-game tickets, a certificate of attendance, a photo booklet titled “A Day at the Park: A Celebration of Silver,” and a packet of tissues.

Special pre-game ceremonies included an announcement from Rochester Mayor William Johnson that the section of Platt Street adjacent to Frontier Field would be renamed Morrie Silver Way. All-star teams from the Cardinals’ and Orioles’ eras were announced, with such past favorites as Steve Demeter, Jim Fuller, Fred Beene and Mickey Scott selected and in attendance, as was former manager Harry “The Hat” Walker. The RCB front office unveiled a Silver Stadium flag, which would make the move to Frontier, along with banners recognizing Joe Altobelli and Morrie Silver. Altobelli’s number 26 was on his standard; on Silver’s was the number 8222. Both would adorn the outfield walls at the new ballpark. Mrs. Anna Silver threw out the first pitch. (On the same night a Rochester Rhinos’ game at Frontier drew 11,311; the combined crowds totaled 24,067, second all-time in Rochester history in terms of baseball/soccer days in Rochester.)

Rookie starter Maduro seemed a little unnerved by the hoopla, and left after three innings trailing 4-1. The Wings closed to within 4-3, but the Lynx scored four in the eighth and went on for an 8-5 victory. Former Red Wings Anthony Telford and Scott Coolbaugh played key roles in the Ottawa effort. Telford received credit for the win as the starting pitcher, and Coolbaugh had a home run.

The post-game ceremonies featured fireworks and a short video on Silver Stadium. A large limousine brought the tuxedo-clad grounds’ crew out onto the field and then transported the exhumed home plate to Frontier Field. The formalities were fittingly closed by the playing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by cornetist Jeff Tyzik, the principal pops conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Dressed in a white suit and bathed in a single spotlight on the pitchers’ mound, Tyzik’s “lilting, melancholy” rendition of the song reverberated through the darkened stadium. The entire night was broadcast by WXXI, the local PBS television station.

There was still the chance that it would indeed be the final game at Silver, as a Scranton/Wilkes Barre win brought the Red Barons back to within a game. But the next night saw the Wings sweep the Lynx in Ottawa, 3-2, 11-1, which, combined with a Red Baron loss, clinched second place for the Red Wings. After two meaningless final games, the Wings closed at 72-69, with wins in 16 of their last 25 games.

The late surge brought the team within 5 1/2 games of Pawtucket. A late-season slump by the Red Sox, along with personnel losses, led many observers to give the Wings a legitimate chance to upset the division champs in the opening round of the Governors’ Cup playoffs. But it was primarily the acquisitions of sluggers Martinez, Denson and Cookson that closed the gap with the powerful Red Sox.

Ironically it was pitching that dominated the first two games at Silver. The Red Sox took the first game 2-1, despite a strong performance by Rodriguez, who allowed the two runs in the first inning, but shut down the visitors for the next six. Again the Wings were potentially down to their last game ever on Norton St., but in front of 5,013, Krivda pitched a complete-game masterpiece, allowing only four hits in a 4-0 victory.

The win was crucial, as the Wings had lost eight of nine in cozy McCoy Stadium during the ’96 season. Game Three seemed a return to form when the Sox climbed to an early 3-0 lead. But homers by Denson, Cookson and McClain brought the Wings back, and a two-run double by Avila in the top of the ninth secured an 8-7 win. Home runs by Cookson and Hall played a part the next night, but the star of the evening was starter Oscar Munoz, who pitched 8 2/3 innings in the Wings’ series-clinching 6-2 win.

Rochester advanced to the Governors’ Cup final against Columbus. The Clippers were the regular-season IL West champions, with a league-best 85-57 mark, including eight wins in 14 games against the Red Wings.

The finals opened in Rochester. The visitors scored three in the first and were never threatened in a 5-2 win. The next evening, Sept. 10, was the final, final game at Silver, regardless of how the Red Wings concluded the season. A larger-than-normal playoff crowd of 5,573 (Game One had drawn 1,871) saw the Wings held to six hits, only three of which left the infield. Columbus dominated, blanking the Wings 4-0.

This time there were no special ceremonies planned. The fans stood and cheered for the entire ninth inning, but could summon no magic. At 9:51 p.m., Denson grounded out to third, ending the baseball life of Silver Stadium. Ironically the franchise opened the park with a shutout loss (3-0 to Reading on May 2, 1929), and closed it with one as well.

A good part of the crowd remained behind, well aware it would be the last time they would leave the Norton Street ballpark. The scoreboard flashed “Silver Stadium 1929-1996,” and the songs “Auld Lang Syne” and “There Used to be a Ballpark” were played over the public address system, but otherwise the normal post-game operations took place. The grounds crew came out and did the usual field grooming, leveling the batters boxes, covering the mound and smoothing the infield with a lawn tractor until the white chalk lines were obliterated. Some team officials distributed hats, bats and balls to the remaining spectators, but the players themselves never returned to the field to acknowledge the rousing ovation they received at the end of the game.

The Wings’ season lasted only one more game. After a travel day, the Clippers completed the sweep in front of their home fans, 10-5. It was a dominating performance by a clearly-superior team. The Wings did not have a lead in any of the three games. The Clippers Governors’ Cup championship was their third in the last six seasons and 10th for the franchise, matching the Red Wings for the record number of IL post-season championships.

Yet it was an enjoyable season for Red Wing fans. The melancholy of leaving Silver Stadium was matched by the anticipation of playing in Frontier Field. Rochester fans were able to enjoy the new stadium, which, contrary to some expectations, did open on time. A crowd of 12,982 attended the opening ceremonies, which included a concert by the Beach Boys. The Rhinos averaged over 11,000 in attendance, including an A-League record 14,717 for their inaugural game at Frontier. There was almost universal praise for Frontier, the only complaints centering around high concession prices, as well as the lack of a roof.
Large crowds came to Norton St. in the summer months, attracted by a chance to say good-bye to Silver. The final paid attendance total was 391,819 for 65 dates; actual turnstile count was 250,790.

The large crowds were also attracted by a team that in the final month was successful and exciting. Domingo Martinez understandably slowed from his initial pace, but still hit .362, with seven home runs and 38 RBI in 29 games. Drew Denson hit .350 in 16 games and Brent Cookson had a season batting line of .269, 24, 70. Their hitting prowess was contagious, sparking late surges by season-long standouts Clay Bellinger (.301, 15, 78), Joe Hall (.288, 19, 95) and Scott McClain (.281, 17, 69). Hall was key down the stretch, earning league Player-of-the-Week honors for the final week of the season. He tied for the league lead in triples (10) and was among the top five in RBI, hits (138) and runs scored (96). Bellinger was the IL’s all-star shortstop, but versatility was his key value to the Red Wings. He made 49 starts at shortstop, 42 at first base and 28 at second. Mark Smith (.348), Brent Bowers (.325), Gregg Zaun (.319) and Rolando Avila (.298) also chipped in during their short stints.

Brian Sackinsky (7-3, 3.46), Garrett Stephenson (7-4, 4.84), and Jimmy Myers (7-5, 3.00, 11 saves) tied for the team lead in victories, the lowest total to lead a Rochester squad since Joe Kucharski won seven games for the pitiful 1984 team. Oscar Munoz (6-7, 4.23), Rick Krivda (3-1, 4.30), and Rocky Coppinger (6-4, 4.07) contributed as well, but injuries and recalls limited their time in Rochester.

The late-season acquisitions which were the primary cause of the playoff run were also symptoms of the lack of depth in the Oriole farm system. Seven were acquired from the Mexican League and only Rolando Avila and Calvin Maduro made much impact coming up from Bowie. In fact the BaySox suffered through a 54-88 season. The farm system was further depleted by the losses of Maduro, Stephenson and Zaun in September transactions designed to bolster the playoff chances of the parent club.

The efforts by Baltimore to find veterans for the Wings at least indicated that the Orioles still cared about supplying a competitive team in Rochester. And what appeared to be a done deal as far as Bowie receiving one of the Triple-A expansion franchises was cast into uncertainly after the season. Heading into November it was still unclear as to whether or not Rochester would need to find a new affiliate in 1998. In-season speculation focused on the Pittsburgh Pirates as the most likely candidate, or possibly the Minnesota Twins.

Whatever happened, the move to Frontier would make the Wings an attractive option. Rochester still carried an excellent reputation in baseball circles and IL President Randy Mobley predicted the Wings to remain a cornerstone of the league and become one of the top two or three draws thanks to the new stadium. RCB General Manager Dan Mason echoed those expectations — his stated goal was to lead IL in attendance in 1997, with 500,000-600,000 paid and 400,000-450,000 turnstile.

Mason further anticipated that Frontier Field would remain an attractive Triple-A facility for at least the next 40 years. The future for the Rochester franchise had some uncertainties, but it was most certainly the brightest it had been in many years.

Copyright © 1997 Brian A. Bennett. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system - except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper - without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, please contact Triphammer Publishing, P.O. Box 45, Scottsville, NY 14546-0045.