Thursday, September 13, 2007


With modern day Independent Baseball only 15 years old there aren't many times when we get to go back into the sport's rich history. The recent American Association championship series, which will be one of my featured topics in this week's Independent Baseball Insider, created an exception because it came down to another battle royal between Fort Worth, TX and St. Paul, MN. Fort Worth's continued brilliance with its back to the wall is the theme in my column.

The Cats' president, John Dittrich, put together a point by point recap of some of the similarities in the storied history of the championship combatants, so with his permission, I want to share the details with those who journey to this blog. Here are the points he made:

***Both cities were long-time Brooklyn Dodgers farm clubs. Fort Worth was a Dodgers Class AA affiliate, feeding hundreds of players to Triple-A St. Paul, including pitcher Carroll Beringer and catcher Mike Napoli, both of whom still reside in Fort Worth and attend every Cats game.

***Both teams were members of the “old” American Association in the late 1950’s.
Baseball legend Wayne Terwilliger has coached first base for both teams. (He is currently the Cats’ first base coach and managed the Cats to the Central League title in 2005 at the age of 80.)

***Cats shortstop Mark Mirizzi is a St. Paul legend, hitting a walk-off homer to win the 2004 Northern League championship for the Saints.

***Both cities have become model franchises for the development of modern Independent Baseball both on and off the field with great attendance records as well as championship traditions.

***Both cities are “major league” markets in and of themselves. St.Paul is home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and the Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves are just minutes away in Minneapolis. Tarrant County (Fort Worth) hosts the Texas Rangers and will soon become home to the Dallas Cowboys, both facilites less than 20 miles from the Cats' LaGrave Field.

***Both cities, although major North American cities themselves, are in the shadows of and share an airport with other major cities, Minneapolis and Dallas.

***Both cities are connected by the longest North-South interstate highway in the mid-continent, Interstate 35.

***Both teams won back-to-back division championships in the American Association's reincarnation in its first two seasons to qualify for the title series.

While it took dramatics each time, Fort Worth emerged as the winner both years.

Adding a personal postscript to the series, this writer hired both managers to lead the Waterbury (CT) Spirit when that franchise played in the Northeast and Northern Leagues. Fort Worth's Stan Hough was the manager in 1997-1998 and St. Paul's George Tsamis followed in 1999-2000.

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