Sumter Braves

From BR Bullpen



The Sumter Braves joined the South Atlantic League in 1985 and would become the only Sumter, SC-based team to last more than two seasons. The Atlanta Braves affiliate replaced the Anderson Braves. Managed by Buddy Bailey, Sumter won the first-half northern division title and was 72-63 in the regular season, but fell to the Greensboro Hornets in the postseason. They were next-to-last in the 10-team SAL in attendance (36,518). Tom Glavine (9-6, 2.35, 174 K and 114 H in 169 IP) led the league in ERA; managers in the SAL picked Glavine as the #6 prospect, John Kilner (8-5, 3.80, 163 K in 130 IP) the #7 prospect and OF Drew Denson (.300/~.385/.478) the #8 prospect in the loop. Denson was the club's lone All-Star. Joining Glavine as part of the Atlanta Braves' early 1990s success were 2B Mark Lemke (.216/~.317/.242), SS Jeff Blauser (.235/~.360/.315, 36 SB) and 2B Ronnie Gant (.256/~.328/.397, 19 SB).

In 1986 Sumter improved to 75-59 under Brian Snitker but failed to make the playoffs. Attendance improved to 45,290 (6th place). 3B/2B Lemke improved to .272/~.391/.455 with 87 walks, 18 homers and 99 runs but, like the rest of the team, did not make the All-Star list. Tommy Greene (11-7, 4.69) was rated the #2 prospect while OF David Justice (.300/~.425/.509) was picked as the 8th-best prospect. Kevin Coffman went 10-3 with a 3.07 ERA, the 10th-best mark in the league. On August 7, Alex Smith went 7 for 7 in a 17-0 rout of the Columbia Mets. Overall, Smith (a third baseman) hit .284/~.338/.378. The seven hits were a SAL record.

The Braves were managed by Bailey again in 1987 and were 75-62, third overall, but first in neither half and thus out of the playoffs again. Attendance plummeted to a league-worst 26,081. Kevin Brown (7-1, 1.93), Andy Nezelek (6-3, 1.80), Rich Longuil (9-9, 2.89), Paul Marak (12-5, 3.13) and Jim Czajkowski (4-6, 20 Sv, 2.23) formed a fine rotation. The best position player to emerge was Al Martin (.253/~.332/.424, 27 SB) while the team's only All-Star was utility infielder Rich Maloney (.270/~.371/.307, 25 SB).

The 1988 edition of the club was the worst yet. Managed by Ned Yost, Sumter was 64-73, 8th in the 12-team league. Attendance picked up to 35,067, but remained last. Skipper Wright (8-5, 24 Sv, 1.95) had the most saves in the circuit, while Dennis Burlingame (9-11, 2.49) was picked as the #6 prospect. David Nied (12-9, 3.76) and Ben Rivera (9-11, 3.17) were also considered prospects in the rotation.

Yost's Sumter club was even worse a year later, going 60-80, just two games ahead of the league's worst team, the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays. For the third straight year, they pulled up the rear in attendance (36,706). Ricky Trlicek (6-5, 2.59) was one of the team's few productive players. Future stars were 1B-DH Ryan Klesko (.289/~.366/.389 in 25 games) and Mark Wohlers (2-7, 6.49), while Gant stopped by for a rehabilitation assignment and smacked the ball in 12 games, hitting .385/~.520/.615.

The club's final season was 1990; Yost's third year produced his best record with Sumter (73-69), though attendance remained stuck in last (37,412). Klesko was named to the league's All-Star team at first base, won the Most Outstanding Prospect award, and according to Baseball America was the #2 prospect in the league behind Tito Navarro. Klesko batted .368/~.445/.571 in 68 games. Roger Hailey (10-1, 2.02) was third in the league in ERA, Wohlers (5-4, 5 Sv, 1.88, 85 K and 27 H in 53 IP) was dominating and Don Strange (4-1, 24 Sv, 0.66) was better yet. Catcher prospect Tyler Houston struggled at .210/~.292/.344 while SS Vinny Castilla batted .268/~.339/.404.

In 1991 the team became a Montreal Expos affiliate and was renamed the Sumter Flyers.

Sources: 1986-1991 Baseball Almanacs and Baseball America Statistics Reports

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs Hitting Coach Pitching Coach Coach
1985 72-63 6th Buddy Bailey Lost in 1st round
1986 77-60 3rd Brian Snitker Clarence Jones Leo Mazzone
1987 75-62 3rd Buddy Bailey Clarence Jones Larry Jaster Buddy Bailey
1988 64-73 9th Ned Yost Rick Albert/ Larry Jaster
1989 60-81 11th Ned Yost Ralph Rowe Elias Sosa Gil Garrido
1990 73-69 7th Ned Yost Ralph Rowe Matt West Steve Glass