Myrtle Beach Blue Jays

From BR Bullpen


In 1987 the Florence Blue Jays moved to the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC and became the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays. The team had a great first season in the South Atlantic League, winning the southern division in both the first half (42-28) and second half (41-28) under manager Barry Foote. The team led the league in ERA (3.13) and was third in runs (660) but the Asheville Tourists had an even better record (91-48) and scoring differential, leaving the Blue Jays as underdogs for the league championship. Myrtle Beach won game one 3-2 at home, then lost 9-2 before going on the road for the last three games. They lost 7-6 but then won 6-5 to stay alive with 4 runs in the ninth. The finale was a 3-2 win for the Jays, who had won a title in their first season in their new home (they would also win a title in their last year, in 1992, when they were known as the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes). The team had three All-Stars - OF Mark Whiten (.253/~.370/.409, 49 SB, 90 R, voted the top prospect in the league by league managers), OF Junior Felix (.290/~.350/.436, 64 SB, selected as the #3 prospect) and P Doug Linton (14-2, 1.55, 155 K and 94 H in 122 IP, leading the league in ERA and picked as the 6th best prospect). C Francisco Cabrera (.276/~.335/.434) was selected as the 9th-best prospect, SS Eric Yelding (.305/~.339/.359) stole 73 bases and utility infielder Luis Sojo and backup catcher Randy Knorr would go on to long big-league careers. The pitching staff also included Pat Hentgen (11-5, 2.35) and Cesar Mejia (7-4, 2.73) among the ERA leaders in the league.

The 1988 edition of the team (managed by Richie Hebner) also won the first half (46-24) but slipped in the second half (37-32) and then fell in the playoffs. The team was loaded with All-Stars: OF Derek Bell, 2B William Suero, SS Sojo, RHP Jimmy Rogers and LHP Denis Boucher gave the team 5 of the 12-team league's 12 All-Stars. They also had the Manager of the Year, Hebner, and Rogers won the Most Outstanding Pitcher award. Bell (.344/~.381/.557) won the batting title and was named the top prospect. 1B Greg Vella (.290/~.344/.484) was 5th in average, Sojo (.289/~.335/.377) sixth (1st with 155 hits) and voted the 4th-best prospect and Suero (.284/~.353/.387) was 10th in average. Knorr became a starter behind the plate. Boucher (13-12, 2.84) and Xavier Hernandez (13-6, 2.55, 11th in ERA, the #7 prospect in the circuit) had fine years, while Rogers went 18-4 with a 3.35 ERA and led the league in wins and strikeouts (198); he was named the fifth-best prospect. Rob MacDonald (3-4, 15 Sv, 1.69) and Steve Wapnick (4-3, 12 Sv, 2.24) were an excellent lefty-righty combination out of the bullpen.

In 1989 Myrtle Beach fell drastically, going 59-83 for the worst record in the SAL. Mike Fischlin was the new manager. The club's 4.07 ERA was second-worst in the league as they no longer had top pitching prospects like Hengten, Linton, Rogers, MacDonald, Boucher and Hernandez. Dave Weathers (11-13, 3.86) was the workhorse of the staff that year while Tim Brown (3-12, 4.47) allowed a league-high 103 runs.

Fischlin's club did better in 1990, posting a 77-63 record, fourth in the league despite no All-Stars. The team ERA improved to third place (3.12), with Rob Blumberg (13-4, 2.16) fourth in the league, Mike Ogliaruso (14-9, 2.52) fifth (and named the #8 prospect) and Aaron Small (9-9, 2.80) 8th fifteen years before he surprised the world with his work in the majors long past his prospect days. Martin returned and went 2-4 with 16 saves and a 2.39 ERA, while Graeme Lloyd was 5-2 with 6 saves and a 2.72 ERA as a swingman. OF Nigel Wilson (.273/~.319/.475, 16 HR, 22 SB) was perhaps the club's most potent offensive force.

Sources: 1988-1991 Baseball Almanacs, 1989 Baseball Guide

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs Team MVP Hitting Coach Pitching Coach
1987 83-56 2nd Barry Foote League Champs Doug Linton Leroy Stanton Rocket Wheeler John Poloni
1988 83-56 2nd Richie Hebner Lost in 1st round Luis Sojo Leroy Stanton Bill Monbouquette
1989 59-83 12th Mike Fischlin Ray Giannelli Leroy Stanton Bill Monbouquette
1990 77-63 4th Mike Fischlin Mike Ogliaruso Leroy Stanton Steve Mingori