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The Rochester Red Wings are a minor league baseball team based in Rochestermarker, New Yorkmarker. The oldest and longest running minor league franchise in the history of professional sports, the team plays in the International League and is the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins major-league club. The Red Wings play in Frontier Fieldmarker, located in downtown Rochester.

The Red Wings were an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals for 32 years (1929-1960), then spent 42 years (1961-2002) as a farm club of the Baltimore Orioles before moving on to the Twins in 2003. The franchise played from 1929 through 1996 at Silver Stadiummarker before moving to Frontier Fieldmarker in 1997.

Baseball in Rochester dates back to 1877 with the "Rochesters" of the International Association, and Rochester has had a franchise in the league now known as the International League as early as 1885. The current franchise has been playing in Rochester since 1899, when the team was known as the Rochester Bronchos and won the league championship in its inaugural season.

According to Rochester sports historian Douglas Brei, only six franchises in the history of North American professional sports have been playing in the same city and same league continuously and uninterrupted since the 1800s: the Rochester Red Wings, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals. He also reports that, along with the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League, the Red Wings are one of only two franchises in North American professional sports to have captured a league championship in every decade of the 20th century.

Franchise history

Early history (1899–1928)

Cardinals era (1929–1960)

The Red Wings became the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in . Aside from the affiliation, the Cardinals also owned the Wings and their stadium, then known as Red Wing Stadiummarker. In the fall of , the Cardinals ceased to operate the Red Wings and put both the team and the stadium up for sale. In response, Morrie Silver, a Rochester businessman, formed Rochester Community Baseball, Inc. (RCB) and spearheaded a drive to sell shares in RCB to raise money to buy the Red Wings and Red Wing Stadium to ensure that the franchise would remain in Rochester. The attempt was successful as RCB purchased both entities from the Cardinals on February 27, 1957, in an event that was dubbed the "72 Day Miracle". RCB, composed of fans of the team as shareholders, continues to own and operate the club to this day, making the Red Wings one of a very few current professional sports franchises that are publicly owned. The Green Bay Packers of the National Football League are the most notable example of this distinction.

After the sale, the Wings remained St. Louis' affiliate until , when the Red Wings moved on to become the top farm club of the Baltimore Orioles.

Orioles era (1961–2002)

Red Wing Stadium was renamed Silver Stadiummarker in honor of Morrie Silver on August 19, 1968.

The Rochester Red Wings, along with the Pawtucket Red Sox, hold the record for the longest professional baseball game, lasting a total of 33 innings and 8 hours, 25 minutes over the course of three different days. The game was held at McCoy Stadiummarker, beginning on April 18, . It was suspended at 4:00 am the next morning, and Rochester lost 3–2 when the game resumed on June 23.

Rochester won six Governors' Cup titles during their 42-year affiliation with the Orioles, with the last coming in . The team's fortunes began to decline by , though, as the product on the field slipped in quality. By , the last year of the player development agreement between Baltimore and Rochester, the team's record had slipped to a league-worst 55–89. In the off-season, the Red Wings did not extend the agreement with Baltimore; instead, the club signed a new one with the Minnesota Twins to become their Triple-A affiliate.

The last five years of the Orioles affiliation also saw a pair of accomplishments aside from the 1997 title run. In 1997, the Red Wings moved into the new Frontier Fieldmarker in downtown Rochester after 68 seasons at Silver Stadiummarker on the city's northeast side. Later, during the team's fourth year at the stadium in , the Red Wings played host to the Triple-A All-Star Game.

Twins era (2003–present)

The change in affiliation did not immediately transfer into success on the field. In , the Red Wings finished 68–75 under new manager Phil Roof, good for fifth place in the six-team International League (IL) North Division and 10½ games behind the Ottawa Lynx, the new affiliate of the Orioles. It was the sixth consecutive losing season for Rochester. Beginning in , however, the team began to turn their fortunes around. In both 2004 and , the Red Wings finished in second place in the North Division with records of 73–71 and 75–69, respectively. The turnaround was capped in when Rochester, now under the leadership of Stan Cliburn, advanced to the International League playoffs as the Wild Card with a record of 79–64. The Red Wings then beat the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons three games to one in the best-of-five semifinal series but lost to the Toledo Mud Hens in five games, three games to two, in the best-of-five Governors' Cup series.

Rochester followed up their run to the 2006 Governors' Cup Finals by posting a winning record in each of the next two seasons, bringing the streak of consecutive winning seasons to five. In , the team went 74–70 after being as far as 13 games under .500 at one point (19–32 on May 25). The streak was snapped in after the team finished 70–74. On September 21, 2009, the Minnesota Twins announced that they would not renew manager Stan Cliburn's contract for the 2010 season. According to Twins farm director Jim Rantz, the change was made as part of an "overall directional change that is being implemented throughout the minor-league system." Cliburn's replacement was not named at that time; however, Rantz considered Double-A New Britain Rock Cats manager Tom Nieto to be the front-runner for the position. Nieto, who led New Britain to a playoff berth in 2009, officially became the next manager of the Red Wings on October 20. He is the 66th manager in the history of Rochester professional baseball, which spans 122 seasons.

Titles

The Red Wings have played for the Governors' Cup, the championship of the International League, 21 times, winning 10. Both numbers are IL records.


Current roster

Retired numbers

The Red Wings have retired three numbers, two of which are derived from uniform numbers.

  • 26 for Joe Altobelli, often referred to as "Mr. Baseball" within Rochester. He played for the Red Wings from to , coached the team in , and managed the team from to . As manager, "Alto" led the Red Wings to two Governors' Cup titles. Altobelli also served as the Red Wings' General Manager from to and was the color commentator for all Red Wing home game broadcasts from to .
  • 36 for Luke Easter. He played in Rochester from to his retirement in , during which time he hit 67 home runs.
  • 8222 for Morrie Silver. He spearheaded a successful grassroots effort to purchase the Red Wings from the St. Louis Cardinals in and subsequently served as the team president from to . The number retired in his honor, 8,222, represents the original number of shareholders of Rochester Community Baseball, Inc.


Altobelli's number 26 and the number 8,222 representing Silver were both retired prior to the final regular season game at Silver Stadiummarker on August 30, 1996. Easter's number 36 was retired by the Red Wings in .

Notable alumni



Awards and honors

In 2008, Naomi Silver, the team's Chief Operating Officer and Board Chairman, was selected Minor League Executive of the Year by Baseball America.

Notes and references

  1. The IL Regular Season Pennant symbolized the League Champion until the Governors' Cup was established in 1933. Since 1933, the IL has officially recognized both the Pennant Winner and the Governors' Cup as League Champions. The Red Wings captured Governors' Cups in every decade since it was established except the 1940s, a decade in which they won the IL Pennant in 1940. Since the IL was separated into divisions in 1988, most people have come to consider the Governors' Cup winner to be the league champion, although in the early years most still considered the Pennant Winner to be the true league champion. The league still officially recognizes both titleists as champions.


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