Ghosts of the Minors dives right in with this Wisconsin team
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick romp through the true story of the real Minors team.
Today, Green Bay is something of a football town, with a gridiron group known as the Packers representing the colorful shoreside bay in a national professional league. But all good sports fans are predominantly bugs for baseball, and back in the Minors of yesteryear, Green Bay was a burg worthy of the best.
Unfortunately, the town's team -- the Green Bay Bays -- never quite delivered on "the best" part of that equation.
Still, let’s dive right in with the Bays, who surfaced late in the 19th Century and got along swimmingly in the Wisconsin-Illinois League from 1909-1914. True, the Bays never floated to the top of the heap, but over those six seasons they sometimes tied up the Freeport Pretzels, downed the Racine Malted Milks, and cut through the Wausau Lumberjacks.
While those other teams had fun monikers that nodded to locally popular snack foods and vocations, the Bays' name likely came from convenience and happenstance. In an era when not all teams had nicknames at all, whatever was printed in newspapers tended to sop in. When headlines referred to the "Bays" to save the space required by "Green Bay" -- and what a sizeable bay the bay of Green Bay is, covering over 1,600 square miles of Lake Michigan! -- the Bays was born.
And those Green Bay Bays came closest to getting their bottle in their first and last years, in each of which they finished second.
In the prior ('09), they were led by Felix Chouinard (who rose to the Chicago White Sox and sunk back to the Bays a couple times over the next few seasons) and manager John Pickett. Pickett’s charge ultimately let him down, finishing 69-54 behind the consistently frustrating Madison Senators.
In the latter ('14), manager Bobby Lynch was the Bay’s buoy, but not the lynchpin needed for a title.
Although Green Bay was a bit adrift between those two second-place finishes, the Bays stayed afloat with once- or future-big leaguers of lasting fame -- legends like Fritz Mollwitz and Joe Benz!
After the 1914 campaign, the Bays and the rest of the Wisconsin-Illinois League could find no port in the storm that was the financial reality of pro baseball in the second decade of the 20th century. All the bookkeepers under water, Green Bay would not harbor another Minors team until 1940.
But that's an apparition for a different edition of Ghosts of the Minors.
Josh Jackson is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @JoshJacksonMiLB.