My All-Time Favorite Minor League Teams: 1992 Greenville Braves

Spring 1992 saw me locate from Southwestern Virginia (yay Appy League!) back to my hometown of Asheville, NC. Our local team, the Tourists (Astros affiliate) sucked as did the Braves Macon franchise in the Sally League, so I turned my eyes further afield only to discover one of the all-time best minor league teams, the 1992 Greenville Braves, just 45 minutes away in Greenville, SC.

Old Municipal Stadium: You Could Do Worse

Greenville had hosted the Braves as an AA Southern League team since 1984 at the old Municipal Stadium (not the current Fenway-replica stadium). As a venue for baseball, the place was fairly average for the early 90’s — parking was a hassle, seats were mostly just aluminum benches on concrete tiers, vendors had both types of beer, Bud and Busch. The seats were fairly close to the action behind the plate where the box seats were, while angling slightly back towards the field down the lines. There wasn’t a lot of foul ground as a result. Still, boxes were usually $4 and came with in-seat service: you could do worse.

1992 Greenville Braves: The Team

Manager Grady Little gets a bad rep because of his epic mismanagement of the 2003 ALCS that cost him his job in Boston but he was a great Minor League Manager, arguably the best in the last 40 years (Snit and Rocket Wheeler would be the main competition). While much of MiLB strategy is constrained by fiat from the front office, the managers tend to make a difference by making the experience enjoyable for the players while still being professional — Grady no doubt loved the umbrella thing for Donaldson last summer for example. Where this affected the play was on the bases — Little loved himself some hit and run. Officially you will find the team middle of the pack in stolen bases and at the top end of caught stealing for the season; what you won’t see is that they actually attempted steals at a far below average pace — those were all broken hit and runs. Guys seemed to love playing for him, though.

The team saw a remarkable 11 position players reach the majors including some good ones. The mainstays all year were outfielders “Terrible” Tony Tarasco and Mike Kelly, first baseman Mike Bell and young catcher and team MVP Javy Lopez. Tarasco and Kelly would later reach Atlanta and have underwhelming careers as backups-who-strike-out-too-much but for Greenville they were genuine-stars-who-strike-out-too-much, playing great D in the field while doing it all at the dish. Bell was a Mark Grace type who never did hit for power — tough to have a career doing that. Javy was on a catch every other game schedule sharing time with Eddie Perez.

The rest of the first half regulars were no slouches — Aubrey Waggoner the left fielder didn’t know what that leather thing on his hand was for but enjoyed a long MiLB career as a good hitter, and even he wasn’t the type of black hole of defensive suck you find on most minor’s teams. Other stalwarts included Mike Mordecai and Ed Giovanola. Overall, the defense was likely the best I have ever seen on a MiLB team and made them extraordinarily fun to watch.

The pitching side featured fewer actual prospects but had some highlights. Nate Minchy had his career year and later, after years of arm trouble, would eventually pitch in the bigs over in the other league. For Greenville he was a ground-ball inducing machine. The #2 starter was Dennis Burlingame, a righty who gave up tons of fly balls without any strikeouts and I spent the entire season wondering when the bubble would burst (the answer: 1993). The top reliever was a 1986 6th round draft pick named Andy Nezelek who would throw a remarkable 108 innings from the pen before losing the rest of his career to injuries, surprise surprise. While a rightie, Nezelek had Mitch Williams delivery and I can’t understand how any right handed hitter could stand in against him. The league didn’t keep HBP as an official stat but let’s just say I saw him get his share.

Other pitchers of note included Donnie Elliott, Pedro Borbon, and Greg McMichael. Veteren Kevin Coffman and Don Strange split the closers role.

1992 Greenville Braves: The Race

There was no pennant race in either half. They finished the first half at 49-23 (.688) a comfortable 11 games in front. Then they got better. Two new faces joined for the 2nd half: Melvin Nieves (who would be traded along with Teammate Donnie Elliott and someone named Vince Moore for the Crime Dog next season) and one Larry Wayne Jones.

Chipper would hit a measly .346, .367, .594 and we were off to the races going 51-16 until a season’s-end 4 game skid saw them finish the year with a .699 winning percentage. The 100 wins and the .699 winning percentage are still league records.

1992 Greenville Braves: The Playoffs

The team sawed off the Charlotte Knights (White Sox) with a 3-0 sweep to start the postseason before facing the Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds) in the final. Greenville took the opener behind a complete game from Minchy, before Burlingame got an early start on 1993 while getting only 2 outs in game 2. After splitting a pair of rainouts — really, some outlets have them counted as finished games while others don’t list them at all — game 5 for the series was played before a full house in Greenville and saw the good guys prevail in a topsy-turvy affair.

Thanks for reading on the 1992 Greenville Braves. If you enjoy lookbacks at Braves Minor League Teams and Major League Teams, check out our Braves History category!

17 thoughts on “My All-Time Favorite Minor League Teams: 1992 Greenville Braves”

  1. Man, the memories that picture brings. I grew up around Greenville, SC. We had a friend who worked at a local sponsor radio station and she left us tickets whenever we wanted. Probably went to dozens of games a year. I remember we got there early one time for batting practice and left with eighteen baseballs. That white building in front of the trees was a shaved ice stand. I had my 13th birthday party at a game. We were sad when they moved to Mississippi.

  2. As a kid, I really enjoyed watching Tony Tarasco bat, even though he couldn’t really hit. In retrospect, he was kind of like the anti-swing-plane guy – if I recall correctly, his swing was just completely flat, not even the slightest hint of an uppercut.

    Larry Wayne, on the other hand…

  3. In reading these pieces, I’ve realized that I’ve never been a fan of an MiLB team, rather that I’ve just been a fan of the individual players (prospects). Dang, that makes me feel empty after reading Snowshine’s work. The only MiLB team I’ve ever lived close to was the Zephyrs, and I just couldn’t fathom pulling for a Mets affiliate team (at that time).

    I’ve ordered MiLB.TV these past few years, yet have still found myself watching the prospects I follow more than rooting for teams. This is something I want to change about myself.

  4. I grew up in Chattanooga and went to several GBraves games that summer. Both teams were loaded and fun to watch.

  5. I too am an Asheville native and minorleague baseball junkie. Went to the old Greenville stadium several times. It’s the only ball park I can remember that sold beer by the pitcher. I still have one of those pitchers. The new stadium in Greenville is really nice but the old municipal stadium was simple and had no bells and whistles but I believe a lot of major Leaguers came through there.

  6. “It’s the only ball park I can remember that sold beer by the pitcher”

    I remember pitchers of beer at McCormick Field when the Orioles had their AA team there. It was just for the box seats. If you rent the “Party Pavilion” down the 3rd base line at the Tennessee Smokies place you can still get one, or if you go into the restaurant.

  7. I THINK Dennis Burlingame was on the Durham Bulls back in 1990 (back before Bull Durham, and when Durham was the Braves A Ball franchise), and he and Steve Avery worked a season opening 7 inning twin bill. Avery tossed a no-hitter in Game 1 and Burlingame followed that up with a 7 inning perfecto in Game 2. (Or vice versa).

    (One quick Google search later).

    So, I slightly misremembered. It was 1989 (April 9th to be exact), and Burlingame tossed the perfecto in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Frederick Keys, and Avery ‘merely’ had a two hit shutout in game 2.

  8. “It’s the only ball park I can remember that sold beer by the pitcher”

    I remember a lot of games at old Atlanta Stadium in which beer sales (at least to me and my friends) varied a lot by the starting pitcher. With, say, Preston Hanna or Tommy Boggs on the mound, we would have hit the beer stand early and often. With Knucksie starting, not so much.

  9. Will there be a MiLB schedule other than perhaps a AAA taxi-squad for every team?
    Will Instructional League run a lot longer than normal?
    Does this remove any chance that some guys — thinking CJ Alexander here — have a MLB career? Who else is most impacted?
    I assume the International scramble will be pretty subdued this july — do you think that might help us because some better prospects will be pushed to next signing period when we have more money?

  10. @9, who are the most impressive short-season players in the Braves system? Who’s got the loudest tools to dream on? (Obviously, some of them turn into Ozzie Albies and some turn into Edward Salcedo, but right now all we’ve got is dreams!)

  11. @9- Does every MLB team have a Driveline-equivalent program going on in the minors? Do the Braves? Also, is Driveline truly as amazing as we always hear, or do they just do a great job promoting a few success stories and ignore the vastly more frequent occurrences where it does not help?

  12. Ryan @ #3

    What? The Pensacola Blue Wahoos don’t count? They’re affiliated with the Twins now, but you still get to see the M-Braves and other Sally League teams when they come to town. We’re right down the road from you, right?

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