This content was originally found in Issue No. 22 of this year’s Senators Program
April 19: Second baseman Trace Coquillette went 5-for-6 with a double in a 17-0 win at Trenton. The Senators scored ten runs in the sixth inning. First baseman Fernando Seguignol singled and hit a three-run homer and Chris Stowers singled twice in the frame.
April 20: Seguignol and Stowers were at it again the next night as the former hit a home run in his third consecutive game while the latter’s RBI single capped a three-run, ninth-inning rally to beat Reading 11-10.
April 25: Coquillette cracked a seventh-inning grand slam and Jose Fernandez went 3-for-5 with two dingers of his own as the Senators beat Trenton 7-5.
April 27: Catcher Michael Barrett went 3-for-4, including a third-inning grand slam, and outfielder Scott Samuels went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBI in a 10-3 win against New Haven April 27. The game capped a stretch in which Barrett went 12-for-21.
May 4: J.D. Smart threw six scoreless innings in a 5-0 win against Akron and he had not allowed a run in his first five games (1-0, 1 SV, 20 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 15 SO)
May 8: Trace Coquillette hit a pair of home runs and Hiram Bocachica and Fernando Seguignol also went deep in a 6-3 win at Portland. Seguignol had homered twice the night before.
May 18: Three days after his extra inning, game-winning single, Coquillette was the goat committing a pair of errors in the seventh inning, his first two of the season, that led to four unearned runs and an 8-3 loss against New Britain. The Senators as a team were responsible for six miscues in the game.
May 19: Jeremy Powell threw a three-hit, 7-1 complete game win against New Britain. It was the first nine-inning complete game of his career and fourth overall.
May 18-20: Seguignol homered in three straight games against New Britain. He had gone deep in four of five games in the midst of getting a hit in 14 of his last 15 games. By the end of the month Seguignol, who was acquired from the Yankees a few years back in the John Wetteland deal, was leading the league in home runs (15), RBI (44), slugging (.649) and extra-base hits (26).
June 15: Keith Evans allowed a run on three hits over six innings while Fernando Seguignol doubled twice, homered and drove in four runs in a 12-1 win against Trenton.
June 26: Jeremy Powell allowed fourth and sixth-inning singles over six innings to snap his three-game losing streak and help end a terrible slide for the Senators that saw them lose ten straight games and 21 of 26 at one point, batting just .180 with runners in scoring position over that span. In the nightcap of the doubleheader, Scott Mitchell tossed a three-hit, 5-0 shutout over Akron. First baseman Andy Tracy was promoted from Jupiter and homered in his first at-bat. In six games, Tracy went 4-for-15 with two dingers.
July 3: Shortstop Jamey Carroll’s two-run single capped a three-run bottom of the ninth inning that gave the Senators a 9-8 win over Reading. Jose Fernandez and Michael Barrett clubbed back-to-back homers in the fifth inning.
July 12: Fernandez’s tenth-inning RBI double beat Akron 5-4 on July 12. The hit capped an eight-game stretch in which Fernandez hit .385 (10-26) with three doubles and three homers.
July 14: Chris Stowers’ RBI double in the sixth inning provided the only run of the game in a 1-0 blanking over Trenton. Keith Evans hurled seven scoreless innings (5 H, 2 BB, 3 SO) for the win.
July 24: Fernando Seguignol homered twice (2-4, 3 RBI) on in a 7-6 win against Akron. He belted another dinger the next night against the Aeros, then went deep again July 28 & 29 against Norwich to boost his league-leading totals to 24 homers and a .604 slugging percentage.
August 3: Peter Bergeron and Jon Tucker came over from San Antonio after the Dodgers packaged the duo as part of the trade package for Carlos Perez and Mark Grudzielanek. Bergeron went 4-for-12 and Tucker 2-for-10 in their first three games.
August 6-8: Infielder Geoff Blum hit home runs in three consecutive games against New Haven and Reading (6-9, 5 RBI).
August 13: The Senators had just two hits in the first five innings before putting together 11 runs and seven hits in the sixth inning to defeat Trenton 11-6 on August 13. Chris Stowers had two singles in the inning while Jhonny Caravajal and Tucker had three-run doubles.
August 17: Blum clubbed a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning off one of the minors’ top firemen, Brent Stentz, to beat New Britain 6-4 in the second game of a twinbill. Barrett scored ahead of Blum’s blast to cross the plate in his 12th consecutive game.
August 26: Michael Barrett hit a pair of home runs, a double and a single, scored three runs and drove in a pair in a 6-3 win at Bowie. The Senators scored three unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning to pull out the victory. Barrett, who took over the league lead in batting (.326), has batted .413 (38-92) in August while playing mostly at the hot corner. As a third baseman this season, the 21-year-old is batting .384 in 99 at-bats. He had a 17-game hitting streak snapped August 25 against Bowie.
September 6: Chris Stowers started two rallies in the afternoon with a double and a homer that helped Harrisburg beat the Portland Sea Dogs 7-1. Hours later as Trenton lost 14-4, the Senators clinched the final playoff spot in the Eastern League’s Southern Division.
September 9: Using early home runs by Stowers and Andy Tracy, as well as five workmanlike innings from starter Scott Forster, the Senators built a quick lead 9-0 lead and held off a couple of late Akron rallies to take Game 1 of the semifinals, 9-5.
September 11: Four more hits by Stowers helped the Senators rally past the Aeros 7-4 to take a 2-1 series lead. “I can’t explain it,” Stowers said of batting .339 against Akron during the regular season and .259 against the rest of the league. “Of course, I did go 3-for-50 against Bowie.”
September 12: A timely three-run homer in the second inning by Carlos Adolfo and solid pitching from Jeremy Powell and Tommy Phelps propelled the Senators to a 6-3 win eliminating the vaunted Aeros (including Major League All-Star Jim Thome on a rehab assigment) in four games of the Eastern League’s best-of-five Southern Division finals.
September 15: Chris Schwab had only been a Senator since the final weekend of the Eastern League’s regular season. But the newcomer came through in the clutch as his RBI double fueled a three-run sixth inning that sparked a 5-2 victory over New Britain in Game 2 of the EL finals at RiverSide Stadium.
September 16: The Senators jumped out to a two-run first inning and starter Scott Mitchell and reliever Phelps moved Harrisburg to within one game of the championship with a 3-2 win.
September 17: Nine innings wasn’t enough, but Carlos Adolfo and Guillermo Mota made sure ten frames was. Adolfo’s two-run double lifted the Senators over New Britain 6-4 in Game 4 of the Eastern League finals and Mota nailed down the win recording the final three outs.
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
- The Senators became only the second team in the Eastern League’s 76 seasons to win three straight playoff titles.
- Jose Fernandez and Michael Barrett were among the 12 players selected to the season-ending Eastern League all-star team.
- Outfielder Chris Stowers reached 100 consecutive games without an error before his streak ended on August 29.
- Guillermo Mota named the playoff MVP after allowing only three hits in seven scoreless innings.
“It’s the end of the road. Everything we’ve worked for is finished. This puts a dot on the i…When you work hard like this, this is what’s supposed to happen.” – – manager Rick Sweet on winning championship
“We hit a road series in Binghamton and it seemed that things went down hill after that. We were playing so well and then I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We lost our focus. We were a young team and teams made a lot of adjustments. The all-star break is a time for moves and some guys may have been thinking about that.” – – Michael Barrett on 5-23 June record
“You always think that burn of champagne in the eye hurts, but it’s nothing. Good guys always finish on top, right?” – – shortstop Geoff Blum
“I think the biggest boost we had was when we got (Jon) Tucker and (Peter) Bergeron. We knew that they were good players and we also knew that they were going to come in and help us win. It seemed like we had a different attitude. We were a team. Then (Geoff) Blum and Andy Tracy gave us an air of confidence. We knew that this was going to be the team and we were all going to stay there. It was great for chemistry.” – – Barrett on the late season roster
“When you taste this once, you want to taste it again and again. People who have never won never know this feeling.” – – manager Rick Sweet on winning championship
“They turned the trophy over to me [during the clubhouse celebration]. I took it to the bus, wiped it off and put it on the dashboard for the whole way back.” – – bus driver Art Mattingly
This content was originally found in Issue No. 21 of this year’s Senators Program
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
In 1997 Rick Sofield became the fifth manager for Harrisburg since the Montreal Expos began their AA affiliation here in 1991. The 40-year-old was also the fifth manager to arrive on City Island without a winning record as a minor-league skipper since 1991. By the end of the season, Sofield would also be the fifth manager to take the Senators to the Eastern League finals and third to win the championship as affiliate of the Expos. Sofield’s rules were simple: Be on time. Be attentive. Be ready to work hard, regardless of the score. Be quiet; no pregame chats with the opposing team. “When you’re on my time, you’re doing my business,” the manager said.
A season after Bob Henley threw out a league-leading 53 percent of potential base stealers, you would think baserunners would remain glued to the bases they’re on. But by the time the All-Star break rolled around in 1997, Henley had thrown out 44 of 56 would-be basestealers and had picked off five runners. The 24-year-old backstop returned to Harrisburg not just a force behind the plate but also batting at it. “Last year, Bob was taking balls he could have hit while he was waiting for a perfect pitch and he was not jumping on some balls he should have hit early in the count,” Expos’ minor-league hitting instructor Pat Roessler said. “Bob is now taking swings that we pictured him taking two years ago. He’s a different guy.” Henley batted a career-best .304 along with 12 home runs and 49 runs batted in. Unfortunately, Henley’s breakout season would come to a crashing halt after he suffered a concussion on July 19 and dealt with lingering effects after that.
WHO NEEDS A DAY OFF?
June 10th was supposed to be the Senator’s last day off until the All-Star break. But after an embarrassing 13-2 loss the night before to the lowly New Haven Ravens, Sofield had the team run through a 9 a.m. workout at RiverSide Stadium. “You would like to think,” Sofield said, “that if a club came in here with a losing record and we were second place, which means we’re an upper-level club in this league, that we would get hungrier, develop more of a killer instinct and not take people for granted.”
Despite missing 33 games with a fractured left thumb, Izzy Alcantara posted his best offensive season of his career. In fact by the numbers, the corner infielder had the best slugging season of any Senator since their return in 1987. Alcantara homered in six straight games to set an Eastern League record that fell one game short of the minors’ all-time record. But the biggest home run the Dominican would hit came on the last day of the regular season when he clubbed his 27th of the season breaking the modern franchise record set by Cliff Floyd and Glenn Murray.
THE RETURNING SLUGGER
After leading the Senators to a championship in the previous year, big things were expected of a full season of Brad Fullmer. The power-hitting first baseman didn’t disappoint either slugging 19 home runs, 24 doubles, and driving in 62 runs in only 94 games. But chunks of Fullmer’s season were lost to bad luck (two fractures in his right foot after getting hit by a pitch in late April) and stupidity (badly swollen right hand after punching the bat rack) before being promoted to Ottawa on July 29. “Those bat racks never lose; they’re undefeated,” Sofield said.
They say championships are built on good pitching and good defense. Well, at least the Senators had one of those. Harrisburg finished the season with a staggering total of 195 errors in 142 games, which led to nearly one unearned run per game against the league’s best pitching staff. Five position players reached double-digits and Hiram Bocachica’s 32 errors led the team.
THE SPORADICALLY BRILLIANT PROSPECT
Speaking of Bocachica, the 1994 first round draft pick of the Expos flashed moments of brilliance and long stretches of mediocrity for Harrisburg. Bocachica opened the season looking like another star in the making for Montreal’s farm system as he made the game look easy during the first two weeks of the season batting .327 in 16 games with four homers and 13 runs batted in. But the infielder had his obvious woes defensively, was benched numerous times for lack of hustle, and helped ignite a 20-minute bench-clearing brawl during a mid-June game in Binghamton that saw him ejected, subsequently suspended for three games, and placed on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder. All would be forgiven, however, when Bocachica drilled the first pitch of the pivotal third game of the semi-finals off the third tier billboards in left-center to lead Harrisburg to victory.
When John Pachot arrived on City Island, he knew his role was to play sparingly as back-up to catcher Bobby Henley. But Pachot, a lifetime .250 hitter in the minors before 1997, was an offensive revelation in the first half of the season. So much so that Sofield found playing time for him at first and third base as Pachot hit .344. “I have to keep working to get some hits,” Pachot said. “I like to keep busy. I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play the outfield. It doesn’t matter, because I want to make the lineup.” But his presence on the roster would be fortuitous after Henley’s season was cut short and Pachot would return to anchoring the Senators behind the plate.
For months the Senators had looked ahead on their calendar and saw a stretch of games they weren’t looking forward to playing. The Eastern League had scheduled the Senators to hit the road for a 10-game road trip covering more than 1,500 miles from Harrisburg to Akron to Trenton to Portland and back home again. Instead of struggling, the Senators flourished as they won eight of the ten games and built an eight-game lead over the Reading Phillies for first place in the Southern Division.
THE GOLDEN ARM
After 10-game winner Tommy Phelps underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, the Senators needed someone to step up from Class A West Palm Beach. Javier Vazquez was the right guy at the right time. Including the post-season, Vazquez was 6-0 allowing just 25 hits, seven earned runs, striking out 64 hitters in 56 innings of work. Sofield looked to the 20-year-old Puerto Rican to start the first game in both the semi-finals and championship series and Vazquez rewarded that trust with two wins. That off-season Senators’ broadcaster Mark Mattern said, “Down the stretch, he was the best pitcher we have ever seen here in Harrisburg.”
MOORE IS BETTER
Starting pitcher Trey Moore led the Senators with 11 wins, but none were perhaps bigger than his two wins in pivotal Game 3s of both playoff series. Moore was named the Playoff MVP as he hurled 7.2 innings in each game and struck out a season-high 11 batters in the 2-1 victory over Portland. “He came through with his best pitching performance ever in probably our biggest game of the year,” said Sofield. “I thought it was an unbelievable performance.”
UNLIKELY CHAMPIONSHIP HEROES
Before the final regular season game of the year, the Senators placed outfielder Ed Bady on the disabled list and recalled Trovin Valdez to take his place. Valdez, who brought a postseason average of .056 into the finals, collected three hits including a three-run homer, his first at Double-A, to propel the 9-1 victory over the Sea Dogs in the first game of the championship series.
Much like Bady, outfielder Jesus Campos was placed on the disabled list during the regular season finale after he fouled a ball off his left foot. But unlike Bady, Campos was activated for Game 4 against Portland and found his name in the starting lineup. “I’ve been ready for three days,” Campos said. The center fielder snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-run double in the sixth inning to drive in the eventual gamewinner for the Senators.
For most of the season, the Senators only needed Ben Fleetham to close out their victories. After all, he led the Eastern League with 30 saves. But in Game 4 after walking in a run in the eighth inning Fleetham loaded the bases in the ninth on two walks and a hit by pitch. Sofield had little choice but to relieve his closer to get the 27th out of the game. “He was tired. He lost his command,” the manager said. Sofield turned to southpaw Jake Benz who needed only two pitches to retire Ryan Jackson on a fly ball to Campos in shallow center to secure the 4-3 victory and bring home another championship to Harrisburg.
Awards & Accomplishments
- The 1997 Harrisburg Senators became the first team to win consecutive Eastern League championships since the Albany-Colonie Yankees in 1988-89.
- Catcher Bobby Henley and closer Ben Fleetham, who had a league-high 30 saves, were named season-ending All-Stars among a vote of Eastern League managers, coaches, broadcasters and writers.
- Izzy Alcantara homered in the final regular season game giving him 27 for the season to break the modern franchise record he had shared with Cliff Floyd and Glenn Murray.
- Center fielder DaRond Stovall was named the Eastern League player of the month for April, after batting .313 with seven homers and 31 RBI.
- Trey Moore, Alcantara, and Neil Weber were each named Eastern League Players of the Week during the season.
- Henley and starting pitcher Mike Thurman represented the Senators in the seventh annual Class AA all-star game at Nelson Wolff Memorial Stadium in San Antonio, TX.
- In its annual awards presentation, the Senators Fan Club honored Moore as its pitcher of the year, Henley as best defensive player and fan favorite, and Brad Fullmer as top offensive player.
This content was originally found in Issue No. 19 of this year’s Senators Program
Bryce Harper was in Harrisburg for a short time (the outfielder played only 37 games in a Senators’ uniform), but it was a noteworthy and memorable residence on City Island. Harper left an indelible mark despite batting a pedestrian .256 with three home runs and 12 runs batted in over 147 plate appearances.
On the morning of July 4, 2011 word leaked that the Washington Nationals were promoting Harper from Low-A Hagerstown. He had terrorized the South Atlantic League and treated the offerings of opposing pitchers like batting practice pitches over the first half of the season. The promotion itself wasn’t a surprise, but skipping High-A Potomac and having the 18-year-old wunderkind report to Harrisburg was a little startling.
From the outset, things were definitely different. The media onslaught followed Harper’s every swing and move at batting practice that afternoon. A record attendance of 8,092 fans poured into Metro Bank Park for that night’s game hoping for something special in Harper’s Harrisburg debut. The 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick didn’t disappoint as he lined the first pitch he saw, an 88 mph fastball from Erie starter Mark Sorensen, into center field for a single. Harper finished his first Class AA game 2-for-3 and impressively raced from first to third on an infield groundout, easily beating the return throw.
Harper would make headlines a month later when frustrated with home plate umpire Max Guyll’s strike zone the superstar to be slammed his helmet into the ground to earn an immediate ejection. Harper quickly moved inches away from Guyll yelling at the ump before showing him how far outside the called strike three was. It was an image that Harper’s detractors would use to question the prospect’s makeup and maturity.
If that was his lowest moment as a Senator, Harper’s greatest would come only two days later. Down one run in the ninth inning, Harper launched a two-run, walk-off home run to dead center field, traveling well beyond 450 feet, to give the Senators a 3-2 victory over the visiting Trenton Thunder. “It’s definitely the furthest one I’ve ever seen hit,” then Senators hitting coach Troy Gingrich said of the blast. Harper displayed his usual emotion with a fist thrust as he rounded first and then a helmet toss prior to landing on home plate and getting mobbed by his teammates. “It’s always nice to win a ballgame. It’s always fun to walk a team off and go enjoy it with your team,” Harper said.
Less than a week later, Harper’s 2011 season would come to an early end as the slugger would deal with a hamstring injury that shelved him through the playoffs. But for six magical weeks in Harrisburg, Harper flashed the brilliance that would carry him to the heights of the baseball world with the Washington Nationals.
“I don’t care. I really don’t. As long as I can look in the mirror and say I played as hard as I could. I think people get opinions when they see me play the game and see the hard-nosed, chip-on-my-shoulder kind of thing. That’s the way I play. I want to kick your teeth in. And after the game I can walk out of those doors and be the happiest person in the world.” – – Bryce Harper
“Last year he started grasping who Bryce Harper is. Rather than trying to create something more, to live up to someone else’s idea of who he should be, he just grasped who Bryce was and ran with it.” – – Danny Espinosa
“I want him to play 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire.” – – Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo
“To come to a place like this, it’s like, ‘Holy crap.’ It’s one step closer to the big leagues. I’m going to go out, play hard and let [the Nationals] make the decisions. I’m just trying to win ball games here in Harrisburg.” – – Harper on his arrival at Double-A
“He’s the real deal. You know why? It’s like he doesn’t take the game and the gift that he has for granted. He’s maximizing everything.” – – Damon Oppenheimer, scouting director for the Yankees
“Whenever people say how good he is, he likes to say, ‘I’m not done yet. I still have work to do.’ He’s going to get a lot better, and I say that because of how hard he works. I don’t think he’ll ever rest on his laurels.” – – Ron Harper, Bryce’s father
“I put more pressure on myself than anybody in this world.” – – Harper
“I can’t remember a time when Bryce didn’t have big calluses on his hands from hitting. He was working when the rest of us weren’t.” – – Tanner Chauncey, childhood friend and teammate
“I feel sorry for the wall if he keeps running into them.” – – Davey Johnson
Awards & Accolades
- 2015 National League MVP (youngest unanimous winner ever)
- 4-time All Star (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016)
- 2012 National League Rookie of the Year
- Silver Slugger Award (2015)
- NL Hank Aaron Award (2015)
- 2010 Golden Spikes Award winner as the best amateur baseball player in the United States
- Youngest player in baseball history with 40 home runs and 120 walks in a season
This content was originally found in Issue No. 18 of this year’s Senators Program
Let’s take a trip down memory lane celebrating the worst-to-first championship of the 1996 Harrisburg Senators. We selected ten important games and dates that we think tell the story of the team that wrote its name in the Eastern League record books forever.
On the heels of a season where the Senators finished with a franchise-record 80 losses, the team doesn’t start 1996 great either. Harrisburg begins the season winning only eight of 21 games and hitting .197 as a team in April. That is until top prospect Vladimir Guerrero and journeyman Rob Lukachyk arrive before a doubleheader with the New Haven Ravens on May 1. As Guerrero tears up the Eastern League and Lukachyk protects him in the lineup, the Senators go on a roll and win 19 of their first 25 games with the right fielder in the starting lineup.
Losing third baseman Israel Alcantara the previous game to a broken hamate bone in his left wrist, the Senators’ turned to Jose Vidro to fill the void at the hot corner. The 22-year- old infielder had lost his starting job at second base to Geoff Blum, but when the Senators needed Vidro the most he stepped up in a big way. Thirteen of Vidro’s 18 homers and 44 of his team-high 82 RBI came after he replaced Alcantara in the lineup. “He got moved out of his natural position and thrust into a situation of having to play third base, because we had nobody else,” Blum said. “He never complained about it. He worked at it, took ground balls every day. It’s just a tribute to him doing well, because he worked so hard at it.”
In front of his family visiting from Puerto Rico, Vidro hits for the cycle in a 15-7 victory over the Bowie Baysox. The infielder becomes the second Senator in modern franchise history, after Matt Stairs in 1991, to complete the historic feat. Four days later, Vidro drove in seven runs with a single, double, and grand slam during an 11-0 rout of Trenton. “The biggest surprise of the season?” manager Pat Kelly said at the end of the regular season. “Vidro.”
The Senators pummeled the Reading Phillies, 18-2, on their way to their 15 th victory in 22 games. Carlton Loewer, Philadelphia’s top draft pick in 1994, couldn’t get out of the second inning as Harrisburg plated 10 runs. That inning and their 18-run total output were the most for a Senators’ team since the magical 1993 team.
Even though the Senators dropped both games of a doubleheader to the last place New Britain Rock Cats, this date in the 1996 season was significant for two separate reasons. First, playoff tickets went on sale at RiverSide Stadium for Harrisburg’s potential postseason berth. Secondly, the Senators drew a record crowd of 6,541 to City Island.
Despite a reported interest in reuniting with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the City of Harrisburg and Montreal Expos finalized a two-year extension to keep the Class AA affiliate playing on City Island through the 1998 season. The deal was struck a year after Mayor Stephen Reed led the city’s efforts in purchasing the team for $6.7 million to keep them from moving to Springfield, Mass. “In two years, we may renew with them again,”Reed said. “We are just keeping our options open.” Indeed, the affiliation between the Senators and Expos, now Nationals, has been repeatedly re-upped for the last 26 years and currently runs through the 2018 season.
Although a foregone conclusion for many, the Senators officially clinch a spot in the playoffs with a 9-3 victory over Bowie coupled with a Canton loss. Harrisburg had been limping towards the postseason before the Baysox came to town the previous day as the team had lost five straight and 12 of their last 19 games. The Senators batted a meager .206 with runners in scoring position during that stretch of futility. But a DaRond Stovall walk-off homer the night before and leadoff hitter Jon Saffer’s two long balls in the six-run victory gave the Senators a modest two-game winning streak and more importantly a date with Trenton in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs. “We’ve been shooting for the playoffs,” Senators catcher Bob Henley said. “Now that we’re there, it’s like a weight off of us.”
The Senators opened the 1996 playoffs with a 9-2 victory at Trenton as Steve Falteisek outdueled Carl Pavano, the Eastern League pitcher of the year. Falteisek, who had been the Senators’ hottest pitcher in August after a disastrous 1-5 start following a demotion from AAA Ottawa on June 1, held the Thunder to five hits over the first six innings while Harrisburg pounded Pavano for nine hits and took advantage of four Trenton errors. The win put the Senators in the driver’s seat against a reeling and retooling Thunder lineup that had beaten the Senators in 12 of 18 regular-season games.
The Senators had to wait an extra day to punch their tickets to the finals because of the effects of Hurricane Fran on the midstate, but they took care of business with a 5-2 triumph over Trenton. The victory returned the Senators to the Eastern League finals for the third time in the last four seasons and the fourth in six seasons as the Montreal Expos’ Class AA affiliate. Despite the matchup pitting the best record in the league for Trenton (86-56) against the worst of the playoff qualifiers for Harrisburg (74-68), the Senators were propelled by DaRond Stovall’s bases-loaded triple and five innings of shutout relief from Jason McCommon, Shayne Bennett and Kirk Bullinger. “Anything’s possible in the playoffs,” Stovall said. “The regular-season stuff is over with.”
For the first three games of the finals, leadoff hitter Geoff Blum put the Senators up early as he scored a run in the first inning of each contest. Game 4 of the best-of- five series was no exception as Blum raced home from second on a bloop double off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero to give Harrisburg the 1-0 advantage before Portland even batted. A pair of two-run homers from Brad Fullmer and Guerrero was all the offense the Senators would need behind another solid start from Jason McCommon and a Houdini-like escape of a jam by reliever Rick DeHart. Scott Gentile secured the 6-1 victory for the Senators as he struck out Ralph Milliard to end the game at 9:39 p.m. and give Harrisburg another championship banner to fly. Every Senator made the midnight bus ride home from Maine except Guerrero who left the celebration to catch a flight to Montreal to make his major league debut with the Expos. “We were the hottest club in the Eastern League over the last two weeks,” manager Pat Kelly said, “and that’s when it counts.”
Awards & Accolades
● Vladimir Guerrero and Neil Weber named to represent the Senators in the AA All-Star Classic in Trenton.
● Guerrero becomes the fifth Senator to take home the league’s MVP Award. The right fielder is also named Rookie of the Year after a dominating season where he bats .360 with 32 doubles, 19 home runs, and 17 stolen bases in 118 games.
● Brad Fullmer batted .452 with three homers and 14 RBI in the playoffs to lead the Senators. The outfielder slugged .839 against Trenton and Portland which was the highest of any player in the postseason.
● Jon Saffer led the Eastern League with 96 runs scored.
● Catcher Bobby Henley threw out a staggering 53 percent (56 of 105) of would-be base stealers making him the most difficult backstop to run on in the league.
● Kirk Bullinger converted a team-high 22 saves as the right-hander’s earned run average was never above 2.00 during the season.
This content was originally found in Issue No. 14 of this year’s Senators Program
What’s now simply known as “The Slam” has deservedly become the quintessential moment in the 30-year history of the Harrisburg Senators. But the 1999 team was much more than that one iconic Hollywood ending. They persevered through a rough start, dealt with a sudden departure and return, and scrapped their way to an unprecedented fourth straight Eastern League championship.
“We came into the season knowing one thing and that was we had the potential to be very good. But we also knew that we were one of the youngest teams you are going to find at this level and we are going to have to be patient,” manager Doug Sisson said.
Patience was something the team need in spades as they lost the first six games of the season and floundered to a 17-27 mark near the end of May. “I know exactly when we really turned it around this season. Doug told us after a terrible game in Bowie that we were the best team in the league,” Andy Tracy said.
The talent of the squad was never really in question as 21 players from the team would eventually reach the major leagues headlined by stalwarts such as Jamey Carroll, Jake Westbrook, Brad Wilkerson, and catcher Brian Schneider. But the team continued to be a non-factor in the standings into July as they entered the month nine games out of the playoff race.
Five days later the outlook didn’t look much better when they lost their skipper as Sisson abruptly quit to pursue an opportunity to coach at the University of Georgia. The move shocked team officials, players, and the fans whom the manager flamed on the way out of town. But one week later Sisson wanted to return and the Expos allowed him to as long as he apologized for his bridge-burning remarks.
“When Sisson came back, he had a different approach. He changed the way he was coaching and the way he treated us,” mercurial outfielder Milton Bradley said.
The Senators won 33 of 51 games after the All-Star break to move from last place in the Southern Division all the way to the Eastern League playoffs with a 76-66 record.
Harrisburg squared off against Erie in the semi-final round and won the series in four games each decided by one run. It was a trend of tight ballgames that would continue in the next round as well. “It was nerve-racking. I remember standing out on the field, it seemed that no lead was safe. (Andy) Tracy and (Jamey) Carroll kept telling everyone that we could do it,” Bradley said about the games against the SeaWolves.
The championship series pitted the Senators against the Norwich Navigators, then the Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. It was a matchup that saw the teams battle each other and the weather to complete the set and crown a victor as Hurricane Floyd pummeled the Eastern seaboard causing rainouts and scheduling changes.
“There was no doubt we were prepared for anything. If we were behind or one of our pitchers was struggling it was no big deal,” Schneider said. “We picked each other up all year so why should the postseason be different.” Ultimately, history would be made and the championship decided with one swing of the bat, but that’s a story that deserves its own retelling.
An Oral History of “The Slam”
For the 3,171 fans in attendance on that fateful Monday night at then RiverSide Stadium and the thousands more listening to the broadcast, no one will forget the way the bottom of the ninth inning unfolded to give the Senators their fourth straight Eastern League championship.
The Norwich Navigators plated two insurance runs in the top half of the inning to push their advantage against Harrisburg out to a seemingly insurmountable 11-7 lead. After reliever Oswaldo Mairena recorded the last out of the previous frame, Norwich manager Lee Mazzilli chose to stay with the southpaw for a match-up against the Senators 4-5-6 hitters, all left-handed.
But looming in the Norwich bullpen was Joe Lisio, the hard-throwing right-hander who led the Eastern League with 33 saves in 1999, in case the Senators started a rally. The rest they say is history.
What follows is an oral history of those memorable six minutes on City Island recreated with the help of Geoff Morrow’s 10th year anniversary stories of The Slam, Andy Linker’s One Patch of Grass, and interviews with Milton Bradley from the 2000 Senators’ team program and Andy Tracy by the author.
Andy Tracy: It was amazing. I think it was the last night we had to play. We got stuck in a hurricane up in Connecticut. We got back home and it rained all night.
Todd Vander Woude (former Senators’ General Manager): Everyone had enough of the rain delays, and I remember talking to the umpire crew chief before the game. He had a great line, saying, “Unless we see Noah coming on the Ark, we are going to play this game.”
Barry & Margie Fealtman (Senators’ fans): We were sitting in the red seats behind home plate. Next to us were pitchers from the opposing team. We overheard them talking about winning the championship. As the inning grew closer to the end of the game, they decided to go down to the clubhouse and put the champagne on ice so it would be ready.
Milton Bradley: I had struck out three times already. My last at-bat was a strikeout. My last at-bat in Harrisburg was a strikeout. I didn’t want Norwich celebrating on our field. I went into the clubhouse and listened to the game on the radio. It was the best way for me to stay calm.
Andy Tracy: Milton went into the clubhouse during the ninth and was already out of his clothes and only in his boxers…He had his head down. He was very disappointed. It had been a rough year for him, and he gets really emotional about some things.
Steve Phillips (Senators’ hitting coach): He said he couldn’t watch right now. I said, “Well, we’re going to get some baserunners and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Barry & Margie Fealtman: We were standing by the Norwich bullpen when a good-natured Senators fan was leaving the game. He looked over at the visiting pitchers and congratulated them on
winning the championship. A pitcher looked up and said, “Thanks, but the game’s not over yet.” How right he was.
Todd Vander Woude: As usual with my duties at a home game, I was not able to see much of the game. But I found myself standing at the first-base gate in the bottom of the ninth. I remember talking with Mayor Reed and Gregg Mace, joking that all we needed was a grand slam to tie the game.
Mark Mattern (former Senators’ broadcaster and Assistant GM): When the ninth inning started, I told my radio partner, Brad Sparesus, that if we get the tying run on base, I will go down the field for possible post-game interviews, all the time thinking, ‘Right, like that has a chance of happening.’ Anyway, the inning unfolds, I head down to the gate at the first-base dugout and finally realize how heavy the rain is.
Andy Tracy: I was just trying to get on base. I wasn’t thinking about a comeback.
Todd Vander Woude: We ended up getting a hit and a couple walks to load the bases, and (Jason) Camilli hit a ground ball to third, the third baseman got hurt and one run scored.
Milton Bradley: I think that was to my advantage. He was in a groove, throwing good. He was getting batters out. He was making good pitches. He had his rhythm going. Then the injury breaks it. Now (Lisio) has to stand out there, holding the ball with the rain coming down on him.
Todd Vander Woude: The lengthy delay due to the Norwich player getting injured seemed to really get the crowd going and the stadium rocking. Fans were pounding on the aluminum seats to make even more noise.
Milton Bradley: I heard one voice coming from the crowd saying “You can do it. We believe in you. Four-in-a-row. We are still here.” It was weird, that was all I heard. I said to myself, “I need to hit the ball hard.”…It was 3-2 and I wasn’t going to worry about anything. This is it. I just wanted to hit it. It was fastball middle-in. I hit it. When you make good contact, you don’t feel it. I was just watching it. It was on a line.
Joe Lisio (Norwich closer): When I let go of the pitch, I knew it was a mistake. I just missed my spot.
Doug Sisson: When Milton hit the ball, I knew we were going to tie the game because I knew Camilli could score on it. I saw (Norwich outfielder) Chip Glass going back…I thought it was going to be a double because the trajectory was too low. It was so foggy and the rain was coming, and you can never tell with those lights out there.
Andy Tracy: It wasn’t a towering home run. I thought it was off the wall, and Camilli could run so I thought he’d score [from first]. It was so rainy and damp, but he got it. It barely cleared the wall.
Wally Ream (Senators’ fan): My wife, Kathy, our friend, Krysten Repman, and I were sitting just under the press box in Section 106. We remember seeing Milton Bradley’s hit go deep into the rain and fog, and at first we weren’t sure it cleared the fence. When we realized it did, everyone erupted in cheers and hugs.
Mark Mattern: Bang, that special sound when a ball hits the bat just so. It was hard for us to see, but it was gone. General manager Todd Vander Woude and I push through the gate, and maybe I pushed a little too hard. Woude ended up on the ground, but I had no time to worry about him then.
Todd Vander Woude: When Milton hit the ball, by the sound of the ball hitting the bat, I knew it was absolutely hit on a rope. It hit the second-tier billboard in right, and basically I could not walk. I was numb. To this day, I still think Mattern pushed me to the ground and stepped on me to get on the field.
Jeremy Salyers (Senators’ reliever): Somehow that ball got over the fence. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
Milton Bradley: I didn’t know if it was going to stay up. I was going up the baseline and I was numb. I remember
watching the ball fly and watching Glass. His shoulders slumped, I knew that was it. It was like the Twilight Zone. I ran around the bases. I didn’t realize we had won. I didn’t realize it until I rounded third and saw everyone crowded around home. I realized I didn’t come to Harrisburg in vain.
Joe Lisio: My heart went down to my stomach because I knew we had lost the game…To this day I still think about it. It was the worst experience I ever had in baseball, in life, by far.
Mark Mattern: I look to my left, and I swear the entire team was out of the dugout and about four feet off the ground.
Todd Vander Woude: The team was just going nuts on the field, and the crowd was the loudest I can ever remember.
Christian Parker (Senators’ winning pitcher): I put my head between my legs and started crying. This is an unbelievable thing.
Mark Mattern: I finally get to Milton and he starts to cry as he is talking to me, and, of course, I start to cry. I don’t think I ever cried on a broadcast before or since. Kind of ironic for me as a broadcaster, the greatest moment in my sports life, and there I am, with the hero of the moment, too choked up to speak. It was great.
Milton Bradley: I just wanted to do something. It was kind of my way of saying thanks to the fans of Harrisburg, my teammates. That was for them, I was secondary right there.
Jamey Carroll: This is the best game I have been involved in.
Doug Sisson: With apologies to my daughter, this could be the greatest day of my life.
Andy Tracy: We pretty much partied all night, and the fans stayed with us on the field.
Todd Vander Woude: I was at the stadium until about 5:30 a.m., couldn’t sleep and ended up doing many local radio shows at 7 a.m.
Andy Tracy: That was one of my favorite years. I learned a lot about myself that season, I learned a lot about the game. And there was that inning that nobody will ever forget.
Awards & Accolades
• Andy Tracy named Eastern League MVP for his spectacular season where he hit .274 with 26 doubles, 37 home runs, 96 runs scored, and 128 RBI. “We needed a horse to carry us on a lot of those nights early in the year. Andy was amazing,” manager Doug Sisson said. “Most guys struggle with the bat a little bit when learning a new position but I think he came in knowing from the year before that he could handle the Eastern League and he proved it every day.”
• Jason Camilli was named the playoff MVP
• Tracy, catcher Brian Schneider, and pitcher Tony Armas were selected as Eastern League season-ending All-Stars
• The Senators drew 253,399 fans which ranked seventh in the 12-team league
• 21 players reached the major league
The last decade has seen the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Lucas Giolito come through Harrisburg with the anticipation and pedigree of an elite prospect. You’ll forgive Senators’ fans if the sight of the next great Major League superstar playing on City Island has become old hat. But back in 1993, Harrisburg hadn’t yet been exposed to a player with unlimited potential and promise. Great players had suited up for the Senators before then, but none came with the expectations and hype of Cliff Floyd.
Floyd first appeared on many scouts’ radar during his high school athletic career at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It was there that Floyd became a legitimate three-sport star in baseball, football, and basketball. Despite leading his hoops squad to the Class AA sectional finals, baseball was the sport that Floyd excelled at above all others.
Floyd looked like a man among the boys across the high school diamonds around the Windy City. Even though he was naturally gifted with the bat, Floyd and his father honed his line-drive swing until it drew comparisons to Willie McCovey and Darryl Strawberry. During the final two years of his high school career, Floyd hit .508 and drove in 130 runs while being heavily recruited by traditional powerhouses Arizona State University and Stanford among others. But after the Montreal Expos drafted Floyd with the 14th pick in the 1st round of the 1991 Major League Baseball draft, Floyd made the easy decision to sign and head to the Gulf Coast League to begin his professional career.
It appeared that Floyd would start 1993 in High-A West Palm Beach, but after a blistering spring training he earned a promotion to begin the season in Harrisburg. Despite playing mostly in the outfield the previous season, Floyd was moved to first base for the Senators when parts of City Island were flooded in the early spring. The Expos’ brass didn’t want to send Floyd out to a damp and marshy left field every day so instead they instructed manager Jim Tracy to play their top prospect at first base.
At 20 years old, Floyd was the youngest player in the Eastern League but that didn’t affect the run producer in the middle of the Senators’ lineup. He terrorized opposing pitchers the first time around the circuit and kept making adjustments even after teams developed scouting reports on him. By late July, Floyd had led that 1993 squad to the best record in baseball and a commanding lead in the standings. In just 101 games, Floyd had driven in 101 runs and homered 26 times while batting .329. Dominating the league as he was doing proved his time in Harrisburg was over; Floyd was promoted to the Class AAA Ottawa Lynx. Based on his tremendous year, Cliff was named the Eastern League MVP and Minor League Player of the Year by The Sporting News.
“Cliff Floyd is one of the few five-tool players in baseball. There’s not much he can’t do on the field.” – – Hall of Famer Mike Piazza
“Besides all the ability, he has the quality that the more pressure is on, the better he likes it.” – – 1993 Senators’ manager Jim Tracy
“I enjoy the spotlight. I enjoy it when people see what I’m doing, and see me busting my butt out there.” – – Cliff Floyd
“Not too many parks can contain this guy.” – – former Mets’ GM Steve Phillips
“Cliff seeks out ways to improve, and he’s willing to experiment. He’s not the sort of player who stands pat once things are going well. He challenges himself to do better every time he steps on the field.” – – minor league manager Lorenzo Bundy
“I’m always trying to get my mind at peace. I know I hit my best when everything is chill.” – – Floyd
“You’re talking about an elite athlete who hits the ball as hard on a line as anybody.” – – Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski
“What I’ve seen from him as a hitter is that now he not only has the ability to hit a ball 500 feet, but he’s learned to change his swing with the count. He’s thinking with the pitcher. He’s a smarter hitter. He can hit for power and average.” – – former teammate Al Leiter
“I know that I may not always get a hit or may not always catch the ball, but I’m going to damn sure try.” – – Floyd
- Chicago Tribune`s 1991 Athlete of the Year
- 1st Round selection (14th overall) by Montreal Expos in 1991 draft
- 1993 Eastern League MVP and USA Today Minor League Player of the Year
- Fifth in 1994 NL Rookie of the Year voting
- World Series champion as member of 1997 Florida Marlins
- National League All-Star in 2001
- .278 career batting average
- 233 Major League home runs
This content was originally found in Issue No. 7 of this year’s Senators Program
Across all sports, there are teams that fans will always look back at as “once in a lifetime” type teams. The 1985 Chicago Bears, for instance, in the way they dismantled nearly everyone with a suffocating defense on their way to a Super Bowl victory. If things go as expected in the NBA playoffs, we very well may talk one day about the Golden State Warriors with that same reverence and awe. But here in Harrisburg, there is only one team that fits that bill and it will always be the 1993 Senators squad.
Regularly celebrated as one of the best minor league baseball teams in history, the 1993 edition of the Senators will be remembered for their prodigious offense, top-notch pitching, and steady leadership under the hand of manager Jim Tracy that ultimately led to 100 wins and an Eastern League championship.
Led by the starting outfield of Cliff Floyd, Rondell White, and Glenn Murray, the Senators could beat you repeatedly with their bats and their legs. Floyd won two legs of the Eastern League’s Triple Crown by hitting the most home runs (26) and collecting the most RBI (101) while finishing second in batting average. Murray tied Floyd for the league lead with 26 home runs and White posted a .328 batting average. The three also joined teammates Mike Hardge, Curtis Pride, Chris Martin, and Shane Andrews in each reaching double-digit stolen bases on the season as the Senators led the league with 187.
But this Senators’ squad wasn’t just adept with the bat, they were also the league’s best pitching staff as well. Harrisburg was led by Joey Eischen and Miguel Batista who racked up 14 and 13 wins respectively. The rotation also featured Gabe White and his 2.16 ERA, Kirk Reuter for eight brilliant starts, Ugueth Urbina before he was converted to a closer, and the workhorse of the staff, Reid Cornelius. Not to be out undone, the bullpen was solid with stalwart Heath Haynes and part-timers Joe Ausanio and Mario Brito shining in reliever roles.
The roster to begin the season was stacked with many of Montreal’s top prospects in the system and the team played like it, racing out to 35-9 start to begin the season. “There was so much talent on that team that fans flocked to see the Senators here and on the road,” Senators’ broadcaster Mark Mattern said. “Now that’s saying something in the minor leagues.”
But with success in the minor leagues, promotions to the next level are usually just around the corner for the top talent. The Senators were not immune to this as Rondell White, Reuter, Floyd, Gabe White, and Oreste Marrero among others were promoted mid-season. “When we lost the first group in June and July, the new guys came and said we’re here to win,” manager Tracy told Hutter. “This was the thing that was so special about this team.”
Those new guys finished the season with a flourish winning 25 of their last 36 games to post an astonishing 94-44 record, 19 games ahead of their nearest competitor. Harrisburg took care of business in the first round of the playoffs as they took three out of four games against the Albany-Colonie Yankees before advancing to face off against Canton-Akron. In the finals, the Senators rallied on the road from an 0-2 hole to beat the Indians in the best-of-5 championship series for the title and bragging rights as a truly dominant team from start to finish.
Years later, Tracy reflected on the accomplishment to Andy Linker: “It was a baseball team that made a unique name for itself. The thing that was special about that group of guys is that they were unselfish. It made them all better, individually and collectively.”
- Ranked as the 73rd best Minor League team of the century by MiLB in 2001
- Cliff Floyd was chosen the Topps/National Association Minor League Player of the Year and Eastern League MVP
- Jim Tracy honored as the Minor League Manager of the Year
- Joey Eischen named the Eastern League’s top pitcher
- Tops in the Eastern League in batting average (.278), runs scored (802), and stolen bases (187)
- Led the Eastern League with the best earned run average (3.48) and strikeouts (1,056)
- Senators’ GM Todd Vander Woude was Minor League Executive of the Year
- The front office staff was awarded the prestigious Bob Freitas Award for Class AA, symbolic of long-term success and stability in baseball operations
- Twenty-two of the team’s 42 players reached the Major Leagues including 10 of 11 starting pitchers used that season
- Eight of those 22 players played for more than a decade in MLB
- One of only three teams in the Eastern League since 1950 that played better than .680 ball
This content was originally found in Issue No. 12 of this year’s Senators Program
“Were you to write a script for fiction, you couldn’t write one any better than how the Senators’ season unfolded.” – – Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed
Construction began on RiverSide Stadium in August 1986 and work on the ballpark continued all the way up to first pitch in early April. A month before, Pittsburgh’s minor league players assembled at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., for spring training. But now, the night before Opening Day the team sent to Harrisburg to represent the Pirates’ Class AA franchise were guests of honor at a welcome dinner hosted at Villa Leo.
Overseeing the 25-man roster was manager Dave Trembley who used his baseball knowledge to teach and his sports psychology background to motivate. His philosophy “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, and get ‘em in” kept the Senators’ heads above water when they were floundering in the early season. Rock bottom record-wise was June 16 as the Senators were a full 10 games under .500 at 25-35
“We had some guys that I had to convince that they were pretty good. Other guys we had to convince they were better than they were,” the 34-year-old skipper said. “After the all-star game, everything on the team started to really come together.”
What started out as a clunky motor gasping to turn over in the cold had become a well-oiled machine on the diamond when the weather turned warmer. Starting with a 26-9 rout of Albany on June 17, the Senators won 52 of the remaining 80 games in the regular season to finish second during the regular season and qualify for the postseason.
Harrisburg overcame a two games to one deficit in their best-of-five series with Reading in the first round of the playoffs. Down to their final out and trailing by a run, catcher Tom Prince put on the Superman cape and delivered a game-tying home run. The Senators pulled that game out with two runs in extra innings to head to the championship series against a well-rested Vermont team.
Harrisburg had to bus 11 hours overnight to Burlington, Vt. to open the series on the road. The Senators played tired in Game 1 and it showed in their 3-2 loss to Vermont. But that was the only game the Reds would win as the Senators’ pitching handled Vermont’s offense easily as they managed to score only nine runs in the four game set.
Harrisburg was 1987 Eastern League champions despite not existing the previous year, having a first-time professional manager, and being dead last as late in the season as June 5. The Senators proved that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that baseball was a success on City Island thanks to a team effort from everyone from the players to the staff.
“In years to come, Harrisburg’s first professional baseball team in 35 years will be remembered for coming rags-to-riches and worst-to-first. Perhaps its most telling legacy, however, will be the 1987 team’s will to win.” – – Nick Horvath Jr.
TOP GAMES OF THE 1987 SEASON
April 11: Vermont 11, Harrisburg 5
The grand opening of the Senators’ modern era begins at 2:09 p.m. when Jim Neidlinger delivers the first pitch to John Bryant only after helicopters hover over the outfield to dry the wet grounds. 4,083 fans are present at the just completed RiverSide Stadium to see the Reds spoil opening day despite Harrisburg home runs from Crash Brown and Tom Prince.
May 14: Harrisburg 7, Williamsport 2
The Senators topped the Bills to break their early season 11-game losing streak. The team returned from a disappointing road trip to an editorial cartoon in The Patriot-News imploring them to “Beat Somebody”. The Senators took the RiverSide Stadium field to an enthusiastic crowd of 3,112 welcoming fans that players credited with setting the championship wheels in motion.
June 6: Harrisburg 5-10, Glens Falls 1-3
The Senators swept a doubleheader in upstate New York to leave last place for good in the Eastern League standings after residing there for the last 29 days.
June 17: Harrisburg 26, Albany 9
Two eight-run innings highlighted the game which included five-hit performances from Tommy Gregg and Dimas Gutierrez. But the real star for Harrisburg was Ron Johns who was playing only his second game in a Senators’ uniform. From the cleanup spot in the order, Johns was 6-for-6 and drove in nine runs with three home runs in consecutive innings.
June 25: Harrisburg 7, New Britain 2
Many observers point to this game as the one that turned the Senators’ season around. A five-run explosion in the 12th inning made winners out of Harrisburg in the series leading into the All-Star break. “This just might have been the best game we’ve played all season,” said manager Dave Trembley.
July 15: Harrisburg 4, Pittsfield 2
The Senators climb into fourth place with a victory over the Cubs to become legitimate playoff contenders. After two consecutive losses, they return to the first division permanently two days later following a 9-3 win over Williamsport.
August 27: Harrisburg 2, New Britain 1
The Senators clinched a playoff berth when Kyle Todd dropped down a textbook squeeze bunt in the 10th inning to drive in the winning run.
September 2: Williamsport 5, Reading 3
The Bills edged the Phillies for their fourth win in five games to close out the season. The victory assured the Senators a runner-up finish in the regular season and Reading was left to settle for third place. The change in standings came into play a week later when Harrisburg hosted the R-Phils in the deciding fifth game.
September 10: Harrisburg 5, Reading 3
With a dramatic home run that will only be topped in Senators’ lore 12 years later, Tom Prince hit a two out homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Reading reliever Todd Frohwirth to tie the determining game of their best-of-five series. Harrisburg went on to win the game in the 13th inning to take the rain-delayed semifinal and send the Senators to the championship to take on the Vermont Reds.
September 13: Harrisburg 3-5, Vermont 2-1
The Senators clinched the Eastern League championship in their first season of existence since 1952. Harrisburg swept a day-night doubleheader as Rich Sauveur and Clay Daniel took care of business from the mound in the first game and Tommy Gregg’s two-run homer was all that was needed in the nightcap. Larry Melton picked up the win for Harrisburg and Randy Kramer struck out the side in the ninth inning to secure the victory.
“There might have been 4,000 plus fans in the stands, but for all I know it was probably 40,000. They screamed on every strike. My adrenalin was flowing.” – – Pitcher Randy Kramer on recording the final outs
Awards & Accolades
- In his first stint as a skipper in a major league-affiliated organization, Dave Trembley was named the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America
- Tommy Gregg, Tom Prince, and Rich Sauveur were named to the season-ending Eastern League All-Star team in a vote by the players and Trembley was awarded the Manager of the Year
- Tommy Gregg won the Eastern League batting title with a .371 average that is still a modern day record for the Senators
- Sauveur led the league with 160 strikeouts in 195 innings over 30 appearances
- Despite being a mid-May addition to the team, Jim Reboulet still stole 52 bases which to this day remains a team record
- Reboulet also hit safely in 32 straight games until his streak was stopped when he was ejected in the third inning after arguing a pickoff call
- Felix Fermin was the league’s top defensive shortstop with a .968 fielding percentage
- General Manager Rick Redd was named the Eastern League Executive of the Year
- The Senators drew 212,141 fans to RiverSide Stadium
This content was originally found in Issue No. 1 of this year’s Senators Program
Vladimir Guerrero arrived in Harrisburg on May 1st of the 1996 season with a surrounding hype and frenzy that wouldn’t be seen again until the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper arrived on City Island. Teammates, fans, and scouts all marveled at Guerrero’s cannon from right field, his ability to bash any pitch no matter where it was located, and his gazelle-like strides on the basepaths.
Baseball had been an escape for Guerrero. An escape from the bleak future and abject living conditions in his southeastern Dominican Republic town, Nizao. Guerrero’s home had a dirt floor and a roof covered only by palm leaves. With no electricity and no running water, the future All-Star was forced to drink from puddles as a child. Rather than go to school, Guerrero worked the fields, harvesting tomatoes, melons, and onions since his family of 11 needed him to work. What time he had left, he spent on the sandlots with his brothers and cousins playing baseball with what could be best described generously as second-hand equipment.
But during that summer in 1996, Guerrero once again found himself playing baseball on an island. This time though, it was located in the middle of the Susquehanna River and he proudly wore the Senators script across his chest every day.0000
Most players need an adjustment period when promoted to the upper levels of the minors. Guerrero clearly didn’t as he crushed his first class AA home run deep into the night sky during that day’s doubleheader.
But that was just a prelude to one of the most spectacular seasons on City Island.
In his first 25 games with the Senators, Guerrero batted .424 with seven home runs, 11 doubles, and 22 runs batted in. For his efforts, he was named the Eastern League player of the week twice in his first three weeks in the league.
Over the next four-plus months, the top-ranked Expos prospect would lead the league in batting, slug 59 of his 150 hits for extra bases, and lead the team to a championship a season after finishing with the worst record in the league.
“He put the team squarely on his broad shoulders and took them to the promised land. He was the league’s MVP and the most feared hitter in all of baseball that year,” remembered Senators’ broadcaster Mark Mattern. “The last time I saw Vladimir, and that infectious smile, was just before he left Portland, Maine, a few hours after the final out of the winning game. The next day he was in the big leagues.”
“He never got a championship in Montreal—or anywhere else. That doesn’t change what he was: a player who was truly beyond belief. When I’m old and grey, and most of my other memories have escaped me, I’ll still tell my great grandkids about Vladimir Guerrero. Some people you just never forget.” – – author Jonah Keri
“He’s one of the wonders of our world. He leaves us all in complete amazement. He’s so natural, so pure. What he hits just isn’t hittable to the rest of us. He’s one of the most unique players ever.” – -teammate Michael Barrett
“The greatest description of Vladimir Guerrero I ever heard was that he swings like he’s hitting a tennis racket. All he has to do is get some part of the bat on the ball, and he’s going to crush it.” – – sports columnist Jeff Blair
“In all the years I have managed, and all the players I have managed who have gone on to the big leagues, I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone with the presence he has.” – – Harrisburg manager Pat Kelly
“Who do you want me to compare him to? I’ve never seen anyone do what he does.” – – former Los Angeles Dodgers’ second baseman and longtime coach Davey Lopes
“He scares me when he comes up there. There’s not anywhere I can throw the ball where he can’t hit it, and he’s trying to hit it right at my head!” – – pitcher Scott Sauerbeck
“Vladimir Guerrero may not make anyone forget Roberto Clemente, but he may make a lot of people remember him.” – – Trenton photographer Dave Schofield
“He’s Superman, and there’s not too much kryptonite in the league.” – – teammate Rondell White
- 2004 American League MVP
- 2,590 hits ranks second all-time among Dominican-born players
- 9-time All-Star
- 8-time Silver Slugger Award
- 2007 Home Run Derby champion
- .318 career batting average
- 449 home runs
- 1996 Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year
This content was originally found in Issue No. 4 of this year’s Senators Program
Andy Tracy (1999)
• Last Harrisburg player to drive in more than 100 runs in a season
• Led the Eastern League in runs batted in (128)
• Still holds Senators’ siongle-season record for home runs in a season (37)
• Won the award over Nick Johnson and Pat Burrell
• Delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in his MLB debut on April 25, 2000
• “I enjoyed coming to the field every night and knowing that the people were going to support us win or lose and they know that we’re out there playing really hard for them. They supported us all the way through.” – Tracy, (May 19, 2011)