The Vintage Minor League Baseball Collection

The Vintage Minor League Baseball Collection

The minor leagues have been an essential part of the game of baseball since the sport’s earliest days. Here at Ebbets Field Flannels we’ve always recognized the important place in the culture and ecosystem of baseball that the teams around the country that stand outside of the Majors hold, and we’re excited to add to our Minor League Baseball offerings with the Vintage MiLB Collection.

The Minor Leagues represent the heart and soul of Baseball, providing a through line from the game's humblest beginnings to the biggest names in the modern Major Leagues. The Vintage MiLB Collection combines the playful character of the Minor Leagues with the heritage of the Big Leagues' star players who made stops in the minors on their way to the Show, creating an undeniably stylish collection that is both modern and tied to the core of what makes Ebbets Field Flannels.

As we prepare to release this new collection, we’d love to share the stories of some of the star players from the modern game whose journeys through the minors are being highlighted.

Ozzie Smith – Walla Walla Padres – 1977

Eight years before the “Wizard of Oz” inspired Jack Buck to call on St. Louis fans to “go crazy, folks,” Ozzie Smith was drafted by the San Diego Padres. He joined their Class A outfit in Walla Walla, Washington, a member of the Northwest League. That single season was enough to earn an invite to the San Diego Padres’ spring training camp, where Ozzie grabbed hold of the starting shortstop position and never let go. He joined St. Louis in 1982 following the courtship of Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog. The San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals legend would dazzle and inspire wherever he went, a figure as iconic as the Astroturf on which he ran, dove, caught, slid and – on rare and memorable occasion – flipped.

Cal Ripken Jr. – Charlotte Orioles – 1980

2,632 is the height of an insurmountable peak made achievable by one of baseball’s most beloved icons of the modern era. Drafted by Baltimore in 1978, Cal Ripken Jr. was thrilled to head to a club that saw beyond his pitching ability. After moving through Bluefield in 1978 and Miami in 1979, Cal Ripken Jr. arrived in Charlotte ready to take on what would be his final full minor league season. He was called up to Baltimore in August of 1981 from the Rochester Red Wings, and the next season would kick off his incredible run of 2,632 consecutive appearances, smashing Lou Gehrig’s previous record by 502 games. When his streak ended in 1998 (by choice, not necessity), everyone knew the Hall of Fame was inevitable. His journey ended in 2001 with one of the most accolade-laden careers in baseball history.


Wade Boggs – Pawtucket Red Sox – 1981

A young third baseman drew groans from his teammates in April 1981 as he drove in the tying run against the Rochester Red Wings. After 21 innings, Wade Boggs ensured the game would make it to 22. In fact, it would become the longest professional baseball game in history, stretching 33 innings. The Pawtucket Red Sox would be rewarded for their patience when the halted game was resumed in June, as they would go on to win 3-2. Boggs himself would be rewarded for his resilience and overall stellar season with the Paw Sox, joining the major leagues with Boston in 1982. In a three-team career with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Wade Boggs was a dominant force of power and consistency.


Larry Walker – Indianapolis Indians – 1989

As manager Ken Brett watched a young Larry Walker hack at any pitch that graced his general vicinity, he saw past the struggle and knew there was a star waiting to shine. Cycling through the Utica Blue Sox, Burlington Expos, West Palm Beach Expos and Jacksonville Expos from 1985 to 1988, Walker joined the Indianapolis Indians in 1989 as the final stop on his road to the majors. He would debut for the Expos in August of that year, and would go on to be a stellar right fielder for three different teams – the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, and St. Louis Cardinals.


Frank Thomas – Birmingham Barons – 1990

The Big Hurt didn’t spend long in the minor leagues, suiting up for the Sarasota White Sox and Gulf Coast League White Sox in 1989 after a dominant two-sport career on scholarship at Auburn University. He would move on to the Birmingham Barons in 1990, and in August would don a Chicago White Sox  jersey for the first time. He spent the next 15 seasons with Chicago, breaking and setting hitting records for the franchise along the way as a first baseman and designated hitter. His career would span three teams including the White Sox, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays. Despite Thomas not officially appearing on the World Series roster due to injury, the White Sox considered him an instrumental piece of their 2005 World Series championship and awarded him a ring.


Vladimir Guerrero – Harrisburg Senators – 1996

Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Montreal Expos in 1993, having previously been passed over by the Los Angeles Dodgers at their baseball facility in the Dominican Republic. Guerrero lied about his age to aid with negotiations, and joined the Expos organization to take the first formal step in his professional career. En route to the majors, he moved up through the Gulf Coast League Expos, the Albany Polecats, West Palm Beach Expos, and finally the Harrisburg Senators in 1996 before his first big league callup. A polarizing player at the time, many look back on Vlad’s career in a different light. Unafraid to chase “bad balls”, he would become one of the most consistent and electric hitters in his era, bringing his aggressive style to the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.


Randy Johnson – Tucson Sidewinders – 2003

The towering, 6-foot 10-inch frame was unmistakable in the Tucson locker room, emblematic of the beauty of baseball. A Hall of Fame career already under his belt, the Big Unit himself wasn’t immune to the standard injury rehabilitation program that fed seasoned veterans through minor league systems. In 2003, Randy Johnson suited up for the Tucson Sidewinders, bringing every bit of his four-years-running Cy Young dominance to the minor leagues. His career was unlike any other; across six teams – the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants – Randy Johnson earned records, accolades and awards accomplished by very few.


Johnny Bench – Buffalo Bisons – 1967

Two years before Ted Williams would declare him a “Hall of Famer for sure,” a 17-year-old Johnny Bench was selected in the 1965 amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Following his father’s advice, the high school valedictorian Bench would pursue a career as a catcher, suiting up for the Buffalo Bisons in 1966 and 1967. A uniquely talented player, he was the first catcher to ever win Rookie of the Year in either league in 1968, and would build on his success two years later in 1970 to become the youngest player ever to win National League MVP. Bench would spend his entire 17-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, revolutionizing the position of catcher during his tenure.


Tim Raines – Denver Bears – 1980

A young, budding athlete in Florida had a tough choice to make as he left high school: enter the 1977 baseball draft or accept one of his reportedly more than 100 college football scholarship offers. Ultimately, the world will never know what he could’ve accomplished in football, because every baseball fan knows the name Tim Raines. His decision would prove correct – after moving through the Gulf Coast League Expos, West Palm Beach Expos, and Memphis Chicks, Raines would make his major league debut in 1979. However, he had one more stop with the Denver Bears where he would find his stride, proving in 1980 that he would be forever remembered as a Montreal Expos legend. In his staggering 23-year career, the left fielder left an impact on the Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and Florida Marlins.


Trevor Hoffman – Chattanooga Lookouts – 1991

When a young shortstop was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1989 draft, he was told he could eventually become a pitcher – a conversation that became reality in 1991. Trevor Hoffman would move between the Chattanooga Lookouts, Cedar Rapids Reds, Nashville Sounds, and back to the Lookouts across the 1991 and 1992 seasons before he would make his major league debut in 1993. However, what he likely didn’t expect was to suit up in the big leagues for the first time with the newly minted Florida Marlins. He also likely didn’t expect to be traded midway through the season, but once he arrived in San Diego, it was officially “Trevor Time”. He would spend 16 seasons in San Diego before ending his career with the Milwaukee Brewers, establishing himself as one of the most dominant relievers in history by becoming the first major leaguer to reach 500 saves.

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