Twins and Red Wings outfielder Ben Revere

Jim Mone, Associated Press

Reusse: Hurry, Red Wings fans: Your favorites might be Twins soon

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • June 2, 2011 - 11:40 AM

There has been an Eastern or International League team in Rochester, N.Y., since 1895. It has had the longest continuous operation in the same city of any franchise in minor league baseball.

Rochester went through a variety of nicknames -- Bronchos, Jingoes, Hustlers, Colts and Tribe -- until 1929, when the team was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals. Rochester's baseball team became the Red Wings, in honor of the affiliation with the Cardinals and the red-winged blackbird.

The Cardinals announced in 1956 that they would cease to operate the franchise after the season. Morrie Silver, a local businessman, formed Rochester Community Baseball, Inc.

A successful drive to sell shares was completed right before the start of spring training in 1957. RCB bought the team and an old ballpark called Red Wing Stadium.

More than five decades later, the 7,000 shareholders of RCB still own the Red Wings. Silver's daughter, Naomi, is the CEO and president and the team plays in Frontier Field, one of those downtown gems of a ballpark that opened in 1997. The Red Wings have been affiliated with the Twins since 2003.

"My family has been involved with baseball since before my time," Naomi Silver said. "So, there might be a stranger season than this for the Red Wings, but it certainly has been unusual.

"It's been interesting on a nightly basis in what players we're going to have, with all the injuries with the Twins, and players going to Minnesota."

The Twins put Rochester baseball fans -- and management -- through torture last season, when they put a team on the field that went 49-95. The situation was even worse at Class AA New Britain, where the Rock Cats were an abysmal 44-98.

Silver and her staff waited to sign an extension of the working agreement last spring, and then made it two years (through 2012) rather than the other option for four years.

The Twins promised a better club. They signed 13 veteran free agents, including one pitcher, Eric Hacker, for the major-league roster.

And then Hades broke loose in Minnesota. Three of those journeymen are now with the Twins: catcher Rene Rivera and lefty relievers Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait. Hacker and catcher Steve Holm have come and gone.

In total, 14 players have been with both the Twins and the Red Wings this season (excluding Jason Repko's six-game rehab). In total, Rochester has had 36 players to fill its 24 roster spots.

And those spots aren't always filled. Right now, the Red Wings are playing two short -- with 10 pitchers and 12 position players.

There's another problem. The only player among the minor-league free agents that was hitting, infielder Ray Chang, is out for several weeks because of a broken leg.

Jim Mandalero, the baseball writer for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, said: "The Twins brought in a lot of guys with decent track records in Triple-A, but none of them are hitting. And any pitcher that gets a few outs ... he's off to Minnesota."

The Red Wings are 19-30 going into Wednesday's game with Toledo. Attendance is down.

"Our weather has been bad, although we're reluctant to complain, considering what has happened to people in the South and in the Midwest," Silver said.

What is Silver's reaction to her big-league partners, when she sees the Red Wings in sixth place in the six-team North Division?

"I thought the Twins made a wonderful effort in signing veteran players this winter," she said. "Nobody could foresee injuries plaguing them the way they have."

Silver said that through the turmoil, the Rochester fans seem to have found a favorite: outfielder Ben Revere.

"He's great in the field, exciting on the bases and very personable," Silver said. "Our fans are really enjoying Ben."

The future of that enjoyment was in doubt, even as Silver spoke Wednesday afternoon. That's because Jason Kubel still was wearing a walking boot on his sprained foot in Detroit.

Manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't going to look at a bench of Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe and Rivera for long without screaming, "Help!"

And scream he did after Wednesday night's loss to Detroit and an injury to Jim Thome.

In Rochester, the Red Wings rallied from down 7-0 to win 10-9. And then Revere became the happiest player in the clubhouse when told to join the Twins in Kansas City as a replacement for either Kubel or the newly injured Thome.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN.

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