Alexandria Dukes

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The Alexandria Dukes were a baseball team in the minor-league Class A Carolina League. The team was formed in 1978 by the then-floundering Carolina League, which had only four teams when the Dukes were formed.[1] Their home park throughout their six-year existence was known as Municipal Stadium at Four Mile Run Park--a ballfield adjacent to Cora Kelly Elementary School, located in Alexandria, Virginia. Because the field was the property of the Alexandria City School District, alcohol was not served at any game. Seating in the park was limited to several hundred open-air, backless bleacher seats. Former notable veterans of the team include: Bobby Bonilla, Joe Orsulak, catcher Dave Valle, and pitcher Tim Burke.

The Dukes' original Club President was Eugene Thomas, running the team along with Secretary-Treasurer Frank Higdon and General Manager Frank Mann. The radio team from WEEL-AM-1310 consisted of play-by-play man Nat Allbright and color commentator Bob Diegrist. The team hosted 70 home games, all with 7:30 starts.

Alexandria was unable to secure a major-league affiliate for its inaugural season, forcing the team to operate as a co-op franchise. The Dukes finished in fourth place in both the first and second halves of the season, posting records of 29-37 and 29-38, respectively.

The Dukes' second season proved more successful than the first, as the team was picked up by the Seattle Mariners as an affiliate. The team dropped the nickname "Dukes" in favor of being known as the Alexandria Mariners. Both halves of the season, the team finished in second place, winning more games than it lost, finishing 38-29 and 36-33. In 1979, third baseman Gary Pellant made baseball history on April 30 when he hit two grand slams in one inning, one batting right-handed and the other left-handed.

The 1980 campaign marked a return to a co-op management and a revival of the Dukes name--and a return to a sub-.500 winning percentage. Alexandria ended both portions of its year in last place in the newly formed Virginia Division. The Dukes first-half record was 28-42; the second-half, 26-44.

The following year, Alexandria was able to once again obtain major-league affiliation, signing a six-year player development contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not surprisingly, the Dukes' alignment with a major league club resulted in an improvement, albeit a marginal one, as the team finished in second place and fourth place, posting records of 33-34 and 29-41 in the Northern Division, as the Carolina League replaced its Virginia and North Carolina Divisions with Northern and Southern ones.

1982 would prove the most successful season in the Dukes' six-year history. The first half of the season, Alexandria was victorious in nearly 70% of its games, winning the division with a 45-20 mark, securing a post-season appearance. The second half, the Dukes slipped to 35-34, finishing second, only one-half game behind their eventual first round playoff opponent, the Lynchburg Mets. After defeating the Mets in a one-game playoff, the Dukes swept the Durham Bulls in three games, giving the team its only championship in its six-year history.

In their final season in Alexandria, the Dukes were not able to continue their winning ways, dropping to a first-half record of 35-32, followed by a 34-36 second half, both records good for third place. With the construction of the larger and more professional G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in nearby Woodbridge, Virginia, the Dukes were reborn as the Prince William Pirates, who are now the Potomac Nationals. Ironically, their Alexandria location had prevously been inside the limits of Potomac, Virginia, which existed as a separate town from 1894-1903 before Alexandria annexed it.

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