Hawaii Islanders

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For the minor league Arena Football team, see Hawaiian Islanders.
Hawaii Islanders
19611987
Honolulu, Hawaii
HawaiiIslanders.png
Team logo
Class-level
Previous Triple-A (1961–1987)
Minor league affiliations
League Pacific Coast League (1961–1987)
Major league affiliations
Previous
Minor league titles
League titles 1975, 1976
Division titles 1970, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1984
Team data
Previous names
Hawaii Islanders (1961–1987)
Previous parks

The Hawaii Islanders were a Triple-A minor league baseball team, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, that played in the Pacific Coast League from 1961 through 1987. The Islanders were originally an affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics. They played their home games at Honolulu Stadium, Honolulu's Aloha Stadium and later at Les Murakami Stadium. After being one of the most successful minor league teams, the Islanders faltered and ultimately moved to the mainland as the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 1988.

History[edit]

The Islanders were originally an amateur team, but on December 17, 1960, the Sacramento Solons, a longtime PCL stalwart, moved to Honolulu. Minor league baseball was then in free fall, as sparse attendance, major league TV broadcasts, expansion and franchise shifts at the major league level, and retrenchment in farm system support caused the contraction of many leagues, and the utter collapse of others. Ironically, the Islanders came to Hawaii in part due to these trends. The Solons had been suffering from attendance problems since the arrival of the San Francisco Giants from New York City. However, Salt Lake City businessman Nick Morgan bought the Solons and moved them to the Aloha State. Two years later, Morgan sold the Islanders to a locally-based group.[1]

By the end of the 1960s, the Islanders were reckoned as the strongest franchise in the minors. In 1970, the Islanders, then an affiliate of the California Angels, won 98 games and drew over 400,000 fans to lead the PCL and the minors as a whole. Although it lost the PCL pennant to the Spokane Indians, the 1970 team was named #38 out of the top 100 greatest teams in minor league baseball history as selected by MiLB.com.[2]

Due to the Islanders being 2,500 miles from their nearest opponent, the PCL had a unique schedule for them. Initially, teams made a four- and a seven-game visit to the Islands, with the Islanders doing the same. Later, as the league expanded, the Islanders played an eight-game series against each team in order to cut down on travel costs.

The travel costs also applied to radio coverage. In the 1960s, the Islanders radio announcer would use the old method of "re-creating" the road games in the Honolulu radio studio, which was used by most major league teams during the 1930s and 1940s. In those days, the team's radio play by play man was Harry Kalas, who had just gotten out of the service. When Kalas later moved on to the mainland (with the Houston Astros and later the Philadelphia Phillies), he was replaced as Islanders play by play man by Hank Greenwald (later a broadcaster for the Giants); Marty Chase succeeded Greenwald in 1966 and was the play-by-play announcer through 1968. A young Al Michaels arrived in June, 1968 after Chase was recalled to active Army duty. Other Islanders broadcast alumni included Ken Wilson, Les Keiter and Mel Proctor.

In the early 1970s the Islanders were the closest thing to an independent team in the high minors. While standard minor league working agreements in recent times require a minor league team to cede complete control of its roster to its major league affiliate, the Islanders' early deals with the San Diego Padres typically called for the Padres to send only about six players to Hawaii. The Islanders' management signed players on its own to fill most of the roster spots, and was free to trade, sell or release them without approval from San Diego. This worked very well for the Islanders, as they won consecutive PCL titles in 1975 and 1976.

The Islanders achieved success and stability as a longtime affiliate of the Padres, but spent their last years in short-term affiliations with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox.

The beginning of the end, however, came when the Islanders moved from rickety Honolulu Stadium to Aloha Stadium in 1976. It had been obvious for some time that Honolulu Stadium needed to be replaced. The wooden stadium had been built in 1926 and had long since fallen below Triple-A standards; it had reached the end of its useful life by the mid-1960s. However, the new stadium was located in Halawa in west-central Oahu, far from the team's fan base. Attendance, already in decline, fell even further as fans were unwilling to make the drive. Additionally, the lease with the state government, which owned the stadium, didn't allow the Islanders to earn any proceeds from concessions or advertising, severely limiting the team's income. The 1976 pennant winners almost didn't finish the season when the PCL briefly stripped them of their franchise.[1]

Even when the Islanders' franchise was restored, they nearly lost the 1976 pennant due to an incident earlier in the season. Aloha Stadium management initially refused to allow the use of metal spikes. When the Tacoma Twins complied with a parent-club directive to wear the spikes, stadium management turned off the center field lights. After 35 minutes, the umpires forfeited the game to the Twins. The Islanders protested, claiming they had no control the lights. However, the PCL sided with the Twins, citing a league rule that the home team is responsible for providing acceptable playing facilities. Due to the snafu, the Islanders went into the final series of the season only two games ahead of the Twins in the Western Division. They ultimately prevailed to win the division, nd the pennant.[1][3]

Its last club, in 1987, finished last in its division and last overall in attendance (under 100,000) in the PCL. By this time, the team's financial problems were becoming more acute, in part due to what the Honolulu Star-Bulletin called the worst lease in the PCL.[1] Prior to the 1988 season, citing years of dwindling attendance, the team moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and became the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.[4]

Aftermath and influence[edit]

Five years after the Islanders left Hawaii, the minor league Hawaii Winter Baseball was founded in 1993 and played their games from October to December. The league was affiliated with the Major Leagues and continued play until 1997, and from 2006 until it folded a second time in 2008.

Notable alumni[edit]

Year-by-year record[edit]

Year Record Finish Manager Playoffs
1961 68-86 6th Tommy Heath / Bill Werle none
1962 77-76 5th Irv Noren none
1963 81-77 4th Irv Noren
1964 60-98 10th Bob Lemon
1965 75-72 6th (t) George Case
1966 63-84 10th George Case
1967 60-87 12th Wayne Terwilliger
1968 78-69 3rd Bill Adair
1969 74-72 4th Chuck Tanner
1970 98-48 1st Chuck Tanner Lost League Finals
1971 73-73 4th (t) Bill Adair
1972 74-74 5th Rocky Bridges
1973 70-74 5th Rocky Bridges / Warren Hacker / Roy Hartsfield
1974 67-77 6th Roy Hartsfield
1975 88-56 1st Roy Hartsfield League Champs
1976 77-68 2nd Roy Hartsfield League Champs
1977 79-67 2nd Dick Phillips Lost League Finals
1978 56-82 8th Dick Phillips
1979 72-76 8th Dick Phillips Lost League Finals
1980 76-65 5th Doug Rader Lost League Finals
1981 72-65 3rd (t) Doug Rader Lost in 1st round
1982 73-71 5th Doug Rader
1983 72-71 5th Tom Trebelhorn
1984 87-53 1st Tommy Sandt Lost League Finals
1985 84-59 1st Tommy Sandt Lost in 1st round
1986 65-79 9th Tommy Sandt
1987 65-75 9th Bob Bailey

Cultural references[edit]

Pernell Roberts guest starred in a two part Hawaii 5-O episode, "The Grandstand Play," as a former major league star who moved to Hawaii for the benefit of his son (played by Elliot Street), who gets mixed up in the murder of a local socialite.

The Islanders baseball team is mentioned on a number of occasions in the 1980s television series Magnum, P.I. The main character played by Tom Selleck was a baseball fan for the Islanders and often wore a Detroit Tigers ball cap.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Kaneshiro, Stacy. Islanders a fan hit during 27-year run. The Honolulu Advertiser, 2009-07-04.
  2. ^ 1970 Hawaii Islanders history at MiLB.com
  3. ^ Stewart, Chuck. Sport Stew. Spokane Daily Chronicle, 1976-09-01.
  4. ^ DiMeglio, Steve. Hawaiian league at bat again. USA Today, 2006-10-05.

External links[edit]