|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Florida State League|
|Major league affiliations|
|Minor league titles|
|League titles||3 (1957, 1959, 1961)|
|Al Lopez Field|
The Tampa Tarpons were a minor league baseball team based in Tampa, Florida. They played in the Class A Florida State League from 1957–1988, when they were sold, relocated, and renamed the Sarasota White Sox. During their run in Tampa, they won three FSL league championships, in 1957, 1959 and 1961.
The team was established in 1957 to join the Florida State League, then a Class D minor league. Tampa had been without a professional baseball team since 1954, when the Florida International League folded, taking with it the Tampa Smokers. From their inception, the Tarpons played all their home games at Al Lopez Field in Tampa, built in 1955.
The Tarpons were affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1957-1960. In 1961 they began a long affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds. They won three league championships, in 1957, 1959 and 1961. In 1964 minor league baseball was realigned, and the Florida State League became a Class A league (now Class A-Advanced).
During the 1980s talk spread of a major league team coming to the Tampa Bay Area, which would threaten the viability of the Tarpons and other minor league teams in the region. Prior to the 1988 season the Reds moved their spring training from Tampa to Plant City, Florida, and moved their Class A franchise to Greensboro, North Carolina (the Greensboro Hornets). The Chicago White Sox subsequently moved their Class A affiliation to Tampa for the 1988 season, amid rumors that the White Sox themselves would be moving to the area. That season the Tarpons, alternately known as the Tampa White Sox, drew 55,900 fans, seventh in the 14-team FSL, and went 35-35 in the first half before they won the western division second-half title at 36-24. They fell in the second round of the playoffs to the St. Lucie Mets 2 games to 0. The club was managed by Marv Foley and had one FSL All-Star, pitcher Jerry Kutzler. Foley won FSL Manager of the Year honors.
After the 1989 season, owner Mitchell Mick sold his franchise to the Chicago White Sox, who relocated the club to Sarasota, Florida as the Sarasota White Sox. The franchise exchanged major league affiliates and nicknames several times before 2010, when they became an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and were moved and renamed the Bradenton Marauders.
Meanwhile, Tampa was without professional baseball until the Tampa Yankees joined the Florida State League in 1994.
The Tarpons had many famous players that went on to play in the major leagues, including many who eventually became important parts of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine of the 1970s. In 1961 Pete Rose led the first place Tarpons with a .331 batting average and 30 triples – still a FSL record. Other Reds players from that era who started with the Tarpons include Ken Griffey, Sr., Johnny Bench, Dan Driessen, Rawly Eastwick, and Dave Concepcion.
When the Reds won their next world series in 1990 with manager (and Tampa native) Lou Piniella, they again had several former Tarpons on the roster, including Tom Browning, Rob Dibble, and Paul O'Neill. Another notable former Tarpon was Randy Poffo, who finished a nondescript minor league baseball career with the team in 1974. Poffo went on to a much more successful career in professional wrestling, where he came to fame while using the name "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
In 2006 the Tampa Bay Devil Rays embarked on a rebranding effort that would include a name change; they considered adopting the Tampa Bay Tarpons name in honor of the minor league team before making the less radical change to their current name, Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have worn Tampa Tarpons uniforms for several "Turn Back the Clock" games:
- On July 17, 1999, the Devil Rays wore 1960 Tarpons uniforms against the New York Mets, who wore uniforms reminiscent of those worn by their 1969 championship team.
- On June 24, 2006, the Devil Rays wore 1975 Tarpon uniforms against the Atlanta Braves, who wore their 1975 road uniforms. Coincidentally, two Rays coaches, third-base coach Tom Foley and hitting coach Steve Henderson, had both played for the Tarpons in the mid-1970s.
- On August 13, 2010, the Rays wore 1970 Tarpons uniforms against the Baltimore Orioles, who wore all-orange road uniforms used occasionally by their 1971 pennant-winning squad.
- "Tampa Tarpons Move Into First.". The Evening Independent. May 6, 1968. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
- "Past Champions: Florida State League Champions". www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=l123. milb.com. 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
- Fry, Darrell (July 2, 1988). "Tarpons, Cards react differently to White Sox Series: fsl". St. Petersburg Times.
- BR Bullpen: Tampa White Sox
- "Tampa Tarpons sold, moving to Sarasota". St. Petersburg Times. November 19, 1988. p. 5.C. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- Putterbaugh, Travis (May 10, 2010). "Remembering the Tampa Tarpons". Tampa Sports History. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- "Randy Poffo career minor league statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- "Name Could Be Big Change" - St. Pete Times, Jan 15, 2006
- Rays usher in new era with new identity | MLB.com: News
- "Lots of fun at the ballpark" - Ocala Star-Banner, July 20, 1999
- Bill Chastain (2006-06-24). "Notes: Rays sport throwback duds: Club dons unis of '75 Tarpons for Turn Back the Clock Night". MLB.com.
- "Rays will turn back the clock on Aug. 13" - St. Pete Times, July 1, 2010