Sioux Falls Canaries
|Sioux Falls Canaries|
|League||American Association (North Division)|
|Location||Sioux Falls, South Dakota|
|Ballpark||Sioux Falls Stadium|
|Colors||Blue, yellow, black, white
|Retired numbers||7 (Beau Torbert)|
|Ownership||Tom Garrity, Gary Weckwerth|
|General Manager||Duell Higbe|
|Media||KWSN 1230 AM, Sioux Falls Argus Leader|
The Sioux Falls Canaries are a professional baseball team based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States. The Canaries are a member of the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Since the 1993 season, the Canaries have played their home games at Sioux Falls Stadium, commonly known as The Birdcage. In the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, the team was called the Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants.
Early Sioux Falls teams
Professional baseball in Sioux Falls dates back at least to 1902, when the original Canaries joined the Iowa–South Dakota League. That team and its league lasted just two seasons. Another team, known variously as the "Soos" as well as the Canaries, was a member of the Dakota League from 1920–1923, then moved to the short-lived Tri-State League in 1924.
The longest-lived Canaries prior to the current team were founded in 1933 as part of the Nebraska State League. They joined the Western League in 1939, then joined the original Northern League when the Western League folded after the 1941 season. The Canaries played in the Northern League in 1942 and again from 1946–1953.
The city was without a Northern League franchise until 1966. Then the Sioux Falls Packers began play, and spent six seasons in the circuit until the league ceased operations following the 1971 campaign.
A handful of independent baseball pioneers revived the Northern League in 1993. Sioux Falls competed in a six-team league, joining the St. Paul Saints, the Rochester Aces, the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks, the Sioux City Explorers and the Duluth–Superior Dukes.
On the field, the Canaries enjoyed their greatest successes in 1994 and 1996. Former major leaguer Pedro Guerrero batted .329 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs for the 1994 Canaries, as the team posted a 47-33 record. Sioux Falls was narrowly beat out by Sioux City in the first half of the season while the "Birds" finished four games out of first in the second half. Chris Powell batted a league-best .357, while Jamie Ybarra paced all league hurlers with 10 wins and 109 strikeouts.
In 1996, the Canaries overcame a 20-22 first half to the season and posted a 24-18 mark over the second half of the campaign. Even then, the team finished three games back of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
New ownership took over the club in 1998 and a steady diet of improvements have followed, including a new manager, new logo and identity system.
The Canaries posted an outstanding season in 2001, going 55-35 and gaining the team's first playoff berth since the league re-emerged in 1993. On July 11, 2001, the Canaries won the first-half title in the South Division in dramatic fashion on the final day of the half. Sioux Falls won 21-7 win over Duluth-Superior in the game that secured its first pennant and its first playoff appearance.
Team owners and city officials hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking in November 1999, kicking off a $5.6 million renovation to Sioux Falls Stadium. The new Birdcage drew national attention on June 2, 2001, as USA Today writer Mel Antonen wrote a feature story on the retrofit. The project drew praise for the integration of an existing facility with more modern elements. Sioux Falls Stadium now features nine luxury suites, a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) home clubhouse, a group barbecue area and a video wall/scoreboard that features live and recorded video clips as well as animated pieces.
Sioux Falls struggled early on in the new league, but everything came together for the Canaries in 2008. They posted their best regular-season record ever at 60-36, and won the first-half North Division championship with a 31-17 mark. The Canaries opened the 2008 playoffs by sweeping rival Sioux City in three games, then took on Grand Prairie for the American Association championship. Sioux Falls took the best-of-5 series three games to one, earning the clinching win in dramatic fashion on a walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th. The Canaries became the first team other than Fort Worth to earn an AAIPB championship.
On March 25, 2013, Sioux Falls Sports LLC, the ownership group of the Sioux Falls Pheasants and Sioux Falls Stampede, announced they have officially changed the name of the franchise from the Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants back to the original name, "Sioux Falls Canaries." The club unveiled the team logos for the Canaries, designed by Fresh Produce of Sioux Falls.
In popular culture
- On May 31, 1997, Ila Borders became the first female athlete to play professional baseball when she made her professional debut with the St. Paul Saints who were on the road playing the Sioux Falls Canaries. The game was sold out and several national media outlets, including ESPN, were present.
- On May 23, 2005, in light of the then ongoing BALCO scandal involving BALCO creating and distributing performance-enhancing drugs to Major League players, the Canaries hosted a "BALCO be Gone Night". Upon entry to the game, each fan was given a free "specimen cup" which could be used at the concession stands for a one time sample of Mellow Yellow. Other antics throughout the night included the PA announcer going through extreme "mood swings", games being played on the video board between innings such as "Juiced or Not Juiced?", and other on field promotions making light of the steroid scandals.
- While with the Canaries in 2002, Tyrone Pendergrass was interviewed and featured in an article in the September 4, 2002, edition of the Christian Science Monitor, called "Mapping the American Spirit"
- On July 12, 2006, Jim Eriotes, 83, became the oldest person in professional baseball history to play in a game. Eriotes entered the game in the 1st inning, leading off for the Canaries as the designated hitter. He swung at at all four pitches thrown to him, connecting with one for a foul ball before striking out. Eriotes was pinch hit for during his next at bat.
Sioux Falls Canaries roster
|Active (22-man) roster||Coaches/Other|
- OF Pedro Guerrero- 1993-94
- OF Benny Castillo- 1995–1998
- P Steve Howe- 1997
- P Lee Guetterman- 1997
- 1B Brian Traxler- 1997, 2000
- 3B Kim Batiste- 1998
- IF Mike Busch- 2000–2001
- P George Sherrill- 2001
- OF Edgard Clemente- 2005-06
- OF Chad Hermansen- 2006
- SS Orlando Miller- 2007
- P Pat Mahomes- 2007–2009
- OF Reggie Abercrombie- 2010–2013
- OF Jason Repko 2015
- OF Beau Torbert 2008–2010 Only player with Jersey retired. Holds records for hitting
- aabfan.com – yearly league standings & awards (American Association)
- nlfan.com – yearly league standings & awards (Northern League)