The Sports Lounge presents… REMEMBER THEM: New Orleans Pelicans
Well, the REMEMBER THEM segment is back and before I begin, I want to make it known that RT started as a monthly blog but will now become published twice a month! And in this first post for May, I want to take a look at the New Orleans Pelicans. And I am not talking about the former Hornets basketball team. I am talking about the Pelicans baseball team that played in New Orleans from 1887-1977 (with the exception of some years). That’s right, here is a look at New Orleans’ original Pelicans.
The New Orleans Pelicans baseball club began play in 1887. The Pelicans fielded a team from 1887-1888, 1892-1896, 1901-1959, and again in 1977. The Pelicans were a part of 4 different minor leagues and played as both a Double-A and Triple-A team during their existence. They were affiliated with 6 different MLB teams: St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Cleveland Indians. After folding in 1959, the Pelicans disappeared until 1977 when the owners of the AAA Tulsa Oilers moved their team to New Orleans and adopted the Pelicans name. However, they lasted only one season in New Orleans and moved to Springfield, Illinois the next season to become the Redbirds. Today, the Redbirds are now the Louisville (KY) Bats and are an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
As with everything else, the Pelicans called 5 different parks home. Their first home field was the Cresent City Baseball Park. They used this as their home from 1887 through 1907. After this, the Pelicans spent 6 seasons at Pelican Park. Pelican Park was located on Carrollton Street across from where Jesuit High School sits today. Then, they moved to Pelican Stadium in 1915 and stayed there until 1957. This stadium was located in mid-city New Orleans. After this stay, the Pelicans moved to City Park Stadium, currently known as Tad Gormley Stadium. They played their until they folded in 1959. When they returned for one season in 1977, the Pelicans played their home games in the massive Louisiana Superdome.
Throughout their stay in New Orleans, the Pelicans were champions of their league an amazing 10 different times. To earn this many championships, the Pelicans had to have their share of great players and they had plenty. The most notable player in Pelicans history is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. He only played for the Pelicans in 1910 (one of their championship years) but went on to a great major league career. As a rookie in the majors, he batted .405 and ended his career with a batting average of .356. He also was a part of the World Series champions in 1917. But he is perhaps better known for being a member of the team involved in the Black Sox scandal in the 1919 World Series.
But Jackson was not the only well known player in Pelicans history. The Pelicans also had four future Baseball Hall of Famers on their roster at some point. These men are Dazzy Vance, Joe Sewell, Bob Lemon, and Earl Weaver. Vance was a World Series champion, the 1924 NL MVP, and won the Triple Crown that same year. Sewell has the lowest strikeout average in MLB history, striking out once every 63 at bats on average. Lemon was a player and manager in the majors. As a player he was a 7 time all-star and won a World Series title, and pitched a no-hitter in 1948. He also won a World Series as a manager and became the only AL manager to win a World Series after taking over the job in the middle of the season. Weaver never played a game in the majors but is one of the all-time great manager. He led the Baltimore Orioles to a World Series victory in 1970.
Even when the Pelicans returned in 1977, the starting shortstop was none other than Tony LaRussa. LaRussa went on the become a manager for the White Sox, A’s, and Cardinals. He won three World Series titles as manager of the A’s and Cardinals and retired after the last one in 2011.
Nowadays, when you ask people about baseball in Louisiana they respond with the New Orleans Zephyrs. And while the Zephyrs are a good baseball team, I doubt they will ever have the rich history of the Pelicans. And while the baseball team may never live again, the spirit continues with the renaming of the NBA franchise in New Orleans. Not only are they now the Pelicans, but they even kept the original colors of the original Pelicans.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!