A History of the Mets AAA Affiliate's


The original New York Mets AAA affiliate were the Buffalo Bisons (1962-1965). This version of the Bisons had been around since 1886 lasting thru the 1970 season. 
Theses original Bisons had 14 Hall of Famers play on their team in those years. The team played at War Memorial Stadium, home of the AFL-NFL Buffalo Bills. 

In 1966 the Mets AAA affiliate was moved to the Jacksonville Suns, who played in Jacksonville, Florida. Future Hall of Famers Tom Seaver & Nolan Ryan would pitch for these teams. The Suns finished 7th in 1966 & moved up to fifth in 1967. 


By 1968 the team finished fourth going 75-71 under manager Clyde McCullough. The Suns went on to beat the Toledo Mudhens in the semifinals advancing to the IL Championship where they beat the Columbus Jets in a series sweep. 
The team was led by Duffy Dyer (16 HRs) Amos Otis (70 RBIs) Tommie Reynolds (.319 average) Ken Singleton, Bobby Heise & Kevin Collins. The pitching staff was led by Gary Gentry (12 wins) Jim McAndrew (2.54 ERA) Les Rohr, Danny Frisella & Steve Renko.

In 1969 the Mets changed over to the Tidewater region of Virginia. The team's new AAA affiliate was named the Tidewater Tides.

Geographically, the Tidewater region is a large area, located in the area of southeast Virginia near Norfolk/Portsmouth, 
as well as bordering northeastern North Carolina& including southern Maryland. The area got its name because of the changing tides in local rivers, sounds & the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Tidewater area hosted pro baseball as far back as the early 20th century. In the 1960's the Tides became an A ball team known as the Portsmouth-Norfolk Tides from 1961-1968. In that time, they were an affiliate of the Kansas City A's, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox & Philadelphia Phillies. 

In 1969 the Tidewater Tides became the International League's AAA team that was owned by the New York Mets. The team would play at Lawrence Stadium in its first season, then move to Metropolitan Memorial Park (Met Park) from 1970-1992.

The Tides became familiar to Mets fans of the 1970's & 1980's as the place where the Mets players who hadn't arrived via trades or free agent signings came up from.

In 1969 the Tidewater Tides had the IL's best record (75-59) with manager Clyde McCullough winning the Manager of the Year Award. The team was eliminated in the semi-finals. 


After two years of losing in the first round of the playoffs, the 1972 Tides finished third, but did get to the finals. That year they won the league championship under manager Hank Bauer. 

The team's pitching staff included the likes of Buzz Capra, Harry Parker (14 wins) Brent Strom, Tommy Moore (11 wins) Chuck Taylor (9 wins) & Barry Raziano (10 wins). The offense was led by Dave Schneck, Don Hahn, George Theodore, Lute Barnes & Jose Morales.

In 1975, after two losing seasons, the Tides finished first & won another League championship under manager Joe Frazier.

The Tides team was made up of a strong pitching staff, as was usually the case for the Mets minor leagues in those days, consisting of Craig Swan (13 wins) Nino Espinosa (8 wins) Dwight Bernard (9 wins) Randy Sterling (10 wins) & Bill Laxton (11 wins).

The offense was led by Players like Roy Staiger (81 RBIs) Brock Pemberton (.297 Average) Bruce Boisclair, Mike Vail, Ron Hodges & Benny Ayala. 

With a managerial spot open at the big-league level, the Mets promoted Joe Frazier as the seventh manager in Mets history. Frazier brought up some of his Tides & although they had limited MLB action, they never matched their minor league success. 

Over the next six years from 1976-1981 the Tides would make the playoffs three times, twice under manager Frank Verdi & once under Jack Aker. But the team was eliminated in the first round each time.

 In 1982 in his second year as manager, Jack Aker led the Tides to a third League Championship. They repeated in 1983, when Davey Johnson took over as the club's manager. Many of these Tides players would be part of the Mets 1986 Championship team.

Pitchers like Ron Darling (10 wins) Walt Terrell (10 wins) Tim Leary (8 wins) & Jeff Bittiger (12 wins) led the staff. 

Offensively, the team was made up of Darryl Strawberry, Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell, Rafael Santana, Ron Gardenhire, Jose Oquendo & Mike Fitzgerald. Other players like Rusty Tillman & Mike Howard also contributed but had little success on the big-league level.

When Davey Johnson was promoted to the Mets as manager, Bob Schaeffer took over, leading the Tides to another Championship in 1985. That team was led by hitters Mark Carreon (14 HRs) Greg Jefferies (61 RBIs) Phil Lombardi (.308 average) & Keith Miller. The pitching staff was made up of David West (12 wins/ 1.80 ERA) Wally Whitehurst & John Mitchell (10 wins each).

In 1986 as the Mets won the World Series, former Tides hitting coach Sam Perlozzo took over as manager. The Tides got to the playoffs but fell in the first round.

Mike Cubbage would take over from 1987-1989 getting the team to two finals losing each time. In those days, Cubbage was always being looked at as the Mets manager of the future, but it never turned out that way.

As the 1990's arrived, Steve Swisher managed the Tides to two third place finishes (1990-1991). Next Clint Hurdle, who became a very successful MLB manager, took over as the last skipper of the Tidewater Tides finishing eighth. 



In 1992 a new ownership took over, moving the team to Harbor Park. For marketing reasons as well as political reasons, the team changed their name to the Norfolk Tides. 

The next year they introduced the team's mascot, Rip Tide.

The Tides were the Mets AAA affiliate for 38 years from 1969-2006. In 2007 the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs became the Mets AAA affiliate for two seasons (2007-2008). 

Next it was the Buffalo Bisons for three seasons (2009-2011). Led by manager Ken Oberkfell
(2009-2010) the team finished sixth & third respectively. In 2011 Tim Teufel took over finishing third with a sub.50 record.

In 2013 the Las Vegas 51's, who earned their name after the nearby military base famous for it's UFO stories at Area 51, became the Mets affiliate. 

That team won back-to-back Divisional titles (2013 & 2014) under Wally Backman, although they were eliminated in the Championships each time. Las Vegas remained the Mets AAA affiliate for six seasons (2013-2018). The team is now called the Aviators.

In 2019 the Mets moved over to Syracuse New York for their AAA affiliate, a relationship that has lasted through 2023. The team now known as the Syracuse Mets plays at NBT Bank Stadium located in Onondaga County in Central New York State. 

Recently the team was led by Tony DeFrancesco (2019) & Chad Kreuter (2021). The Chief's finished ninth two straight years under Kevin Boles (2022) & Dick Scott (2023).



Comments

John Sharp said…
I was in the US Navy in 1985, and was in school at Norfolk Navy Base at got yo go to one Tides game a d I had a blast.
Still have the '85 Tides card set that I got at that Game.

Great job.

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