Page 33 - Salem Magazine Spring 2014
P. 33

   Changing of the Guard
Baseball in Salem
1981 - 1986
CAROLINA LEAGUE
SALEM REDBIRDS
SAN DIEGO PADRES & TEXAS RANGERS (1981-1983) TEXAS RANGERS (1984-1986)
  During the 1980 season, the Salem Athletic Club sold the Pirates to a group led by Tennessee entrepreneur Larry Schmittou, owner of the Nashville Sounds Double-A club. Other investors included country music stars Conway Twitty, Larry Gatlin, Jerry Reedand
 Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys.
Pittsburgh left the club and the team fielded a joint
roster of San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. The nickname “Redbirds” was adopted after a local Salem boy, Jimmy Fielder, won a name-the-team contest.
The Redbirds lost more games than they won over their six seasons in Salem. The 1982 team lost a Salem record 101 games.
“When the team would go on some long losing streaks, I do remember seeing fans with paper bags over their heads,” said first baseman Dave Christianson. “But not every game was bad. We lost a lot of nights that year, but they were fun games because there were a ton of runs
Country music star
Conway Twitty
was part owner of Salem’s Redbirds.
Despite the rough season, Christianson fell in love with Salem. A native of Chicago, he married a local girl and began to raise his family.
scored. I had several injuries that season, but the team was struggling enough that I was still playing. Half that season I was hurt enough that I would limp to first base if I got a hit. It was a rough year.”
“I had travelled all over the West Coast, Texas and even British Columbia. I was taken back by how beautiful the Roanoke Valley was,” Christianson said. “Everybody in Salem was so friendly to all the guys on the team. You couldn’t go anywhere without people striking up conversations and talking baseball.”
The connection of baseball and Salem has stayed with Christianson over the last 30 years. When his minor league playing days with the San Diego Padres were behind him, he started Rip City Baseball Training Center and managed the Salem American Legion team from 1997 to 2011.
“I got involved in coaching because I loved the game and wanted to give back what I got out of the game,” said Christianson. “We’ve had hundreds of players go on to play in college and some even made it professionally. It’s my passion to help kids enjoy the game as much as I have.”
San Diego left the Redbirds after the 1983 season. There was talk of moving the team to Charleston, West Virginia, however, the Carolina League felt vested in the team’s longevity in Salem. Texas remained with the team until 1986 fielding MLB All-Stars Mike Stanley, Mitch Williams and Kenny Rogers.
C 2B P 2B 1B P C P
MARK PARENT LUIS QUINONES BILLY TAYLOR JERRY BROWNE MIKE STANLEY* MITCH WILLIAMS* CHAD KREUTER KENNY ROGERS*
1981, 82 1981 1983 1985 1985 1985 1986 1986
13 (SDP, TEX, BAL, CHC, PIT, DET, PHI) 8 (OAK, SFG, CHC, CIN, MIN) 7 (OAK, NYM, TB, PIT)
10 (TEX, CLE, OAK, FLA)
15 (TEX, NYY, BOS, TOR, OAK) 11 (TEX, CHC, PHI, HOU, CAL, KC) 16 (TEX, DET, SEA, SHW, ANA, KC, LAD) 20 (TEX, NYY, OAK, MIN, DET)
   Chicago native Dave Christianson played for the 1982 Redbirds. His love for the game led him to open Rip City Baseball Training Center for aspiring players and he coached the Salem American Legion team from 1997-2011.
336-496 OVERALL RECORD (.404 W-L%)
Did you know?
Municipal Field is known for the outfield light poles, which are inside the wall and in play.
“Those poles were very tricky. They weren’t
padded when we played and you had to run around them during the game.” - Dave Parker
www.salemva.gov | SPRING 2014
33
Photos courtesy of Dave Christianson































































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