Danville 97s - History


After Durham was added to the expansion of Triple-A baseball, the Durham Bulls then joined the International League as an expansion franchise and switch affiliates to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, acquiring the Devil Rays’ new Triple-A squad. The Atlanta Braves Carolina League squad which was part of the Durham Bulls franchise from 1980-1997 would relocate to form a new franchise. However, the new franchise would not be granted as an expansion franchise. The location of the Braves’ new Carolina League affiliate would need to be determined. The two strongest contenders were Myrtle Beach and Williamsburg, Virginia. As a result of Williamsburg not having a facility ready for the 1998 season, Danville developed a plan to house the team temporarily while the stadium was completed.

By October 1997, the league gave the Bulls permission to let go of the Carolina League squad and relocate them to Myrtle Beach to form a new franchise. However at this time, Myrtle Beach would not have a new stadium complete in time for the 1998 season. After an agreement was reached with Appalachian League, as the team would share the same stadium with the Danville Braves for a portion of the season, Danville was selected as the temporary home for the new franchise. The city was selected due to its previously developed plan as well as the Braves' organization's familiarity with the community. For their lone season, the team was owned by the Capitol Broadcasting Company of Raleigh and managed by the Danville Braves, Inc.

On October 21, 1997, the team name "Danville 97s" was announced. The name pays tribute to the victims of the infamous Wreck of the Old 97, which had the reputation as the fastest regularly scheduled train in the world at the time of its fatal wreck in 1903.

Before the forming of the new 97s franchise, the Atlanta Braves Carolina League squad was originally labeled "Carolina League Bulls" because the effect originally was that the Durham Bulls relocated to become the 97s and that Durham was awarded a Triple-A franchise. However the effect changed when the new team would absorb the Durham Bulls name and the Bulls' Carolina League history because the Bulls starred in the film Bull Durham and also the Triple-A expansion team was awarded to the Bulls' owners the Capitol Broadcasting Company in which automatically the new team would be operated by the Bulls' operating entity Durham Bulls Baseball Club, Inc. which operated the Bulls in the Carolina League. These chain of events resulted in a new effect which was that the Durham Bulls moved up to the Triple-A level as the same continuing franchise and that the 97s are a new franchise, but were not granted as an expansion franchise. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ new Triple-A squad was also labeled "Triple-A Durham Bulls" when the Durham Bulls acquired that squad while they moved to the Triple-A level.

The team would finish last in the Carolina League during their lone season in 1998, when Jason Marquis began the season as the youngest pitcher in the Carolina League, but won only 2 of 22 starts for Danville,as he went 2-12 and struck out 135 in 114.2 innings, while walking only 41. The team completed its move to Myrtle Beach to become the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in time for the 1999 season.

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