Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks
One of the six founding members of the modern Northern League in 1993, the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks were league members from 1993 to 1998. They played their home games at Port Arthur Stadium in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Whiskey Jacks went 36-35 in the first year of the league. Former US Olympian and second baseman Ty Griffin hit .274 and tied for the league lead with 11 home runs, while OF Rodney McCray (.242, .341 SLG) led the loop with 36 steals. Yoshi Seo (4-4, 2.37) was third in the league in ERA.
In 1994, Thunder Bay had a 22-18 first half under manager Dan Shwam but fell to 13-27 in the second half. C Pete Kuld (.279, .608 SLG) led the league with 27 home runs, while Rod Steph (8-1, 2.45) was fourth in ERA.
The next season, the Whiskey Jacks had the reverse of the prior season. Doug Ault's club was last in the first half (14-28) but 24-18 in the second half, three games behind the St. Paul Saints. Pat Tilmon (4-4, 3.27) was third in the league in ERA while OF Sean Hearn hit .303, slugged .529, hit 19 home runs and stole 20 bases. Kuld homered 13 times in 164 games before being traded away - he led the league in homers that year. Two ex-major-leaguers stopped by to play DH, Francisco Cabrera (.360, .500 SLG) and Daryl Boston (.280, .391 SLG).
In 1996, the club finished last in the eastern division in both halves, going a total 33-51 under new manager Jason Felice. Their attendance of 50,429 was last in the league by over 25,000. Chad Poeck (5-8, 1 Sv, 3.21) was third in ERA, while the club boasted two All-Stars this time, Hearn (.322, .628 SLG, 20 HR) and 2B Casey Waller (.300, .461 SLG). Tilmon had a 5-3, 3.05 record.
Thunder Bay was 36-48 under Jay Ward in 1997 and attendance picked up but remained last (62,496). They reverted to having no All-Stars. DH Danny Lewis (.358, .663 SLG) was second in the league in average and hit 24 homers, while 1B Larry See (.282, .502 SLG) smacked 19 circuit clouts.
Thunder Bay, managed by Ward again, went 22-21 in the firat half of 1998 to take the eastern division over three sub-.500 teams, but fell to 18-24 in the second half. In the playoffs, they lost 3 games to 2 to St. Paul. Attendance continued to trail other teams with 54,566. Jim Boynewicz (7-5, 3.40) was 4th in the league in ERA and Poeck (4-4, 3.47) was fifth. Lewis slipped to .316 with 17 HR and a .563 slugging, while See fell to .235 with 10 HR and a .406 slugging percentage.
Despite winning an Eastern Division half season title in 1998, the franchise folded after that season as the Northern League continued its transition away from small cities (started by Rochester moving to Winnipeg in 1994) and into a large city format. They were replaced by the Schaumburg Flyers in 1999.
Sources include 1994-1999 Baseball Almanacs
|1995||38-46||4th (t)||Doug Ault|
|1996||33-51||7th||Jason Felice (10-17) / Jay Ward (23-34)|
|1998||40-45||3rd||Jay Ward||Lost in 1st round|