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Richmond Roosters

First season: 1995

Years in league: 1995-2005

Ballpark: Don McBride Stadium

Richmond, IN hosted Class-D teams in the 1940s and 50s but had been without professional baseball for over forty years until the arrival of the Roosters in 1995. Richmond baseball fans have reason to be glad the team came here, as the roster of players to call Richmond home over the last decade looks like a "Who's Who" of the best players in Frontier League history. Eight Roosters were named to the Frontier League's Tenth Anniversary All-Star team.

The Roosters joined the Frontier League as an expansion team, replacing the Kentucky Rifles. The team was an instant success as the Roosters made the playoffs in their very first year in Richmond, clinching a spot by beating the Portsmouth Explorers on the last day of the season. The Roosters, led by Frontier League legend Morgan Burkhart and perennial all-stars Joe Pass, Steve Ruckman and Keith Habig also made the playoffs in 1996-97 but lost in the first round all three years.

Christian Hess managed only a 3-7 record for the Roosters in 1997, but on June 8 he pitched the first no-hitter in Frontier League history, facing the minimum 27 batters against Kalamazoo. Burkhart became the first player to hit three home runs in a game when he lit up the Ohio Valley Redcoats in a rain-shortened five-inning affair.

The team just missed making the playoffs for a fourth straight season in 1998, as they finished a half-game out in the first half and a game back in the second half. John Cate managed the Roosters through their "glory days" for nearly five seasons before moving into a front-office position with the team.

A couple of losing seasons followed before all-star first baseman Fran Riordan added managing to his duties in 2001. Led by Riordan and the double-play combo of John Tavares and Damon Burkhart, the Roosters brought home their first-ever Frontier League championship in 2001. Led by an incredible season by outfielder Phil Willingham, the Roosters in 2002 became the first team to ever win back-to-back Frontier League titles.

The Roosters celebrated their tenth season in 2004. They had a lot of reasons to celebrate past achievements, but the 2004 season was a disappointment. The team finished fifth in the East Division.

The biggest story in Richmond in 2004 was Chad Sosebee. Longtime Rooster Sosebee led the Frontier League with 52 appearances and 12 wins, all out of the bullpen. He also led the Roosters in saves and ERA. When he wasn't on the mound Sosebee played in the field, including 24 games at shortstop. He played all nine positions on the season's last day. Sosebee was rewarded by the league by being named Pitcher Of the Year, and by the Roosters by having his uniform number retired, joining Morgan Burkhardt and Fran Riordan.

Another pitcher of note was Matt Schweitzer. Schweitzer set a new club career record for victories, adding to his records for appearances and strikeouts. He also added five saves. The 2004 season was Schweitzer's fifth as a Rooster. Unfortunately, the rest of the staff was not as solid as Sosebee and Schweitzer, as no other pitcher won more than four games and only one made more than ten starts.

The offense was another story, with several players having excellent seasons. 1B Kevin Brown (.311-23-658, 12 steals) tied for the league lead in homers and was MVP of the All-Star Game. DH Trevor Hall was a postseason All-Star, going .330-14-63 after coming to the Roosters from Windy City. Blake Woods, another expatriate ThunderBolt, hit .288-11-38. Josh Hollingsworth (.259-14-48, 10 steals) split time at all four infield positions. The Roosters also boasted a solid outfield in Drew Miller (.291-3-37), Mike Reese (.319-4-42, 32 steals) and Rookie Of the Year Kevin White (.322-11-37).

Attendance fell to the point that Richmond was last in the league in 2004. Rumors persisted throughout the season that the team was looking for a new home. Relations between the Roosters and the city government became severely strained during the 2004-05 off-season with accusations flying on both sides. On July 1, 2005 it was announced that the Roosters would relocate to Traverse City, MI for the 2006 season. Click to read reactions from the team, the city and fans.

There were things to celebrate in Richmond in 2005. Shortly after the all-star break longtime Roosters pitcher Matt Schweitzer added career marks in strikeouts and victories to his already-established records for appearances and innings pitched. Tony Casoli (8-6, 3.89) anchored the rotation while Adam Vartaressian won seven games out of the bullpen.

In July shortstop Josh Hollingsworth (.282-16-42) was purchased by the New York Yankees. OF Mike Reese hit a solid .328. Power was plentiful from C Tony Sanguinetti (.274-22-72) and returning OF Kevin White (.291-20-72).

On September 2 a crowd of 1,055 turned out to bid the Roosters farewell. (View line the lineup card from that game.) The team retired the numbers of Matt Schweitzer and John Cate. One of the most glorious chapters in the history of the Frontier League came to a close with a loss to Evansville.

Don McBride Stadium in Richmond, IN, home of the Richmond Roosters, was built in 1936.

Year   Won   Lost   GB   Finish   Attendance   Manager   Playoffs First Round   Playoffs Second Round
                                 
1995   38   32   8.5   4   47,714   Larry Nolen   Lost to Johnstown 2-1    
1996   15   22   6   4W   55,510   John Cate   Lost to Springfield 2-1    
    24   13   --   1W           Lost to Evansville 2-1    
1997   25   15   --   1W   46,178   John Cate        
    18   22   11.5   2W                
1998   23   17   .5   2W   39,978   John Cate/Bill Richardson        
    26   14   1   2W                
1999   40   43   13.5   5E   43,976   John Cate        
2000   40   43   7.5   5E   37,127   John Cate (28-34)/ Woody Sorrell (12-9)        
2001   49   35   2   2E   42,976   Fran Riordan   Beat DuBois County 2-1   Beat Chillicothe 2-0
2002   53   31   3   2E   45,322   Fran Riordan   Beat DuBois County 2-1   Beat Washington 3-1
2003   50   39   6   4E   51,210   Chris Mongiardo        
2004   43   53   19   5E   46,019   Chris Mongiardo        
2005   39   56   24   6E   47,417   Chris Mongiardo        

Major Award Winners:

1996 Morgan Burkhart, Most Valuable Player

1997 Morgan Burkhart, Most Valuable Player

1998 Morgan Burkhart, Most Valuable Player

1998 John Cate, Manager Of the Year

2002 Phil Willingham, Most Valuable Player

2002 Phil Willingham, Rookie Of the Year

2004 Chad Sosebee, Pitcher Of the Year

2004 Kevin White, Rookie Of the Year

Roosters Post-Season All-Stars:

1995 C Stoney Burke; 1B Morgan Burkhart; 3B Steve Ruckman; DH Johnny Booker

1996 1B Morgan Burkhart; 2B Joe Pass

1997 SS Keith Habig; DH Morgan Burkhart; P Jeff Montfort

1998 1B Morgan Burkhart; SS Keith Habig

1999 DH Jason Kinchen

2001 1B Fran Riordan; DH Steve Mitrovich

2002 1B Fran Riordan; OF Phil Willingham

2004 DH Trevor Hall; P Chad Sosebee

Players on FL Tenth Anniversary All-Star Team:

1B Morgan Burkhart (1995-98)

1B Fran Riordan (1997-99, 2001)

2B Joe Pass (1996-98)

3B Steve Ruckman (1995-96)

SS Keith Habig (1997-98)

C Steve Mitrovich (2000-01)

P Jeff Montfort (1997-98)

P Bobby Chandler (1999)

Franchise Player: 1B Morgan Burkhart (1995-98) was called by Peter Gammons "the Babe Ruth of the Frontier League", and the description is fitting. In four years with the Roosters, Burkhart won three Most Valuable Player awards and held nearly every Frontier League career record at the end of his FL career in 1998. His last season was his best, as he hit an incredible .404 with 36 homers and 98 RBI - in an 80-game season! His home run, walk, extra-base hit and total base numbers from the 1998 season are all records. Morgan's career total of 86 homers is 22 more than the second-place total on the list. Fittingly, in 2000 Burkhart became the first position player from the Frontier League to reach the major leagues when he was called up by Boston in midseason.

Honorable mention has to go to Fran Riordan, who inherited Burkhart's mantle as team leader. He is the Frontier League career leader in games, hits and RBI, and in the top three in at-bats, runs, total bases and doubles. Fran also managed the Roosters to two Frontier League championships before moving to Kalamazoo, where he won another championship in 2005.

Roosters in the majors: 1B Morgan Burkhart (1995-98) played with the Boston Red Sox in 2000-01 and the Kansas City Royals in 2003. Pitcher Jason Childers (1996) reached "The Show" with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006.