May 7th, 1988 – The end of Ed Lynch’s baseball playing career

As a 22nd round pick from the University of South Carolina in the 1977 MLB June Amateur Draft, the Texas Rangers selected a 6’ 6” right handed pitcher named Ed Lynch. During his 12-year career as a player in affiliated baseball with minor league stops including Tulsa, Asheville, Tucson and Tidewater, along with Major League stops with the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs.  Lynch’s major league tenure with the Mets and the Cubs lasts eight seasons, going 47-54 with a 4.00 ERA.

Heading into the 1988 season, Lynch started Spring Training with the Boston Red Sox, but was released before the start of the regular season. Lynch pitched four games with the independent Miami Marlins of the Florida State League, going 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts. Then on May 4th, Lynch signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants, going to their Triple-A affiliate in Phoenix. Lynch and his Firebirds teammates, managed by Wendell Kim, would travel to Colorado Springs for a Pacific Coast League series, against a brand new Triple-A franchise, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.  Ed Lynch would get that start at Spurgeon Field for the first game of the series on Saturday, May 7th, 1988, a start that would end his baseball playing career.

Colorado Springs was out of affiliated minor league baseball since 1958, when the original Colorado Springs Sky Sox played for nine seasons from 1950-1958 in the Single-A Western League at Memorial Field.  However, due to financial issues with low attendance at the box office, and with the advent of television stations gaining popularity, the Western League (which had teams in Pueblo, Lincoln, Nebraska, Sioux City and Des Moines, Iowa, Topeka, Kansas, Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico) had folded at the end of the 1958 regular season, without even playing a postseason.

While the Sky Sox was a Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox from 1950-1958, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate was the Sacramento Solons in the Pacific Coast League.  Several years later, that Sacramento franchise moved to Honolulu, Hawaii for the 1961 PCL season, as the Hawaii Islanders.  In 1981, a new owner took over control of the Islanders, but with no control of signage and parking at Aloha Stadium, and struggling for finances, the new owner looked at several cities to move the Islanders to the mainlands for the 1988 PCL season.  That owner, Dave Elmore, chose Colorado Springs over Salt Lake City and Sacramento to bring minor league baseball back along the Front Range.

Joe Buzas was also looking to bring his Portland Beavers team to Colorado Springs in 1985, but a ballot issue to renovate Memorial Field failed in a special election.  Buzas also looked at Colorado Springs in 1987, but Dave Elmore was able to work out a deal with the Colorado Springs City Council and then-mayor Bob Isaac, asking for $500,000 towards a new stadium instead of a renovation. Elmore had already received final approval of a $1.5 million loan for stadium construction from the Colorado Housing and Financing Authority.1  (Buzas would not get his new ballpark until 1994, in Salt Lake City.)

Elmore, who recently passed away recently on June 9th, 2023 at age 88, worked out a new deal for a $3.4 million ballpark in northeastern Colorado Springs, which would be the new 6,000-seat home for the Sky Sox.  However, since construction didn’t start until January 4th, 1988, the new Sky Sox Stadium would not open until June 18th, 1988. That game would feature future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio for the Tucson Toros.  In the interim, the Sky Sox needed a temporary home until their new digs were ready.

The Sky Sox played their first “home” series of seven games at Desert Sun Stadium in Tempe, Arizona until Spurgeon Stadium was ready as a temporary home.  Spurgeon Stadium, previously known as Memorial Field, built in 1948, was a 4,000-seat stadium which didn’t have any clubhouses remaining and stadium lighting was barely Single-A compatible at the time.  However, since Spurgeon Stadium was only being used for two or three home stands, the two teams had to use the locker rooms at Sertich Ice Hall, about a block or two away from the field. Also, no money was used to upgrade the stadium lights at the temporary park, so all games had to start before 4:05pm MDT.

Spurgeon Field w Pikes Peak in the Background

The first game for the Triple-A Sky Sox at Spurgeon Stadium took place on April 29th, 1988 against the Calgary Cannons, which had future Hall-of-Famer Edgar Martinez on their roster.  The initial 1988 Sky Sox squad, affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, included Terry Francona, Reggie Williams, Rod Allen, Paul Zuvella, and Luis Medina on the roster.  In front of an overflow crowd of 6,088 fans, and with the view of Pikes Peak just behind the grandstand, the Sky Sox won the Colorado Springs home opener, 7-5.

The Sky Sox would split their four games with Calgary, then lose two of three games against the Edmonton Trappers.  The last scheduled game against Edmonton on Friday, May 6th was postponed due to high chinook winds off the mountains, exceeding 70 miles per hour in the region.  That high winds could be a precursor for that Saturday afternoon game against the Phoenix Firebirds.

Sky Sox Stadium was still under construction, with field dimensions similar to the original Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City (335’ at the LF and RF foul poles quickly going out to 350’, 385’ in the alleys, and 410’ in CF at 6,531’ in elevation).  The field dimensions at the temporary home Spurgeon Stadium were considerably shorter in parts (352’ LF, 365’ LC, 375’ CF, 354’ RC, and 333’ RF, with an 8’ fence in left field and center field, and a 12’ wall in right field, and at 6,000’ in elevation).

With teams traveling that Saturday morning in the PCL, a 1:35pm MDT start for a first game of a series would be a challenge, especially with a tight window with a temporary ballpark with inadequate stadium lighting for night games.  After the Phoenix Firebirds’ initial flight out of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix was canceled due to mechanical issues, the Firebirds had to change gates and planes, leaving Phoenix around 9:30am PDT, arriving into Colorado Springs just after noon, causing the start to be delayed 43 minutes, so the Firebirds could get dressed for the matinee. The northwest chinook winds from Friday would linger in Colorado Springs, leading to Ed Lynch’s fateful start at Spurgeon Stadium.

The Firebirds entered this game at 8-19, while the Sky Sox were 11-16.  The two starting lineups had a lot of future players with MLB experience, even the three-man umpiring crew:

PHX – Charlie Hayes (LF), Francisco Melendez (1B), Allen Cockrell (RF), Jessie Reid (DH), Matt Williams (3B), Randy Bockus (RF), Angel Escobar (SS), Tony Perezchica (2B), Kirt Manwaring (C), Ed Lynch (P).

COS – Reggie Williams (CF), Tommy Hinzo (2B), Luis Medina (LF), Rod Allen (DH), Don Lovell (1B), Domingo Ramos (3B), Terry Francona (RF), Paul Zuvella (SS), Ron Tingley (C), Joe Skalski (P).

Umpires – Larry Poncino (HP), Jerry Layne (1B), Mike Winters (3B).

 

Ed Lynch got early support as the Firebirds raced out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Sky Sox countered with two in the bottom of the first. With the winds picking up, blowing out to center field, the teams would go though the second inning scoreless.  That would be the only inning the Sky Sox does not score a run in the game.

Home runs from Luis Medina and Ron Tingley helped the Sky Sox go from a 3-2 deficit to an 8-3 lead after three, but Wendell Kim left Ed Lynch in for the 4th inning. Then late in the bottom of the 4th, with Lynch still in there, faced Sky Sox center fielder Reggie Williams. Lynch brushed Williams off the plate with an inside fastball.

“I just looked at him and he said, ‘What the blank you looking at?’”, Williams told Gazette-Telegraph reporter Mike Klis after the game. (Klis is now the Denver Broncos reporter with 9News in Denver.) Williams added, “I told him that he didn’t have to hurt me, because I wasn’t the guy hurting him with home runs up to that point.”2

Williams would deposit a three-run homer over the center field wall to blow the game wide open for the Sky Sox.  While Williams was circling the bases, Lynch gave him a menacing glare.  That pitch would essentially end Lynch’s day and pitching career, as Wendell Kim finally came to the mound and took him out of the game.  Final line score for Ed Lynch that day:  3⅔ innings pitched, 14 hits allowed, 15 runs allowed, ALL 15 runs earned, three walks, two strikeouts, and five homers allowed, ERA after this appearance: 32.86. After trailing 3-0 early, the Sky Sox now led 15-3.

 

Right handed relief pitcher Randy McCament was next on the mound, getting the final out of the 4th, but McCament would not make it out of the fifth inning, allowing eight hits, nine more runs, seven of them earned, with two walks and a wild pitch.  That 3-0 Sky Sox deficit after half an inning was now a 24-3 Sky Sox lead, with two outs in the fifth inning.

At this point, Phoenix Firebirds manager Wendell Kim was not going to expose the bullpen the rest of the game, since the Firebirds and Sky Sox had a scheduled doubleheader the next day.  Kim went and asked outfielder Deron McCue to fill in and finish out the rest of the game.  McCue, a 12th round draft pick in the 1983 MLB Amateur Draft, never made it to the majors, finishing his career with Triple-A Phoenix and Double-A Shreveport during that 1988 season.

After getting out of the fifth inning, Phoenix chipped away as Charlie Hayes hit the first of his two home runs in a 6-run top of the 6th inning, to cut the deficit to 24-9.  Deron McCue ended up allowing three runs in the 6th inning, five runs in the 7th inning, and a run in the 8th inning. McCue pitched the last 3⅓ innings in relief, taking one for the team, allowing 10 hits, 9 runs, ALL 9 runs earned, with two walks and a wild pitch.  McCue’s only relief appearance in his baseball career resulted in a 24.30 ERA.

After all of the damage was done, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox would trounce the Phoenix Firebirds, 33-12, in one of the most noteworthy baseball games in Pacific Coast League history, which surprisingly only took three hours and 19 minutes to play.

Firebirds   300 006 210 – 12 R, 16 H, 3 E, 4 LOB         T – 3:19

Sky Sox     206 793 51x – 33 R, 32 H, 0 E, 6 LOB         A -1,834

Sky Sox catcher Ron Tingley went 4-for-7, with two homers and 7 RBI, Luis Medina was 3-for-5, with two homers and 5 RBI, Domingo Ramos was 5-for-6, with a homer and 3 RBI, and Terry Francona went 5-for-7, with four runs scored and 4 RBI. Reggie Williams, Keith Bennett, and Mark Higgins would account for the other three Sky Sox homers. Sky Sox starting pitcher Joe Skalski, despite giving up 13 hits, 11 runs, all 11 earned, walking two and striking out nine in 6⅓ innings pitched, got the win.

Charlie Hayes led the way for the Firebirds, going 2-for-5, with two homers and 4 RBI. Matt Williams, Everett Graham, and Jessie Reid hit the other three homers for Phoenix.  Ed Lynch took the loss, and the Firebirds team ERA took a hit after the game, with 31 of those 33 runs earned.

The teams combined for 13 home runs in the game (five by the Firebirds, eight by the Sky Sox) and 45 combined runs were both one run short of one-game PCL records. The Vernon, California Tigers beat the Salt Lake Bees in a PCL game over 100 years ago on May 11th, 1923, by the score of 35-11.  In that game, Vernon right fielder Pete Schneider had the ultimate game at Bonneville Park in Salt Lake, going 6-for-8, belting FIVE home runs, two of them grand slams, an driving in a remarkable 14 runs. According to research from DiamondsintheDusk.com, Schneider’s home runs should qualify him for a “home run cycle” today (2-run HR in 1st, grand slam HR in 3rd, 3-run HR in 4th, grand slam HR and solo HR in 11-run 7th).3 However, the only two officially recognized “home run cycles” by Minor League Baseball are by Tyrone Horne of the Arkansas Travelers on July 27th, 1998, and Chandler Redmond with the Springfield Cardinals on August 13th, 2022.

Prior to the Sunday, May 8th, 1988 doubleheader between the Firebirds and the Sky Sox, Ed Lynch informed Phoenix manager Wendell Kim, less than 24 hours after the 33-12 game, that he was retiring and going to fly back to his home in Miami.  “He decided to take another occupation,” Kim told the Gazette-Telegraph. “I had no idea. He told me about just before today’s game.”4. The teams would split that Sunday doubleheader, Phoenix winning game one, 6-4, while the Sky Sox won game two, 11-9 in eight innings.

After his playing career, Ed Lynch went back to school at the University of Miami getting a law degree in 1990. Lynch worked with the San Diego Padres and New York Mets before becoming the Chicago Cubs General Manager from 1994-2000. Lynch also served as a pro scout with the Toronto Blue Jays for six seasons (2010-2015) and briefly as a pitching coach with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League in 2019.  But for one fateful Saturday in Colorado Springs, Lynch would have to make a career change, after making a start in a temporary ballpark with unsettling wind conditions, that resulted in one for the record books, for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

 

 

1Gazette Telegraph, December 23, 1987, page A1.

2Gazette Telegraph, May 8, 1987, page C1.

3– “Pete Schneider, ‘An Afternoon to Remember’”, DiamondsontheDusk.com, April 25, 2012.

4Gazette Telegraph, May 9, 1987, page C1.

 

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joe Adona
Admin
10 months ago

I’ve seen Ed pitch many a time at Shea stadium. A serviceable pitcher who shifted back and forth from the rotation to the pen. By all accounts, a great teammate. After playing for the Mets through several lean years, he was crestfallen when he was dealt to Chicago just months before winning the World Series in ’86.

John Salvino
10 months ago

Wow, great history lesson and what a game!! Thanks for sharing this Chris!

baseball stadium reviews

football stadium reviews