With Wolf Pack baseball coming back into full form, it should be noted how and where the Nevada baseball roots were nurtured into the sequoia tree it has become today. Reno’s rich history of success at the minor league level, along with a few Reno natives whose stalwart attitudes helped them find their way to the MLB, paved the way for the Silver State’s baseball future.
Reno’s bustling baseball culture came to be in 1947 when the Reno Silver Sox first played in the Sunset League. Manager Thomas Lloyd led the team from 1947-1948, ultimately helping the team win their first championship in 1948 with a record of 77-63. Following Lloyd’s departure, the team stayed in the Sunset League for another year, finishing seventh overall under Lilio Marcucci. In 1951 the Sunset League merged with the Arizona-Texas League, forming the Southwest International League. Before the Sox began their 1950 season, the team went solo from 1950-1951 in the Far West League.
After their third place league finish in 1951 under Cotton Pippen, the Sox disbanded. Reno lacked the influence of a baseball team until 1955, when the Channel Cities Oilers moved to Reno on July 1. The Oilers were already a part of the California League and went 40-106 overall during their ’55 campaign. The Oilers assumed the Reno Silver Sox name again in ‘56. Although the team needed improvement, the Brooklyn Dodgers saw something in the organization, making the Sox their feeder team in ’56.
The Sox stayed affiliated with the Dodgers until ’62, even when the Dodgers went to L.A. where they reside to this day. During their time with this franchise, the Sox went to the league finals on four separate occasions, taking home bragging rights in ’60 and ’61 under Tom Saffell and Roy Smalley respectively.
From ’63-’64, the Sox changed major league affiliations from the Dodgers to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Saffell came back as the manager for the team during the flux of affiliation, but couldn’t help the Sox find their way back to the promised land. In ’63, Saffell helped the team to a 71-69 record, finishing fifth overall in the California League. Saffell again was the manager for the team in ’64 but did not stay the entire season, handing the reins off to Harvey Koepf.
In 1965, the Sox did not play in any games, as they were not organized, forcing the team to sit out a year. The team disaffiliated with the Pirates after their year off from the California League. When ’66 came around, the team jumped back into play in the California League, with Phil Cavarretta at the helm. From ’66-’74, the team became the minor league team for the Cleveland Indians. The team failed to win a league championship during this 8-year span, placing in the top-three just twice. Once ’75 rolled around, the Sox changed affiliations once again, but this time they were the feeder team to two organizations in the MLB: Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres. During this stint of giving recruits to both teams, the Sox won back-to-back championships for the second time in their history.
However, the Sox did not stay a double-feeder team for long, solely working under the Padres from ’77-’81. From ’81 to ’87 the Sox were renamed the Reno Padres. The Reno Padres became the Sox once again in ’88, following the dissolving of the partnership with the San Diego Padres. The Sox’s last affiliation came in ’92 when they were picked up by the Oakland Athletics. This was the last time The Silver Sox played in Reno, as they moved to Riverside the following season.
The Reno Silver Sox were eventually pushed out of Northern Nevada when the Tucson Sidewinders came to Reno in 2007. The team adopted the name the Reno Aces in 2008, and the Aces began their inaugural season on April 9, 2009, against the Salt Lake Bees.
Reno has been a vibrant culture for baseball since the late 1940s. Pack baseball’s roots were founded on its minor league baseball role models. Trailblazers from the SIlver Sox paved the way for players like Ed Plank, Rob Richie and Chris Singleton to flourish on Pack Baseball teams of their respective eras. The Sox gave scouts a reason to come to Reno, and through this they ended up finding talent on a great deal of UNR baseball rosters. Although the Silver Sox are no more, the team’s legacy will forever be ingrained in the history of both Wolf Pack and Nevada baseball.