The Greenville Braves of Greenville, South Carolina, was an identity given to two separate teams that played a cumulative total of 23 years in two leagues. The first version played in the Single-A Western Carolinas League (later renamed the South Atlantic League) for two seasons, and were an affiliate of the Milwaukee Braves. The second version began play in 1984 in the Southern League, where they were an Atlanta farm club for 21 years. Giving identity continuity to these two teams is certainly debatable, but by the standards of the 3 of 4 Rule, they are the same team identity.
The first team called the Greenville Braves began in 1963, the first season after the big upheaval. The Class A Western Carolinas League doubled in size going into that season; expanding from four to eight teams. One of the new teams was a COTOB Milwaukee Braves affiliate in Greenville South, Carolina.
There isn’t much to say about the original Greenville Braves. Thus far, I haven’t been able to find any pictures of players or their uniforms, despite searches through the internet archives. In those two seasons, they had only six players who would go on to play in the major leagues, and only two of those–Clarence “Cito” Gaston and Cecil Upshaw–had successful careers in baseball. Cito Gaston is best known for his years managing the Blue Jays, and one of his World Series victories was, incidentally, against the Atlanta Braves.
In 1965, Milwaukee left Greenville, and the WCL franchise aligned with the still-fresh New York Mets. Much like our nation during that turbulent time period, the Greenville franchise was constantly changing. After a few years as the Greenville Mets, they became the Greenville Red Sox, and then, for one year in 1972, they were the Greenville Rangers. Then, for over a decade, there was no affiliated ball in Greenville.
The second version of the Greenville Braves began play in 1984, when the Southern League’s Savannah Braves, a team owned by Atlanta, moved inland. As is typical for the Braves’ COTOB affiliates, their basic look was very similar to that of the parent club. That said, Greenville was able to branch out creatively with their cap logo, a memorable neon sign-esque G and B that connect at the top. They also had whimsical cartoon mascot–a smiling, anthropomorphic baseball wearing he GB cap. This logo was a part of the team’s branding throughout the eighties.
The first ten seasons in the Southern League yielded a bumper crop of future MLB standouts, and many of the key cogs from Atlanta’s nineties juggernaut teams paid some dues in the Palmetto state, including two first-ballot Hall of Famers in Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. Many future All-Stars also passed through–Duane Ward, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant, David Justice, Steve Avery, Vinny Castilla, Mark Wohlers, Ryan Klesko, and Javy López.
By the time the major league club was conquering the world, the cartoon baseball mascot had faded into history. Though the team’s alum list also faded a bit after the boom years, other players to come through in Greenville’s last ten years included Tony Graffanino, Jermaine Dye, Andruw Jones, Kevin Millwood, Jason Marquis, Raphael Furcal, Bruce Chen, Adam Wainwright, Adam LaRoche, and Jeff Francoeur.
As the Atlanta Braves tend to do with their minor league clubs, they cited inadequate facilities in Greenville and demanded that the city pony up for improvements. As they did with Macon and later, Richmond, they made good on their threat to move their affiliate to another city that would fund new facilities. Following the 2004 season, the team was moved to Pearl, Mississippi, where they now play as the Mississippi Braves.