The Martinsville Phillies of Martinsville, Virginia, was a team identity that existed in the Appalachian League for for eleven seasons. For that entire stretch, they were the Rookie-Advanced level affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Martinsville, a small city primarily known for its racetrack, had hosted teams in the affiliated minors as far back as the thirties. When the Carolina League’s Martinsville franchise folded up the tent following the 1949 season, the city went nearly forty years without pro baseball. In the late eighties, old English Field was renovated and renamed Hooker Field. Martinsville was added to the Appalachian League as an expansion franchise when the league swelled from eight to ten teams.
Philadelphia had previously held a Rookie team in Bend, Oregon, and were presumably pleased to gain one much closer to home. As is typical in the Appalachian League, Martinsville was a common COTOB, taking their name and branding aesthetic from Philly. In the early years, the entire uniform set was essentially a carbon copy of the Phillies’ maroon-era duds, including a P for a cap. Home jerseys and pants were white with pinstripes and maroon racing stripes, while road unis copied Philly’s powder blue look. While the jerseys would follow suit with Philly through the entirety of the M-Phils’ history, caps eventually became a place for a little creative self-expression.
In 1992, Martinsville rolled out caps with a looping cursive M. Upon closer inspection, there was a baseball tucked into the curl on the lower left of the letter, rendered in the same style as the ball in Philadelphia’s P. When the Phillies switched from maroon to red, that one-year beauty was quickly phased out in favor of a logo that shoehorned a letter M into the space of a baseball, with the letter’s contours following the curve of the seam. The team’s final cap came in ’96–an M with mysterious rounded feet superimposed over a diamond-shaped vista of the Appalachians, with multiple hues of green, purple, and blue. Mixing mountains into minor league logos was all the rage in the 1990s, and Martinsville’s mountains were maybe the most memorable mountains, my man.
As neat as those caps logos were, Martinsville’s primary legacy is the players who called Hooker Field home. For a Rookie level team that existed for just over a decade, the M-Phils had an impressive list of major league alums, highlighted by Hall of Very Good members Scott Rolen and Jimmy Rollins. Other notables include Mike Lieberthal, Ricky Bottalico, Derrick Turnbow, and Ryan Madson. It also bears mentioning that future Heisman Trophy winner/NFL player (and all around interesting character) Ricky Williams was assigned to spend the summer in Martinsville after the Phillies picked him in the 8th round of the 1995 draft. After that short season in the Appy League, he would go on to his freshman year at the University of Texas.
The end of the Martinsville Phillies came after the 1998 season, when Philadelphia decided they were content with their Gulf Coast League squad and keeping an affiliate in the slightly-closer New York-Penn League. The franchise was sold to Houston, and the Martinsville Astros operated through the 2003 season before being moved to Greeneville, Tennessee. The Martinsville Phillies–and affiliated baseball in Martinsville–veered into the pit stop of minor league history long ago.