UNSOLVED MYSTERY!

Following the 1984 season, the Pioneer League’s Idaho Falls A’s lost their Oakland parent club. Idaho Falls was unable to find an MLB team to take them on for the 1985 season, so they ending up playing one year as an independent club. But what was that team called? Was it the Idaho Falls Eagles or the Idaho Falls Nuggets? There are conflicting records. Let’s review the evidence.

 

Evidence of Eagles

EXHIBIT A: Wikipedia

chukars-page-sept-2019.png

I had no knowledge of Nuggets for quite a while, and I think that’s because of this listing that has been on the Idaho Falls Chukars’ Wikipedia page for quite a while, and is there as of September 2019. I had the Eagles listed on the One-Year Wonder page and it was because of this list.

 

EXHIBIT B: An old newspaper clipping

clipping

After finding lots of Nuggets evidence, I was beginning to think that Eagles was merely a Wikipedia glitch. To be on the safe side, I asked my brother (an historical archivist) to see what he could find. He sent back a newspaper clipping from the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) from June 17, 1985 talking about how Rich Dunn was on his way to “the Idaho Falls Eagles of the Class A Pioneer League.” Let’s ignore the erroneous “Class A” descriptor and consider that a newspaper wouldn’t print Eagles unless it was the Eagles. Right?

 

 

Evidence of Nuggets

 

EXHIBIT A: Baseball Reference

B-Ref

It’s odd that Wikipedia says Eagles when the usual source for Wiki is B-Ref. I had to do a digital double-take when I saw Nuggets on here. The name didn’t register in my memory, so I began frantic and largely futile web searches.

 

EXHIBIT B: melaleucafield.com

melaleucafield.com timeline

I found Nuggets on the history page of the website dedicated to Idaho Falls’s Melaleuca Field. Of course, they could’ve just looked it up on B-Ref. I had to dig back to find something that existed before Baseball Reference.

EXHIBIT C: Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd edition)

IMG_2692.jpg

I pawed through Miles Wolff and Lloyd Johnson’s old 1997 tome and there are the Nuggets. It’s certainly possible that Baseball Reference got the info from here, and Wolff & Johnson must’ve got the info from somewhere reliable, right? Of course, Miles Wolff does have a reputation for revisionist history.

 

EXHIBIT D: Wikipedia

Image-1

Another Wikipedia page I happened across is “List of Sports Teams from Idaho.” Hilariously, it has Nuggets.

 

 

DELIBERATION

Each side has one compelling piece of pre-Internet evidence. I can’t imagine the San Bernardino paper running with Eagles unless they heard that was the name. Also, I can’t image that the Wikipedia editor was using this article as a main source. It’s possible, but without any knowledge of Eagles, they wouldn’t be doing an archive search for Idaho Falls Eagles. On the other side, Wolff & Johnson (and maybe Baseball Reference, independently) are insistent on Nuggets.

I can’t decide one way or another, and I think it’s possible that there is a third option: both were used. The article clipping is from June ’85, right at the start of the Pioneer League season. Maybe they went into the season going as the Eagles, but then pivoted to Nuggets mid-season. It’s possible, especially in the much more loose 1980s, when an indy team like Idaho Falls in ’85 could basically do as they pleased.

CONCLUSION

Inconclusive. Pending further evidence, I will refer to the team 1985 team as the Idaho Falls Eagle/Nuggets.

 

 

 

 

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