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A Look Back at the Inaugural Season

 

 

In 1994, the Wisconsin Woodchucks, then called the Wausau Woodchucks, played their first season at Athletic Park. The team led the Northwoods League in attendance, averaging 858 fans per game. The Woodchucks finished in second place in the league, with the only other original Northwoods League team to still remain, the Rochester Honkers, in front of them. Let’s take a look back at some of the interesting facts and highlights from the inaugural season as well as the year of 1994!

Woodchucks Highlights:

  • The Woodchucks players lived in dorms at the University of Wisconsin Marathon Center for the summer.
  • Joe Westfall, a pitcher from Marathon, was the first Woodchucks player signed to the roster.
  • Other local players included Rob Wacholz who is a Wausau West graduate and Mike Simon who is a D.C. Everest graduate.
  • Scott Hertler, an assistant coach from San Jose State, was field manager.
  • The first team practice was at D.C. Everest High School.
  • The first ever game was a non-league game in Antigo on June 10th and went 14 innings. The Woodchucks lost 5-4.
  • The first ever pitch by a Woodchuck was a ball thrown by Herbie Galicia.
  • Caesar Martinez recorded the first ever hit by a Woodchuck, a bloop single to right, and Dave Schulz drove in the first run with a sac fly.
  • The Woodchucks lost their first ever home game at Athletic Park on June 11th. They played the Manitowoc Skunks and the final score was 12-8.
  • The first ever Woodchucks win was at Athletic Park vs. the Manitowoc Skunks on June 12th. The Woodchucks beat the Skunks 12-8. Joe Westfall was the starting pitcher and Bob Spears struck out the final three batters he faced in relief to seal the win.
  • The team played 30 home games and finished with a 28-21 record.
  • 3,588 fans jammed into Athletic Park for a doubleheader vs. Kenosha. This is still one of the largest crowds ever to be at Athletic Park.
  • The grandstand and bleachers would get so crowded on fireworks nights that some fans would sit in the bullpen.
  • Caesar Martinez was the fan favorite player with kids yelling “Hail, Caesar!” every time he stepped up to the plate.
  • Bob Spears was the star pitcher on the team, however he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament on his right knee after a loss at Dubuque. He gave up a two-run homer in the 8th inning of the game and injured his knee after he went into the dugout and kicked a sandbag because he was upset. He would miss the rest of the season due to the injury.
  • The team would travel in vans to away games. Each van had a specific name – the “fun bus” where players listened to music, danced and communicated with other drivers on the highway and the “narcoleptic bus” where players slept the whole ride. Once a van broke down on the way to a game vs. Rochester.

 

 

World Highlights:

  • The 1994 World Series was cancelled due to an ongoing strike by the Major League Baseball Players Association.
  • “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen topped the charts.
  • The Lion King was the highest grossing movie in 1994.
  • Schindler’s List won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • Gas cost $1.11 a gallon.
  • J. Simpson was arrested, beginning one of the most widely publicized trials in American history.
  • Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.
  • The Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl and running back Emmitt Smith was MVP.
  • The TV show Friends first premiered.
  • Amazon and Yahoo were both started.
  • The first Playstation was created.