Photograph © Steven L.J. Russo
By 1976, the Auburn Phillies were 24-45 (.348)… the worst they had done since their Border League days, though they would promote two future Phills through the ranks as Luis Aguayo
(9 2B, .249) would go on to a 10 year MLB career and Ozzie Virgil (.142) would go on to have a fine 11 year 2 time All-Star career as a power hitting catcher for the Phillies and Atlanta. The rest of the team was a virtual wasteland, which would hit the abyss in 1977 when they went a dreadful 17-53 (.243) getting into that zone of being one of the worst professional teams in history. The hitting was mediocre and the pitching was outright bad with a team ERA just under 5.00, (and plenty of pitchers throwing into the 6.00’s and 7.00’s). Despite their awfulness, they would produce Greg Walker who would never be an All-Star but was a well known power hitter for the White Sox for a decade. By 1978 the Phillies were gone and the Auburn franchise went through some bizarre changes. Nobody came knocking down their door to be the next affiliate, as they may have scared some fans away with the Phillies abysmal performance. This town had gotten quite accustomed to Championship seasons, and to shove a .243 season in their face wasn’t an easy thing to take…. so they went co-op and since they named themselves after their parent club every season, they had to come up with their own unique name. They came up with the rather tranquil (and perhaps my favorite) name of… the Auburn Sunsets. The Sunsets gathered up several players from the Indians, Astros and Phillies organizations, including Carmelo Castillo (10 2B, 4 HR, .236) who would go on to play for a decade with the Indians and Twins. They would finish with a much better 32-40 (.444) record on their own and the fans came out to support the team anyway with 47,000 at the gate… best in the league.