The Tennessee Smokies are a Minor League Baseball team based in the Knoxville, Tennessee, metropolitan area. The team, which plays in the Southern League, is the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball as of the 2011 season. Smokies Park, the team's ballpark, is located in the suburb of Kodak, and seats up to 8,000 fans.
The team's nickname, "Smokies", refers to the Great Smoky Mountains mountain range which permeates the region; mountains in the chain are often clouded in a hazy mist that often appears as smoke rising from the forest.
Prior to 2005, the Smokies were the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and before that the Toronto Blue Jays. However, when the Cardinals purchased the El Paso Diablos, which had been the Arizona Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate, the Diamondbacks retained the Smokies as their new Double-A affiliate. On September 21, 2006, the Chicago Cubs, who had previously had a Double-A affiliation with division rival West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, reached a two-year player development contract with the Smokies through the 2008 season. On July 11, 2014, The Chicago Cubs and Tennessee Smokies announced an extension to their Player Development Contract (PDC) for the maximum possible term of four years. The agreement means the Smokies will be the Cubs' Double-A affiliate through the 2018 season.
The team was based in Knoxville and called the Knoxville Smokies for many years before moving to Kodak, TN and changing its name prior to the 2000 season.
Knoxville's first organized baseball franchise, the Appalachians, played in the original South Atlantic League (Class C) in 1909. The club dropped out of the "Sally League" that season, but – after Knoxville fielded teams in the Class D Southeastern and Appalachian leagues – returned to the South Atlantic loop, now Class B, as the Smokies from 1925–29. On July 22, 1931, the Mobile Bears franchise of the A1 Southern Association moved to Knoxville and played as the Smokies through July 5, 1944 when the club returned to Mobile. The transfer marked the end of Knoxville's membership in the Southern Association.
In 1946, the Smokies joined the Class B Tri-State League and played in it until the loop folded in 1955. But in July 1956, when the Montgomery Rebels of the Class A South Atlantic League needed a new home, they transferred to Knoxville. The Smokies' manager that season: eventual Hall of Famer Earl Weaver.
The Smokies were reclassified as Class AA with the rest of the Sally League in 1963, and were charter members of the Sally's successor, the Southern League, in 1964. Apart from a four-year (1968–71) hiatus, they have continued in the Southern loop ever since.
Knoxville returned in 1972 as the Knoxville White Sox or Knox Sox, the Chicago White Sox's AA club. They transferred their affiliation to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1980, a link that lasted until 1999. For the first 13 of those years, the team was officially known as the Knoxville Blue Jays, or locally referred to as simply the K-Jays. The historic Smokies moniker was reintroduced beginning in the 1993 season.
From 1954 to 1999, Knoxville baseball teams played in Bill Meyer Stadium, formerly known as Knoxville Municipal Stadium, on Don Ridley Field. The stadium was named for Knoxville native son and former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Billy Meyer.
Smokies Park experienced its largest crowd ever of 7,866 on July 24, 2015, against the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Smokies won the game 8–4, which was also Toy Story Night and Daddy-Daughter Date Night. The previous attendance record was the June 19, 2015 games when the Smokies won the night cap after losing a resumed game with the Mississippi Braves. 7,806 fans came to the park that night to see the games and to celebrate Star Wars Night.
In December 2008 Ryne Sandberg, Baseball Hall Of Fame former Chicago Cubs All-Star second baseman, was named the manager for the 2009 season. Sandberg led the Smokies to a second half Southern League North Division crown and a 3–1 divisional playoff series win over the Huntsville Stars. The Smokies would eventually fall 3-games-to-1 to the Jacksonville Suns for the 2009 Southern League Championship.
In June 2013, the then-Smokies' ownership group sold the team to Randy Boyd, a local Knoxville businessman. Though a devoted baseball fan, Boyd is not involved in the day-to-day management of the team, delegating those responsibilities to CEO Doug Kirchhofer and General Manager Brian Cox.
The current voice of the Smokies is Mick Gillispie. The pre and postgame shows are hosted by Keith Brake and Greg Young.
On April 1, 2013 a press release went out stating that the Tennessee Smokies had changed their moniker to the "Tennessee Browns." This release has, of course, been retracted. The Smokies have not changed their name, logo or uniforms for the upcoming season. The organization was enjoying the spirit of April 1 being "April Fools Day."
On October 22, 2014 the Smokies revealed their new logos, colors, and uniforms that reflect their ongoing relationship with the Chicago Cubs organization.
* Due to Hurricane Ivan the finals series was cancelled. Tennessee and Mobile were declared co-champions.2013: Lost to Birmingham 3-2 in semifinals.
2011: Defeated Chattanooga 3-0 in semifinals; lost to Mobile 3-1 in championship.
2010: Defeated West Tenn 3-1 in semifinals; lost to Jacksonville 3-1 in championship.
2009: Defeated Huntsville 3-1 in semifinals; lost to Jacksonville 3-1 in championship.
2007: Lost to Huntsville 3-2 in semifinals.
2004: Defeated Chattanooga 3-1 in semifinals; declared co-champions with Mobile.
2003: Lost to Carolina 3-1 in semifinals.
1999: Lost to Orlando 3-1 in semifinals.
1998: Lost to Jacksonville 3-0 in semifinals.
1997: Lost to Greenville 3-1 in semifinals.
1993: Defeated Greenville 3-2 in semifinals; lost to Birmingham 3-1 in finals.
1991: Lost to Birmingham 3-0 in semifinals.
1986: Lost to Huntsville 3-1 in semifinals.
1985: Lost to Huntsville 3-1 in semifinals.
1984: Defeated Nashville 3-1 in semifinals; lost to Charlotte 3-0 in championship.
1982: Lost to Nashville 3-1 in first round.
1978: Defeated Savannah 2-1 to win league championship.
1974: Defeated Jacksonville 3-2 to win league championship.