Harrisburg is on a record roll .739 percentage ranks with best


Last Saturday night, the Reading Phillies honored the franchise's 1953 team that won 101 games during a 154-game schedule, the Eastern League record.

Unfortunately for the current Phillies, the team that might surpass that number, the Harrisburg Senators, was in town.

In characteristic fashion, Harrisburg routed Reading, 19-4, reviving the idea that this just may be the year the record topples.

Do the Double-A Senators -- who have a 51-18 record (.739) after losing last night's game at Memorial Stadium -- have a real shot? And can they even challenge the all-time top minor-league winning percentage of .795 set by Enid (Okla.) of the Western Association 71 years ago?

"We haven't really discussed those things," said manager Jim Tracy. "But if we go a couple more weeks and we're sitting at, say, 65 wins and 20 losses, they [his players] might have to start thinking they have a date with destiny."

It will not be easy. The league's schedule has been reduced to 140 games. The Senators already have lost three key players -- pitcher Kirk Rueter (5-0, 1.39 ERA) and outfielder Curtis Pride (15 homers and the Eastern League's leading hitter at .356) to Triple-A Ottawa, and catcher Miah Bradbury, who retired rather than report to Triple-A.

And they have so much talent that promotions to the parent Montreal Expos could come at any time.

"The farther you go, the more you realize how difficult doing those things would be," said catcher Rob Fitzpatrick. "You don't know what kind of changes will be made.

"So you think short-term goals. You try to sweep a series game by game. Overall, our goal is to win 100 [which would break the league record of 99 for a 140-game schedule]. As the season gets later, we might start talking about records."

It helps that the Expos have a farm system loaded with major-league prospects. The Senators have four first-round draft picks and three second-rounders.

"This is what we were hoping for coming out of spring training," said Expos minor-league director Kent Qualls. "There's going to be some movement, but the majority of them [players] will be here all year."

Before Silver Spring native Pride was promoted last weekend, the average age of the Senators was 22 years, 8 months. Most of them are playing Double-A ball for the first time and are hungry for advancement.

"They put us all together to get to know each other, see what we coulddo," said first baseman Cliff Floyd. "One day we might all be in Montreal together."

"They're so tough because there are no soft spots in the lineup," said Bowie Baysox catcher Gregg Zaun. "You can't pitch around anybody, they have solid pitching and they can run and hit the long ball."

The Senators are on a league-record pace for 197 home runs and probably will break the record for runs, set by Williamsport (883) in 1923.

"We kind of know we're going to win," said Floyd, who had 21 homers and 72 RBI in the first 68 games. "We know we've got a good team, and we let the other team know we aren't going to slack up."

"We're just fortunate to have so much depth," said Fitzpatrick. "It's a good situation because, if you get lackadaisical, there's somebody right behind you."

Pride's loss could hurt. The only deaf player in pro baseball Pride was an inspirational force as well as a tremendous player.

"He brightened the team up and was a leader," said Floyd. "But I don't think it will hurt where we're going. We've still got a lot of guys to take up the slack one way or another."

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