BUTTE The Butte Copper Kings begin the Pioneer League season Wednesday with a new major league affiliation and new owners including actor comedian Bill Murray and Mike Veeck of a famous baseball family.

The 7 p.m. game with the Idaho Falls Braves will be the Copper Kings' first as an affiliate of the new Tampa Bay Devil Rays major league franchise.

The first ball will be thrown by Mary Frances Veeck, widow of Bill Veeck and mother of Mike Veeck, who inherited from his dad the "life's too short not to have fun" creed. At different times, Bill Veeck owned the St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.

Murray will be in the Alumni Coliseum stands for at least the opener and possibly more games during the five game homestand.

The team was formed in 1978, but there are efforts this year to paint a brand new image.

Veeck and Murray are among the members of a partnership that acquired controlling interest in the Butte franchise last month. That came more than a year after negotiations began with the previous owner, Silverbow Baseball Corp., headed by Jim McCurdy.

The group had run the Copper Kings since 1987, but when McCurdy became Pioneer League president two years ago, he had to give up ownership of the club to avoid a conflict of interest.

The deal was made last fall, but had to be approved by the Pioneer League, National Baseball Association and the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office.

With the new owners come a new manager, Tom Foley; pitching coach, Dennis Rasmussen; and batting coach, Howard Johnson. All three had long careers as major league ballplayers.