Sunday, May 27, 2012

American Association: Professional Baseball's Midwestern Roots

By Keith Antigiovanni

Professional baseball teams have existed in the Midwestern United States since the early days of baseball. The tradition continued into the early 1900's when the Major Leagues featured teams from the "Big Market" cities in this area (St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago) but there were many "medium or small market" teams in the Midwest before expansion.

In 1902 the American Association was established as a Triple A minor league with 8 charter cities ( Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Toledo).
These 8 teams stayed together until 1952 when Toledo moved to Charleston, WV.

Expansion and major league teams moving west caused more change in the 1950's when the Boston Braves displaced the Milwaukee Brewers in 1953 and the Philadelphia Athletics forced out the Kansas City Blues in 1955. The Brewers moved to Toledo and became the new Mud Hens while the Blues moved to the Denver and became the new Denver Bears.The Columbus team also moved after the 1954 season and became the Omaha Cardinals.

The Dallas Rangers and Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League joined the AA in 1959 and stayed until the AA folded after the 1962 season.

In between there was a lot of parity among the teams. Of the original 8 clubs from 1902 the number of pennants won among the teams were very close: St. Paul, Milwaukee and Minneapolis each won 9, Louisville won 8, Kansas City won 7, Columbus won 6 and Toledo won 2.

The AA were also one of the leagues that competed in the Junior World Series, the AAA World Series, starting in 1905 against the International League with teams from the East. The AA went 26 and 21 in that Series.

The clubs were close there too with the Columbus winning 6, Louisville 5, Indianapolis 4, Milwaukee and KC 3, Minneapolis 2 and St. Paul/Toledo 1. Even the Denver Bears won a Junior World Series in 1957.

In the 1960's the major leagues began to expand and the two more AA teams were replaced: St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers when the American League's Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis before the 1961 season. Charleston also folded after 1960 followed by Toledo in 1965.
Even with the additions of the Texas teams the AA was at only 6 teams in the final season of 1962. Houston was forced to move to Oklahoma City when the National League placed an expansion club in Houston, Texas.

The AA teams dispersed into different leagues: Pacific Coast League and International League between 1963 and 1968 but the league would return in 1969 with additional MLB expansion forced the need to have another AAA league.

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