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History

History

1884-1919 | 1920-1965 | 1966-1985 | 1986-1992 | 1993-2000 | 2001-Present

1884 - 1919

The INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE traces its history to 1884 and the formation of the Eastern League, an eight-team circuit which included Allentown and Richmond. The New York State League of 1885, which included Rochester and Syracuse, merged after one season with the Ontario League to form the International League. In 1887 the IL absorbed two teams from the now-defunct Eastern League (Jersey City and Newark), establishing a foundation for the circuit's future.

Changes were plentiful in the League's early years. 31 cities fielded teams between 1884 and 1890, a period which included seven different League Presidents. The 1890 season was perhaps the most tumultuous in League history. An expensive bidding war broke out across the sport, sparked by the new Players League which was created to challenge the existing major leagues. Buffalo jumped to the Players League while Rochester, Syracuse, and Toledo accepted bids from the American Association. An effort to sustain an International club in Buffalo failed and the team was shifted to Montreal and then Grand Rapids. The Hamilton franchise relocated to Montreal, and the other four clubs (Detroit, London, Saginaw-Bay City, and Toronto) fared little better. On July 7 the IL disbanded, marking the only time the circuit would ever end play before the scheduled conclusion of the season.

In 1891 President Charles D. White reorganized the League as the Eastern Association, retaining only Buffalo from the 1890 membership. White added teams in Albany, Lebanon, New Haven, Providence, Rochester, Syracuse, and Troy. The new League faced many of the same problems as the original, and in August half of the teams went belly-up. The following year was only a slight improvement, as six of the eight clubs managed to complete the season.

Entering the circuit's tenth season in 1893 former manager Pat Powers was hired as President. Over the next 18 years, Powers turned the Eastern League into an institution. His term would be interrupted only in 1906 when he temporarily left the League to devote his full attention to his new post as the first President of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (now known as Minor League Baseball).

The 1896 season was the circuit's first in which no changes occurred in the League make-up. Two years later the Spanish-American War led to an economic depression for baseball. The Rochester club was forced to move to Ottawa, but the Canadian capital proved unready for the pastime. In 1899 the franchise returned to Rochester, beginning the longest run for any city in League history.

An eleven-year period of tranquility and prosperity began in 1904 in which the League membership remained unchanged. Baltimore, Buffalo, Jersey City, Montreal, Newark, Providence, Rochester, and Toronto saw fans flock to their parks as never before. Future IL Hall-of-Famer Jack Dunn won his first pennant with Providence in 1905. The League's first "dynasty" began in 1909 as Rochester, led by manager John Ganzel, took three straight flags.

New stadiums were being built throughout the country, and by 1914 the prosperity of the game began to spell trouble for what was now known as the International League. A group of wealthy investors had formed the Federal League as a third major loop, in the process invading Baltimore, Buffalo, and Newark. Each of the effected IL clubs tried to hang on, but their financial difficulty was evident. Jack Dunn's Baltimore Orioles were forced to sell pitcher Babe Ruth, along with a handful of other stars to the Major Leagues. Baltimore and Newark both relocated but returned when the Federal League disbanded in 1916.

Another threat to the League occurred when the United States joined World War I prior to the 1918 season. The circuit reorganized as the New International League, dropping Richmond, Providence, and Montreal in favor of geographically friendly Jersey City, Binghamton, and Syracuse. Though Syracuse was forced to move to Hamilton, the New International was the only Minor League to complete the 1918 campaign.

1920 - 1965

As the League began to settle down in the early 1920's, the International's greatest dynasty took charge on the field. Jack Dunn's Baltimore Orioles took seven consecutive pennants between 1919 and 1925, winning over 100 games each year. The Orioles were stocked with the biggest stars in the Minor Leagues, many of whom Dunn eventually sold to the highest-bidding Major League club. From that era, eleven Orioles (Jack Bentley, Joe Boley, George Earnshaw, Lefty Grove, Merwin Jacobsen, Fritz Maisel, Jack Ogden, Rube Parnham, Dick Porter, Tommy Thomas, and Jimmy Walsh), along with Dunn himself are all members of the IL Hall of Fame.

Under President John C. Toole, changes were infrequent in the International League during the 1920's. Sound cities like Montreal, Reading, and Syracuse all rejoined the circuit. Rochester won four straight flags beginning in 1928 under Billy Southworth, but tough times were ahead for the League. Worldwide economic depression hit the baseball world hard in the early 1930's, forcing clubs to find new ways to attract followers. Night baseball arrived on July 3, 1930 in Buffalo when 12,000 fans watched the Bisons fall to Montreal, 5-4. With the minors reduced to nine leagues by 1933, Montreal General Manager Frank Shaughnessy gave the game the shot-in-the-arm it so desperately needed.

The "Shaughnessy Playoffs" were introduced to the IL in 1933, forever changing the way the International League determined its champion. Instead of recognizing only the regular season winner, the top four clubs competed in a postseason playoff, the winner of which was awarded the Governors' Cup Trophy. The plan had its share of detractors initially; Newark took the pennant in both 1933 and 1934, but the first two Governors' Cups were won by fourth-place Buffalo and third-place Toronto respectively. Fans, however, were hooked, and playoff baseball was here to stay. Shaughnessy was elected League President in 1937, a post which he held for 24 seasons.

After Jersey City replaced Albany in 1937, the International League enjoyed its longest period yet without a change, lasting until 1949. Newark became the first team to win consecutive Governors' Cups in 1938, and after losing in the 1939 finals, won another Cup in 1940. It would be Syracuse who dominated the 1940's, reaching five Governors' Cup Finals between 1942 and 1948, winning three times. Clay Hopper's Montreal Royals also took three Governors' Cups towards the end of the decade, making baseball history along the way. One year before breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the International League in the 20th century when he led Montreal to the 1946 Governors' Cup as IL batting champion.

A new era began in 1954 with the admission of Havana. The League, now truly "International", embraced teams in three countries. Richmond returned to the IL in 1954 when the American League tapped Baltimore, ending an association of over 50 years between the Orioles and the International League. Miami also joined the League in 1954, with Columbus following a year later. One of the circuit's greatest players roamed International League fields in the 1950's. Glenn "Rocky" Nelson won three MVP Awards and two Triple Crowns, the only man to achieve either feat in League history.

Political unrest in Cuba forced the Havana team to move to Jersey City partway through the 1960 campaign, and more instability was to follow for the International League during the tenure of new President Tommy Richardson. After a 33-year run, Montreal succumbed in 1961 and transferred its membership to Syracuse. Later that season a move from Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico proved premature, and the Marlins ultimately ended the season in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1962 Charleston and Jersey City were moved south to Atlanta and Jacksonville. The following season a one-year expansion to ten teams temporarily added clubs in Arkansas and Indianapolis. In 1965 Toledo returned to the League after a 76-year absence, replacing Richmond, who was back again just one year later.

1966 - 1985

A new President took control in 1966 when former Rochester General Manager George Sisler, Jr. succeeded Richardson. Attendance increased dramatically that year thanks to great seasons in Rochester and Richmond. Over the next few years, several new cities acquired International League clubs. Toronto ended its 78-year run in 1968, replaced by Louisville. Soon thereafter teams would be placed in new locations like Tidewater, Winnipeg, Pawtucket, and Memphis.

Syracuse won a pair of Governors' Cups in 1969 and 1970 under skipper Frank Verdi, also bringing home the team's first pennant in 78 years. In 1973 Pawtucket won the Governors' Cup and Junior World Series in the club's first year at the Triple-A level. Red Sox postseason hero Jim Rice went on to win the Triple Crown the following year, the last man to accomplish the feat in the IL. After the 1974 season Rochester was awarded the first President's Trophy as the outstanding franchise in the National Association.

The Tidewater Tides enjoyed one of the most successful seasons of any club in League history in 1975, winning the pennant, Governors' Cup, Most Valuable Player, Most Valuable Pitcher, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, and Executive of the Year Awards.

In 1977 George Sisler, Jr. stepped down as League President to take over operations of the new club in Columbus. He was replaced briefly by Roy Jackson before former Columbus GM Harold Cooper was elected President during the Winter Meetings. Also that year former League MVP Tommie Aaron was hired as skipper of the Richmond Braves, becoming the first African-American manager in IL history. One year later Aaron led the Braves to their first Governors' Cup Championship.

The Columbus Clippers began an incredible three-year run in 1979 as a new affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Clippers won three consecutive pennants and Governors' Cup titles under three different managers: Gene Michael, Joe Altobelli, and Frank Verdi. The Clippers remain the only team to win three straight Governors' Cups.

A professional baseball record was set in the IL in 1981. On April 18 at McCoy Stadium, Rochester and Pawtucket battled for 32 innings with no winner. Tied 2-2, the marathon was finally completed on June 23 when Pawtucket's Dave Koza drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 33rd frame. The 8 hour, 25 minute game remains the longest in baseball history.

Columbus' reign came to an end in 1982 when Richmond beat them out for the pennant by 3.5 games, but it was Tidewater who won the Governors' Cup. The Clippers regained the pennant in 1983, but once again lost in the playoffs to eventual champion Tidewater. The Tides closed out the season by winning the Triple-A Championship in Louisville by winning three of four games against Denver of the American Association and Portland of the Pacific Coast League in the first ever Triple-A World Series. Gary Rajsich led the Tides with a .583 batting average and was voted the MVP.

Columbus won its fifth pennant in six seasons in 1984, edging out the Maine Guides in their first season after replacing Charleston. Maine swept Toledo in the first round of the playoffs while the Clippers were upset by Pawtucket, who went on to defeat Maine three games to two for the Governors' Cup. The Tidewater Tides were back on top in 1985, defeating Syracuse and Columbus to win the Governors' Cup Championship. The Chiefs, on their way to their first pennant since 1970, dropped a pair of marathon games. Syracuse lost 3-1 in 27 innings to Pawtucket and 8-7 in 21 innings to Columbus.

1986 - 1992

An early August five-team pennant race in 1986 boiled down to a Rochester vs. Richmond battle which didn't conclude until the final round of the playoffs. With a League best 23-10 August record, Richmond won the pennant by 4 games over the Red Wings. After Richmond eliminated Tidewater and Rochester eliminated Pawtucket in the opening round of the playoffs the stage was set for the rematch. 23,579 fans witnessed the exciting Governors' Cup Finals and watched Richmond again come out on top, this time 3 games to 2.

1987 was a banner year at the box office as the League reached a total attendance of over 2 million for the third consecutive season, thanks in large part to record seasons in Pawtucket (227,722) and Tidewater (181,260). On the field it was the Randy Milligan show as the Tidewater first baseman led his teammates to the IL pennant and along the way missed winning the Triple Crown by only three home runs. He was recognized as the League's MVP, Rookie of the Year and All-Star first baseman.

A new era in Triple-A Baseball and the end of an era for the IL both occurred in 1988. The formation of the new Triple-A Alliance (International League and American Association) brought a new look to the League structure as division play returned for the first time in fifteen years. The 42 interleague games played between the IL and AA were not kind to the International League as only division winners Rochester and Tidewater had winning records. Club and fan reaction to the Alliance was such that League Directors agreed to continue this concept for an additional three years (1989-91). At the end of the 1988 season, Rochester became the last team to win the original Governors' Cup trophy. The Cup was retired to Cooperstown and donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A new Governors' Cup was created and first won by Richmond in 1989. That season, despite over 50 weather related postponements, IL attendance soared to a record 2,613,247 fans, shattering the old mark which stood since 1946. For the first time since 1898 the cities of Scranton and Wilkes Barre appeared on the IL schedule, this time as a single franchise which replaced Maine.

The League continued its run of recent success at the box office in 1990 by establishing another new attendance record (2,832,518), due in large part to franchise record setting years by the Pawtucket and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre clubs. The Rochester Red Wings reclaimed the top spot in 1990. The Red Wings led wire-to-wire in capturing the Eastern Division crown before going on to defeat Columbus for the Governors' Cup Trophy. Following the retirement of Harold Cooper, the League's Board of Directors conveyed the title of President to Randy Mobley at the annual meeting in Los Angeles. Mobley would initially serve as President of both the American Association and International League.

The four-year Triple-A Alliance came to an end following the 1991 season after IL directors voted to discontinue it. Columbus, winner of the 1991 Governors' Cup, became the fourth straight team to lose to the American Association in the last year of the Triple-A Classic. Attendance in the IL reached the 3 million mark for the first time in 1991.

The next season division winners Columbus and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre battled in one of the most memorable Governors' Cup Finals of all-time. IL Manager-of-the-Year Lee Elia and the Red Barons hosted the opening two games before crowds of 8,175 and 10,051. Scranton/WB took Game 1 (4-3) thanks to an 8th inning go-ahead single by Greg Legg. Game 2 starters Jeff Johnson of the Clippers and Brad Brink of the Red Barons pitched 10 scoreless innings apiece before Columbus' Jay Knoblauh hit a two-run homer in the 13th to even the series. A two-run 8th inning double by Kim Batiste gave visiting Scranton/WB a Game 3 win. With their backs against the wall in Game 4, Columbus saw an eight-run lead disappear before a Knoblauh single won the game in the 11th, setting up a dramatic fifth and deciding game. With the Red Barons up 3-1 in the 9th and closing in on their first Governors' Cup, RBI singles by Hensley Meulens, Knoblauh, and Brad Ausmus won the series for Columbus in dramatic fashion. It was the sixth Governors' Cup in 13 years for the Clippers, and the 1992 club went down as one of the greats in League history. The team set 34 club records and filled eight of eleven IL Postseason All-Star spots.

1993 - 2000

A new ballpark in Norfolk and the addition of franchises in Charlotte and Ottawa sparked the IL to become the first minor league to attract over 4 million fans in 1993. The return of baseball to the Canadian capital was nothing short of astounding. Ottawa's attendance of 693,043 broke the IL's single-season club mark set back in 1946 by Baltimore. The expansion teams played well, with Charlotte paced by IL MVP Jim Thome and Ottawa led by IL Manager of the Year Mike Quade. Both made the playoffs and the Knights went on to win the Governors' Cup.

The Major League Players Association strike which began on August 12, 1994 resulted in increased attention for the International League. In addition to radio and/or television coverage in a number of Major League affiliate's markets, national cable television coverage included regular season games on ESPN and the Turner Network. ESPN also carried Richmond's 3-game sweep of Syracuse in the Governors' Cup Finals.

Norfolk proved to be the class of the IL in 1995 due to a pitching staff many claimed was as good as ever assembled in Triple A. The League's Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Pitcher, Jason Isringhausen (9-1, 1.55 ERA), anchored the staff for the Tides. An exciting eight-team playoff race finally boiled down to Norfolk, Ottawa, Rochester, and Richmond that year. It would be the Lynx who won the franchise's first Governors' Cup title. A more familiar champion was back in 1996, as Columbus won yet another title behind the franchise's all-time winningest manager Stump Merrill. Notable that year was the power outburst in Pawtucket, where the Red Sox total of 209 homers was the most in the League since Baltimore's record of 232 in 1932.

It was a memorable season in Rochester in 1997, as the Red Wings won a record tenth Governors' Cup in their brand new ballpark, Frontier Field. Following the 1997 campaign, the International League membership would grow to an all-time high 14 teams thanks to a change in the Triple-A landscape. The American Association disbanded, and former members Buffalo, Indianapolis, and Louisville rejoined the International League. Major League expansion would lead to a fourth new IL club - the Durham Bulls.

With a new three-division alignment in 1998, fans had one more playoff race to watch, while the fourth postseason spot would now be filled by the second-place club with the highest winning percentage. It was a great year for the League's new members, as Buffalo, Durham, and Louisville all advanced to the postseason. Indianapolis also made history, as first baseman Roberto Petagine (a former Norfolk Tide) became the first player in IL history to win consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards. Buffalo would go on to win its first Governors' Cup since 1961 and advance to the inaugural Las Vegas Triple-A World Series, losing to Pacific Coast League champion New Orleans 3 games to 1. In addition to winning the IL title, Buffalo set an all-time IL attendance record by drawing 768,749 fans.

The League's final season of the 1900's was offensive in nature as four clubs (Charlotte, Columbus, Durham & Indianapolis) had a team batting average over .283, a mark reached by only one club (the 1996 Charlotte Knights) in the previous 25 years. In addition, no team pitching staff posted an ERA under 4.00 which had been done by at least one club in every season since 1983. Also for the first time since 1983, the IL witnessed an in-state battle for the Governors' Cup when Charlotte took on Durham in the finals. In a series interrupted by Hurricane Floyd, the Knights prevailed in four games.

Things changed in 2000 as pitchers reclaimed their dominance, highlighted by four no-hitters, most in the IL since 1974. Leading the way was Pawtucket's Tomo Ohka who tossed just the third nine-inning perfect game in the League's 117-year history with a 2-0 defeat of Charlotte on June 1. Buffalo and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre finished the season tied for the IL North title, and though both clubs were guaranteed a postseason berth, the first one-game playoff since 1975 was held to determine the division champ. Buffalo won 7-3, but the Red Barons took the first round series against the Bisons. Scranton/WB then dropped an exciting five-game series to Indianapolis as the Indians won their first Governors' Cup since 1963. Indianapolis went on to defeat Memphis 3 games to 1 in what proved to be the final Triple-A World Series.

2001 - Present

Buffalo and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre met in another first round postseason series in 2001, one that would not soon be forgotten in northeastern Pennsylvania. In a Game 5 for the ages, the Bisons scored in the 7th and 8th innings to tie the game 2-2. After matching zeroes for 10 innings, the Red Barons struck for four runs in the top of the 19th frame and held on to win the 5+ hour marathon. In Game 1 of the Governors' Cup Finals the next night, a better-rested Louisville club edged the Red Barons 2-1. The following day, the terror attacks of September 11 shook the nation. League President Randy Mobley cancelled the remainder of the Governors' Cup Finals a day later, naming Game 1 victor Louisville the 2001 Champions.

The 2002 and 2003 seasons belonged to the Durham Bulls, who became the tenth team in IL history to win consecutive Governors' Cup titles. Bill Evers' clubs swept both finals series (against Buffalo and Pawtucket). Buffalo stormed to the 2004 championship with one of the strongest offensive showings in decades. The Bisons, led by IL MVP Jhonny Peralta and All-Star Ernie Young, paced the circuit with a .297 average, the highest mark for any IL club since 1938. The team collected 1,472 hits (most in the League since 1952), and led all teams in runs, total bases, doubles, and RBI. Buffalo would ultimately face the IL's best pitching staff in the Governors' Cup Finals. Richmond, with a 3.70 team ERA, was led by closer Matt Whiteside and his IL record 38 saves. The threat of rain and poor playing conditions in Richmond necessitated that the entire finals series be played in Buffalo, where the Bisons defeated the Braves for their sixth Governors' Cup.

After finishing with the League's worst record in 2004, Toledo bounced back to win consecutive Governors' Cups the next two seasons. The 2005 Mud Hens bested the rest of the IL by 7 games, and IL Manager of the Year Larry Parrish guided his club to a sweep of Indianapolis to secure Toledo's first Governors' Cup since 1967. Talent in the League was evenly distributed in 2005, evidenced by the fact that the 12 members of the IL Postseason All-Star Team came from 12 different clubs.

Toledo met Rochester in the 2006 Governors' Cup Finals. The Red Wings took a 2-1 series lead, but the powerful Mud Hens blasted eight home runs in Games 4 and 5 and outscored Rochester 16-1 to clinch the series. For the first time since 2000 champions of the two Triple-A leagues met, but Toledo fell to Tucson 5-2. An unprecedented shuffle in affiliations took place immediately following the 2006 campaign as four IL clubs welcomed new Major League partners to town. Norfolk ended its 38-year affiliation with the Mets, opting to partner with Baltimore. Ottawa found a new partnership with Philadelphia, who left Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after 18-years. The Red Barons joined the Yankees family, while Columbus, a partner of the Yankees since 1979, announced a new affiliation with the Washington Nationals.

In 2007, Columbus' Brandon Watson broke a 95-year old IL record by hitting in 43 consecutive games. IL Most Valuable Pitcher Kevin Slowey of Rochester posted an incredible 1.89 ERA, lowest in the League since 1988. Toledo third baseman Mike Hessman, on his way to the Most Valuable Player Award, became Toledo's all-time Home Run king. Two clubs that had battled to the end for the IL South crown, Durham and Richmond, eventually met in the Governors' Cup Finals. Richmond redeemed its loss in the division race, taking the finals in five games.

The IL returned to one of its original cities in 2008 when the Lynx left Ottawa and relocated to Allentown, Pennsylvania as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The euphoria of a new team and ballpark soon gave way to a 0-11 start for Lehigh Valley. The Pawtucket Red Sox dominated the IL North for much of the year, led by IL Most Valuable Player Jeff Bailey and Most Valuable Pitcher Charlie Zink. In the end however, the division went to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, who proceeded to win the franchise's first Governors' Cup after defeating the PawSox and Durham Bulls in the playoffs. For the first time in history, over 7 million fans attended International League games in 2008.

In 2009 IL baseball returned to the Atlanta area for the first time since 1965 as the Richmond club moved to Georgia to become the Gwinnett Braves. Gwinnett Stadium, along with Huntington Park in Columbus, gave the IL two new facilities. On the field, the League saw a repeat of all three division winners for the first time ever, and after coming up short in two straight Governors' Cup Finals, Charlie Montoyo's Durham Bulls made it past Louisville and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to win the 2009 Cup. The Bulls continued their success in Oklahoma City, defeating PCL champion Memphis 5-4 in 11 innings to give the IL its first victory at the Triple-A Baseball National Championship.

Once again in 2010, the League's three divisions were captured by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Louisville, and Durham, but it would be the Wild Card Columbus Clippers who caught fire in September and went on to win the Governors' Cup and Triple-A Baseball National Championship. The League's awards were nearly swept by the Durham Bulls, who were led by IL home run leader Dan Johnson as Most Valuable Player, ERA champion Jeremy Hellickson as Most Valuable Pitcher, and Charlie Montoyo as Manager of the Year. Gwinnett first baseman Freddie Freeman with his League-leading 147 hits, brought home Rookie of the Year honors.