Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
|1910 Sioux City Packers|
For most of the 20th century, the minor leagues were ruled by the Big Three--the International, American Association and Pacific Coast Leagues. However, in the early part of the century, there were also two other leagues given similar status. One was the Southern Association. The other was the Western League, which featured one of its strongest entries in 1910.
The Iowa town of Sioux City fielded its first pro team in 1888, placing a team in the Western Association. The club, called the Corn Huskers, joined the league on July 4 as a replacement for St. Louis. After sporting a 21-38 record, the team left the circuit sometime before the end of the season. In 1889, the team played a full season in the Association, finishing fourth with a 59-61 record. The Corn Huskers also participated in the league over the next two years, winning the pennant in 1891. After their triumph, the team left the league.
In 1894, a new Cornhusker team joined the minors, placing a team in the high-ranked Western League. Here, they won the pennant on their first try with a record of 74-52. Despite this success, the team left the loop after the season. However, its legacy lasted longer, as it arguably served as the first manifestation of the Chicago White Sox. During the winter of 1894-95, Charles A. Comiskey, who had been fired as manager of the tenth-place Cincinnati Reds, purchased the Sioux City franchise and moved it to St. Paul. He operated the club there until February, 1900, when it was transferred to Chicago as the Western League became the American League. Comiskey operated the Chicago White Sox until his death in 1931.
Six years later, Sioux City placed another team in the Western League. However, this loop was different than its 19th century namesake. With many of the former Western League locales left empty due to the eastward shifting of the re-named American League, a new Western League was formed in 1900, incorporating many former members. Sioux City joined the group for a year, finishing with a 48-49 record. When the National Association was formed in 1902, the new Western League was honored by being named one of the five Class A leagues.
In 1902-03, Milwaukee and Kansas City had teams in both the Western League and the American Association. Prior to the start of the 1904 season, a compromise agreement was reached between the Western, the American Association and the governing National Association in which the Western League withdrew from Milwaukee and Kansas City, its largest cities. That dropped the Western League below the population requirement for Class A status, so in return for their cooperation, the National Association guaranteed that, regardless of population, the Western League would always be Class A or higher.
After a two-year run in the Class D Iowa-South Dakota league in 1902 and 1903, a club from Sioux City called the Soos joined the Western League in 1904 and finished dead last with a record of 45-98. In the ensuing years, the team, now called the Packers, didn’t finish out of the second division until 1908 when they won the pennant. In 1909, the team finished in a virtual tie for the top spot with Des Moines, only .003 percentage points behind with a record of 94-60. The next year, the Packers stepped it up a notch.
The 1910 Packers, playing an expanded 168-game schedule, spent most of the month of May in fourth place. By the end of June, the team had caught the frontrunners and, by August, was in first place to stay. The Packers ended up winning the flag with a 108-60 record, 6.5 games ahead of second-place Denver. The team scored 1,068 runs and batted an even .300--impressive feats during the deadball era. The club also slugged a league high 331 doubles and 73 home runs.
The Packers were managed by 30-year-old Jay Towne, who had served as a backup catcher for the Hitless Wonders - the World Champion White Sox of 1906. He served a similar role for the Packers, batting .333 while playing 45 games behind the plate.
Sioux City was paced by batting champ Art Fenlon, who hit .365 with a team-high 48 doubles, before his contract was sold to Atlanta (Southern Association) on September 1. Other Packers enjoying good seasons at the plate included: Red Andreas, who scored a league high 137 runs despite batting only .247; Hi Myers (.345); and Cy Neighbors (.333) who also stroked a circuit best 206 hits.
Marty O’Toole, 22-year-old right-handed spitball pitcher, had been with Cincinnati briefly in 1908. After his 19-5 season with the Packers in 1910, when he struck out 207 and walked 74, O’Toole moved up to St. Paul and in 1911 became a sensation. He struck out an American Association leading 199 batters in 204 innings and set what was then a league record 17 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In August, the Pittsburgh Pirates, fighting the Giants for the National League lead, outbid several other major league clubs and purchased O’Toole for $22,500, the highest price ever paid for a minor league player up to that time. Although he finished the season with a 3-2, 2.37 record for Pittsburgh, he apparently had reported with “a lame arm.” In the next three seasons, he won only 23 and lost 34 and was out of the majors by the end of 1914.
The member of the ’10 Packers who made the biggest splash in the major leagues was Myers, who played 14 seasons for Brooklyn, St. Louis and Cincinnati from 1909-1925. Over the course of his career, he batted .281 in 1310 games. One of Myers’ best seasons occurred in 1920, when he slashed a league-high 22 triples for the National League champion Dodgers. Other batters playing in the big leagues included Neighbors, who got into one game for the ’08 Pirates and Lee Quillen, who played a full season at third base for the 1907 White Sox, batting .192.
After 1910, the Packers played another 13 years in the Western League. Following a break, the team participated twice more in the league from 1934-37 and 1947-58. During this time, the team won regular season championships in 1914 and 1947, as well as playoff championships in 1948, 1950 and 1951. In between stints in the Western League, Sioux City fielded teams in the Tri-State (1924), Nebraska State (1938) and Class D Western (1939-41) Leagues, the latter being a different operation than the Class A loop. Following the 1958 season, the Class A Western folded, causing Sioux City to move its franchise to the Three-I League for two years.
The 1910 Sioux City Packers, playing in one of the top five minor leagues in the country, had one of the best records of any team in the first decade of the 20th century. However, their greatness transcends that narrow band of time. As a matter of fact, in the fifty-plus years of the Western League, only one team ever won more games than the ’10 Packers.
|1910 Western League Standings|
|1910 Sioux City Packers batting statistics|
|Thomas Reilly (Topeka)||SS||154||566||69||136||32||4||8||10||.240|
|L. Wooley (Topeka)||OF||137||524||64||105||14||4||0||19||.200|
|1910 Sioux City Packers pitching statistics|