Charleston has had a sporadic yet persistent history of participating in professional baseball. The city has been the home of numerous teams that have competed at various levels over the past 94 years.
The city's inaugural team was named the Statesmen and competed in the Class D Virginia Valley League in 1910 and the Class D Mountain State League in 1911. The Statesmen played their home games at Wehrle Park.
Wehrle Park was located on the East End of Charleston at the corner of Virginia and Ruffner Streets, the current site of the Charleston Woman's Club. Prior to the Statesmen, Charleston High School's football and track teams used Wehrle Park for their events.
The city was without baseball in 1912, but it returned in 1913. The team changed its name to the Senators and joined the Class D Ohio State League where it competed for three seasons. The Senators continued to play their games at Wehrle Park.
Charleston was again without professional baseball from 1916 to 1930. In 1917, local baseball enthusiasts Charles A. Beers and Watt Powell combined to help construct Kanawha Park. This new park was a wooden framed stadium that seated 3,500 fans and was located at the corner of MacCorkle Avenue and 35th Street, the same property that Watt Powell Park occupied until 2005.
Baseball returned to Charleston in 1931 when the Senators resumed play as a member of the Class C Mid-Atlantic League. The Senators competed in this league for 12 seasons as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and survived a fire that destroyed most of the grandstands at their home, Kanawha Park. The fire forced the team to play many of its games away from Charleston.
From 1943 through 1948, the city was without professional baseball. In August of 1948, construction of Watt Powell Park began with the assistance of Watt Powell and a $350,000 government bond issue. Watt Powell Park was constructed because Kanawha Park, the past home of professional baseball in Charleston, burned to the ground in 1944. Watt Powell passed away two months prior to the opening of the park that bears his name, causing him not to have a chance to see a baseball game played there.
On April 28, 1949, the Senators returned as a member of the Class A Central League where they competed for the next three seasons as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The Senators played their home games at Watt Powell Park.
Charleston was elevated to the Class AAA American Association in 1952. This change in classification happened a few days prior to the start of the season, as the Toledo Mud Hens moved their team to Charleston. The city had acquired an established team and continued to use the name Senators. The Senators remained in the American Association for nine years and were affiliated with the following teams: Chicago White Sox (1952-1955), Detroit Tigers (1956-1959) and Washington Senators (1960).
The Senators struggled to compete in the American Association as a Chicago White Sox affiliate. During the 1954 season the Senators were rarely given the chance to face the league's most dominant pitcher, Indianapolis' Herb Score. Kerby Feller, the Indianapolis manager, told reporters that he didn't want to waste a pitcher of Score's talent on such a woeful team as Charleston.
The 1958 Senators were affiliated with the Detroit Tigers and were the only Charleston team to finish an American Association season with a winning record. This team not only finished above .500 for the regular season, but they also won the American Association championship.
Charleston was without professional baseball at the start of the 1961 season. However, baseball returned to the city a month into the season as the Marlins of the Class AAA International League relocated to Charleston after a hurricane completely destroyed their stadium in Puerto Rico. The Marlins were affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 1962, the team changed its name to the Indians and joined the Class A Eastern League. The 1963 and 1964 Indians were considered a Class AA team after the Eastern League elevated its classification. During the Indians three seasons in the Eastern League, Elmira manager Earl Weaver, infuriated by an umpire's call, picked up third base and carried it off to the clubhouse. The umpires had to dispatch a policeman to retrieve the base.
The city was without professional baseball from 1965 through 1970. Baseball returned to Charleston in 1971 after local businessman Bob Levine purchased a franchise in the Class AAA International League. He named the team the Charlies, in honor of his father, Charlie Levine. The Charlies spent 13 seasons in the International League and were affiliated with the following teams: Pittsburgh Pirates (1971-1976); Houston Astros (1977-1979); Texas Rangers (1980); Cleveland Indians (1981-1983).
The Charlies won the International League Championship in 1973 as an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in 1977 as a Houston Astros affiliate.
From 1984 through 1986 Charleston was without professional baseball. Baseball returned in 1987 when Illinois native Dennis Bastien purchased a Class A South Atlantic League franchise. Bastien named the team the Wheelers in honor of the sternwheelers that once piloted the Kanawha River. In their first season, the Wheelers were a co-operative team consisting of a collection of players from the following teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.
The Wheelers acquired an affiliation with the Chicago Cubs before the start of the 1988 season. In 1990, the Wheelers changed their affiliation to the Cincinnati Reds and won the South Atlantic League championship.
After the 1993 season, a local group of investors purchased the team from Bastien. The team changed its name to the Alley Cats in 1995; and in 1999, changed its affiliation to the Kansas City Royals and again in 2001 to the Toronto Blue Jays. Through all the changes, professional baseball continues to survive and flourish in Charleston.
In the summer of 2001, the ownership group of Tom Dickson and Sherrie Myers purchased the organization from the Alley Cats' local investors. The team remained the Alley Cats and continued their affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays through the 2004 season.
In December of 2004, the Charleston Alley Cats changed their name to the West Virginia Power and introduced their 5 new mascots, Axe, Gusty, Pyro, Hydro and Charlie.
On April 14, 2005, the West Virginia Power moved into beautiful Appalachian Power Park in the East End of Charleston. With the new stadium came a new affiliation for the newly-named ball club from Charleston, as the Power became a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
The Power saw the future face of the Brewers in 2005, as soon-to-be MVP Ryan Braun donned a West Virginia uniform, as well as future major league infielder Alcides Escobar. The 2006 season was no different for the Power, with future major league outfielders Michael Brantley and Lorenzo Cain both posting batting averages over .300 en route to a 74-62 record for West Virginia. In 2007 and 2008, West Virginia saw incredible success, as the Power took home two SAL Northern Division Championships, but fell in the championship series both years.
In 2009, the Power became the class-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 2009 campaign saw future outfield sensation Starling Marte at Appalachian Power Park, and the first Pirate era Power player to make it to the big leagues in Chase d'Arnaud, who made his MLB debut in 2011.
The Power regained the Northern Division in 2013, but fell to the Hagerstown Suns in the opening round of the SAL Playoffs. On April 10, 2014, the Power celebrated their 10th Opening Day at Appalachian Power Park.
The 2019 season saw the Power sign a new affiliation agreement with the Seattle Mariners, marking the seventh different MLB team to affiliate with West Virginia since the city of Charleston brought baseball back in 1987. The Power also played host to the 2019 South Atlantic League All-Star Game on Tuesday, June 18, at Appalachian Power Park, marking the second time the Power hosted the South Atlantic League's Mid-Summer Classic since the team changed its moniker in 2005.