Not long ago, looking at the card of Roman Mejias, I noted that he lead the Pony League in swipes in 53, and the Big State League in doubles in ”54. Pony League? Big State League?
Looking for more information on these, I came across Mike McCann’s Minor League Baseball Page, One Man’s Quest to Visit Every Major and Minor League Baseball Team. And on that website there is a complete list of minor leagues.
Here I find that the Pony League was maybe more correctly written as the PONY League, for Pennsylvania, Ontario, and New York. The PONY League was a class D League, and existed from 1939-1956. The original teams included the Niagara Falls Rainbows, the Batavia Clippers, the Jamestown Jaguars, the Olean Oilers, the Bradford Bees, and the Hamilton Red Wings. This League went away in ’56, but was replaced in ’57 by the New York – Pennsylvania League, which still exists today. Batavia’s team is now called the MuckDogs, and Jamestown’s team is now the Jammers. Those are the only two remaining clubs of the original set. I like the name MuckDogs, but their logo was pretty bad. There’s now a team called the Vermont Lake Monsters — which I wonder how they got that name — and they had the best logo that I saw of the bunch. It’s not that great, really, but I do like the name Lake Monsters.
The Big State League was a class B league from 1947 – ’57. This League was exclusively Texas, with teams originally in Sherman-Denison, Gainesville, Wichita Falls, Paris, Austin, Texarkana, Greenville and Waco. Favorite name: Wichita Falls Spudders. (Second favorite: Paris Red Peppers.) The Big State League’s Spudders were about the third Spudder team; others existed in earlier leagues. The name, incidentally, comes from a term used in the oil industry – a person who prepares and operates a drilling rig for oil wells.
There are a lot of defunct baseball leagues out there. They are generally named by geographic territory they used to play in, like the Alabama Florida League, or the East Dixie League. Baseball Reference.com lists over 30,000 current and former minor league teams, and they say “this list is not exhaustive…” (I guess that depends upon your point of view.) I think it must be hard to tell when a club is an old club or a new club with an old name, because what they are doing here is listing every season for every team in a location. For example, they list 64 teams in Duluth, Minnesota, but that means there is 64 seasons of minor league play in Duluth, split up between the Duluth-Superior Dukes, Duluth-Superior White Sox, Duluth Dukes, Duluth Marine Iron, Duluth Heralds, Duluth Cardinals, St. Paul Apostles/Duluth Whalebacks, (one season, in the Western League – I wonder what the story was there. I like “Apostles” for a team name…) the Duluth Freezers, and the Duluth Jayhawks.
There is some confusion about those St. Paul Apostles. At least, I’m confused. Wikipedia says that the Apostles played in 1889, and were apparently managed by an Irish immigrant named John Barnes. In 1886, Wikipedia says, he was associated with the St. Paul Freezers, and in 1887 the St. Paul Saints. In ’88 he took a year off, apparently, but in 1889 he was back at it, with the St. Paul Apostles. Barnes is kind of an interesting character; he apparently spent ten years in China promoting physical fitness?
Anyway… Baseball Reference.com says the St. Paul Apostles existed in just 1884, were also known as the St. Paul White Caps, had a 2-6-1 record and finished 9th out of 12. Apparently this was a “short season” league.
Meanwhile, back on the Duluth/St.Paul team, there were a few great names: Kid Baldwin, Scrappy Carroll, Bones Ely, Bill Goodenough, Jouett Meekin, Rasty Wright, and Crazy Schmidt. I’d love to have baseball cards for Bones Ely and Crazy Schmidt. Bill Goodenough sounds familiar; perhaps he went on to other adventures in professional baseball.
He was, after all, certainly Goodenough.