Minor League History: Central League

The first Central League started to play in 1888 and lasted only one season. Since then, several leagues adopted the name Central League, most of them playing in the area of the Great Lakes. Other years that the Central League played were: 1897, 1900, 1903-1917, 1920-1922, 1926, 1928-1930, 1932, 1934 and 1948-1951.

In 1888 the first Central League was organized. The teams in this league were all from the Eastern States like Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The league finished the season but lasted only one year. The winner of the league was the Newark franchise which had a 83-23 record. Several sources name different monikers. One says that the team was called the Little Giants, another says that the team was called the Trunkmakers.

Frederick Lander "Dupee" Shaw, Pitcher, Newark Little Giants, from the Old Judge series (N172) for Old Judge Cigarettes
One of the early baseball cards. It shows a pitcher of the 1888 Newark Little Giants

Cities represented (1888):

Allentown, PA: Allentown Peanuts Binghamton, NY: Binghamton Bingoes
Easton, PA: Easton
Elmira, NY: Elmira
Hazleton, PA: Hazleton Pugilists
Jersey City, NJ: Jersey City Skeeters
Newark, NJ: Newark Little Giants/Trunkmakers
Scranton, PA: Scranton Miners
Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wilkes-Barre Barons

In 1897 the second Central League started to play. This class C league had teams in the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois. Due to financial problems the league folded about halfway the season. Probably the distances were too big in a time where the car was not a common thing yet. The league disbanded on June 20 with the Nashville/Henderson Centennials on top of the standings with a 39-29 record, leading runner up Evansville by one game.

Cities represented (1897):

Cairo, IL: Cairo Egyptians
Evansville, IN: Evansville Brewers
Nashville/Henderson, TN: Nashville/Henderson Centennials
Paducah, KY: Paducah Litte Colonels
Terre Haute, IN: Terre Haute Hottentots
Washington, IN: Washington Browns

Another short lived edition of the Central League played in 1900. This Central League was the successor of the Western Association that lasted from 1894 through 1899. Even though the league finished the season, two teams dropped out of the league while the season was underway.
Rather early in the season, the Springfield franchise moved to Jacksonville, IL, because of lack of attendance (probably due to the poor performance of the team). On July 8, the team disbanded, together with the Peoria Distillers.
The Bloomington Blues won the championship with a 64-34 record, with an 8.5 game lead over second place Danville.

Cities represented 1900:

Bloomington, IL: Bloomington Blues 1900
Danville, IL: Danville Champions 1900
Decatur, IL: Decatur Commodores 1900
Jacksonville, IL: Jacksonville Reds1900
Peoria, IL: Peoria Distillers 1900
Springfield, IL: Springfield 1900
Terre Haute, IN: Terre Haute Hottentots 1900

The next Central League ran for a longer period than the previous editions. More or less it was an uninterrupted period from 1903 through 1934. There were some gaps between 1917 and 1920, between 1922 and 1926 and 1928 and between 1932 and 1934. The longest continuous run was from 1903 through 1917. After the 1917 season the league disbanded due to the war effort of the United States in the final years of World War I. Until 1934 the league operated as a class B league.

In 1926 the Central League was graded as a class C league and the league merged mid season with the Michigan-Ontario League  and continued under the moniker Michigan State League which started on July 15. But in 1928 a new Central League was founded. That league ran through the 1934 season with a gap in 1933.

The 1903 – 1934 Central League didn’t face many teams that folded. Only in 1914 the Springfield Reapers disbanded on August 8, in 1917, the South Bend franchise moved to Peoria and reached the play offs but fell 4-3 to the Grand Rapids Black Sox. In 1921 the Jackson franchise moved to Ionia halfway the season. In 1932 the league disbanded  on July 21 after the Akron/Canton franchise and the South Bend franchise disbanded.
It took one year to recover as it re-started in 1934. This would be the final year of the league before WWII.

1905 Terre Haute Hottentots

Cities represented (1903 – 1934):

Akron, OH: Akron Rubbermen 1912; Akron Tyrites 1928-1929, 1932
Anderson, IN: Anderson 1903
Canton, OH: Canton Red Stockings 1905; Canton Chinamen 1906-1907; Canton Statesmen 1912; Canton Terriers 1928-1930, 1932
Dayton, OH: Dayton Veterans 1903-1917; Dayton Aviators 1928-1930; Dayton Ducks 1932
Erie, PA: Erie Sailors 1912, 1915, 1928-1930, 1932
Evansville, IN: Evansville River Rats 1903-1910, 1913-1915; Evansville Strikers 1911; Evansville Evas 1916-1917
Fort Wayne, IN: Fort Wayne Railroaders 1903-1905, 1912, 1914; Fort Wayne Billikens 1908-1910; Fort Wayne Brakies 1911; Fort Wayne Champs 1913; Fort Wayne Cubs 1915; Fort Wayne Chiefs 1917, 1928-1930, 1932, 1934
Grand Rapids, MI: Grand Rapids Orphans 1903, 1905; Grand Rapids Wolverines 1904, 1906-1909; Grand Rapids Raiders1910; Grand Rapids Furniture Makers 1911; Grand Rapids Grads 1911; Grand Rapids Black Sox 1912, 1915-1917; Grand Rapids Bill-eds 1913; Grand Rapids Champs 1914; Grand Rapids Joshers 1920-1921; Grand Rapids Billbobs 1922; Grand Rapids Black Sox 1926; Grand Rapids Tigers 1934
Ionia, MI: Ionia Mayors 1921-1922
Jackson, MI: Jackson 1921
Kalamazoo, MI: Kalamazoo Celery Pickers 1920-1922, 1926
Lansing, MI: Lansing Senators 1921-1922
Lima, OH: Lima Buckeyes 1934
Ludington, MI: Ludington Mariners 1920-1922; Ludington Tars 1926
Marion, OH: Marion Oilworkers 1903-1904
Muskegon, MI: Muskegon Reds 1916-1917, 1926, 1934; Muskegon White Hopes 1920; Muskegon Muskies 1921-1922
Newark, OH: Newark Skeeters 1911
Peoria, IL: Peoria Distillers 1904, 1917; Peoria Tractors 1934
Richmond, IN: Richmond Quakers 1917; Richmond Roses 1930
South Bend, IN: South Bend Green Stockings 1903; South Bend Greens 1904-1909; South Bend Bronchos 1910; South Bend Benders 1911-1912, 1916-1917; South Bend Bux 1911; 1932
Springfield, OH: Springfield Babes 1905-1907; Springfield Reapers 1912-1914, 1916-1917; Springfield Buckeyes 1928; Springfield Dunnmen
1929; Springfield Blue Sox 1930; Springfield Red Birds 1934
Terre Haute, IN: Terre Haute Hottentots 1903-1909; Terre Haute
Stags 1910; Terre Haute Miners 1911; Terre Haute Terre-iers 1912
1914; Terre Haute Highlanders 1915-1916
Wheeling, WV: Wheeling Stogies 1903-1912, 1915-1916
Youngstown, OH: Youngstown Steelmen 1912, 1915; Youngstown Buckeyes 1932
Zanesville, OH: Zanesville Infants 1908-1909; Zanesville Potters 1910-1912

The Canton Chinamen of 1907. Nr. 9 on the photo is Hall of Famer Rube Maquard

Champions 1903 – 1934:

1903  Fort Wayne Railroaders
1904  Fort Wayne Railroaders
1905   Wheeling Stogies
1906  Grand Rapids Wolverines
1907  Springfield Babes
1908  Evansville River Rats
1909  Wheeling Stogies
1910  South Bend Bronchos
1911  Dayton Veterans
1912  Fort Wayne Railroaders
1913  Grand Rapids Bill-eds
1914  Dayton Veterans
1915  Evansville River Rats
1916  Grand Rapids Black Sox
1917  Grand Rapids Black Sox

1920 Grand Rapids Joshers
1921  Ludington Mariners
1922  Ludington Mariners

1926  Kalamazoo Celery Pickers  (were on top of the standings when the league merged with the Michigan-Ontario League, to become the Michigan State League)

1928  Fort Wayne Chiefs
1929  Canton Terriers
1930  Springfield Blue Sox
1932  Dayton Ducks
1934  Fort Wayne Chiefs

The final run of the Central League lasted from 1948 through 1951. The league got a class A grade. The league contained six teams. After the 1948 season the Fort Wayne franchise moved to Charleston in West Virginia.

After the Dayton Indians joined the Cenral League in 1948, the team was bought by Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians. The team was absorbed in the minor league system of the Indians as it became their class A farm team. Minnie Minoso had a cup of coffee with the Dayton affiliate as he played eleven games in the final month of the Central League season.

Cities represented (1948 – 1951):

Charleston, WV: Charleston Senators 1949-1951
Dayton, OH: Dayton Indians 1948-1951
Flint, MI: Flint Arrows 1948-1951
Fort Wayne, IN: Fort Wayne Generals 1948
Grand Rapids, MI: Grand Rapids Jets 1948-1951
Muskegon, MI: Muskegon Clippers 1948, 1950-1951; Muskegon Reds 1949
Saginaw, MI: Saginaw Bears 1948-1950; Saginaw Jacks 1951

Hudson Field, home of the 1948-1951 Dayton Indians

Champions 1948 – 1951:

1948  Dayton Indians (beat Fort Wayne 4-2 in championship series)
1949  Grand Rapids Jets (beat Charleston 4-2 in championship series)
1950  Flint Arrows (beat Muskegon 4-1 in championship series)
1951   Dayton Indians (finished on top of the regular standings as no play offs were held).





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