Minor League history: Colonial League

The Colonial League had two runs. One in 1914 and 1915 and one from 1947 through mid-July 1950.

The first run was unique as the Colonial League served as a kind of affiliated league for the outlawed Federal League in 1915, after the league started in 1914 as organized class C league in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The league played in the territory that was owned by the New England League. But where the New England League left some places because of low attendance, the Colonial League jumped in and introduced Sunday baseball the make the league financially viable.

Cities represented:

Brockton, MA: Brockton Shoemakers 1914; Brockton Pilgrims 1915
Fall River, MA: Fall River Spindles 1914-1915
Hartford, CT: Hartford Senators 1915
New Bedford, MA: New Bedford Whalers 1914-1915
New Haven, CT: New Haven MaxFeds 1915
Pawtucket, RI: Pawtucket Tigers 1914; Pawtucket Rovers 1915
Springfield, MA: Springfield Tips 1915
Taunton, MA: Taunton Herrings 1914-1915
Woonsocket, RI: Woonsocket Speeders 1914

The 1914 Colonial league was rather unique as it payed all expenses and pooled all receipts from one office. The league also cut the costs as the teams traveled by interurban transportation. In this way the teams could be home near midnight and saved on hotel costs and food.  Nobody knew that the league had a secret benefactor in Robert B. Ward. But the press credited the general director of the league, Alexander W. Barnart

The future of the league would be shaped in Chicago on November 18, 1914. The Federal League decided that the rosters would be brought to just 20 players to save costs. This was quite a problem for the teams that had  about 30-40 players on their roster and in whom they had invested. Early 1915, the Federal League signed a deal with the Colonial League to place the redundant players in the Colonial League. Each team would be financed locally and would have six Federal League players on their roster. The Colonial League teams would pay $200 for the salary of each player to the Federal League. If the salary of the player exceeded the $200, the Federal League would pay the rest of the amount.
Woonsocket was cut loose and the Colonial league added three new franchises: Hartford and New Haven in Connecticut and Springfield in Massachusetts.

One day after the start of the season, the Central League informed the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, that it decided to withdraw from organized baseball. It was the only possible solution as much of the funding came from the Federal League. The Federal League and the Colonial League were ahead of their time as the Feds used the Colonials as the Major League uses the Minor Leagues nowadays. It would take a little more than ten years before the St. Louis Cardinals’ Branch Rickey would build the farm system that we know now.

The new structure of the Colonial League cost a lot of money. Even this much that the league was in financial trouble halfway the season. The Federal League came up with $10,000 to ease the pain. But the clubs that did not draw well, Fall River and Taunton, were pulled and the Pawtucktet Rovers would play the remainder of the season on the road because of the bad attendance, which earned them the nickname Orphans. It was remarkable that the Fall River Spindels didn’t draw well after they won the championship in he previous year. The best players of the disbanded teams would be distributed among the remaining six clubs.

The championship was decided on the final day of the season. Hartford, Brockton and New Bedford were still in the race for the championship. Hartford faced fourth place New Haven on the final day. Hartford had a 4-3 lead after the eighth inning but the game was called due to darkness and Hartford won the championship by .003 percentage of a point eventhough Brockton and New Bedford had won more games.

But new developments in the Federal League would signal the end of the Colonial League. Most of the owners of Federal League clubs would be bought out by the owners of the American League and the National League. The owner of the St. Louis Terriers was allowed to buy the St. Louis Browns in the American League and the owner of the Chicago Whales was allowed to buy the Cubs. With the Federal League out of business, the Colonial League was without funding partner and had no right of existence anymore.

1947 – 1950

In the booming period of Minor League Baseball (the late 1940s and early 1950s)  a new edition of the Colonial League was founded.
The league started in 1947 and had teams in the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It operated as a class B league and contained six teams.

Cities represented:

Bridgeport, CT: Bridgeport Bees 1947-1950
Bristol, CT: Bristol Owls 1949-1950
Kingston, NY: Kingston Hubs 1948; Kingston Colonials 1949-1950
New Brunswick, NJ: New Brunswick Hubs 1948
New London, CT: New London Raiders 1947
Port Chester, NY: Port Chester Clippers 1947-1948
Poughkeepsie, NY: Poughkeepsie Giants 1947; Poughkeepsie Chiefs 1948-1950
Stamford, CT: Stamford Bombers 1947; Stamford Pioneers 1948-1949
Torrington, CT: Torrington Braves 1950
Waterbury, CT: Waterbury Timers 1947-1950
The league operated in an area with five Major League Clubs and several other established minor leagues like the International League, the Eastern League and the Canadian-American League.


1947 Stamford Bombers
1948 Port Chester Clippers
1949 Bristol Owls

In the late 1940s various minor leagues started to contract and the Colonial League could not be saved from the same fate. The Colonial League did not draw very well and perhaps that an affiliation with the Major League could have saved the league, but it folded halfway the 1950 season. Only two clubs had managed to affiliate with an MLB club: the Port Chester Clippers affiliated with the St. Louis Browns and the Bridgeport Bees affiliated with the Washington Senators, both in 1948).



2 Replies to “Minor League history: Colonial League”

  1. Contrary to what you have written, people certainly knew about Ward as a benefactor of the league. He was in the Hartford Courant as attending Colonial League meetings in May of 1915.


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