Minor League history: Eastern Illinois League

The Eastern Illinois League saw light in 1907. The league would last for two seasons and operated as a class D league. In the first year Charles Welvert started the season as league president but L.A.G. Shoaff shared took over halfway in the season. Shoaff would be sole president in 1908. He was also team executive of the Paris Parisians. The Mattoon Giants won the pennant in the 1907 season with a four game lead in the standings over the Charleston Broom Corn Cutters. In 1908, the Danville  / Staunton Speakers finished on top of the standings, even after the team moved to Daunton for the second half of the season.

Cities represented:

Centralia, IL: Centralia White Stockings 1907
Charleston, IL: Charleston Broom Corn Cutters 1907; Charleston Evangelists 1908
Danville, IL: Danville Speakers 1908
Linton, IN: Linton 1908
Mattoon, IL: Mattoon Giants 1907-1908
Pana, IL: Pana Coal Miners 1907-1908
Paris, IL: Paris Colts 1907; Paris Parisians 1908
Shelbyville, IL: Shelbyville Queen Citys 1907-1908
Staunton, IL: Staunton 1908
Taylorville, IL: Taylorville Tailors 1907-1908
Vincennes, IN: Vincennes Alices 1908

In 1907 only the Centralia White Stockings moved to Paris after only 33 games (6-27). The owners of an independent team in Paris, purchased the struggling franchise from Centralia and opted to fill the roster with the players of the independent team. The team was named the Colts and the team even had a winning record of 44-41 but it was not enough to finish the season with a winning record. The next year the team would be called the Parisians.

Grover Lowdermilk

As written above, the Mattoon Giants won the pennant in 1907.Their driving force was
pitcher Grover Lowdermilk, who posted a 33-10 record with a 0.93 ERA. He was one of the few players from the EIL that made it to the Bigs. He played nine years in the Majors and played for several teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.

The 1908 season was an unstable one. On July 17, two teams moved to another town. As mentioned before, Danville moved to Staunton finished on top of the standings. The Pana Coal Miners moved to Linton. On July 30, the Charleston Evangelists and the Mattoon Giants disbanded. Eventually the Shelbyville Queen Cities disbanded on August 20, which caused the disbanding of the league.

The Paris Parisians were named in the Sporting Life magazine as the team played an eighteen inning game vs the Danville Speakers. Despite the eighteen innings, the game ended in a tie. According to the book “Baseball’s Longest Games: A Comprehensive Worldwide Record Book”, another game played in the 1908 Eastern Illinois League ended up in the record books: On July 18, the Charleston Evangelists beat the Vincennes Alices 4-3 in 21 innings.

In the 1930s another league with the name Eastern Illinois League started to play. But that was an amateur league that still exists today.

William Ashley Sunday

A former pitcher of the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe “Wagon Tongue” Adams, who appeared in just one game for the Cards, was the driving force behind the Eastern Illinois League. Adams managed the Pana Coal Miners.

During the first year the league was rather successful thanks to Sunday games and the sale of liquor. But in 1908, a former Major League player, William Ashley Sunday (who had turned evangelist) rallied against the sale of liquor. In a vote in April, the sale of liquor was forbidden in six of the eight EIL towns. If that wasn’t enough, Sunday started to rally against Sunday games. Nevertheless some Sunday games were played but the attendance went down, which eventually led to the downfall of the league.

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