Kentucky Colonels Baseball
The Louisville Colonels (also known nationally as the Kentucky Colonels) are an American Baseball Team that was started by a Kentucky Colonel.
The Louisville Colonels were a Major League Baseball team that also played in the American Association (AA) throughout that league's ten-year existence from 1882 until 1891. They were known as the Louisville Eclipse from 1882 to 1884, and as the Louisville Colonels from 1885 to 1891; the latter name derived from the historic title of the Kentucky Colonel. After the AA folded in 1891, the Colonels joined the National League and played through the 1899 season.
"Colonels" was also the name of several minor league baseball teams that played in Kentucky. Louisville Colonels Minor League Baseball teams played in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1901 to 1962 and 1968 to 1972. The name, like that of the 19th century Major League team of that name, is derived from the historic Kentucky colonels.
Both terms "Colonels" and "Kentucky Colonels" serve as a name for a number of Little League teams and University baseball teams today.
Background on the Louisville Colonels
In the 20th century, several Minor League Baseball teams in Louisville, Kentucky, have been known as the Louisville Colonels. In 1909, the Colonels won the American Association pennant, as they also did in 1921, 1925, 1926, and 1930 while featuring players such as Joe McCarthy, Billy Herman, and Earle Combs; Combs hit .344 in 1923 and .380 in 1924 before joining the New York Yankees in 1925. Pee Wee Reese was a rookie with the 1938 Colonels. The Colonels were one of few minor league teams to play throughout World War II, and they won pennants in 1944 and 1945. In 1944, the Colonels played in the Junior World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, and the game drew an attendance of 52,833 — 16,265 more than any single World Series game that year. Through the 1940s and 1950s, the Colonels were part of the Boston Red Sox farm system, and they won the pennant in 1954. The Red Sox transferred its affiliation to the San Francisco Seals after the 1955 season.
Starting in 1956, the Colonels were affiliated with the Washington Senators. They moved to Fairgrounds Stadium in 1957. In 1959, the Colonels became affiliated with the Milwaukee Braves. They won (in 1960, with pitcher Phil Niekro) one of three appearances in the Junior World Series in that time, but in 1962 the American Association folded.
In October 1967, Walter J. Dilbeck purchased the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League and moved them to Louisville, renaming them the Colonels. They played in the International League through the 1972 season. During this stretch, players included Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant, and Cecil Cooper. The franchise had to move when the Kentucky State Fair Board announced that Fairgrounds Stadium would be renovated for football in a manner that would make it unsuitable for baseball. The team relocated to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and became known as the Pawtucket Red Sox. Baseball returned to Louisville when the same stadium was renovated for baseball in 1981 and the Springfield Redbirds came to Louisville as the Louisville Redbirds, later called the Louisville Bats, setting minor league attendance records and outdrawing several major league teams.