The independent leagues are the fringes of professional baseball,
the teams are made up of players who have spent some time in the
minor leagues. Most players have been released, or were never
considered good enough to sign in the first place. It the place
for dreamers, hangers-on and guys to muster one last hurrah.
But many have used the independent leagues as a place to display
their talents to the scouts before moving on to the affiliated minor leagues.
The pre-eminent and most successful of the independent
leagues, founded in 1993 by former Durhan Bulls owner and president of
Baseball America, Miles Wolf. The Northern League was a runaway success thanks to its swashbuckling atmoshere, savvy owners and presence of a many ex major leaguers such as Daryl Stawberry, Jack Morris, Glenn Davis, Pedro Guerrero, Leon Durham and (1997 College Player of the Year) J.D. Drew. The six team league expanded to eight in 1996 with the addition of the Madison Black Wolf and the Fargo- Moorhead RedHawks. The Northern League and Northeast League have merged in 1999.
GAMES: 86 (split-season) ROSTER LIMIT: 22. ELIGIBILITY RULES: Minimum of five first-year players;
maximum of four veterns (at least four years of professional experience).
Salary Range: $700-2500 a month
Affiliated competition level: California League
Players to Affiliated Baseball: 180.
Former Major Leaguers: 61 ( Jack Morris, Esteban Beltre, Greg Briley,
John Dettmer, George Glinatsis, Lee Guetterman, Steve Howe, Larry See,
Danny Perez, Dwight Smith, Matt Turner, Randy Tomlin,
Paul Carey,Steve Hosey, Juan Nieves, Bernardo Brito, Gerald Young,
Eric Yelding, Kim Batiste,Angel Miranda,
Glen Davis, Daryl Stawberry, Blaise Ilsler,
Pedro Guerrero, Terry Lee, Oil Can Boyd, Daryl Motley,Brian Traxler,
Jeff Bittiger, Ozzie Canseco, and Leon Durham)
Future Major Leaguers: Mike Cather, Doug Dascenzo, Jeff Grotewald, J.D. Drew
Ken Grundt, Mike Mimbs, Rey Ordonez,Kevin Millar, Dan Peltier, and Daryl Strawberry
NORTHERN LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1993: 651,452 (6)
1994: 910,931 (6)
1995: 888,580 (6)
1996: 1,052,818 (8)
1997: 1,027,513 (8)
Formed Bud Harrelson and Frank Boulton the Atlantic
League finally opened in 1998 after being pushed back twice since 1996.
The Atlantic League has been successful in attracting alot of experienced
minor league baseball personel in the front office, owners and
financial investment. The Atlantic League has decided to go after six-year free agents
and players released from Double-A and Triple-A. Boulton said the league
will try to meet Triple-A playing standards with 5,000 to 7,500-seat stadiums
and $70,000,000 has been allociated to new stadium construction in
Atlantic City,NJ; Bridgeport,CT; Lehigh,PA; Long Island,NY; Newark,NJ;
and Somerset County,NJ.
Former Major Leaguers: 41 (Brian Giles,David Huse, Felix Jose,
Gerald Young, Terry Mc Griff,
Milt Cuyler,Craig Worthington,Luis Aquino,
Matt Murray ,
Dave Fleming ,
Danny Perez ,
Francisco Oliveras, Mario Diaz
and Joe Grahe).
Future Major Leaguers: Milt Cuyler
Atlantic League Attendance 1998:611,677 (6)
Opened in 1995 with teams in Bend,OR; Gray Habor,WA;
Surrey,B.C.; Tri-City,WA; Long Beach,CA; Palm Springs,CA; Salinas,CA; and
Sonoma County, CA. The Long Beach team had to file for bankruptcy in
the middle of the season , but the team was sold to a group of new owners
including Heather Locklear and made a strong rebound on the field and the gate
to take home the Western League title. Cuban Defector Ariel Prieto pitched in
the Western League before becoming a 1st round draft pick of the
Oakland A's and going straight to the Major Leagues. The expansion Chico Heat
set league records for attendance in 1997 and won the Western League title.
The Grays Harbor Gulls ownership have suspended operations during the 1998
season,citing financial difficulties. The Western League has taken over
and the team should finish out the season.
Former Major Leaguers: 12 ( Bob Ayrault, Bret Barberie, Mike Hartley,
Mike York, Jeremy Hernandez, Nelson Simmons, Freddie Toliver
Steve Hosey, Charlie Kerfeld, Rafael Novoa,
Jeremy Hernandez,Nelson Simmons,Freddie Toliver,
and Wally Ritchie).
Future Major Leaguers: Ariel Prieto
GAMES: 90. ROSTER: 22. ELIGIBILITY RULES: Maximum 6 veterns-(players with four
or more years of professional experience. Minimum 5 Rookies-( players with no professional experience)
SALARY RANGE:$700-2000 a month
Affiliated competition level: Midwest league
WESTERN LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1995: 549,399 (8)
1996: 483,259 (8)
1997: 617,684 (8)
1998: 481,521 (6)
opened in 1995 with entries in Albany, Glens Falls,
Mountaindale, Newburgh, Yonkers, and Little Falls,all the teams in
New York State. In 1996 the league moved franchises into Bangor, Maine
and West Warwick,
Rhode Island. The 1997 season brought tremendous growth to the Northeast League
with the addition of the Massachusetts Mad Dogs and the Catskill Coougars from the
North Atlantic League and moved the West Warwick and Newburgh franchises into
Waterbury, Ct. and Allentown, PA. The Elmira Pioneers took home the championship and
over 400,000 fans passed through the Northeast League turnstiles. The Northeast League has joined the Northern League
Affiliated competition level: South Atlantic League
Players to Affiliated Baseball: 75
Former Major Leaguers: 11 (Bob Zupcic, Kerwin Moore,Frank Euphemia,
Floyd Youmans, John Cerutii, Hipolito Pena, Tony Mitchell, Ravelo Manzanillo
Denis Boucher, George Tsamis,
Doug Piatt, Les Lancaster, Jarvis Brown, Andy Carter, Jeff Mutis, Dave LaPoint and Dennis
"Oil Can" Boyd)
NORTHEAST LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1995: 185,471 (6)
1996: 240,116 (6)
1997: 432,910 (8)
Opened in 1994 by two Texas businessmen Byron
Pierce and John Bryant and touted a number of former big leaguers managing
and playing. The league owned all of the franchises. The first season was
successful except in San Antonia, TX were they faced stiff competition for fans
from the Class AA Los Angeles Dodgers Affiliate. The league decided to expand into
Pueblo, CO and Laredo, TX but the franchises never developed a fan base and were shut
down in the middle of the 1995 season. In 1998, the Texas-Louisana League will field
seven teams, including new franchises in Lafayette, LA and a non-league owned
team in Greenville, Miss.
Former Major Leaguers:39
Future Major Leaguers: (Al Osuna,Frank Bolick, Todd Rizzo)
TEXAS-LOUISIANA LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1994: 600,000 (8)
1995: 680,725 (10)
1996: 502,305 (6)
1997: 479,350 (6)
Founded in 1993 mostly in the Ohio Valley the league
it's first season with the Ashland and Wayne County franchises folding
during the season. The league played a 68 game schedule for players 18-24 years
old with no more than one year professional experience, but was mostly made up
of undrafted college players.
The Frontier League founder Bud Bicknel was ousted by the
remaining team owners and later settled a lawsuit with the owners. Since then
the Frontier League
has experienced temendendous jump in popularity after moving franchises into
Evansville,IN; Kalamazoo,MI Canton,OH; Johnstown,PA; Springfield,IL; and
Only the Ohio Valley Redcoats and Chillicothe Paints were charter members
of the Frontier League. The Frontier League has devoloped a niche for
young undrafted players and in 1996 experienced a tremendous jump in the caliber
of competition mainly through allowing 3 veterns to participate. The Frontier League added
three teams for 1999 with the River City Rascals and the Dubois Red Dragons, Cook County Cheetahs former
of the Heartland League. The Ohio Valley Redcoats interest in the Frontier League have been sold to
a 20 person ownership group in Huntingburg, Indiana. The new owners are moving
the team there and calling them
Future Major Leaguers: Morgan Burkhart, Brian Tollberg
GAMES: 80 (spilt-season) ROSTER LIMIT: 22-24 ELIGIBILITY RULES: No
player may be 27 before June 1, 1998. Maximum of three players with unlimited
experience. Maximum of eight players with one year experience. League classifies
one year experience as 50 innings pitched or 100 at bats. Minimum of 11 first
SALARY RANGE: $550-1100 a month
Affiliated competition level: Appalachian League
FRONTIER LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1993: 80,000 (8)
1994: 216,228 (8)
1995: 316,800 (8)
1996: 417,619 (8)
1997: 446,401 (8)
1998: 428,138 (8)
DEFUNCT INDEPENDENT LEAGUES
The Heartland league was formed in 1996 with Lafayette
and Anderson as the league nucleus and they were joined by Will County, IL and
Dubois County, IN. The league played a 60 game schedule with Lafayette
taking the championship. In 1997, the league expanded to eight teams with three
teams joining from the Big South League and one team from North Atlantic League.
The Tupelo Tornado and Huntington Rail Kings have suspend operations during the 1998 season and the Heartland League
is once again plauged by low attendance. The Heatland League suspended operations
after the Cook County Cheetahs jumped to the Frontier League.
GREAT CENTRAL LEAGUE : opened in 1994 in Minneapolis, Mason City, Iowa;
Champaign-Urbana,Ill; and Lafayette, IN. The troubles began shortly after mid-season in the
72 game schedule, when various players stopped getting paid. Some players and coaches stuck
around and tried to play out the season anyways, selling T-shirts and taking donations of food
and money to keep the league aflot. But the bills began to mount and League President
Richard Jacobson who owned all four teams decided to call it quits in August.
GOLDEN STATE LEAGUE: The league spent a good deal of time planning the league, but was not able to
raise sufficient capital nor were they able to draw the crowds they had projected. The Golden State League
also had the additional finacial burden of trying to upgrade the high school
facilties it planned to play on. The league reduced the projected teams
from 8 to 6 then 4 and losts
a major investor before the season started. The league opened in June 1995, but lasted only a week.
ATLANTIC COAST LEAGUE: opened during the month of June 1995 in Gastonia, NC;
Spartanburg,SC,Greenwood, SC and Florence, SC. The League President Patrick Gaffney
said the league needed to draw 800 fans a game to break even and never came close.
Players started to leave the league when their checks started bouncing.
The Atlantic Coast League suspend operations after three weeks citing
expenses, attendance, bad weather and mounting losses of $50,000 a week.
NORTH CENTRAL LEAGUE: opened in 1994 and founded by George Vedder after
he had a falling out with the league officials of the Northern League and decided
to create his own league. By the end of 1994, two teams Marshal amd Huron had
folded, while three others had jumped to the new Praire League. With hastily
assembled replacements, the league was never able to keep up with expenses
and it folded in mid July 1995 with a trail of bounced checks and huge sums owed to
players and managers.
NORTH CENTRAL LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1994: 176,318 (6)
MID AMERICAN LEAGUE: Opened in 1995 and had many of the same principals of the
Great Central League including Richard Jacobsen who owned one of the franchises.
The 4 team league was plauged by low attendance and only three teams finished
without any playoffs.
MID- AMERICAN LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1995: 43,998 (4)
: The league opened in 1995 with four teams in Wellend,
Ontario; Newark, NY; Niagara Nalls, NY and Nashua, NH. The NABL was hampered by low
attendance the first year drawing less than 50,000 fans for all four teams.
Things improved in 1996 with strong franchises in Lynn, Altoona, and Catskill.
But massive problems existed in Wellend with the team averaging less than 200
fans a game
and the Nashua franchise folded in August, after pilling up massive debts to
the city and players.
The Catskill Cougars and Massachusetts Mad Dogs left for the Northeast League.
With two other franchises folding, the Altoona Rail Kings jumped to the
Heartland League. With just the Newark team remaining league president Edward
Broidy suspended operations in 1997.
NORTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1995: 59,395 (4)
1996: 146,429 (6)
BIG SOUTH LEAGUE: opened in 1996 with a strong showing in Tennesse drawing 57,000
fans and the remaining 5 teams averaging 31,000 fans. In 1997 the Clarksville
Coyotes; Tennessee Tomahawks and Columbia Mules all jumped to the Heartland League.
The league struggled to put four teams on the field in 1997 with just the
and Greenville frachises returning. The Tullahoma
had to be taken over by the league and play all its games on the road.
BIG SOUTH LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1996: 237,166 (6)
1997: 75,546 (4)
: Opened in eight cities in 1995 spanning South Dakota,
Manitoba, and Saskatchewan with three teams coming over from the North Central League.
The Canadian Division was composed of the
Brandon Grey Owls, Moose Jaw Diamond Dogs, Regina Cyclones, and Saskatoon Riot.
The American Division was composed of the Aberdeen Pheasants, Dakota Rattlers, Minneapolis
Loons, and Minot Mallards. Regina defeated Aberdeen to take home the first
Prairie League Championship.
The 1996 season brought 3 more teams into the Prairie League with the
addition of the Green Bay Sultans, Grand Forks Varmits and the Brainerd Bobcats.
The Minneapolis Loons relocated to Austin Minnesota and were renamed the Southern
Minny Stars. The Brainerd Bobcats were shut down after two weeks after not being able to pay it's
bills. The Minot Mallards defeated the Grand Fork Varmits in four games to take
The 1997 season opened the season with eight teams , but had massive
troubles throughout the season. The Moose Jaw Diamond Dogs suspended operations after
the players refused to go on a ten day road trip after not being paid. The Aberdeen Pheasants
were shut down for two days by the league for failure to pay the leagues annual dues
of $15,000. Bills started to pill up with the umpires not getting paid and
checks starting to bounce. With the Prairie League $27,000 in debt and several
franchises owning much more locally, League President Dave Ferguson decided to
PRAIRIE LEAGUE ATTENDANCE
1995: 320,131 (8)
1996: 313,490 (11)
1997: 213,831 (8)
STRANGE BUT TRUE INDEPENDENT STORIES:
The St. Paul Saints going head to head with the Minnesota Twins have often drawn greater attendance.
Atlanta Braves reliever Kerry Lightenberg contract was purchased from the
Minneaplois Loons (Praire League) for 6 dozen bats and two dozen baseballs.
North Atlantic League president Edward Broidy ordered teams to return
broken bats as defective merchadise.
Andre Keene (Big South League)was traded for cash and a Muddy Waters album.
Pedro Guerrero (Northern League) flew to all his games while the rest of the team took the bus.
Ruben Davila (Texas-LA League) while out on bond for conspiracy
to transport 350 pounds of Marijuana pitched for Corpus Christi (0-0, 6.75
Pacific Suns (Western League) Pitcher Ken Krahenbuhl was
traded to the Texas Lousiana League Greensville Bluesman for cash, an
un-named future player, and 10 pounds of catfish.
BEST RECORD OF THE INDEPENDENT LEAGUES
Aberdeen Pheasants (Prairie League 1995) 56-13 (.812)
Ohio Valley Redcoats (Frontier League 1994) 50-17 (.746)
Albany Diamond Dogs (Northeast League 1995)52-18 (.743)
Mass. Mad Dogs (North Atlantic League 1996)56-21 (.718)
Aberdeen Pheasants (Prairie League 1996)54-24 (.692)
WORST RECORD OF THE INDEPENDENT LEAGUES
Tennessee Walkers (Big South League 1996) 8-52 (.113)
Yonkers Hoot Owls (Northeast League 1995) 12-52 (.188)
Rhode Island Tigersharks (Northeast League 1996) 19-60 (.241)
Duluth-Superior Dukes (Northern League 1994) 19-60 (.240)
Catskill Cougars (Northeast League 1997) 21-62 (.253)