Minor League Franchise Continuity

If you explore MWLguide.com, you’ll discover that I’ve devoted quite a bit of digital ink to tracking franchise moves. Specifically, every Cities page shows predecessor and successor franchises, and the History pages include charts which explicitly track those changes. It’s easy to take this stuff too seriously, and I occasionally consider deleting it.

On October 10, someone (identified as 192.251.56.254) made several edits to the Wikipedia page devoted to the Great Lakes Loons, a minor league baseball team located in Midland, Michigan. The explanatory note–it reads "07 update"–disguises several revisions to the team history sidebar; in essence, the editor deleted all references in that column to the team’s predecessor franchises. This undid a bunch of changes user Spammeraol had made on August 20 with the explanation "The team was not founded in 2007, they moved and were renamed, the article traces there [sic] history before that." In my opinion, the recent edit is correct, though there’s certainly room for debate.

Edit 12/19/07: I see that the “history” has been restored….


Consider:

From The Sporting News, September 5, 1956 (page 37–mentioned in my previous post):

Paul Friz, who owned the former Terre Haute franchise in the Three-I League, was reported interested in bidding for a berth in the Midwest League next season. Friz headed a delegation of 50 fans from Terre Haute who attended the Mattoon-Paris game, August 25.

And this from TSN of November 27, 1957 (page 51):

The Mattoon Athletic Association has notified President Clarence Hoffman of the Midwest League that it will not operate a club in 1958. Mattoon was the remaining charter member of the league, which was organized in 1947. President Rodger W. Hayes said the decision to withdraw was made with regret.

And on February 26, 1958 (page 29)

[T]he Midwest [League] ([Class] D), which had lost Mattoon, faced the possibility that Lafayette also might drop out of the circuit. President C.C. (Dutch) Hoffman said three former Three-I League (Class A [sic!]) cities–Quincy, Keokuk, and Terre Haute–were hopes to fill any vacancies in the circuit. If none qualify, the Midwest is ready to operate with six clubs, Hoffman said.

Finally, we find this on April 23 (page 33):

The Midwest granted franchises to Waterloo and Keokuk at a meeting at Peoria, Ill. Both Iowa cities formerly were in the Three-I League. Keokuk took the place of Mattoon, while Waterloo was a last-minute replacement for Lafayette. Terre Haute originally had been lined up for the berth, but was unable to follow through with its plans.

Because of the late organization, [the league] delayed their season opening…

The Midwest will play a 126-game split-season, opening on May 4….

All TSN quotes courtesy of Paper of Record.


The Midwest League’s franchise shifts often look too much like this. And we’re not just discussing the (relatively) distant past; the 1992-93 off-season was marred by very similar chaos. This isn’t continuity; it’s improvisation in the face of a crisis. Worrying unduly about franchise succession is an attempt to impose order where the objective reality is disorder.

Perhaps more important, few fans have any interest in this notion of franchise continuity. At the ballpark, the continuity documented in the yearbooks is local; Fort Wayne’s historians document the Daisies, not the Kenosha or Wisconsin Rapids Twins (and certainly not Mattoon!). And Dayton’s fans are far more interested in Jesse Haines than anything that happened in Rockford. This disinterest is reflected in all the other Wikipedia articles on Midwest League towns, none of which pay significant attention to predecessors or successors. At the Wikipedia level, only the Burlington Bees article shows prior history–and that’s a different kind of continuity, with what’s clearly the same team in other leagues.

I have some personal experience with this: I was a season ticket holder in Battle Creek. That’s given me no emotional stake in the successor franchise, Great Lakes, and I rooted against the Springfield and Madison predecessor franchises when they actually existed. I’ve now transferred my loyalties mostly to the Lugnuts, and I root against the Loons.

This is not a claim that these issues have no meaning; as I noted at the top of the page, I’ve devoted considerable effort to documenting the changes. But it’s important only at the league level. Predecessors may merit occasional mentions in team publications, particularly when the franchise is new, but absolutely no one invests any effort in preserving the continuities. Or the Whitecaps’ record book would include Madison’s best players, Kane County would claim Wausau’s won/lost record, and Dayton’s total attendance would include Rockford’s. Not gonna happen, folks.


Just to further confuse things, a note about the supposed history which was deleted from the Wikipedia Loons page: That "history" traces the Midland franchise back to the 1982 Springfield Cardinals. That 1982 team was a Midwest League expansion franchise, but it had a prior history. Springfield had a team in the American Association in 1981. While the Redbirds franchise moved to Louisville for 1982, it’s not unreasonable to count the MWL team as its continuation; it’s certainly how the Springfield fans viewed the situation. To the Loons fans, it’s not particularly important.

Revision History:

  1. Thanks for the citations—best
    Bob Huggins
    President & CEO
    PaperofRecord.com

  2. Bob:

    You’re welcome. I’m on your site several times each week; it’s quite valuable.

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