Louisville Colonels (minor league baseball)
Twentieth century minor league teams
In the 20th century, the Louisville Colonels has been the name of several minor league baseball teams in Louisville. 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 Baltimore and the game drew attendance of 52,833 – 16,265 more than any single World Series game that year. In 1946 the Colonels played a role in the desegregation of baseball when they faced the Montreal Royals and Jackie Robinson in the 1946 Junior World Series. Sadly, Robinson later recalled his appearance in Louisville as among his worst experiences with hostile crowds. Through the 1940s and 1950s the Colonels were part of the Boston Red Sox farm system, and they won the pennant in 1954 but the Red Sox transferred its farm team to San Francisco 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. This last Louisville Colonels team played in the minor league International League through the 1972 season. During this last incarnation, stars 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. Ironically, 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.
The most recent incarnation of the Louisville Colonels is a team in the Men's Senior Baseball League. That league and team celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2011.
Notable former players
- Goody Rosen – Major League Baseball All-Star outfielder
The Colonels were affiliated with the following major league teams:
|1939–55; 1968–72||Boston Red Sox|
- Louisville Bats
- Louisville Grays
- Louisville Redbirds
- Louisville RiverBats
- Toronto Maple Leafs (International League)
- Pawtucket Red Sox
Toronto Maple Leafs
|Boston Red Sox
| Succeeded by|
Pawtucket Red Sox
|Boston Red Sox
| Succeeded by|
San Francisco Seals