Columbus Red Birds

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For the team based in Columbus, Georgia, see Columbus Red Birds (Georgia).
Columbus Red Birds
19311954
Columbus, Ohio
ColumbusRedbirdsCapLogo.PNG
Cap Insignia
Class-level
  • Triple-A (1946-1954)
  • Double-A (1931-1945)
Minor league affiliations
Major league affiliations
Name
  • Columbus Red Birds (1931-1954)
  • Columbus Senators (1888-1931)
Ballpark
Minor league titles
Class titles 1941, 1950,
League titles 1933, 1934, 1937, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1950

The Columbus Red Birds was the name of a top-level minor league baseball team that played in Columbus, Ohio, in the American Association from 1931 through 1954. The Columbus club, a member of the Association continuously since 1902, was previously known as the Columbus Senators — a typical appellation for a team based in a state (or national) capital. It was independently and locally owned through the 1920s.

The economic distress of the Great Depression was accompanied by the rise of the farm system — pioneered by the St. Louis Cardinals' Branch Rickey. The Cardinals purchased minor league teams at all levels to develop their talent as if on an assembly line, and when they needed a second top-level farm club (St. Louis already owned the Rochester Red Wings of the International League), they purchased the struggling Senators club and dubbed it the Red Birds, a popular nickname for the big-league club.

The first business manager of the Red Birds was a baseball novice named Larry MacPhail. A bold promoter, he supervised the building of Redbird Stadium, championed night baseball games, and tried to make baseball more fan-friendly. Attendance tripled between 1930 and 1932. MacPhail left Columbus after a dispute with the Cardinals' ownership, and moved up to Major League Baseball as the general manager of three teams between 1933 and 1947, and earned a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Columbus produced a number of great players, including Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter and Billy Southworth. Slaughter (who batted .382 for the 1937 Red Birds with 245 hits), and won Association titles in 1933, 1934, 1937, 1941–43 and 1950. Southworth managed the 1932 Red Birds. In the early 1950s a series of losing teams, and the encroachment of television, depressed the Red Birds' attendance, and the club moved to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 1955 season and was re-christened the Omaha Cardinals.

Columbus immediately gained a new AAA team when the Ottawa franchise of the International League began playing there in 1955. This club, the Columbus Jets, briefly moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in the 1970s, but then returned to Columbus in 1977 as the Columbus Clippers and was the longtime AAA affiliate (1979–2006) of the New York Yankees, (2007–2008) the Washington Nationals, and in 2009 became the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

Notable Red Birds Alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

From 1936 through 1942, the parent Cardinals also operated the Columbus Red Birds of Columbus, Georgia, in the Class A Sally League. When the Sally League resumed play in 1946 after World War II, the Georgia-based farm club changed its name to the Columbus Cardinals.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, eds., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 3rd edition. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America, 2007.