Northeast League

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Northeast League
Sport Baseball
Founded 1995 (original)
2003 (after de-merger with Northern League
No. of teams 8
Countries  United States
 Canada
Ceased 1999 (merged with Northern League)
2004
Last champion(s) New Jersey Jackals
Most titles New Jersey Jackals (4, 2 if strictly Northeast League titles are counted)

The Northeast League was an independent minor baseball league that operated in the Northeastern United States from 1995 until 1998 and from 2003 until 2004. Between 1999 and 2002, the league was part of the Northern League after the two leagues agreed to merge. The league was superseded by the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball, which its members joined for the 2005 season.

Early history[edit]

In 1995 Miles Wolff, who founded the Northern league and served as its commissioner, started this independent league (his second). For the first season, six teams played and all five were based in southern and central New York. Albany (Albany Diamond Dogs), Glens Falls (Adirondack Lumberjacks), Yonkers (Yonkers Hoot Owls), Newburgh (Newburgh Night Hawks), Little Falls (Mohawk Valley Landsharks) and Mountaindale (Sullivan Mountain Lions) were all given teams and Albany won the first league championship in a 68-game season.[1] The overall title, however, went to Adirondack.

For 1996, things changed slightly. The Mountain Lions were sold to a new ownership group who renamed them the Catskill Cougars and moved them to the North Atlantic League while Mohawk Valley moved to West Warwick, Rhode Island, expanding the league into New England as the team became the Rhode Island Tiger Sharks. To replace the Mountain Lions/Cougars, an expansion team was granted to Elmira, New York to replace the city's affiliated team which moved to Lowell, Massachusetts and took the name Elmira Pioneers as every other professional team that called Elmira home since 1923. Yonkers was also folded and the league expanded into Maine with the Bangor Blue Ox taking their place.[2] Albany won the league title again.[3]

In 1997 the league expanded to eight teams and switched to a two-division format. Newburgh and Rhode Island folded after the 1996 season. As the result of the disbanding of the North Atlantic League Catskill rejoined the Northeast League and the Lynn, Massachusetts-based Massachusetts Mad Dogs followed them. Meanwhile, the league expanded into Waterbury, Connecticut and Allentown, Pennsylvania with the Waterbury Spirit and Allentown Ambassadors. The league was won by the Elmira Pioneers.[4]

For 1998, the Diamond Dogs added the name of their actual home town, Colonie, to their name and became known as the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs. Bangor's team folded and the team's place was taken by the expansion New Jersey Jackals, who played in a then-unfinished Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, New Jersey on the campus of Montclair State University. The new franchise won the Northeast League championship in their first season.

After the season, prior to the merger with the Northern League, the Catskill franchise again folded. The Cougars would return as a member of the Northern League East in 2000 but would not last beyond that season.

After the merger[edit]

After the four-year merger, the Northeast League returned to its status as a separate entity following the 2002 season. In that time, Northeast League teams won all four league titles as the Diamond Dogs, Lumberjacks, and Jackals defeated their Northern League opponents. The league returned to play in 2003 with eight teams. The Jackals, Ambassadors, Pioneers, and Lumberjacks came back as they were, with the exception of the Lumberjacks having moved to Maine. The Massachusetts and Waterbury franchises, after going dormant for several years, returned to the league with new owners and new locations. The Mad Dogs' charter was sold to Jonathan Fleisig, who moved the team to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and renamed them the Berkshire Black Bears. Meanwhile, the charter of the Spirit was bought by Nicholas Lopardo, who moved the team into the Mad Dogs' old home of Fraser Field in Lynn, Massachusetts and renamed them the North Shore Spirit. The new league was rounded out by a pair of Northern League expansion franchises, Les Capitales de Quebec (1999) and the Brockton Rox (2002).[5]

After the Rox won the 2003 league title, Berkshire moved to New Haven, Connecticut as the New Haven County Cutters while Allentown folded and were replaced by a traveling team, the Northeast League Aces. The 2004 season, proving to be the final Northeast League season, New Jersey defeated North Shore in the league championship series. New Jersey, Brockton, North Shore, New Haven, Quebec, and Elmira became part of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball (or Can-Am League) along with an expansion franchise in Worcester, Massachusetts and a traveling team formed when Bangor's charter for the new league was rescinded.

Today[edit]

As of the start of the 2012 season, only four of the Northeast League's teams are still in existence. North Shore and New Haven have since folded, along with Bangor as noted, and Elmira and Brockton have since moved to play in collegiate summer leagues. New Jersey and Quebec still play in the Can-Am League, and Les Capitales have won five league championships.

League champions[edit]

Champions of the Northeast League, 1995–98

Champions of the Northern League[6]

Champions of the Northeast League, 2003–2004

References[edit]