Senior Professional Baseball Association
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|No. of teams||10|
|Last champion(s)||St. Petersburg Pelicans|
The Senior Professional Baseball Association was a winter baseball league based in Florida for players age 35 and over (with a minimum age of 32 for catchers). The league began play in 1989 and had eight teams in two divisions and a 72 game schedule. Pitchers Rollie Fingers, Ferguson Jenkins (both future Hall of Famers), and Vida Blue, outfielder Dave Kingman, and manager Earl Weaver were the league's marquee names, and former big league outfielder Curt Flood was the circuit's first Commissioner. At age 54, Ed Rakow was the league's oldest player. Former strikeout king J.R. Richard was drafted by the league but cut in preseason.
Throughout the inaugural season, most clubs struggled with poor attendance. On the field, the West Palm Beach Tropics ran away with the league's South Division, finishing 15 games ahead of the second place Fort Myers Sun Sox. In the North, the St. Petersburg Pelicans finished in first, and the Bradenton Explorers were second, narrowly holding off the Orlando Juice. Infielder Ron Washington of West Palm Beach was the league's big offensive star, hitting .359 with a league leading 73 RBIs. Washington's teammate Mickey Rivers hit .366, and Gold Coast Sun Bert Campaneris, the oldest everyday player in the league at 47, stole 16 bases. Bradenton's Jim Morrison hit .290 with 55 RBIs and led the league with 17 homers. Tim Ireland of Fort Myers hit a league best .374, and his teammate Kim Allen paced the circuit with 33 stolen bases. Willie Aikens hit 12 home runs and had 58 RBIs. West Palm Beach pitcher Juan Eichelberger went 11-5 with a 2.90 ERA, and St. Petersburg's Milt Wilcox went 12-3. Jon Matlack, Tim Stoddard, and Pete Falcone each won 10 games. Bradenton's Rick Lysander saved 11 games, and Winter Haven's Bill Campbell notched 5 saves to go along with a 2.12 ERA. Joaquín Andújar of Gold Coast had 5 wins and an ERA of 1.31.
In the first weekend of February 1990, the league's top four teams participated in a three game, single elimination tournament with a rather unusual format. On February 2, the league's second place clubs faced off. The Explorers defeated the Sun Sox for a chance to face the St. Petersburg Pelicans. The next day, the Pelicans beat the Explorers 9-2 to advance to the league championship game against the West Palm Beach Tropics. On February 4, 1990, the Pelicans, powered by Lamar Johnson's home run and 3 RBIs, beat the Tropics 12-4 for the league's first championship.
- St. Petersburg Pelicans (42-30, 1st Place)
- Bradenton Explorers (38-34, 2nd Place)
- Orlando Juice (3rd Place)
- Winter Haven Super Sox (4th Place)
- West Palm Beach Tropics (52-20, 1st Place)
- Fort Myers Sun Sox (37-35, 2nd Place)
For its second season, four of the league's eight teams (Gold Coast, Orlando, St. Lucie, and Winter Haven) folded, the West Palm Beach Tropics became a traveling team known as the Florida Tropics and the Bradenton Explorers relocated to Daytona Beach, becoming the Daytona Beach Explorers. The circuit added clubs in Arizona (the Sun City Rays) and California (the San Bernardino Pride). They also dropped the minimum age to 34 and shortened the season to 56 games. Less than halfway through its second season, the league folded on December 26, 1990.
- St. Petersburg Pelicans (15-8)
- Sun City Rays (13-9)
- San Bernardino Pride (13-12)
- Daytona Beach Explorers (11-12)
- Fort Myers Sun Sox (11-14)
- Florida Tropics (7-15)
At least five of the circuit's players (Ron Washington, Joaquín Andújar, Paul Mirabella, Danny Boone, and Ozzie Virgil, Jr.) signed major league contracts after playing in the Senior League, and at least three (Mirabella, Boone, and Virgil) played in the big leagues after their Senior League appearances.