Pacific Coast League

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Pacific Coast League
Pacific coast league.png
Pacific Coast League logo
Sport Baseball
Founded 1903
President Branch B. Rickey
No. of teams 16
Country United States
Most recent
champion(s)
Memphis Redbirds (2017)
Most titles San Francisco Seals (14)
Classification Triple-A
Official website www.pclbaseball.com

The Pacific Coast League (PCL) is a Minor League Baseball league operating in the Western, Midwestern, and Southeastern United States. Along with the International League and the Mexican League, it is one of three leagues playing at the Triple-A level, which is one grade below Major League Baseball. It is officially named the Pacific Coast League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Inc. Its headquarters are in Round Rock, Texas.[1]

Upon its founding in 1903, the Pacific Coast League fielded six teams from the Pacific States of California, Oregon, and Washington. Today, the league is composed of 16 teams across 12 states stretching from Sacramento, California, to Nashville, Tennessee, and from Tacoma, Washington, to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The PCL was one of the premier regional baseball leagues in the first half of the 20th century. Although it was never recognized as a true major league, to which it aspired, its quality of play was considered very high. A number of top stars of the era, including Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, were products of the league. In 1958, with the arrival of major league teams on the west coast and the availability of televised major league games, the PCL's modern era began with each team signing Player Development Contracts to become farm teams of major league clubs.

A league champion is determined at the end of every season. The San Francisco Seals won 14 Pacific Coast League titles, the most in the league's history, followed by the Los Angeles Angels (12) and the Albuquerque Dukes and Portland Beavers (8). After the season, the PCL champion plays in the Triple-A National Championship Game against the International League champion to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. The Omaha Storm Chasers and Sacramento River Cats have each won two national championships, more than any other PCL teams.

History[edit]

Formation and early history[edit]

The Pacific Coast League was formed on December 29, 1902, when officials from the California State League (1899–1902) met in San Francisco for the purpose of expanding the league beyond California. Six franchises were granted. These were the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Oaks, Portland Beavers, Sacramento Senators, San Francisco Seals, and Seattle Indians. A dispute over territories owned by the Pacific Northwest League, in which the PCL had placed franchises, and the PCL's allowing blacklisted players to compete led to the National Association (Minor League Baseball) labeling the PCL as an outlaw league.[2]

The mild climate of the West Coast, especially California, allowed the league to play longer seasons, sometimes starting in late February and ending as late as the beginning of December. During the 1905 season the San Francisco Seals set the all-time PCL record by playing 230 games.[3] Teams regularly played between 170 and 200 games in a season until the late 1950s. This allowed players, who were often career minor leaguers, to hone their skills, earn an extra month or two of pay, and reduce the need to find off-season work. These longer seasons gave owners the opportunity to generate more revenue. Another outcome was that a number of the all-time minor league records for season statistical totals are held by players from the PCL.

The visiting Oakland Oaks prepare to travel to the ballpark on Opening Day 1903 to face the Sacramento Senators

The inaugural 1903 season, which consisted of over 200 scheduled games for each team, began on March 26.[4] The Los Angeles Angels finished the season in first place with a 133–78 (.630) record, making them the first league champions.

In 1904, National Association President Patrick T. Powers brokered terms with the PCL, clearing it of its outlaw status and designating it as a Class A league. In 1909, the league classification was raised to Double-A. In 1919, with the earlier addition of the Salt Lake Bees and Vernon Tigers, league membership reached eight teams for the first time. While the league had experienced little commercial success up to this point, the 1920s were a turning point which saw increased attendance and teams fielding star players.[2]

The Great Depression of the 1930s resulted in a lower quality of play due to the league's salary reduction. Still, a number of top stars, including Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Ox Eckhardt, competed on PCL teams that decade. Also helping attendance was the introduction of night games. At Sacramento's Moreing Field, the Sacramento Solons and the Oakland Oaks played the first night baseball game, five years before any major league night game, on June 10, 1930. The Hollywood Stars and San Diego Padres were added to the league in the 1930s as well.[2]

A near-major league[edit]

During the first half of the 20th century, the Pacific Coast League developed into one of the premier regional baseball leagues. The cities enfranchised by the other two high-minor leagues, the International League and the American Association, were generally coordinated geographically with the major leagues, but such was not the case with the PCL. With no major league baseball team existing west of St. Louis, the PCL was unrivaled for American west coast baseball. Although it was never recognized as a true major league, its quality of play was considered very high. Drawing from a strong pool of talent in the area, the PCL produced many outstanding players, including such future major-league Hall of Famers as Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Tony Lazzeri, Paul Waner, Earl Averill, Bobby Doerr, Joe Gordon, and Ernie Lombardi. Amid success experienced after World War II, league President Pants Rowland began to envision the PCL as a third major league. During 1945 the league voted to become a major league.[5] However, the American League and National League were uninterested in allowing it to join their ranks.[2]

While many PCL players went on to play in the major leagues, teams in the league were often successful enough that they could offer competitive salaries to avoid being outbid for their players' services. Some players made a career out of the minor leagues. One of the better known was Frank Shellenback, whose major league pitching career was brief,[6] but who compiled a record PCL total of 295 wins against 178 losses.[7] Many former major league players came to the PCL to finish their careers after their time in the majors had ended.

In 1952, the PCL became the only minor league in history to be given the "Open" classification, a grade above the Triple-A level. This limited the rights of major league clubs to draft players from the PCL, and was considered an act toward the circuit becoming a third major league.[2]

Sudden decline[edit]

The shift to the Open classification came just as minor league teams from coast to coast suffered a sharp drop in attendance, primarily due to the availability of major league games on television. The hammer blow to the PCL's major league dreams came in 1958 with the arrival of the first MLB teams on the west coast (the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants). As a result, three of the PCL's flagship teams (the Los Angeles Angels, Hollywood Stars, and San Francisco Seals) were immediately forced to relocate to smaller markets. The Oakland Oaks had moved to Canada two years before the Giants arrived. The San Diego Padres and Seattle Rainiers suffered the same fate when they were displaced by major league teams in 1969. Additionally, the PCL lost customers to the major league teams which then occupied the same territory. The league never recovered from these blows. The Pacific Coast League reverted to Triple-A classification in 1958, where it remains to this day, and soon diminished in the public eye to nothing more than another minor league.

Moving beyond the coast[edit]

The PCL began to spread out across the nation, and internationally, in the 1950s. Previously, Salt Lake City has been the eastern-most city in the league. In 1956, the Oakland Oaks relocated to Canada where they became the Vancouver Mounties, the circuit's first international team. Two years later, the Los Angeles Angels moved to become the Spokane Indians and the San Francisco Seals became the Phoenix Giants.[2]

The league continued to expand throughout the country in the 1960s. Clubs representing new cities during the decade included the Dallas Rangers, Denver Bears, Hawaii Islanders, Indianapolis Indians, Oklahoma City 89ers, Tacoma/Phoenix Giants, and Tucson Toros. From 1964 to 1968 the PCL swelled to twelve teams. The Albuquerque Dukes were one of several teams to begin play in the 1970s.[2] Several new teams arrived in the 1980s, such as the Calgary Cannons, Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Edmonton Trappers, and Las Vegas Stars, but the league began to stabilize as franchise relocations became less frequent.[2]

Recent expansion[edit]

In 1998, the Pacific Coast League took on five teams from the disbanding American Association, which had operated in the Midwest, and a sixth franchise was added to the league as an expansion team, thus providing the scheduling convenience of an even number of teams. The addition of the Iowa Cubs, Nashville Sounds, Oklahoma RedHawks, Omaha Royals, New Orleans Zephyrs, and the expansion Memphis Redbirds grew the league to an all-time-high 16 clubs.[2] The league presently stretches from Western Washington to Middle Tennessee. Despite its name, the league now has as many teams east of the Mississippi (Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans) as it does near the Pacific coast (Fresno, Sacramento, and Tacoma).

The league's presence in Canada diminished and ended in the early 2000s, as the Calgary Cannons moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to become the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2003, and the Edmonton Trappers, the circuit's final Canadian team moved to Round Rock in 2005. Of the cities represented in the PCL in its heyday, only Salt Lake City and Sacramento remain, and even these are represented by franchises different from those that originally called these cities home. In 2005, the Pacific Coast League became the first minor league ever to achieve a season attendance of over 7 million. In 2007, league attendance reached an all-time high of 7,420,095.[8]

In 2019, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox plan to relocate to San Antonio, Texas, where they will continue play in the PCL as the San Antonio Missions, who currently compete in the Double-A Texas League.[9] This move will be accompanied by realignment in the American Conference. Nashville and Memphis will move to the Northern Division, and Oklahoma City and San Antonio will compete in the Southern Division.[10]

Structure and season[edit]

The league is divided into two conferences, the American Conference and the Pacific Conference. Each conference is divided into a Northern Division and a Southern Division. Each conference consists of eight teams evenly divided into four-team divisions.[11]

Each club has 140 games scheduled per season. Of these, 112 games are played against conference opponents, with 48 against teams in their division and 64 against teams in the other division. The other 28 games are played against teams in the opposing conference. These interconference games are organized as eight, three-or-four-game series. A team will play one opposite conference's division's teams at home and the other's on the road. Play alternates each year so that interconference opponents will have played each other at home and on the road over the span of two seasons. The season typically begins during the first week of April and concludes in the first week of September on Labor Day.[12]

Championship and interleague play[edit]

PCL All-Stars at the 2015 Triple-A All-Star Game

At the end of the season, the Northern and Southern Division winners within each conference meet in a best-of-five series to determine conference champions. Then, the American and Pacific Conference winners play a best-of-five series to determine a league champion.[13]

Since 2006, the PCL champion has played against the International League's champion in the Triple-A National Championship Game, a single game to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. Previously, the PCL champion also competed in the Triple-A World Series (1983, 1998–2000), Junior World Series (1919), and other sporadic postseason competitions throughout the league's history.

Other interleague play occurs during the Triple-A All-Star Game. Traditionally, the game has taken place on the day after the mid-summer Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[14] The game is meant to mark a symbolic halfway-point in the season (though not the mathematical halfway-point which, for most seasons, is usually one month prior). During the All-Star break, no regular-season games are scheduled for two days before the All-Star Game itself.[15]

Rules[edit]

The Pacific Coast League plays by the same rules listed in the Official Baseball Rules published by Major League Baseball. One exception is the use of Designated hitter (DH). Whereas the application of the DH rule in Major League Baseball is determined by the identity of the home team, with the rules of the home team's league applying to both teams, PCL pitchers hit when both clubs are National League affiliates and they have agreed to have their pitchers hit. Two National League affiliated clubs may agree to use the DH instead. The reason for this is that as players move up and get closer to reaching the majors, teams prefer to have the rules follow (as closely as possible) those of the major leagues. The DH is always used when one or both teams are American League affiliates.[16]

Other differences lie in the use of professional baseball's pace-of-play initiatives first implemented in 2015. A 15-second pitch clock is used when no runners are on base; 20 seconds are allowed with runners present. Additionally, each half extra inning begins with a runner on second base, and teams are limited to six mound visits during a nine-inning game.[17]

Current teams[edit]

Current team locations:
  American Conference – Northern Division
  American Conference – Southern Division
  Pacific Conference – Northern Division
  Pacific Conference – Southern Division
Division Team Founded MLB Affiliation Affiliated City Stadium Capacity
American
Northern
Colorado Springs Sky Sox 1988 Milwaukee Brewers 2015 Colorado Springs, Colorado Security Service Field 8,500
Iowa Cubs 1969 Chicago Cubs 1981 Des Moines, Iowa Principal Park 11,500
Oklahoma City Dodgers 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers 2015 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark 9,000
Omaha Storm Chasers 1969 Kansas City Royals 1969 Papillion, Nebraska Werner Park 9,023
American
Southern
Memphis Redbirds 1998 St. Louis Cardinals 1998 Memphis, Tennessee AutoZone Park 10,000
Nashville Sounds 1978 Oakland Athletics 2015 Nashville, Tennessee First Tennessee Park 10,000
New Orleans Baby Cakes 1993 Miami Marlins 2009 Metairie, Louisiana Shrine on Airline 10,000
Round Rock Express 1979 Texas Rangers 2011 Round Rock, Texas Dell Diamond 11,631
Pacific
Northern
Fresno Grizzlies 1998 Houston Astros 2015 Fresno, California Chukchansi Park 12,500
Reno Aces 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks 2009 Reno, Nevada Greater Nevada Field 9,013
Sacramento River Cats 1978 San Francisco Giants 2015 West Sacramento, California Raley Field 14,014
Tacoma Rainiers 1960 Seattle Mariners 1995 Tacoma, Washington Cheney Stadium 6,500
Pacific
Southern
Albuquerque Isotopes 2003 Colorado Rockies 2015 Albuquerque, New Mexico Isotopes Park 13,500
El Paso Chihuahuas 2014 San Diego Padres 2014 El Paso, Texas Southwest University Park 9,500
Las Vegas 51s 1919 New York Mets 2013 Las Vegas, Nevada Cashman Field 9,334
Salt Lake Bees 1994 Los Angeles Angels 2001 Salt Lake City, Utah Smith's Ballpark 14,511

Current team rosters[edit]

Teams timeline[edit]

Note: Teams in italics are PCL "classic" teams from the league's height in the 1950s.

Source:[18]

1The 1917 Portland Beavers ceased operations, and its slot in the PCL was offered to Sacramento.
2The 1905 Tacoma Tigers were moved back to Sacramento in the middle of the 1905 season due to poor play, then were moved again to Fresno the following season.
3The 1907–08 Sacramento Cordovas played in the California League after returning from Fresno.
4The 1907–18 Seattle Indians played in the Class B Northwest League.

Former American Association teams[edit]

Five current league teams were acquired by the PCL following the disbandment of the American Association after the 1997 season.

5The Oklahoma City 89ers were a member of the Pacific Coast League from 1963–1968.
6The Denver Bears were a member of the Pacific Coast League from 1963–1968.

Defunct teams[edit]

Two former league teams played in the PCL from the 1964 to 1968. Each one had played in the International League during the 1963 season, and each was transferred to the American Association after the 1968 season.

Presidents[edit]

Seventeen presidents have led the PCL since its formation:[21][22]

  • 1902–1903: James Moran
  • 1903–1906: Eugene F. Bert
  • 1907–1909: J. Cal Ewing
  • 1910–1911: Judge Thomas F. Graham
  • 1912–1919: Allan T. Baum
  • 1920–1923: William H. McCarthy
  • 1924–1931: Harry A. Williams
  • 1932–1935: Hyland H. Baggerly
  • 1936–1943: W. C. Tuttle
  • 1944–1954: Clarence H. Rowland
  • 1955: Claire V. Goodwin
  • 1956–1959: Leslie O'Connor
  • 1960–1968: Dewey Soriano
  • 1968–1973: William B. McKechnie Jr.
  • 1974–1978: Roy Jackson
  • 1979–1997: Bill Cutler
  • 1998–present: Branch B. Rickey

Past champions[edit]

League champions have been determined by different means since the Pacific Coast League's formation in 1903. With few exceptions, most PCL champions through 1927 were simply the regular season pennant winners.[23] However, a few seasons during this time did feature a postseason championship series to crown a champion. It wasn't until the mid-1930s that the league instituted regular postseason play that was only sporadically cancelled due to financial problems or other factors.[24]

The San Francisco Seals have won 14 PCL championships, the most among all teams in the league, followed by the Los Angeles Angels (12) and the Albuquerque Dukes and Portland Beavers (8). Among active PCL franchises, the Tacoma Giants/Cubs/Yankees/Rainiers have won 7 championships, the most in the league, followed by the Sacramento River Cats (4) and the Memphis Redbirds and Omaha Storm Chasers (3).[24]

Awards[edit]

The PCL recognizes outstanding players and team personnel annually near the end of each season.

MVP Award[edit]

The Most Valuable Player Award, first awarded in 1927, is given to honor the best player in the league. The award is voted on by team managers, general managers, broadcasters, and media representatives from around the league, as are all PCL year-end awards.[25]

Pitcher of the Year Award[edit]

The Pitcher of the Year Award, first awarded in 2001, serves to recognize the league's best pitcher. Pitchers were eligible to win the MVP award from 1927 to 2000 as no award was designated solely for pitchers.[25]

Rookie of the Year Award[edit]

The Rookie of the Year Award, created in 1998, is given to the best player with no prior PCL experience.[25]

Manager of the Year Award[edit]

The Manager of the Year Award, started in 1967, is given to the league's top manager.[25]

Executive of the Year Award[edit]

The Executive of the Year Award, first awarded in 1974, honors team executives who have achieved success in the area of attendance figures, promotions, and community involvement.[25]

Hall of fame[edit]

The Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame was established in 1942 to honor league players, managers, and executives who have made significant contributions to the league's ideals. The Hall of Fame inducted its first class of 12 men in 1943. The Hall became dormant after 1957, but was revived in 2003, the PCL's centennial season. Today, the Hall of Fame Committee seeks to recognize worthy players throughout the league's history who have made contributions to the league. New members are elected before the start of each season.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Contact Us". Pacific Coast League. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Pacific Coast League Year-By-Year Standings". 2017 Pacific Coast League Sketch & Record Book. Pacific Coast League. 2017. p. 141. 
  3. ^ Weiss, William J., ed. (1969). "Records". Pacific Coast League Record Book. Pacific Coast League. p. 30. 
  4. ^ Bauer, Carlos (March 30, 2003). "The Formation of the Pacific Coast League". Pacific Coast League. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Pacific Coast League Votes to Become a Major League". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. AP. 5 December 1945. p. L6. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "Frank Shellenback Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Frank Shellenback – BR Bullpen". Baseball-Reference.com. 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Pacific Coast League: Attendance". milb.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved September 17, 2015. 
  9. ^ "San Antonio to join PCL beginning in 2019". Pacific Coast League. June 21, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Sounds Announce 2019 Home Schedule". Nashville Sounds. Minor League Baseball. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018. 
  11. ^ "2017 Pacific Coast League Schedule Revealed". milb.com. Minor League Baseball. December 21, 2016. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  12. ^ "2018 Nashville Sounds Season Schedule" (PDF). Nashville Sounds. Minor League Baseball. 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Pacific Coast League Playoff Procedures". Pacific Coast League. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Omaha Storm Chasers and Werner Park to Host 2015 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game". Omaha Storm Chasers. Minor League Baseball. March 5, 2014. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Durham Lands 2014 Triple-A ASG". Minor League Baseball. February 20, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2014. 
  16. ^ "MiLB.com Frequently Asked Questions". The Official Site of Minor League Baseball. 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  17. ^ "MiLB announces pace-of-play rules for 2018". MILB.com. March 14, 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2018. 
  18. ^ "Pacific Coast League (AAA) Encyclopedia and History". Baseball Reference. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved August 8, 2017. 
  19. ^ Nothaft, Mark (January 3, 2017). "What happened to the Phoenix Firebirds?". Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 6, 2017. 
  20. ^ "PCL approves Sidewinders sale; Reno gets site". The Arizona Daily Star. July 13, 2007. Retrieved February 4, 2008. 
  21. ^ "Former Presidents". Pacific Coast League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  22. ^ Bauer, Carlos. "The Formation of the Pacific Coast League". Pacific Coast League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  23. ^ "Past Champions". Pacific Coast League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "Post-Season Play in the Pacific Coast League". Triple-A Baseball. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f "Pacific Coast League Award Winners". Pacific Coast League. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame". Pacific Coast League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 

External links[edit]