Pioneer League (baseball)
|No. of teams||8 (9 in 2022)|
|Country||United States of America|
|Idaho Falls Chukars (2019)|
|Most titles||Billings Mustangs (15)|
The Pioneer League is an independent baseball league that operates in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Its teams are not directly affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB). It is designated as an MLB Partner League.
From 1939 to 2020, the Pioneer League was affiliated with Minor League Baseball and its teams were affiliated with MLB teams. It operated as a Class C league from 1939 to 1942 and from 1946 to 1962. It was elevated to Class A for 1963 and was a Rookie-level league from 1964 to 2020.
The Pioneer League began in 1939 with six teams in Idaho and Utah, operating at the Class C level. The original six teams were the Boise Pilots, Lewiston Indians, Ogden Reds, Pocatello Cardinals, Salt Lake City Bees, and Twin Falls Cowboys. With players in short supply due to World War II, the league suspended operations for the 1943 through 1945 seasons.
In 1948, the league expanded by adding two teams in Montana; the Billings Mustangs and Great Falls Electrics. In these early years, teams in the league either operated independently or were affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB) or Pacific Coast League (PCL) parent clubs, as the PCL was attempting to grow (but ultimately failed) into a major league. When MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers displaced the PCL's Hollywood Stars in 1958, the Stars relocated and became the "new" Salt Lake City Bees, remaining in the PCL and taking away the Pioneer League's largest market.
By 1959, the Pioneer League was down to six teams; Billings and Great Falls along with the Boise Braves, Idaho Falls Russets, Missoula Timberjacks, and Pocatello Athletics. The league operated at the Class A level for one year (1963), before changing to Rookie league in 1964, when there were only four teams in the league; the Idaho Falls Angels, Magic Valley Cowboys, Pocatello Chiefs, and Treasure Valley Cubs. By 1978, the league had again grown to eight teams — Billings and Idaho Falls along with the Butte Copper Kings, Calgary Cardinals, Great Falls Giants, Helena Phillies, Lethbridge Dodgers, and Medicine Hat Blue Jays. With the exception of 1986 (when there were six teams), there have been eight teams in the league since then, and it is not likely to change without further expansion or contraction within Major League Baseball.
As the start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before being cancelled on June 30, making the 2019 season the league's last as an MLB-affiliated league of Minor League Baseball.
In conjunction with a contraction of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Pioneer League was converted to an independent baseball league and granted status as an MLB Partner League. The reconfigured league will continue with the same franchises using the same identities, with the exception of the Orem Owlz relocating to Windsor, Colorado, as the Northern Colorado Owlz. Also joining the Pioneer League for 2021 will be the Boise Hawks from the Northwest League.
|Northern||Billings Mustangs||1948||Billings, Montana||Dehler Park||5,000|
|Great Falls Voyagers||1948||Great Falls, Montana||Centene Stadium||2,500|
|Idaho Falls Chukars||1940||Idaho Falls, Idaho||Melaleuca Field||3,400|
|Missoula PaddleHeads||1999||Missoula, Montana||Ogren Park at Allegiance Field||3,500|
|Southern||Grand Junction Rockies||1978||Grand Junction, Colorado||Suplizio Field||7,014|
|Ogden Raptors||1994||Ogden, Utah||Lindquist Field||8,262|
|Rocky Mountain Vibes||2019||Colorado Springs, Colorado||UCHealth Park||8,500|
|TBD||Boise Hawks||1987||2021||Boise, Idaho||Memorial Stadium||3,452|
|Northern Colorado Owlz||Windsor, Colorado||Future Legends Complex||6,000||2022|
Current team rosters
Pioneer League teams (1939–present)
Bold text indicates active teams.
- Billings Mustangs
- Boise Braves
- Boise Hawks
- Boise Pilots
- Boise Yankees
- Butte Copper Kings
- Caldwell Cubs
- Calgary Cardinals
- Calgary Expos
- Casper Ghosts
- Casper Rockies
- Gate City Pioneers
- Great Falls Dodgers
- Great Falls Electrics
- Great Falls Giants
- Great Falls Selectrics
- Great Falls Voyagers
- Great Falls White Sox
- Grand Junction Rockies
- Helena Brewers
- Helena Gold Sox
- Helena Phillies
- Idaho Falls A's
- Idaho Falls Angels
- Idaho Falls Braves
- Idaho Falls Chukars
- Idaho Falls Gems
- Idaho Falls Nuggets
- Idaho Falls Padres
- Idaho Falls Russets
- Idaho Falls Yankees
- Lethbridge Black Diamonds
- Lethbridge Dodgers
- Lethbridge Expos
- Lethbridge Mounties
- Lewiston Indians
- Magic Valley Cowboys
- Medicine Hat A's
- Medicine Hat Blue Jays
- Missoula Osprey
- Missoula PaddleHeads
- Missoula Timberjacks
- Northern Colorado Owlz
- Ogden Dodgers
- Ogden Raptors
- Ogden Reds
- Ogden Spikers
- Orem Owlz
- Pocatello A's
- Pocatello Bannocks
- Pocatello Cardinals
- Pocatello Chiefs
- Pocatello Gems
- Pocatello Giants
- Pocatello Pioneers
- Pocatello Posse
- Provo Angels
- Rocky Mountain Vibes
- Salt Lake City Bees
- Salt Lake City Giants
- Salt Lake City Trappers
- Treasure Valley Cubs
- Twin Falls Cowboys
Teams by city
James R. McCurdy is the current president of the Pioneer Baseball League. McCurdy received his BBA from the University of Houston in 1970 and his JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1974. He mediated the restructure of Minor League Baseball's governing structure in 1992 and was an inaugural member of the MiLB board of trustees from 1992 to 1994. In 1993, he was appointed by the president of MiLB to serve on the Professional Baseball Executive Council. McCurdy was elevated to the position of league president in 1994, replacing Ralph Nelles who was the president from 1975 to 1993. McCurdy also teaches sports law courses at Gonzaga University School of Law and the University of San Diego School of Law. His publications include: Sports Law: Cases & Materials (with Ray Yasser, C. Peter Goplerud, and Maureen Weston) (7th ed. LexisNexis 2011), Thunder on the Road from Seattle to Oklahoma City: Going from NOPA to ZOPA in the NBA, in Legal Issues in American Basketball ch. IV (Lewis Kurlantzick ed., Academica Press 2011), and, The Fundamental Nature of Professional Sports Leagues, Constituent Clubs, & Mutual Duties to Protect Market Opportunities: Organized Baseball Case Study, in Legal Issues in Professional Baseball ch. IV (Lewis Kurlantzick ed., Academica Press 2005).
League champions have been determined by different means since the Pioneer League's formation in 1939. There were postseason playoffs when the league operated as Class C (1939–1962), except for 1939 and 1956, and for the three years during World War II when the league did not operate. In the league's one year as Class A (1963), there were also postseason playoffs. After becoming a Rookie league in 1964, the league champions were simply the regular season pennant winners through 1977. Since 1978, postseason playoffs have again been held to determine a league champion.
- "Pioneer League: Attendance (2016)". www.milb.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
- "Pioneer League: Attendance (2015)". www.milb.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- "New Name on Tap for Colorado Springs Pioneer League Team". Ballpark Digest. June 13, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
- "A Message From Pat O'Conner". Minor League Baseball. March 13, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
- "2020 Minor League Baseball Season Shelved". Minor League Baseball. June 30, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- "Pioneer League named MLB Partner League". Baseball America. November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- Kirk, Alexander (November 30, 2020). "Orem Owlz announce move to Windsor in 2021". 9 News. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
- Kloppenburg, Katie (December 9, 2020). "Boise Hawks plan to join Pioneer Baseball League in 2021". Idaho News 6. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- "Fresno agrees to Cal League move; 120-team MiLB lineup complete".
- "James R. McCurdy". 2015-12-11. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
- "Pioneer League Champions". Pioneer League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
- Johnson, Lloyd; Wolff, Miles (2007). Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (third ed.). Baseball America. ISBN 9781932391176.
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