American Association (20th century)
The American Association (AA) was a Minor League Baseball league that operated primarily in the Midwestern and South Central United States from 1902 to 1962 and 1969 to 1997. It was classified as a Triple-A league, which is one grade below Major League Baseball.
|No. of teams||32 (Total)|
|Buffalo Bisons (1)|
|Most titles||Louisville Colonels (15)|
Intermittently throughout its history, the American Association champion would compete against the champion of the International League, which operated in the Eastern US, to determine an overall Triple-A champion. On rare occasions, the champion of the West Coast-based Pacific Coast League also participated. The first such meetings were called the Little World Series. Later, the teams would also compete in the Junior World Series, Triple-A World Series, and Triple-A Classic. Additional interleague play consisted of the regular season's Triple-A Alliance and Triple-A All-Star Game.
The American Association's attendance base began to be eroded significantly in the 1950s and early 1960s due to expansion and westward migration of major league teams into several of the AA's larger member cities: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; and Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. By 1961, the league was down to six clubs.
After the 1962 season, the American Association disbanded, and some of its member teams were distributed between the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and the International League (IL), while others (the Louisville Colonels and Omaha Dodgers) folded. The Indianapolis Indians were first assigned to the IL but then, in a geographic oddity, they were switched to the West Coast's PCL. The Dallas Rangers, Denver Bears, and Oklahoma City 89ers also went to the PCL.
With major league expansion in 1969 and the need for four new Triple-A farm teams, the time seemed right to revive the league. The AA re-acquired its old Indianapolis, Denver and Oklahoma City territories from the PCL, revived the Omaha and Wichita franchises, and added three cities (Des Moines, Evansville and Tulsa) that were new to the circuit. The Association thrived during the 1980s and 1990s, along with all of minor league baseball as an industry. Buffalo, which joined the league in 1985 after transferring from Wichita, exceeded the million-mark in attendance for six consecutive seasons (1988–1993) upon its move into newly-constructed Pilot Field.
Although the Buffalo totals declined somewhat beginning in 1994, attendance across the league was still robust in 1997 among its eight member teams. However, the expansion of Major League Baseball in 1998 spurred the re-alignment of the Triple-A classification from three leagues to two. The American Association disbanded for the second time, and its teams were again distributed to the remaining leagues. The Iowa Cubs, Nashville Sounds, New Orleans Zephyrs, Oklahoma City 89ers and Omaha Royals joined an enlarged, 16-team Pacific Coast League starting with the 1998 season. The Buffalo Bisons, Indianapolis Indians and Louisville Redbirds became part of an expanded, 14-team International League, also starting in 1998.
The Bisons were the last league champions in 1997, and the trophy is still in their possession.
On and off, from 1904 to 1962, and again from 1970 to 1975, the American Association champion played against the International League's champion in the Little World Series, later called the Junior World Series. The champions from these two leagues and the Pacific Coast League also met in the 1983 Triple-A World Series.
From 1988 to 1991, the AA and IL voted to play interleague games during the season as part of the Triple-A Alliance. Each of the four seasons culminated in the Triple-A Classic to determine a champion. All four were won by American Association teams.
From 1988 until the league's demise in 1997, players from all three Triple-A leagues were selected to play in the mid-season Triple-A All-Star Game. One team was made up of All-Stars from American League affiliates and the other of National League affiliates.