The Carolina League was a Minor League Baseball league which operated along the Atlantic Coast of the United States from 1945 to 2020. It was classified as a Class A-Advanced league from 1990 onward, one of three leagues at that level.[a]
|Replaced by||Low-A East|
|Wilmington Blue Rocks (2019)|
|Most titles||Winston-Salem Dash (11)|
The organization that later became the Carolina League formed in 1945, just as World War II was ending, and consisted of only two teams based in southern Virginia and six from North Carolina. Historically, however, as many as 12 teams in a given year competed in the Carolina League. The league disbanded in 2021 in conjunction with Major League Baseball's restructuring of Minor League Baseball.
The Carolina League was announced on October 29, 1944, after an organizational meeting at Durham, North Carolina. It was a successor to the Bi-State League that existed before World War II. The league began play in 1945 with eight teams based in Burlington, Durham, Greensboro, Leaksville, Raleigh, Winston-Salem (all from North Carolina), along with Danville and Martinsville from Virginia.
A few of the many Carolina League players who have gone on to star in the Major Leagues are: Johnny Bench (Peninsula, 1966), Wade Boggs (Winston-Salem, 1977), Barry Bonds (Prince William, 1985), Rod Carew (Wilson, 1966), Dock Ellis (Kinston, 1965), Dwight Evans (Winston-Salem, 1971), Dwight Gooden (Lynchburg, 1983), Zack Greinke (Wilmington, 2003), Andruw Jones (Durham, 1996), Chipper Jones (Durham, 1992), Willie McCovey (Danville, 1956), Joe Morgan (Durham, 1963), Dave Parker (Salem, 1972), Tony Pérez (Rocky Mount, 1962), Andy Pettitte (Prince William, 1993), Jorge Posada (Prince William, 1993), Darryl Strawberry (Lynchburg, 1981), Bernie Williams (Prince William, 1988), and Carl Yastrzemski (Raleigh, 1959).
Director and screenwriter Ron Shelton's 1988 film Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon, depicted a fictionalized account of the Durham Bulls, at that time a Carolina League team (they have since become a Class AAA team in the International League). Before he began making films, Shelton had a five-year minor league career in the Baltimore Orioles' organization, which included a stint in the Carolina League.
The Carolina League added two expansion teams for the 2017 season to fill two vacant spots at the Class A-Advanced level previously occupied by the California League's Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks , which ceased operations at the end of the 2016 season. These additional teams were the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston, North Carolina, and the Buies Creek Astros in Buies Creek, North Carolina. After the 2019 season, the Potomac Nationals relocated within Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg, rebranding themselves as the Fredericksburg Nationals.
The start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled on June 30. The league ceased operations before the 2021 season in conjunction with Major League Baseball's reorganization of Minor League Baseball. Nine of the league's 10 teams continued on in professional baseball. The Fredericksburg Nationals, Lynchburg Hillcats, Salem Red Sox, Carolina Mudcats, Down East Wood Ducks, Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, were placed in the Low-A East. The Wilmington Blue Rocks and Winston-Salem Dash were placed in the High-A East. The Frederick Keys became a collegiate summer baseball team of the MLB Draft League.
All-time teams (1945–2020)Edit
All teams that ave competed in the Carolina League from its founding in 1945 through disbandment after the 2020 season.
League timeline (1945-2020)Edit
2019-2020 team Earlier team
- Barrier, Smith (November 2, 1944). "Wilson Heads Carolina Loop: Seven Franchises Awarded to N.C. Cities, Another to Danville, Va". The Sporting News.
- Glaser, Kyle. "Carolina League To Add Two Franchises In 2017". BaseballAmerica.com. Retrieved 16 September 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.
- Reichard, Kevin (February 12, 2021). "Minor League Baseball Overhaul Unveiled". Ballpark Digest. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
- Mayo, Jonathan (February 12, 2021). "MLB Announces New Minors Teams, Leagues". Major League Baseball. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
- Cooper, J. J. (December 9, 2020). "Frederick Becomes Sixth Team To Join MLB Draft League". Baseball America.
- "2013 Carolina League Media Guide and Record Book". p. 4.
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