The International League (IL) was a Minor League Baseball league that operated in the eastern United States. The league's headquarters were located in Dublin, Ohio. Like the Pacific Coast League and the Mexican League, it played at the Triple-A level, which was one step below Major League Baseball.
|Replaced by||Triple-A East|
|President||Randy Mobley (1991–2020)|
|No. of teams||14 (1998–2020)|
|Columbus Clippers (2019)|
|Most titles||Rochester Red Wings (19)|
|TV partner(s)||MiLB.TV, MLB Network, and local sports networks|
|Official website||ilbaseball.com (archived)|
It was so named because throughout its history the International League had teams in Canada and Cuba as well as those in the United States. After 2008, however, all of the league's teams were based in the U.S.
A league champion was determined at the end of every season. The Rochester Red Wings won 19 International League titles, the most in the league's history, followed by the Columbus Clippers and Toronto Maple Leafs (11). Since the introduction of the Governors' Cup in 1933, the most cup titles have been won by the Columbus Clippers (11), followed by the Rochester Red Wings (10) and Syracuse Mets (8). After the season, the IL champion played in the Triple-A National Championship Game against the Pacific Coast League champion to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. The Columbus Clippers and Durham Bulls each won two national championships, more than any other IL teams.
The International League was created from the mergers of member teams from three precursor leagues: the Eastern League of 1884, which was itself a re-organization of the Interstate Association of 1883; the New York State League, formed in 1885; and the Ontario League, also organized in 1885. The New York State League and Ontario League merged in 1886 to form the International League, and in 1887 the Eastern League was absorbed to create a ten-club league. Also in 1887, the International League passed a resolution barring African Americans from playing in the league. The league collapsed soon afterwards, when the northern teams claimed that it was too onerous to travel to the south and formed the International Association.
The "International League" name was first used in 1886, but did not become the longterm name of the league until 1912. The league ultimately cited 1884 as the year of its foundation, through the following lineage:
- 1884: Eastern League
- 1885: New York State League
- 1886–1887: International League
- 1888–1890: International Association
- 1891: Eastern Association
- 1892–1911: Eastern League
- 1912–2021: International League
The International League was also affected by the effort to establish the Federal League as a new third major league from 1914 to 1915, with franchises being added and dropped and new ballparks built. In 1954, a franchise was awarded to Havana, Cuba, but due to political upheaval in that country it had to be moved — to Jersey City, New Jersey — in the middle of the 1960 season. Another foray into the Caribbean failed when the newly created team in San Juan, Puerto Rico, added in 1961, had to be moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in mid-season.
In June 1971, an IL all-star team beat the New York Yankees, 15–13, in an exhibition game at Silver Stadium in Rochester, New York, before a crowd of 11,001—notable players on the all-star squad included Don Baylor, Carlton Fisk, and Bobby Grich. In August 1983, another team of IL all-stars were defeated by the Cleveland Indians, 8–6, in 11 innings before 11,032 fans at Franklin County Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
The International League and the American Association, another Triple-A league that operated in the Midwest, voted in 1988 to play interleague games as part of the Triple-A Alliance. The league also split into two divisions that year. The interleague concept ended in 1992, but the two league divisions remained.
In 1998, the International League reorganized into three divisions with the addition of four new teams—the Buffalo Bisons, Indianapolis Indians, and Louisville Redbirds joined from the disbanded American Association, while the Durham Bulls joined from the Class A Carolina League.
The start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled on June 30. The league was disbanded before the 2021 season in conjunction with Major League Baseball's reorganization of Minor League Baseball. All 14 franchises were merged into the new Triple-A East.
Structure and seasonEdit
The International League operated with eight teams in a single division for most of its existence before 1988. It operated briefly with two divisions during five seasons (1933, 1959, 1963, 1973, 1974), each time returning to a single-division structure. From 1988 through 1997, the league was structured into East and West divisions, initially consisting of four teams each, then five teams each starting in 1993.
From 1998 onward, the league had 14 teams and was organized with a North Division (six teams), South Division (four teams), and West Division (four teams). Each club had 140 games scheduled per season. The season typically began during the first week of April and concluded on Labor Day. The league played by the same rules as Major League Baseball, as listed in the Official Baseball Rules.
In 2019, the final season of play for the International League, the league was structured as follows:
Championship and interleague playEdit
At the end of each season, the three divisional leaders and a wild card team squared off in best-of-five series playoffs to determine a league champion, with the winner awarded the Governors' Cup, the league's championship trophy. Under this format, the North Division champion played the wild card team, while the champions of the South and West Divisions played one another in best-of-five series. The winners then played each other in a best-of-five series to determine the champion.
From 2006 to 2019, the IL champion played against the Pacific Coast League's champion in the Triple-A National Championship Game, a single game to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. Previously, the IL 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 occurred during the Triple-A All-Star Game. Traditionally, the game had taken place on the day after the mid-summer Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The game was 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 were scheduled for two days before the All-Star Game itself.
The International League crowned a league champion each season since 1884. Through 1932, the championship was awarded to the regular season pennant winner. In 1933, the league introduced a postseason playoff system to determine a champion. The winner was awarded the Governors' Cup.
Championship wins by teamEdit
|19||10||Rochester Bronchos/Red Wings||1899, 1901, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1939, 1952, 1955, 1956, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1988, 1990, 1997|
|11||11||Columbus Clippers||1979, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2019|
|11||4||Toronto Maple Leafs||1897, 1902, 1907, 1912, 1917, 1918, 1926, 1934, 1960, 1965, 1966|
|10||2||Baltimore Orioles||1908, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1944, 1950|
|10||4||Buffalo Bisons (1886–1970)||1891, 1904, 1906, 1915, 1916, 1927, 1933, 1936, 1957, 1961|
|8||7||Montreal Royals||1898, 1941, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1958|
|8||8||Syracuse Chiefs||1935, 1942, 1943, 1947, 1954, 1969, 1970, 1976|
|6||6||Durham Bulls||2002, 2003, 2009, 2013, 2017, 2018|
|5||4||Newark Bears||1932, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1945|
|5||0||Providence Grays/Clamdiggers||1894, 1905, 1896, 1900, 1914|
|5||5||Richmond Braves||1978, 1986, 1989, 1994, 2007|
|5||5||Tidewater Tides||1972, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1985|
|4||4||Pawtucket Red Sox||1973, 1984, 2012, 2014|
|3||3||Toledo Mud Hens||1967, 2005, 2006|
|2||2||Buffalo Bisons||1998, 2004|
|2||2||Charlotte Knights||1993, 1999|
|2||0||Detroit Wolverines||1889, 1890|
|2||2||Indianapolis Indians||1963, 2000|
|2||2||Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees/RailRiders||2008, 2016|
|2||0||Syracuse Stars||1885, 1888|
|1||1||Havana Sugar Kings||1959|
|1||0||Jersey City Skeeters||1903|
|1||0||Newark Little Giants||1886|
The IL recognized outstanding players and team personnel annually near the end of each season.
Most Valuable Pitcher AwardEdit
The Most Valuable Pitcher Award, first awarded in 1953, served to recognize the league's best pitcher. Pitchers were eligible to win the MVP award from 1932 to 1952 as no award was designated solely for pitchers.
Rookie of the Year AwardEdit
Manager of the Year AwardEdit
Executive of the Year AwardEdit
The Executive of the Year Award, first awarded in 1964, honored team executives who have contributed to the success of the league.
Spirit of the International League AwardEdit
The Spirit of the International League Award, first awarded in 2010, honored team executives who exhibited dedication to creating and maintaining positive fan experiences when visiting IL games.
International League Hall of FameEdit
The International League Hall of Fame was established in 1947 to honor league players, managers, and executives who have made significant contributions to the league. The Hall of Fame inducted its first class of 9 men in 1947. A plaque was unveiled at the IL's New York City offices located in the Ruppert Building at 535 Fifth Avenue. Today, the plaque has no permanent home, but exists as a traveling display that visits a number of the league's ballparks each season. The Hall became dormant after 1963, but was revived in 2007. New members are elected before the start of each season.
- Mancuso, Peter. "July 14, 1887: The color line is drawn | Society for American Baseball Research". sabr.org. Society for American Baseball Research. Archived from the original on April 16, 2019. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
- "The Diamond Field". San Francisco Examiner. March 29, 1886. p. 2. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via newspapers.com.
- "International League - BR Bullpen". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
- Castor, Jim (June 25, 1971). "Stars Outslug Yanks, 15-13". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. p. D1. Retrieved May 25, 2021 – via newspapers.com.
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- Pawtucket Red Sox (October 12, 2017). "Fireworks Every Saturday Night, Special Gifts Every Friday Highlight Pawtucket Red Sox 2018 Schedule". www.milb.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
- "Official 2017 International League Schedule" (PDF). milb.com. Minor League Baseball. September 15, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
- "MiLB.com Frequently Asked Questions". The Official Site of Minor League Baseball. 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
- "2019 International League". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
- "International League Personnel and Staff". International League. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
- "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.
- "Durham Lands 2014 Triple-A ASG". Minor League Baseball. February 20, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
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