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MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL HISTORY

The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, now known as Minor League Baseball, was formed on September 5, 1901 from a meeting of Minor League executives at the Leland Hotel in Chicago. The President of the Eastern League, Patrick T. Powers, was elected as the first President of the NAPBL. Fourteen leagues and 96 clubs were members during the first season in 1902. The first NA office was established in Auburn, NY, under President Powers and successfully run by Secretary-Treasurer John H. Farrell. By the time Powers left office in 1909, there were 35 leagues and 246 clubs.

In 1910, Michael Sexton became President. In his first few years, wars between the Major Leagues and the outlaw Federal League hurt the Minors. The Federal League raided top Minor League teams, as well as National and American League teams, for players and territory. Sexton led a fight at the 1914 Winter Meetings to fight off a bid from radicals for the Minor Leagues to desert the Major Leagues and back the Federal League. For 22 years, Sexton presided over the Minor Leagues, leaving at the height of the Depression in 1932. But during his time, peace was restored and the Minor Leagues began to flourish.

At the Winter Meetings of 1932, Judge William G. Bramham was elected President. He served for 15 years. Bramham, who moved the NAPBL office to Durham, NC, inherited 14 leagues and 102 clubs, but turned over 52 leagues and 388 clubs to George M. Trautman in 1947. During the height of World War II in 1943, the National Association had only 66 clubs and drew less than 6 million fans, an all-time low, but the end of the war would see fans again crowding into the ballparks.

Trautman moved the NAPBL office to Columbus, OH, as he began a 16-year reign as President. The year 1949 saw 59 leagues and 448 clubs, both all-time highs, attract 39,640,433 fans, a record that stood for 54 years. However, the advent of television and, in Trautman's last two years, Major League expansion would begin to cut into attendance. Following Trautman's death in March 1963, Frank Shaughnessy served as interim president until Trautman's assistant, Phillip Piton, was elected in December, 1963. There were 20 leagues and 132 clubs in 1964 and attendance was only 10 million. By the time Piton left office in 1971, membership was back to 155 clubs.

With the election of Henry J. Peters as President in Dec., 1971, the National Association was headed for another move. In September, 1973, the office found its fourth home on Fourth Street South in St. Petersburg, FL. Peters left in 1975 to become General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles.

Robert R. "Bobby" Bragan became President in January, 1976, and by 1978 there were 158 clubs. On March 28, 1978, the office moved five blocks to its current site on Bayshore Drive. The old clubhouse beside Al Lang Stadium was renovated and turned into an office.

In January, 1979, John H. Johnson took office. While the number of clubs stayed near 160-170, attendance skyrocketed. In 1987, more than 20 million fans attended games, a figure not matched since 1953. Franchise values also went up dramatically during Johnson's time. Johnson died on January 12, 1988 and Sal B. Artiaga was elected in April as the 9th President. His first year in office saw the Minor Leagues climb to over 21,659,000 in attendance with 188 clubs.

Mike Moore, who had been Chief Administrative Officer of the NA, was elected President during the 1991 Baseball Winter Meetings. One of his first moves after taking over in January, 1992, was to convene a constitutional convention that would rewrite the National Association Agreement, the by-laws that spell out the relationship between the NA and its member leagues. It was an agreement that had not materially changed in nearly a century of existence.

One of the most important changes was converting the National Association to more of a "corporate" structure than a "political" structure. The governing authority of the NA is vested in the President, working closely on policy and direction with the 17-member Board of Trustees (consisting of one club owner from each league) and the Council of League Presidents (consisting of the Presidents of the various leagues.) The President is elected at an annual meeting of the Minor League Baseball membership for a four-year term.

The NA has had phenomenal growth under the leadership of Moore, who was elected to his fourth term in Dec., 2003. In 1991, prior to becoming President, he established an agency agreement partnership between the Professional Baseball Promotion Corporation, a NAPBL subsidiary, and Major League Baseball Properties to authorize licensed merchandise on an international basis. From a humble beginning, merchandise sales have averaged about $40-million since 1993.

The Promo Corp branched out into national marketing in 1993, providing a central office that allows national sponsors to work with any number of Minor League teams on a local level or in any combinations up to a national program. This, too, has had great success, starting from scratch and grossing nearly $20-million in sponsorships for member clubs since its inception.

There were several major accomplishments for the 1998 season, including the realignment of Triple-A baseball from three leagues into two and establishing the Triple-A World Series, which was played in Las Vegas (1998-2000). Another subsidiary, Professional Baseball Umpire Corp., was formed to operate and maintain the umpire program for the 16 domestic leagues, under terms of the historic 10-year Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) that was negotiated with Major League Baseball.
 

Minor League Baseball celebrated its centennial season in 2001. The 100th season was a remarkable one as the teams collectively attracted 38,808,339 fans, the second highest total in history. That total was surpassed in 2003 when attendance reached 39,069,707. The all-time record of 39,640,443, set in 1949, was finally broken in 2004 when 39,887,755 fans attended regular season games.

At the box office, Minor League Baseball has been a continuing success story. Regular season attendance in 2007 was 42,812,812, setting a new all-time record for the fourth consecutive season. Total regular season attendance has increased in 23 of the last 27 seasons and has surpassed 33 million for 14 straight years, a level not attained since the late 1940s when membership consisted of more than 50 leagues and more than 400 teams. In 2007, there were 15 leagues with 175 teams that charged admission.

Another important function of the National Association office is the running of Baseball's annual Winter Meetings, the convention of professional baseball, in conjunction with the Commissioner's Office. At the Winter Meetings, the Promo Corp conducts the annual Baseball Trade Show, where merchandisers and manufacturers display the goods that will fill stadium novelty stands and souvenir shops in the year ahead, and conducts business seminars for member teams. The Promo Corp also runs Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities (PBEO), which assists candidates seeking jobs in pro baseball.

Almost every player who ever played Major League Baseball got his start with a team in the National Association. All Major League umpires got their start in NA games.

National Association Presidents 1901-2008

Patrick T. Powers 1901-1909

Michael H. Sexton 1909-1933

William G. Bramham 1933-1946

George M. Trautman 1946-1963

Phillip Piton 1964-1972

Henry J. Peters 1972-1976

Robert R. Bragan 1976-1979

John H. Johnson 1979-1988

Sal B. Artiaga 1988-1991

Mike Moore 1992-2007

Pat O'Conner 2008-

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Quick Tip by . June 16, 2011
posted in Just Baseball
It's true that loaded teams can buy great players, but not true that smaller teams can't compete. In the last 30 years, baseball has had 20 different World Series winners - and opposed to the 15 Super Bowl winners, 15 Stanley Cup winners, and all of nine NBA title winners in the leagues with their odd brand of parity - and minor league baseball is part of the reason why. Teams can develop their talent there, and so it's the minors instead of payrolls that are the real deciding factor in MLB. Branch …
review by . July 06, 2009
posted in Just Baseball
MiLB 1
I love minor league baseball.  Whenever my wife and I travel during the good old summertime we hope to make a minor league baseball game part of our itinerary.   For us there is nothing more relaxing than taking in a minor league ballgame.  And it really doesn't matter whether it's a "A" game in Vermont or a "AAA" game in Salt Lake City---minor league baseball is a great way to spend a warm summer evening.        …
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