The Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 Introduction to the Eastern League

Here it is, the week before Christmas and baseball is only a few weeks away.  Players start to report in mid-February.  The major league free agent is just starting to pick up and we finally had a few trades that have been noteworthy.  One week closer to the start of baseball will bring you one more minor league.  This week, I have decided to bring the Eastern League onto your computers.   Currently, the Eastern League is a Double-A League that has twelve teams that are ironically divided into two leagues; Eastern Division and Western Division.

Formed in 1923, the league was known as the New-York Pennsylvania League until 1937.  There had been earlier Eastern Leagues.  One started in 1892 and played until 1912, becoming the International League.  Another Eastern League was formed in 1916 and disbanded in 1932.  There is also an Eastern League in the Japanese League, but I will focus on the current Eastern League formed in 1923.

As I said above, there are 12 teams in the Eastern League.  The Eastern Division is comprised of;  Binghamton Mets (New York Mets), New Britain Rock Cats (Minnesota Twins), New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays), Portland Sea Dogs (Boston Red Sox), Reading Phillies (Philadelphia Phillies) and the Trenton Thunder (New York Yankees).  The Western Division is comprised of; Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians), Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates), Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles), Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals), Erie SeaWolves (Detroit Tigers) and the Richmond Flying Squirrels (San Francisco Giants).  Now that you have met the league, allow me to introduce you to the Top 5 of the Eastern League.

#1 – Since the league formed in 1923, there have been many Hall of famers who have been part of the Eastern League.   (In alphabetical order) Some of the Hall of Famers to wear the Eastern League uniforms have been;  Jim Bunning (1952), Carlton Fisk (1969-1970), Whitey Ford (1949), Lou Gehrig (1923-1924), Tony Lazzeri (1943), Juan Marichal (1959), Jim Palmer (1968), Nolan Ryan (1966), Mike Schmidt (1971), Warren Spahn (1942), and Early Wynn (1941).  Earl Weaver was a manager in the league from 1962 to 1965.

#2 – There have been thirteen states, fifty two cities and two Canadian provinces that were represented within the league since 1923.  I will not go through and list them all as I have with other league as there are so many of them.  Right now, there are nine states from Virginia to Maine that are part of the league.  From the teams currently in the league, they have entered between 1967 (Reading) to 2010 (Richmond).  By the way, is there a better minor league baseball name than Flying Squirrels?

#3 – League Most valuable Players have included Greg Luzinski (1970), Ken Macha (1974), Rafael Palmeiro (1986), Vladimir Guerrero (1996) and Ryan Howard (2004).  Most Valuable Pitchers have included Kyle Drabek (2010), Jon Lester (2005), Carl Pavano (1996) and Arthur Rhodes (1991).  The league has had Rookies of the Year such as Vladimir Guerrero (1996), Ryan Howard (2004) and Brandon Laird (2010).  Earl Weaver was Manager of the Year in 1964 and Buck Showalter had the honor in 1989.

#4 – The Reading franchise is consistently one of the top drawing franchises in the league year after year, drawing over 400,000 each year since 1998.  In 1958 with eight teams, the attendance for the entire league was 543,471.  Springfield had the highest attendance of 84,794 while Albany did not have over 44,000 all season.  It was not until 1989 that the league topped 1 million fans in attendance.  All teams except for Williamsport drew more than 100,000 fans during that campaign.  In comparison, all of the 12 teams in the league drew more than 200,000 fans in 2010.

#5 – There have been 155 no-hitters thrown in the Eastern League.   The first was on July 30, 1925 by Henry Hoffman of Williamsport against Elmira.  Last season, Number 155 was thrown by Kyle Drabek of New Hampshire on July 4.  He beat New Britain.

The Eastern league is a well established league.  Their history is great and is always well represented throughout the major league playoffs as the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and the Twins all have affiliates in the league.  Hope you enjoyed the little look into this Double-A minor league.  I will be heading to Puerto Rico in two days, so I hope to give you a report from down there regarding the Puerto Rican Baseball League.  Until then, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and I will see you on the other side.

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