Southern Minnesota League
From 1945 through 1960, Minnesota experienced the magical era of amateur ball, setting records in town participation and attendance that have not been matched since. (Town Ball - The Glory Days of Minnesota Amateur Baseball)
Minny ball was highly organized under the Minnesota Baseball Association (and its predecessor). Teams were slotted in groups -- AA the highest, then A and B and on down. Surprisingly, the delineation was not by the size of the community but basically by the resources of the community to entice and pay players. By the rules, "AA" teams could "import" three players, "A" level teams could use two outside players. For the top two groups there were no restrictions on salaries. The "B" category teams were not allowed import players and were not to pay salaries. The divisions were enacted with state tournaments in mind.
Three leagues dominated the "AA" category -- the Southern Minnesota League, Western Minnesota and West Central League.
Our initial focus here is on the Southern Minnesota League. Over time, the league attracted local, college and professional players, including former Negro Leaguers. The league had it's beginning more than one hundred years ago.
Several propositions are being considered, and it is probable that a good manager will be called here, and that efforts will be made to form a Southern Minnesota league. Baseball is beginning to be a popular topic of conversation. (Albert Lea Times Enterprise, January 15, 1913)
1914 appears to have been the initial season of the SMBL with teams from Albert Lea, Owatonna, Austin, Mankato and Mason City, Iowa, showing up as teams of the loop in standings published in early May. However, as the season wore on, the paper made reference to an "Interstate" league with at least Owatonna, Mason City, Austin and Albert Lea and possibily, Fort Dodge, Mankato and Marshall. (In 1915, it appears it was the Southern Minnesota-Northern Iowa League with Albert Lea, Austin, Mankato, Owatonna, Webster City and Fort Dodge.)
In late April, 1914, the inaugural season, the local Albert Lea paper noted that local businesses would be asked for financial help.
The committee on donations for the Albert Lea baseball team will visit the different business places very shortly. Everybody should be prepared to meet the committee with a smile -- and a good liberal check. Baseball is the cleanest of sports and is worthy of support.
On Sunday, July 25, 1915, Mankato and Owatonna played to a 1-1, 21-inning tie. The game was called at six o'clock to comply with a state law.
The initial state tournament was held in 1916 with 230 teams in the race. Albert Lea captured the title in the inaugural season.
The playing conditions were sometimes a little less than ideal.
Baseball fans rooted to their hearts content ... when Albert Lea and St. Paul locked horns in a game featured by heavy hitting and reckless base running.
The game, played on the pavement in front of the court house, carried with it all the pep of a big diamond battle. Masek, the 210 pound, first baseman on the St. Paul team, and Pitcher Nickelson, who is about the same size, braved the hard pavement and slid for bases regularly, without materially injuring themselves. (The Evening Tribune, Albert Lea, June 11, 1917)
Perhaps we'll get back to those early days, but for now we begin this journey concentrating on the era, 1945 to 1966.
We thank Armand Peterson and Tom Tomashek, authors of Town Ball, for their gracious assistance.
So.Minny So.Minny State AA Pennant Playoffs Champion (1) 1914 1915 1916 Albert Lea 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 Admas 1924 St. James So.St.Paul-Armour Packers 1925 Albert Lea White Bear Lake 1926 Rochester So.St.Paul-Armour Packers 1927 Faribault Mora 1928 Mankato Mankato 1929 Albert Lea Albert Lea 1930 Estherville Fairmont 1931 Faribault St.Paul-Bohn Ref. 1932 Austin St.Paul-Milk Drivers 1933 Waseca St.Paul-E.M.B.A. 1934 Waseca Minneapolis-Jersey Ice Cream 1935 Owatonna St.Paul-J.J. Kohns 1936 Owatonna St.Paul-Commission Row 1937 Austin Minneapolis Heinies 1938 Owatonna St.Paul-N.States Envelopes 1939 Austin St.Paul-Tradehome Shoes 1940 Albert Lea Albert Lea 1941 Owatonna Owatonna 1942 Austin Austin 1943 Albert Lea Minneapolis Mitby-Sathers 1944 Albert Lea Albert Lea 1945 Albert Lea Albert Lea Albert Lea 1946 Rochester Albert Lea Albert Lea 1947 Albert Lea Albert Lea Albert Lea 1948 Mankato Albert Lea Albert Lea 1949 Austin Austin Austin 1950 Austin* Austin Fergus Falls 1951 Owatonna Austin Litchfield 1952 Albert Lea Albert Lea Willmar 1953 Waseca Austin Austin 1954 Albert Lea Rochester Fairmont * 1955 Fairmont Fairmont Fairmont * 1956 Rochester Faribault * 1957 Faribault/Fairmont Fairmont Fairmont 1958 Fairmont Austin 1959 Rochester/Fairmont Fairmont 1960 Austin Bloomington 1961 Mankato Minneapolis T.C. Federal 1962 Austin* St. Paul Ganzers 1963 Mason City/Bloomington Minneapolis A&B Sports 1964 Austin* St. Paul Como. Rec. 1965 Rochester Bloomington 1966 Winona Winona * won playoff for first place * Little Word Series, West Minny vs Southern Minny Not played in 1956. Marshall had disbanded its team by the time Faribault was ready for the layoff.
(1) Class A 1958-1966
Southern Minny Records, to 1957
Average : .420 Dick Newberry, Rochester, 1957
Home Runs : 23, Whitey Brinsky, Mankato, 1951 &
Al Neil, Albert Lea, 1955
RBI : 62, Al Neil, Albert Lea, 1955
Total Bases : 151, Al Neil, Albert Lea, 1955
Slugging Pct.: .838, Whitey Brinsky, Mankato, 1951
Hits : 84, Sam Hill, Rochester, 1955
Runs : 51 Mike Sichko, Albert Lea, 1955
Doubles : 20, Sam Hill, Rochester, 1955 &
Frank Brown, Mason City, 1957
Triples : 4, Carmen Cozza, Mankato, 1956
Howie Schultz Faribault, 1956
1948 Jack Verby, MAK, .404 1949 Dick Kaess, LEA, .397 1950 Red Lindgren, AUS, .392 1951 Whitey Brinsky, MAK, .385 1952 Augie Schlaffer, FAR, .352 1953 Augie Schlaffer, FAR, .390 1954 Bill Ankoviak, LEA, .374 1955 Tom Neill, ROC, .399 1956 Jim Wilkinson, AUS, .399
1957 Dick Newberrry, ROC, .420