Minor League history: Eastern Iowa League

As many know Iowa baseball from the movie Field of Dreams (“Is this heaven?” “No, this is Iowa.”), Iowa has quite a history when it comes to (minor league) baseball.

After early baseball was played in Iowa in short-lived leagues like the Nortwestern League (1879), the Central Inter-State League (1888) and the Illinois-Iowa League (1890), the Eastern Iowa League was founded as the next attempt launch a longer lasting professional baseball league in Iowa. It was a non-signatory league, meaing that the league did not sign the National Agreement of 1883. By not signing the National Agreement the league was an outlaw league or merely an independent league. Despite being named the Eastern Iowa League, there were two teams participating from the state of Illinois.

Cities represented:

Burlington, IA: Burlington Spiders
Cedar Rapids, IA: Cedar Rapids Rabbits
Clinton, IA: Clinton Bridegrooms
Dubuque, IA: Dubuque Colts
Galesburg, IL: Galesburg Trotters
Ottumwa, IA: Ottumwa Brownies
Rock Island, IL: Rock Island Tri-Cities
Waterloo, IA: Waterloo Indians

Emil Geiss 

Apparently a lot of illegal things happened in this league as two clubs, the Clinton Bridgrooms and the Rock Island Tri-Cities were expelled from the league on June 14. Clinton rejoined the league on July 4 but was expelled again, this time with the Waterloo Indians on July 8.
If that wasn’t enough, the Galesburg Trotters disbanded on June 25. So in a very short time frame, the 8-team league was cut in half.

A former Major Leaguer, Emil Geiss, who had played for Cap Anson’s Chicago White Sox, played for the Ottumwa Brownies for a part of the season. Geiss had a cup of tea as a pitcher with the White Sox. In a poor outing he allowed elven runs, leaving skipper Anson, who was from Iowa himself,  in disgust. Later he played two games at first base. In the first game he did fairly well as he did not commit an error but in the second game he committed three. At the plate he did not far much better as he went 1 for 8 in the two games combined. At the end of June Geiss was released by the White Sox and he spent the remainder of his career in the Minors, even though a part of that is shrouded in mystery.

Baseball was such a community event in those days in Iowa, that shops closed when the local team played a home game.

Ed Pabst, who played fragments of three seasons with the St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association, was mainly a minor league journeyman. He played in various states like Wisconsin, New Jersey, Georgia, Alabama, Texas. In 1895 he played only five games with the Waterloo Indians. In nineteen at bats Pabst hit a respectable .316 with a .684 slugging percentage. After this short stint he moved on to the Rockford Forest City Reds of the Western Association.

One player that had a stint with the short-lived Rock Island Tri-Cities, Oliver Pecord, went a total different direction in his life. He left baseball to become a boxer. Later he focused on umpiring local semi-pro games in his hometown Toledo, managing boxers and serving as a boxing referee.

Harry Sage had an extensive minor league career before he played one season with the Toledo Maumees. The team played in the American Association (then a major league) and Sage was the team’s regular catcher for the 1890 season. Sage managed several teams after his active career. One of them was the Tri-Cities of his hometown Rock Island in 1895.

With the demise of the Eastern Iowa League, professional baseball wasn’t lost for Iowa. Through the years the state was represented in many leagues. From the Western League (1895-1899) to the current Midwest League and Pacific Coast League.




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