The Hudson River League was intially founded in 1886. This first edition lasted for only one season. A next league with the same name was founded in 1903 by a former player of the original Hudson River League and lasted for five seasons. In total twelve cities were represented during the five year run, eleven from the state of New York and one from Massachusetts.
Albany, NY: Albany Senators 1886
Catskill, NY: Catskill 1903
Glens Falls, NY & Saratoga Springs, NY: Glens Falls-Saratoga Springs 1906
Hudson, NY: Hudson Marines 1903-1907
Kingston, NY: Kingston 1886; Kingston Colonials 1903-1906; Kingston Colonial Colts 1907
Newburgh, NY: Newburgh 1886; Newburgh Taylor-mades 1903-1905; Newburgh Hill Climbers 1906; Newburgh Hillies 1907
Ossining, NY: Ossining 1903
Paterson, NJ: Paterson Intruders 1904; Paterson Invaders 1905-1906; Paterson Intruders 1907
Peekskill, NY: Peekskill 1903; Peekskill 1905
Pittsfield, MA: Pittsfield Hillies 1905
Poughkeepsie, NY: Poughkeepsie 1886; Poughkeepsie Colts 1903-1907
Saratoga Springs, NY: Saratoga Springs 1886
Saugerties, NY: Saugerties 1903-1905
Troy, NY: Troy Trojans 1886
Yonkers, NY: Yonkers 1905; Yonkers 1907
Not much is known about the original Hudson River League but that it started as a six team league. But only five games in the season, the Albany Senators folded after five losses on May 29. Eventually the Poughkeepsie franchise won the league championship by finishing on top of the standings with a seven game lead over Newburgh. According to the few records that are known from the league, Chief Zimmer had the best batting average that season as he hit .409. But Zimmer played in the big leagues that season as well as he played for an American Association team. Zimmer would spend (parts of) 21 seasons in the Major League, hitting .269 as a catcher. He also managed the Philadelphia Phillies in 1903 to a 49-86 record.
In the year that Zimmer managed the Phillies, a new edition of the Hudson River League was started. William A. McCabe. McCabe, the Chief of Police and “tenement” investor, had been a professional baseball player with the 1886 Poughkeepsie team in the old Hudson River League, J. H. Farrell, President of the New York State League and Secretary of the National Association and Henry D. Ramsey, a long-time minor league player and manager, who had been retained by the Kingston stock company as its manager for 1903, met on March 25 and April 1 and those meetings led to the establishment of the Hudson River League. The following cities would join the league in that first season: Ossining, Newburgh, Hudson, Saugerties, Kingston and Poughkeepsie. As an omen for the controversy that would come during the season, the initial schedule of the league was rejected by most of the teams because it provided an “unfair share” of Saturday dates to Kingston. Eventually the new schedule was approved and the league teed off on May 21.
Shortly after the start of the season controversy arose once again as Poughkeepsie’s pitcher, Ernest Linderman, appeared to be on the Toledo Mud Hens’ reserve list and was not able to acquire his release. The league president (McCabe!) overruled the protest on the grounds that the Poughkeepsie management was unaware of Linderman’s status.
During the season there were a lot of complaints about the umpires. Due to huge pressure, all of the original umpires had resigned by June 21. President of the league, William A. McCabe and secretary Henry D Ramsey resigned on a league meeting held on June 21. The last original umpire that resigned on that day, C.S. Harvey was elected as the league’s new president.
A very unusual thing happened on August 10 when a new team entered the league in the midst of the season. Fred W. Valentine, manager of a semi-professional team at Peekskill, wanted to play fully professionally and thus applied to enter the league. The request was granted and on August 10 the Peekskill team entered the league with the same record as the Poughkeepsie franchise (21-24). Eventually the Peekskill franchise finished third with a 48-39 record, trailing the winner of the league, the Kingston Colonials by twelve games.
The league started as a class D league and the quality of play was rather poor as games with five or six errors were no rarity. But as the season continued the quality improved and slowly errorless games became more common. In 1904 the league was awarded class C status.
Eventually the league survived the first season in which it had to face bad weather (which made doubleheaders and even quadruple-headers necessary) and unskilled management.
The next season the league expanded into New Jersey when the Paterson Intruders joined the league. The league would not survive the 1907 season as it folded on June 18 after Kingston disbanded on June 1 and Paterson disbanded on June 2.
Hudson River League champions
1903 Kingston Colonials
1904 Poughkeepsie Colts
1905 Hudson Mariners
1906 Paterson Invaders
1907 Poughkeepsie Colts
One of the oddities of the league was that teams and fans traveled together to distant games by riverboat. The Kingston and Saugerties franchises defeated two of the most famous barnstorming teams of that time, the All-Cubans and the Sioux Indians. The contest between these Sioux Indians and the Kingston Colonials in the previous year had been played at night, incredible as that may seem, under arc lights at the Driving Park. The major leagues’ first night game did not take place until 1935.
Many big leaguers would call the Hudson River League home. Players like Elmer Steele, Joe Lake, Ernie Lindeman, Pete Cregan, Al Burch, George Gibson, Heinie Beckendorf, Phil Cooney, Con Daily and Pete Lamar to name a few. But three HRL players woudl become real stars in the Bigs. Jimmy Dygert of the 1903 Poughkeepsie team who as a spitballer
with the Phladelphia A’s in 1907 would post a record of 21-7 that included three shutout wins in four days. George McQuillan of the 1905 Patersons, a ten-year major leaguer who would lead the league with an ERA of 1.60 with the Phillies in 1910. Dan Brouthers played in the Majors for nineteen seasons. In the fall of his career he landed in the Hudson River League and joined Poughkeepsie. In 1904 his contract was bought by the New York Giants where he only played two games and did not collect a hit. After his release he joined the Pouhgkeepsie Colts again and played 117 games for the team in which he hit .373. In the following two years he would play in the HRL again, finishing his career in 1906 with Newburgh, where he hit .375. As an MLB player, Brouthers had a career .342 batting average.