The Illinois State League saw the light in 1947 and lasted two years before it changed its name in the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League in 1947. Eventually, the league became the current Midwest League.
In its two years of existence, the Illinois State League operated as a class D league.
The league was created with completely new franchises and operated in Southern Illinois.
The charter franchises were in the Illinois cities of Belleville, Centralia, Marion, Mattoon, Mount Vernon and West Frankfort.After the Marion Indians moved to the State of Kentucky to become the Paducah Chiefs, the league changed its name into Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. Subsequently, the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League operated through 1955 and in 1956 changed names to become the Midwest League.
Belleville, IL: Belleville Stags 1947-1948
Centralia, IL: Centralia Cubs 1947-1948
Marion, IL: Marion Indians 1947-1948
Mattoon, IL: Mattoon Indians 1947-1948
Mount Vernon, IL: Mount Vernon Braves 1947-1948
West Frankfort, IL: West Frankfort Cardinals 1947-1948
The 1947 season should start on May 4 but due organizational problems and bad weather, Opening Day was postponed until May 18.
The league did not have a championship series in 1947 as the Belleville Stags won both halves of the 120-game season. The Belleville Stags were named after and funded by Stag Beer, a beer that was produced by the Griesdeck Western Brewery in Belleville.
In 1948 the West Frankfort Cardinals won the pennant as they beat the Marion Indians in the semi-final 3 games to 1. In the championship series, they beat the Mattoon Indians 3-0.
The Frankfort Cardinals were a class D affiliate of the St. Louis namesake. The club was founded by Pete Mondino, a former minor leaguer. Mondino realized that if he wanted to found a minor league team, he needed plenty of capital. He contacted Charlie Jacobs, a local jeweler, and Tony Finazzo, a local car dealer. A partnership was formed to create the West Frankfort Baseball and Amusement Corporation that aligned the West Frankfort Cardinals with the Illinois State Class D baseball league as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In February 1947, the WFBAC bought a piece of land of 8.8 acres to build their stadium on.
After many delays and setbacks, the West Frankfort Cardinals played their first game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday on May 24, 1947. The Cardinals had 2.896 fans for their home opener. The average attendance for the 60 home games was just over 700 per game.
All teams but one were named after the parent club. Only the Belleville Stags had an own name. The team was affiliated to the St. Louis Browns.
The ISL played an all star game on August 12, 1947 as a league all star team played the league champions, Belleville. The all stars won the game 5-1.
The ISL All Star Game of 1948 was played between an all star team and he first half winner Mattoon Indians. The All Stars won the game 1-0 when Earl Weaver, yes the guy who managed the Baltimore Orioles, drove in the sole run in the second inning of the game, by far the most famous player that ever played in the Illinois State League.
The Illinois State League was started as a distraction for the people from Southern Illinois. In this area, a lot of coal mines were situated and besides the bare necessities like food and a house, the miners needed a distraction from everyday’s life. Marion got the franchise that was originally given to Murphysboro but shortly bofere the league started the franchise was given to Marion.
Future Major Leaguer Billy Klaus of the Centralia Cubs put up nice numbers in 1947. He won the Illinois State League’s batting crown with a BA of .341. He also collected the most base hits with 147 and drove in the most runs with 84. He broke into the majors in 1952 with the Boston Braves and had another cup of coffee with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953. In 1955 he was picked up by the Red Sox and became the team’s regular shortstop. After the 1958 season, in which he struggled at the plate, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. After the trade to Baltimore, he played for five more years in the Bigs, with the Orioles, Senators and Phillies. After his MLB career, he went to Japan where he played for the Chunichi Dragons for two more seasons. Klaus still holds a Major League record with 9 hits, 9 walks and 9 strikeouts, a record for most hits, walks and strikeouts in a season with all three being equal amounts.
Another colorful player was Rip Repulski. He debuted in professional baseball in the inaugural season of the ISL for the West Frankfort Cardinals. In his first professional season, he hit a league-leading ten home runs. After spending six years in the minors, he broke into the Bigs with the St. Louis Cardinals. During the first six seasons of his MLB career, he put up some nice power numbers. It even earned him an All Star appearance in 1956. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1953.
His only World Series ring would be won as backup outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959.
After his career, he opened a cocktail lounge in St. Cloud Minnesota. Frequently he came out from behind the bar to share tales of his baseball career with anyone who might have even a dim connection with the sport.
Never one to allow anything to get in the way of a good story, Rip entertained his audiences with tales of his ball-field exploits: how he escaped death in plane and bus crashes, that he could still hit left-handed pitching, that the Cardinals kept him in the minors too long, and that his lifetime batting average was the same as Yogi Berra’s (it wasn’t). The stories went on and on until closing time. Repulski was one of twenty players who were team mates of Ted Williams and Stan Musial.
Bob Turley was another future MLB player who played in the ISL. The pitcher broke into the majors with the St. Louis Browns and was traded to the New York Yankees in a trade that also would bring Don Larsen to the Bronx Bombers. Turley would earn the 1958 WS MVP award and won the Cy Young award in the same year. He would win two World Series rings (1956 and 1958) and appeared in three All Star Games.
Turley pitched for the Belleville Stags in 1948 and had a 9-3 record in sixteen appearances (none of them were starts) with a 4.45 ERA.
After the 1948 season, the Marion Indians moved to Paducah in Kentucky, just across the Illinois border, to become the Paducah Chiefs. The league chose to change the name into Mississippi-Ohio Valley League and lasted until 1956, when it changed the name again, this time into Midwest League, a name that proved to stand the test of time.