Minor League History: Kansas State League

In this edition of Minor League History, I pay attention to the Kansas State League. The league had several runs of which the first was in 1887. The last started in 1909 and would last three seasons. After the league folded for the final time, the Central Kansas League adopted the vacant name in 1913. That league would play on through the 1914 season before folding. 

The first edition of the Kansas State League saw the light in 1887.  The league lasted less than a season. In 1895, a second edition was founded. Also this time the league was short lived but it lasted two seasons though. The third edition of the Kansas State League started in 1905 and would live for two years. In 1909, the Kansas State League had another start. This time the league would last for three seasons.

The very first edition of the Kansas State League had teams from Kansas but also two from Missouri.

1887:
Arkansas City, KS: Arkansas City
Emporia, KS: Emporia Reds
Joplin, MO: Joplin
Webb City, MO: Webb City
Wellington, KS: Wellington Browns
Wichita, KS: Wichita Braves
Winfield, KS: Winfield

The 1887 Kansas State League was short lived. Teams came and went and eventually, the league threw the towel before the season was over on August 4. The Wichita Braves left the league on July 21st to join the Western League. Its place was taken by a team from Joplin, that got its players from Southwestern League’s Springfield Indians. The team folded due to high travel costs and low attendance. But Joplin was also short lived. The team only played five games of which it won only one. Nine days after the team entered the Kansas State League, it folded again.
Web City suffered the same fate as the Joplin team. Two days after Joplin joined the league, Web City entered the league as well. But the team would fold on the same date as Joplin.

In 1895 a new attempt was made to start up the Kansas State League.
This time the four team league lasted more than a year.

1895/1896:

Chanute, KS: Chanute 1896
Coffeyville, KS: Coffeyville 1896
Emporia, KS: Emporia Maroons 1895
Independence, KS: Independence 1896
Leavenworth, KS: Leavenworth Soldiers 1895,
Parsons, KS: Parsons Parsons 1896
Topeka, KS: Topeka Giants 1895
Troy, KS: Troy Browns 1895

 

Katy Stadium Grandstand Seats Chanute KS
Grandstand at the exact location of the original Katy Park in Chanute, which had a wooden grand stand at the time (photo: http://www.fhsu.edu)

 

 

Despite a rather successful season in 1895, the four charter members of the league were replaced by other teams in 1896.
The Emporia Maroons were one of the charter members. The team faired well on the diamond, trailing the Troy Browns by only two games at the end of the season. But when the season was over, the club manager and the receipts disappeared. Some of the Maroon players had not gotten any pay for weeks. One team, the Leavenworth Soldiers were suspended by the league after playing seventeen games and the franchise was moved to Whiting-Horton.
In the next season, the league would be home to four complete different cities of which the Parson Parsons disbanded on August 10, causing the league to throw the towel.

The 1905 version of the Kansas State League, started with four teams but expanded to six during the course of the season when the Great Bend Millers and the Lincoln Center joined the league on July 6. One year later the league even expanded from six to eight teams but once again, none of the teams of the first year came back for a second season.
1905 was the first year, the league received a qualification (class D). In the years that would follow, the league would not transcend this level.

1905/1906:

Bartlesville, OK: Bartlesville Indians 1906
Chanute, KS: Chanute Browns 1906
Cherryvale, KS: Cherryvale Boosters 1906
Coffeyville, KS: Coffeyville Bricks 1906
Ellsworth, KS: Ellsworth 1905
Fort Scott, KS: Fort Scott Giants 1906
Great Bend, KS: Great Bend Millers 1905
Hoisington, KS: Hoisington 1905
Hutchinson, KS: Hutchinson Salt Miners 1905
Independence, KS: Independence Coyotes 1906
Iola, KS: Iola Grays 1906
Kingman, KS: Kingman 1905
Lincoln Center, KS: Lincoln Center 1905
Minneapolis, KS: Minneapolis Minnies 1905
Parsons, KS: Parsons Preachers 1906
Pittsburg, KS: Pittsburg Champs 1906
Vinita, OK: Vinita 1906

Despite the fact that one team folded during the season, The Kingman franchise disbanded on July 22. Hoisington took team’s place in the league two days later, 1905 was a rather successful year for the KSL. Not only was the league able to finish a season, also on the diamond some nice performances were shown when two pitchers threw a no-hitter. One was thrown by Lefty Holmes of Great Bend, and the other by A. Salter of Minneapolis. The 1906 season, on the other hand, was rather chaotic as two teams moved (the Pittsburg Champs moved to Vinita, OK due to financial problems and the Iola Grays moved to Cherryvale, KS) and two teams disbanded (the Fort Scott Giants and the Vinita franchise) on July 5. This made the league decide to discard all games played before July 10 and to restart the season.

The fourth run of the “original” Kansas State League started in 1909 and would last two full seasons before folding halfway the 1911 season. For the first time in the history of the league, teams returned after the first season. The league was a stable one as not many teams folded or disbanded. Only a severe drought that caused crop failures, forced the league to disband on July 11, 1911.

1909-1911:

Arkansas City, KS & Winfield, KS: Arkansas City-Winfield Twins 1909; Arkansas City Grays 1910
El Dorado, KS: El Dorado Crushers 1911
Great Bend, KS: Great Bend Millers 1909-1911
Hutchinson, KS: Hutchinson Salt Packers 1909-1911
Larned, KS: Larned Cowboys 1909; Larned Wheat Kings 1910-1911
Lyons, KS: Lyons Lions 1909-1911
McPherson, KS: McPherson Merry Macks 1909-1911
Newton, KS: Newton Railroaders 1909-1911
Strong City, KS & Cottonwood Falls, KS: Strong City-Cottonwood Falls Twin Cities 1909
Wellington, KS: Wellington Dukes 1909-1911

The Arkansas City franchise started the 1909 season in Arkansas alone, but on July 22nd, the city of Winfield bought a partial interest in the club, so it became the Arkansas City-Winfield Twins.

When Larned joined the league in 1909  (after the Strong City-Cottonwood franchise moved), a new ballpark was erected at the “island south of town.” The island was the wedge of land above the confluence of the Pawnee and Arkansas Rivers. The Larned team, later named Wheat Kings spent about $1,500 on the ballpark over three years, altering the direction of the diamond and building a grandstand that faced northeast, the traditional direction for ballparks. The grandstand could hold 500 fans under its roof, while another 300 fans could sit in the open on a bleacher. Because the ballpark on the island sometimes flooded, baseball games (and football games) were still played at “Moffet’s park on the hill” occasionally, which was one of the early ballparks of Larned, erected in 1907. The Larned franchise would adopt the moniker “Cowboys”.

The city of Wellington, KS joined the Kansas State League in 1909. The games were played in a wooden ballpark at private property, where now Hibbs Hooten Field is located. The Wellington Dukes were not a success as the team finished in the lower half of the standings for three years in a row. After the team moved to Wichita during the 1911 season, the ballpark’s lumber was offered for sale later that year.

Hibbs-Hooten Field Seats Wellington KS
Hibbs Hooten Field, located at the original location of the “League base ball park” in Wellington (photo: http://www.fhsu.edu)

After the Kansas State League folded for good in 1911, the name was up for grabs and so the Central Kansas League, adopted the name in 1913. The league would continue to play through the 1914 season before it folded.

1913-1914:

Clay Center, KS: Clay Center Colts 1913, moved from Central Kansas League
Emporia, KS: Emporia Bidwells 1914
Great Bend, KS: Great Bend Millers 1913-1914, moved from Central Kansas League
Hutchinson, KS: Hutchinson Packers 1914
Junction City, KS: Junction City Soldiers 1913, moved from Central Kansas League
Lyons, KS: Lyons Lions 1913, moved from Central Kansas League
Manhattan, KS: Manhattan Giants 1913, moved from Central Kansas League
Salina, KS: Salina Insurgents 1913, moved from Central Kansas League; Salina Coyotes 1914

The new Kansas State League started the 1914 season with six teams. But when the Junction City Soldiers disbanded on July 9, the league dropped the Manhattan Giants the next day, to get an even number of teams again. The next year, the league would field only four teams

When the Kansas State League returned to Emporia, baseball was played at Soden’s

Sodens Grove Grandstand Emporia KS
Jones’ Field, located at Soden’s Grove, the cradle of professional baseball in Emporia (photo: http://www.fhsu.edu)

Grove once again. This location was the cradle of professional baseball in Emporia as the first professional game was played in a wooden ballpark at the location in 1887.
When the KSL returned to Emporia in 1914, the Emporia Bidwells paid for the construction of a new ballpark at the same location. The reward of the investment came in a league championship. But after the league folded, the ballpark would face the same fate as the one in Wellington.

In 2014 there was an attempt to start an independent Kansas State League with some of the same cities of the previous leagues, but that attempt eventually shattered.

 

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