In today’s edition of Minor League History, we pay attention to the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League or KITTY League. The KITTY League had various runs. The first edition ran from 1903 through 1906, the second one from 1910 through 1914, the third edition lasted only one season (1916), edition four lasted three seasons from (1922-1924), the fifth edition lasted from 1935 through 1942 and the final run was from 1946 through 1955. Through its different stages, the KITTY League was classified as a class D league.
The first edition of the KITTY League started in 1903. The league started with eight teams in 1903 but shrunk to six for the remainder of its existence. One of the members that lasted until the end of the league was the Vincennes Alices. This team was an outsider as it was the only one from Indiana.
Cities represented 1903-1906:|
Cairo, IL: Cairo Egyptians 1903; Cairo Champions 1904; Cairo Giants 1905-1906
Clarksville, TN: Clarksville Villagers 1903; Clarksville Grays 1904
Danville, IL: Danville Old Soldiers 1906
Henderson, KY: Henderson Hens 1903, 1905; Henderson Blue Birds 1904
Hopkinsville, KY: Hopkinsville Hoppers 1903; Hopkinsville Browns 1904
Jackson, TN: Jackson Railroaders 1903
Jacksonville, IL: Jacksonville Jacks 1906
Mattoon, IL & Charleston, IL: Mattoon-Charleston Canaries 1906
Owensboro, KY: Owensboro Distillers 1903
Paducah, KY: Paducah Chiefs 1903; Paducah Indians 1904-1906
Princeton, KY: Princeton Infants 1905
Vincennes, IN: Vincennes Alices 1903-1906
The first edition of the KITTY League was founded by Frank H. Bassett, a baseball enthusiast from Hopkinsville Ky. He looked for baseball promotors in Western Kentucky, Tennessee, and Southern Illinois to see if they were interested in establishing a professional baseball league. On February 3rd, in Hotel Lucile in Madisonville, Ky. During the second meeting on February 25th, William L. Gordon was elected president of the new league.
Even though Vincennes was dropped from the league in the inaugural season of the league, the team returned the next year. The Cairo Egyptians won the first edition by 4.5 games over the Clarksville Villagers. As was rather common in those days, the club was renamed champions the next season.
Another team that did not make it to the end of the season was the Owensboro Distillers, who disbanded on June 1st.
In 1904, the Paducah Indians finished on top of the standings with a one-game lead over the Cairo Champions. Apparently, the Cairo Champions were sore losers as they spent the offseason claiming the pennant for themselves.
The 1905 season would be shortened due to a yellow fever outbreak. With the permission of the National Association, the league finished its season on August 17.
While the yellow fever epidemic affected cities along the Mississippi River, some clubs used it as an excuse to stop losing money and reserve their players for the following season. One month earlier, two teams, the Henderson Hens and the Hopkinsville Browns disband due to financial difficulties.
In 1906, the Vincennes Alices won the pennant with a nine-game lead over the Jacksonville Jacks. The business manager of the Cairo Giants made a surprising move as he fined every player on his team $100 for indifferent ball playing. He released every player on July 5. Also, road manager Ed Eichenberger was fined for $50 and was fired as well. Despite these moves, the Cairo Giants would finish third with a 68-61 record, ten games out of first place.
The Vincennes Alices had a manager with MLB experience as a player. His experience wasn’t great though as he was the youngest pitcher of the worst MLB team ever: the Cleveland Spiders. The Spiders were owned by the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals who raided all good players from the Spiders’ roster and sent them to St. Louis. The Spiders finished the 1899 season with a dismal 20-134 record. Kolb pitched eight innings in his only start on the final day of the season. He gave up nineteen runs (of which only nine were earned) on eighteen hits and finished his MLB “career” with a 10.13 ERA.
Hub Perdue of the Vincennes Alices was one of the few players that would make it to the Bigs. He played five years in the Majors of which 3.5 for the Boston Braves (1911-1914) and 1.5 years for the St. Louis Cardinals. Perdue finished his MLB career with a 51-64 record and a 3.85 ERA. With the Vincennes Alices in 1906, Perdue won a league-leading twenty-five games and struck out 260 batters, also a league best.
For four years the Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League was dormant but in 1910 a new attempt to establish a league was made. In a meeting in Evansville IN on April 8, the league was restructured and Clifton C. Gosnell was elected president.
The league started with four teams but after the first half, two teams (the McLeansboro Miners and the Harrisburg Merchants) were added.
Cities represented 1910-1916:
Cairo, IL: Cairo Egyptians 1912-1914
Clarksville, TN: Clarksville Volunteers 1910, 1913, 1916; Clarksville Billies 1911; Clarksville Rebels 1912; Clarksville Boosters 1914
Dawson Springs, KY: Dawson Springs Resorters 1916
Evansville, IN: Evansville Yankees 1912
Fulton, KY: Fulton Colonels 1911
Harrisburg, IL: Harrisburg Merchants 1910; Harrisburg Miners 1911; Harrisburg Coal Miners 1913
Henderson, KY: Henderson Hens 1911-1914, 1916
Hopkinsville, KY: Hopkinsville Hoppers 1910-1914, 1916
Jackson, TN: Jackson Climbers 1911
Madisonville, KY: Madisonville Miners 1916
McLeansboro, IL: McLeansboro Miners 1910-1911
Owensboro, KY: Owensboro Distillers 1914, 1916
Paducah, KY: Paducah Indians 1910, 1914; Paducah Polecats 1911; Paducah Chiefs 1912-1913
Vincennes, IN: Vincennes Alices 1910, 1913; Vincennes Hoosiers 1911
As mentioned before, the second run of the KITTY League started with four teams. Two teams of the disbanded Southern Illinois League were added after the first half of the season. The Vincennes Alices won the first half of the season and the newly added McLeansboro Miners won the second half. Since no championship series was played, both teams were declared co-champions.
Also, the 1911 season ended with co-champions. The Hopkinsville Hoppers and the Fulton Colonels were scheduled to play the championship series but due to inclement weather and poor field conditions in both cities, the Hoppers and the Colonels were declared co-champions.
The McLeansboro Miners did not last long. With a 65-58 record, the team moved to Henderson to become the Hens. The reason for this move was because Sunday baseball was not allowed in McLeansboro. After only 23 games, the Harrisburg Miners moved to Jackson where they played under the moniker Climbers. with a 5-18 the club did not draw a lot of fans, so the move to Jackson was inevitable.
In 1915 the league tried to reorganize to become a four-team league again with teams in Cairo, Henderson, Owensboro, and Paducah. But the efforts failed and the league did not play in that year. The next year, the league would return for one more year, this time as a six-team league. But with Madison disbanding on August 2, the league would not make it to the end of the season as it disbanded two days later.