|Most titles||Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (5)|
The Northern League was an independent minor professional baseball league. It was not affiliated with Major League Baseball or the organized minor leagues. The league was founded in 1993 and folded after its 2010 season when financial stability became a problem. The three teams remaining in the league when it folded joined with the remaining teams in United League Baseball and the Golden Baseball League to form a new independent organization called the North American League.
The modern Northern League was founded by Miles Wolff. Wolff started the league after many midwestern cities contacted him (through his affiliation with Baseball America ) asking how they could get a minor league team. After visiting some of them, most notably Duluth, Minnesota and its Wade Stadium, he began contacting potential owners to start the league. The league was structured to where teams were not allowed to load their rosters with ex-pros. Players with five or more years of professional experience were labeled "veterans" and teams could carry no more than four. At least the same amount of "rookies" (players with less than a year of experience) had to be on a team's roster. The rest of the roster was made up of "limited service" or "LS" players, each having a number from 1 through 5 attached to the LS depending on how long they had been in pro baseball.
The league began in 1993 with six teams: Duluth–Superior Dukes (Duluth, Minnesota), Rochester Aces (Rochester, Minnesota), St. Paul Saints (St. Paul, Minnesota), Sioux Falls Canaries (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Sioux City Explorers (Sioux City, Iowa) and Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks (Thunder Bay, Ontario). The prospects for the league were originally "cloudy." Many forecast an early demise especially in St. Paul where competition with the Minnesota Twins led many local sportswriters to consider it a "beer league." The league, however, was a relatively moderate success, with only the Rochester franchise struggling to draw crowds to their games. The first league title was won by St. Paul. After the season, the Aces were sold to an ownership group led by future Winnipeg, Manitoba mayor Sam Katz and the team relocated to the city and became known as the Winnipeg Goldeyes, taking the name of the Winnipeg team that played in the original Northern League. The Goldeyes won the league championship in their first season in the new city.
The first wave of expansion to the league came in 1996 as the Northern League entered Wisconsin and North Dakota. The Madison Black Wolf, based in the capital of Wisconsin, and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, based in Fargo, North Dakota but named for the metropolitan area that includes Moorhead, Minnesota, joined the league. The second wave of expansion came in 1999. First, the Whiskey Jacks left Canada and moved to Schaumburg, Illinois where they became known as the Schaumburg Flyers. The bigger news, however, was that the Northeast League, an independent league in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states also founded by Wolff, would merge with the Northern League and become the Northern League's East Division. The rest of the Northern League teams comprised the Central Division, and both division champions would meet in a league championship series. The merger lasted until 2002, and Northeast League teams won all four of the Northern League's championships in that time. Meanwhile, Madison's team moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 2001 to become the Lincoln Saltdogs while teams were awarded to Joliet, Illinois and Gary, Indiana in 2002. The Joliet JackHammers made the playoffs in their first season while the Gary SouthShore RailCats were forced to play an entire season on the road because the city of Gary did not have their stadium completed on time.
At the end of the 2002 season Miles Wolff resigned as commissioner of the Northern League to focus on his duties with the now-reinstated Northeast League. Mike Stone became league commissioner in 2003. Over the next two years the league entered three new markets. Charter member Duluth-Superior left Minnesota in 2003 to move to Kansas City, Kansas and became known as the Kansas City T-Bones. For 2004, the league expanded its Canadian operations into the province of Alberta and added the Calgary Vipers and Edmonton CrackerCats to the league.
Mike Stone left the commissioner's position in 2005 shortly after a dramatic move by several of the league's teams. Following the season's conclusion St. Paul, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Lincoln announced they were leaving the league to form a new independent league with five teams from the folded Central Baseball League in the southern United States; the new league was to be known as the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Stone was replaced by Jim Weigel, who in turn was replaced by Clark C. Griffith after one year in charge. Following the 2007 season, the league was left with six teams as Calgary and Edmonton left to join the Golden Baseball League. This number grew to seven in 2009 as Zion, Illinois was granted an expansion team known as the Lake County Fielders. In 2010 an eighth team was added when the Rockford RiverHawks moved from the Frontier League.
Following the 2010 season, the Northern League announced that Winnipeg, Kansas City, Fargo-Moorhead, and Gary SouthShore would be leaving the league to join the American Association. This left Rockford, Lake County, Joliet, and Schaumburg with decisions to make. The JackHammers were sold and renamed to the Joliet Slammers, and moved to the Frontier League. The other three franchises merged with the Golden Baseball League and United League Baseball franchises to form the North American League. However, things did not work out as planned. The Flyers were evicted from Alexian Field, their home stadium, due to a large amount of debt owed to their home town of Schaumburg and eventually suspended operations. The RiverHawks decided to decline the invitation in the league and return to the Frontier League for 2011. The Fielders were the only team remaining from the original three merged into the new league but have since folded, meaning there are no longer any Northern League teams remaining in the North American League. As of the end of the 2011 season only one member of the North American League has, in fact, played in the Northern League – the Edmonton Capitals (the former Cracker-Cats). The fate of the North American League was also soon decided with the Golden Baseball League's teams disbanding and the United Baseball League decided to re-adopt their league name due to only UBL teams remaining in the ill-fated NAL after the 2012 season. The UBL itself folded after the 2014 season.
Over 12 seasons, over two dozen former Northern League players have played in Major League Baseball. These include players such as J. D. Drew, Kevin Millar, Chris Coste, Jeff Zimmerman, and Rey Ordóñez. Several former MLB players played in the league including Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Darryl Strawberry, Jack Morris, Pedro Guerrero, Jermaine Allensworth, Ken Harvey, Mike Caruso, Bo Hart, Leon "Bull" Durham, and Brant Brown. Former MLB players and coaches have also coached or managed in the Northern League including Terry Bevington, "Dirty" Al Gallagher, Jackie Hernández, Danny Jackson, Maury Wills, Tim Johnson, Ron Kittle, Hal Lanier, Darryl Motley, Matt Nokes, and Wayne Terwilliger.
When the Northern League consisted of between eight and twelve teams, it played a split season 96-game schedule with two divisions from late May until early September. The division winners in each half qualified for the post-season, though if a team were to win both halves, the team with the best overall record, regardless of division, qualified as a wild card. Both the league semi-finals and Championship Series were best of five.
When the league dropped to six teams in 2008, it still played a 96-game schedule, but did not split the season and did not have divisions. Instead, the top four teams qualified for the playoffs. The first round consisted of a best-of-five series between the first and fourth-place finishers and between second and third-place finishers. The winners of the first round then played a best-of-five championship series.
In October 2009 the Northern League voted to expand from its 96-game season to a 100-game schedule, effective for the 2010 season. The playoff format was to remain the same, with the top four clubs making the playoffs.
During the season, rosters were limited to 22 players, broken into seven classes based on a players years of service. One year of service was defined as one National Association (affiliated) season, or two independent league seasons.
Final league membersFormer Team
(Left to re-form Northeast League, then later the Can-Am League)
The Northern League has hosted an annual All-Star Game since 1997. The venue changes annually. Its format pits the all-stars from each division against each other. In 2008 and 2009 there were no divisions during the regular season so the league temporarily split to have the "Chicagoland" clubs play the "I-29" clubs in 2008 and the "Great Lakes" clubs play the "Great Plains" clubs in 2009. In 2010 the Northern League played the Golden League all-stars.
The Frontier League is a professional independent baseball league with teams in the Northeast and Midwestern United States and Eastern Canada. It operates mostly in cities not served by Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball teams and is not affiliated with either. The league was formed in 1993, and is the oldest currently running independent league in the United States. It is headquartered in Sauget, Illinois.
The St. Paul Saints are an American professional baseball team based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Saints are a member of the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The Saints played their home games at Midway Stadium starting in 1993, when the modern-day team started as a member of the Northern League. In 2006, the team was a founding member of the modern American Association. The team started playing at CHS Field in 2015.
The Kansas City T-Bones are a professional baseball team based in Kansas City, Kansas, in the United States. The T-Bones are a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The T-Bones played their home games at T-Bones Stadium from 2003, when the team started as a member of the Northern League, through 2019. In 2011, the team joined the modern American Association. In 2018, the T-Bones won their first-ever American Association Championship by defeating the St. Paul Saints.
The Gary SouthShore RailCats are a professional baseball team based in Gary, Indiana, in the United States. The RailCats are a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The RailCats started as a member of the Northern League in 2002, operating as a travel team for a season before moving in to the U.S. Steel Yard in 2003, where they have played since. In 2011, the team became a member of the modern American Association.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes are a professional baseball team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Goldeyes play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which they joined in 2011. The American Association is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Previously, the Goldeyes were members of the Northern League from 1994 until 2010. The Goldeyes were champions of the Northern League in 1994. They are also three-time champions of the American Association; having won in 2012, and back-to-back in 2016–2017.
The Schaumburg Flyers were a professional baseball team based in Schaumburg, Illinois, in the United States. The Flyers were to be charter members of the North American League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball, but the team folded in March 2011, before beginning play in the NAL. From 1999 to 2010, the Flyers played their home games at Alexian Field, near the Elgin O'Hare Expressway. They formerly played in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where they were known as the Thunder Bay Whiskey Jacks. The team belonged to the Northern League from 1993 to 2010.
The Calgary Vipers were a professional baseball team based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They were part of the Western Division of the independent North American League. The Vipers have played all of their home games at Foothills Stadium. Previously, the Vipers played in the Northern League from 2005 to 2007. The Vipers were champions of the Golden Baseball League in 2009, having defeated the Tucson Toros in the Championship Series.
U.S. Steel Yard is an open-air baseball stadium located in Gary, Indiana next to I-90 in the city's Emerson neighborhood. It is home to the Gary SouthShore RailCats, a professional baseball team and member of the American Association. It seats 6,139 people. It also hosts many Little League Baseball games as well as high school baseball games. The ballpark is notable for holding a memorial service for the late pop musician and Gary native Michael Jackson on July 10, 2009 that was attended by over 6,000 fans, with much of Jackson's family in attendance. The ballpark has had over 2 million fans in attendance during the RailCats team history.
The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks are a professional baseball team based in Fargo, North Dakota, in the United States. The RedHawks are a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The RedHawks have played their home games at Newman Outdoor Field since 1996, when the team started as a member of the Northern League. The team plays in the American Association.
The Sioux City Explorers are a professional baseball team based in Sioux City, Iowa, in the United States. The Explorers are a member of the South Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. From their inception in 1993 to the present, the Explorers have played their home games at Lewis and Clark Park.
The American Association of Independent Professional Baseball is an independent professional baseball league founded in 2005. It operates in the central United States and Canada, mostly in cities not served by Major League Baseball teams or their minor league affiliates. Joshua Schaub is the league commissioner. League offices are located in Moorhead, Minnesota. Though a separate entity, the league shared a commissioner and director of umpires with the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball during that league's existence. The American Association of Independent Professional Baseball has 501(c)(6) tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
Harry Berrios is a former professional baseball player who is now an assistant coach for Davenport University. He usually played left field, or Designated Hitter, but in the 2006 season, Berrios played at 1st base for a few games due to the retirement of Jon Benick. He played for the Winnipeg Goldeyes from 2002-2006. The team released him after a slow start to the 2006 season and he signed with their rivals the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Harry had 54 home runs and 291 RBIs from 2002-2005 with the Goldeyes. His batting average in those 4 years with Winnipeg was .327.
The Northern League was a name used by several minor league baseball organizations that operated off and on between 1902 and 1971 in the upper midwestern United States and Manitoba, Canada.
Jarrod Lane Patterson is a retired Major League Baseball third baseman. He is a graduate of Chilton County High School in Clanton, Alabama. He played during two seasons at the major league level for the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. He was drafted by the New York Mets in the 20th round of the 1993 amateur draft. Patterson played his first professional season with their Rookie League Gulf Coast Mets in 1993, and his last with the independent Northern League's Joliet Jackhammers, Schaumburg Flyers, Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2006. He played his last affiliated season for the Royals' Triple-A Omaha Royals in 2004.
The Fargo Force is a Tier I junior ice hockey team in the Western Conference of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The Force have won one league championship in 2018 and was awarded USHL Organization Of The Year for 2008–09 and 2012–13.
The Fargo-Moorhead Twins were a minor league baseball team that existed from 1933 to 1942 and from 1946 to 1960. They played in the Northern League and were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians from 1934 to 1940 and from 1953 to 1957, the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1947 to 1948 and the New York Yankees from 1958 to 1960. They represented the cities of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota. The previous Fargo-Moorhead team in the Northern League was the Fargo-Moorehead Graingrowers, who played from 1914-1917.
Yurendell Eithel DeCaster is a former professional baseball third baseman. He played part of one season in Major League Baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played for Team Netherlands in the 2019 European Baseball Championship, and at the Africa/Europe 2020 Olympic Qualification tournament, in Italy in September 2019.
The Sioux Falls Canaries are a professional baseball team based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States. The Canaries are a member of the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Since the 1993 season, the Canaries have played their home games at Sioux Falls Stadium, commonly known as The Birdcage. In the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, the team was called the Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants.
The Duluth–Superior Dukes were a professional baseball team based in Duluth, Minnesota. The Dukes were a charter member of the modern Northern League, which started play in 1993. The Dukes played their home games at Wade Stadium. After the 2002 season, the Dukes were moved to Kansas City where they were renamed the T-Bones.