June 13, 2011

Minor League Baseball: the Eastern League.

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Double-A — admin @ 7:04 am

Eastern League (baseball)

The Eastern League, established in 1923, is one of 3 Double-A minor leagues in Organized Baseball. Double-A is two steps below Major League Baseball. {You can see my map of all 3 Double-A minor leagues, with 2010 attendances and all 30 teams’ MLB affiliations, in this post, here.}. The Eastern League was historically centered in New York and Pennsylvania, and by the 1930s, the league had expanded it’s range to include teams from cities in New Jersey and Connecticut. The present-day Eastern League has teams in 9 states – in the Northeast, in Pennsylvania [with 4 teams], New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and Maryland); plus one team in in Ohio; and one team in Virginia.

For it’s first 15 season. the Eastern League was originally known as the New York-Pennsylvania League. [That name has actually been used for 3 different minor leagues, starting with the New York-Pennsylvania League (I) that existed for just one season in 1891; while the current New York-Pennsylvania League (III) is almost universally known as the New York-Penn League and is a Class A-Short Season League.]

The charter members in 1923 of the league that the present-day Eastern League evolved from – the New York-Pennsylvania League (II) – were ball clubs from Binghamton, NY; Elmira, NY; Scranton, PA; Wilkes-Barre; PA; Williamsport, PA; and York, PA. A team from Harrisburg, PA entered the league the following season of 1924. Binghamton and Harrisburg have (different) ball clubs in the present-day Eastern League. The longest-running current team in the Eastern League is the Reading (Pennsylvania) Phillies, who began playing in the league in 1967. Reading also is the team in the Eastern League with the longest-running continuous affiliation with the same Major League team, the Philadelphia Phillies. 2011 will be the 45th-straight season of the Philadelphia/Reading partnership. This 45-year run is tied with one other MLB/minor league partnership for the longest currently in Organized Baseball – the other being between the Class A Florida State League ball club the Lakeland Tigers and the Detroit Tigers.

Throughout it’s first 10 seasons, the New York-Pennsylvania League (II) was a Class B league (equivalent to the fourth level below the Major Leagues). In 1933, it was upgraded 2 levels (by-passing the A-1 level), to a Class A league. In 1938, when the Scranton ball club moved to Hartford, CT, the league changed it’s name to the Eastern League (III). [The "(III)" is there because there was a minor league called the Eastern League (I) that existed in the Nineteenth century from 1884 to 1886 (it merged with two other leagues to form the precursor-league to the present-day Triple-A league the International League). The second Eastern League (II) was what the International League was called between 1892 and 1911.]

The modern-era Eastern League moved up a level and became a Double-A level league in 1963, when Organized Baseball did an overhaul of it’s league-level classifications. The Double-A Eastern League of 1963 was a 6-team circuit comprised of these ball clubs (with MLB affiliations noted)…Binghamton Triplets (Kansas City A’s), Charleston [West Virginia] Indians (Cleveland Indians), Elmira Pioneers (Baltimore Orioles), Reading Red Sox (Boston Red Sox), Springfield [Massachusetts] Giants (San Francisco Giants), York [Pennsylvania] White Roses (Washington Senators).

From 1958 to 1993, the Eastern League fluctuated from 6 to 8 teams. In 1994, the modern-day Eastern League began when the league expanded to 10 teams and 2 divisions, with the addition of new ball clubs in Portland, ME and New Haven, CT. New Haven lost their team when the franchise moved to Manchester, NH in 2004. The most recent shift saw the Norwich, CT team move to Richmond, VA in 2010. That team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, led the Eastern League in attendance in their debut season last year, drawing 6,626 per game.

Besides Richmond, the Eastern League features several other teams that draw above 5,000 per game these days – the Reading Phillies, the Portland Sea Dogs, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the New Britain Rock Cats, and the Trenton Thunder. Another good-drawing ball club in the Eastern League, particularly for the small size of it’s municipality, is the Altoona Curve. Altoona, Pennsylvania only has a metro-area population of 126,000, yet the Altoona Curve is able to draw over 4,000 per game. Granted, Altoona’s Blair County Ballpark {’s Eye satellite view, here} is next door to an amusement park (Lakemont Park), and you can see the roller coaster that looms behind right field, but it is pretty impressive for a town smaller than 150,000 to regularly draw over 4,000 per game for minor league baseball.

As a whole, the Eastern League averaged 4,663 per game last season.

Click on image below for list of Eastern League statistics – 2009 average attendances; 2010 average attendances; teams’ metro areas and metro area populations; age of teams and length of time the team has had their current MLB-affiliation; and Eastern League titles…

Photo credits -
Binghamton Mets/NYSEG Stadium…Aerial image from’s Eye satellite view, here.
New Britain Rock Cats/New Britain Stadium…Aerial image from’s Eye satellite view, here.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats/Northeast Delta Dental Stadium…photo by David Sailors/Corbis, at, here.
Portland Sea Dogs/Hadlock Field…photo from
Reading Phillies/First Energy stadium…Aerial image from’s Eye satellite view, here.
Trenton Thunder/Mercer County Waterfront Park…photo from

Akron Aeros/Canal Park…Aerial image from’s Eye satellite view, here.
Altoona Curve/Blair County Ballpark…Photo from, here.
Bowie Baysox/Prince George’s Stadium…photo from
Erie SeaWolves/Jerry Uht Park…Aerial image from’s Eye satellite view, here.
Harrisburg Senators/Metro Bank Park…Aerial image from’s eye satellite view, here.
Richmond Flying Squirrels/The Diamond…Aerial image from’s Eye satellite view, here.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘Eastern League (baseball)‘.
Thanks to, ‘Eastern League (AA) Encyclopedia and History‘.

Attendances from, [ ] pdf, ‘2010 Minor League Analysis / 2010 Minor League Att‘ [attendances by league begin at page 29 in the pdf].
Thanks to the Biz of Baseball site, for 2009 attendances, here.

Thanks to, here, for Eastern League total attendance numbers.
Thanks to the MiLB/Eastern League site, for this article, .’History – Eastern League History (1923-Present)

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