History of the Midwest Baseball League
The Midwest Baseball League started operations in 1956. It was just a name change from The Mississippi Ohio Valley League (M.O.V.) which operated 1949-1955. The M.O.V. was a throw-off of the Illinois State League which operated 1947-1948.
The original 8 teams were Clinton and Dubuque, Iowa; Mattoon, Paris, and Decatur, Illinois; and Kokomo, Lafayette, and Michigan City, Indiana. Michigan City replaced Hannibal, Missouri from the 1955 M.O.V. Hannibal had finished the last 5 weeks of the 1955 schedule on the road. Paris, Illinois at that time was the smallest town in professional baseball. Clinton is the only remaining team left in the league.
The league progressed with 8 teams until they went to 10 teams in 1962. In 1969 the league fell on some hard times and went to 9 teams. This caused scheduling problems as you always had a team not playing. Back to 10 teams in 1970 through 1976. The league was then only able to field 8 teams 1977 through 1981. In 1982, under League President Bill Walters’ leadership the league went to 12 teams with 3 divisions. Unfortunately, Bill Walters died of a heart attack February 10, 1986 with Ed Larsen serving as league president for one year, 1986. The present league president, George Spelius took over in 1987 with the league going to 14 teams in 1988 but only 2 divisions. The league went to 3 divisions 1995-1999 but back to 2 divisions in 2000.
The league has always been very stable with strong league presidents. Dutch Hoffman now 6 years Midwest League President and 7 years M.O.V. President. James Doster served 8 years 1966-1973. Bill Walters, 12 years and George Spelius, 16 years and still going strong.
When teams left the league, presidents always managed to induce new towns in the league and when the “3-I” League folded after 1961 cities like Waterloo, Davenport, Danville, Springfield, Cedar Rapids, and Burlington entered the league.
In 1963 Minor League classifications changed to A, AA, and AAA from D, C, B, A, AA, and AAA. This wasn’t really too good a system as now, “A” Leagues are considered higher (better) than other leagues. After the Kitty League folded in 1955, the Midwest League was considered as one of the best Class D Leagues in organized baseball.
Fort Wayne came into the league in 1993 and has been a very stable addition. The league has changed from small town to large cities like Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne. Kane County has done well being located close to Chicago.
There have been hundreds of players that went from this league to major league baseball. Some were: Tommy Davis (1956 Kokomo), Vida Blue (1968 Burlington), Curt Flood (1983 Springfield), Jose Conesco (1983 Madison), Johnny Damon (1993 Rockford), Eric Davis (1982 Cedar Rapids), Mark Grace (1986 Peoria), and several now playing in the majors that were once Wizards.
Several umpires have progressed into the majors. The best known was Lee Weyer (1956-1957) (died July 4, 1988). Lee “High-Wire” was the youngest to ever umpire in the major leagues.
No doubt the Midwest League will prosper for many years to come. You see folks, “That’s The Way I Saw It”.