I’ve always loved this old Twins logo. Drawn in 1960 by Ray Barton for a reported $15, this logo has seen a rebirth at the new ballpark. The “Two Guys” are known as Minnie and Paul, and they represent more than just a pair of Twins. They also honor the history of professional baseball in the twin cities, which dates back to the 1800’s. Like all 19th century histories things get a little hazy where “pre-modern” baseball leagues are concerned. This is just one of the many reasons that the sport of baseball is so ripe for fiction and fantasy. Its beginnings are so obscure, and mystical that the sport lends itself well to legends and mysteries.
The Major Leagues as we know them really didn’t exist until the beginning of the 1900’s. Before that, there was a series of professional leagues that existed, overlapped, and interbred into what we now know as the American and National Leagues. While the current National League traces its roots back to 1876, when it was founded to replace the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the American League wasn’t founded until 1901.
What became the American League, was initially a minor league known as the ‘Western League”. The Western League was founded in 1885, as a collection of minor league teams in the Midwest. As a native New Yorker, it always strikes me as odd that back then the Midwest was really considered to be “The West”. I guess back then the days of teepees and buffalo on the great plains were still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Minnesota’s connection to the Western League began with the founding of the Minneapolis Millers. In 1894 the Twin Cities became home to two franchises when none other than Charles Comiskey bought the Sioux City franchise, and moved them to St. Paul and christened them the Saints. The bitter rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul was immediate and lasting. Having cross town clubs playing in the same league made for great newspaper sales, and civic pride, and would eventually create some difficulty when the Major League finally did return in 1961.
In 1899 the National League decided to cut back from 12 to 8 teams, and disbanded its franchises in Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville, and Washington. The Western League saw its opportunity and quickly expanded into those cities to fill the void. But Minnesota’s chance at the major leagues would have to wait for another 60 years. The league elected to abandon Minneapolis for larger eastern markets, and Charles Comiskey relocated his St. Paul club to Chicago, and the Chicago White Stockings were born. As a Twins fan, this is yet another reason to hate the Whities.
While the major leagues had left both of the Twin Towns behind, baseball never really left. Both the Saints and the Millers were reborn in minor league forms into the new American Association, and the rivalry continued. It is this rivalry that is represented by the “two guys” standing in the logo, shaking hands across the river. For when locals began angling for a major league team in the 1950’s there was much debate over where to locate the team. A peace accord was reached when Clark Griffith decided to move his Washington Senators team to Minnesota, and both the Saints and the Millers were disbanded. The new team was named Minnesota, rather than Minneapolis or St. Paul, to appease fans on both sides of the river. They would play their games in Bloomington, in an expanded version of the Millers new Metropolitan Stadium which had been built in 1956. The Saints new field in St. Paul, the 3 year old Midway Stadium, would sit vacant, and eventually be torn down in 1981.
Of course, the Twins would eventually leave the erector set of Metropolitan Stadium for the marshmallow roofed confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and now the glorious jewel box we call Target Field. But there is much more to the history of ballparks in Minneapolis-St. Paul than those three parks.
Coming soon. A short illustrated history of the Saints and Millers ball parks.