The International League (IL) is a Minor League Baseball league that operates in the eastern United States and is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. Like the Pacific Coast League and the Mexican League, it plays at the Triple-A level, which is one step below Major League Baseball.
It was so named because throughout its history the International League has had teams in Canada, Cuba, and Puerto Rico as well as those in the United States. However, since the relocation of the Ottawa Lynx to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to become the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the 2008 season, all of the league's teams are now based in the U.S. Today, the league is composed of 14 teams across 9 states stretching from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and from Rochester, New York, to Lawrenceville, Georgia.
A league champion is determined at the end of every season. The Rochester Red Wings have won 19 International League titles, the most in the league's history, followed by the Buffalo Bisons (12) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (11). Since the introduction of the Governors' Cup in 1933, the most cup titles have been won by Rochester and the Columbus Clippers (10), followed by the Syracuse Chiefs (8) and the Montreal Royals (7). After the season, the IL champion plays in the Triple-A National Championship Game against the Pacific Coast League champion to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. The Columbus Clippers have won two national championships, more than any other IL teams.
The International League was created from the mergers of member teams from three precursor leagues: the Eastern League, which was itself a re-organization of the Interstate Association of 1883; the New York State League, formed in 1885; and the Ontario League, also organized in 1885. The New York State and Ontario leagues merged in 1886 to form the International League, and in 1887 the Eastern League was absorbed to create a 10-club league.
The league collapsed soon afterwards, when the northern teams claimed that it was too onerous to travel to the south and formed the International Association. Teams and league names came and went over the years. The league was also affected by the effort to establish the Federal League as a new third major league from 1914 to 1915, with franchises being added and dropped and new ballparks built. In 1954, a franchise was awarded to Havana, Cuba, but due to political upheaval in that country it had to be moved — to Jersey City, New Jersey — in the middle of the 1960 season. Another foray into the Caribbean failed when the newly created team in San Juan, Puerto Rico, added in 1961, had to be moved to Charleston, West Virginia, in mid-season.
In 1971, an International League all-star team beat the New York Yankees in an exhibition game in Rochester, New York, before 11,000 people. In 1984, the all-stars lost to the Cleveland Indians in 11 innings before 11,032 fans in Columbus, Ohio, to commemorate the league's 100th anniversary.
The International League and the American Association, another Triple-A league that operated in the Midwest, voted in 1988 to play interleague games as part of the Triple-A Alliance. The league also split into two divisions that year. The interleague concept ended in 1992, but the two league divisions remained.
In 1998, with the addition of three new teams from the disbanded American Association and the Durham Bulls who previously played in the Carolina League, the International League reorganized into three divisions for the first time.
The International League is divided into three divisions: the North Division, South Division, and West Division. The North Division consists of six teams, while the South and West Divisions each have four teams. The teams are slated to play 140 games in 2018, reduced from 142 in 2017 and 144 during the years 1998-2016. The season typically begins during the first week of April and concludes on Labor Day. The league plays by the same rules listed in the Official Baseball Rules published by Major League Baseball.
At the end of each season, the three divisional leaders and a wild card team square off in best-of-five series playoffs to determine a league champion, with the winner awarded the Governors' Cup, the league's championship trophy. Under this format, the North Division champion plays the wild card team, while the champions of the South and West Divisions play one another in best-of-five series. The winners then play each other in a best-of-five series to determine the champion.
Since 2006, the IL champion has played against the Pacific Coast League's champion in the Triple-A National Championship Game, a single game to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. Previously, the IL champion also competed in the Triple-A World Series (1983, 1998–2000), Junior World Series (1919), and other sporadic postseason competitions throughout the league's history.
Other interleague play occurs during the Triple-A All-Star Game. Traditionally, the game has taken place on the day after the mid-summer Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The game is meant to mark a symbolic halfway-point in the season (though not the mathematical halfway-point which, for most seasons, is usually one month prior). During the All-Star break, no regular-season games are scheduled for two days before the All-Star Game itself.
|North||Buffalo Bisons||1985||Toronto Blue Jays||2013||Buffalo, New York||Coca-Cola Field||16,907|
|Lehigh Valley IronPigs||2008||Philadelphia Phillies||2007||Allentown, Pennsylvania||Coca-Cola Park||10,100|
|Pawtucket Red Sox||1973||Boston Red Sox||1970||Pawtucket, Rhode Island||McCoy Stadium||10,031|
|Rochester Red Wings||1899||Minnesota Twins||2003||Rochester, New York||Frontier Field||13,500|
|Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders||1989||New York Yankees||2007||Moosic, Pennsylvania||PNC Field||10,000|
|Syracuse Chiefs||1961||Washington Nationals||2009||Syracuse, New York||NBT Bank Stadium||11,071|
|South||Charlotte Knights||1993||Chicago White Sox||1999||Charlotte, North Carolina||BB&T Ballpark||10,200|
|Durham Bulls||1998||Tampa Bay Rays||1998||Durham, North Carolina||Durham Bulls Athletic Park||10,000|
|Gwinnett Stripers||2009||Atlanta Braves||1965||Lawrenceville, Georgia||Coolray Field||10,427|
|Norfolk Tides||1969||Baltimore Orioles||2007||Norfolk, Virginia||Harbor Park||11,856|
|West||Columbus Clippers||1977||Cleveland Indians||2009||Columbus, Ohio||Huntington Park||10,100|
|Indianapolis Indians||1902||Pittsburgh Pirates||2005||Indianapolis, Indiana||Victory Field||14,230|
|Louisville Bats||1982||Cincinnati Reds||2000||Louisville, Kentucky||Louisville Slugger Field||13,131|
|Toledo Mud Hens||1965||Detroit Tigers||1987||Toledo, Ohio||Fifth Third Field||10,300|
Current team Former team
The International League has crowned a league champion each season since 1884. Through 1932, the championship was awarded to the regular season pennant winner. In 1933, the league introduced a postseason playoff system to determine a champion. The winner is awarded the Governors' Cup.
Active International League teams appear in bold.
|19||Rochester Bronchos/Red Wings||1899, 1901, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1939, 1952, 1955, 1956, 1964, 1971, 1974, 1988, 1990, 1997|
|12||Buffalo Bisons||1891, 1904, 1906, 1915, 1916, 1927, 1933, 1936, 1957, 1961, 1998, 2004|
|11||Toronto Maple Leafs||1897, 1902, 1907, 1912, 1917, 1918, 1926, 1934, 1960, 1965, 1966|
|10||Baltimore Orioles||1908, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1944, 1950|
|10||Columbus Clippers||1979, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2010, 2011, 2015|
|8||Montreal Royals||1898, 1941, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1958|
|8||Syracuse Chiefs||1935, 1942, 1943, 1947, 1954, 1969, 1970, 1976|
|5||Durham Bulls||2002, 2003, 2009, 2013, 2017|
|5||Newark Bears||1932, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1945|
|5||Providence Grays/Clamdiggers||1894, 1905, 1896, 1900, 1914|
|5||Richmond Braves (Gwinnett Stripers)||1978, 1986, 1989, 1994, 2007|
|5||Tidewater Tides (Norfolk Tides)||1972, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1985|
|4||Pawtucket Red Sox||1973, 1984, 2012, 2014|
|3||Toledo Mud Hens||1967, 2005, 2006|
|2||Charlotte Knights||1993, 1999|
|2||Detroit Wolverines||1889, 1890|
|2||Indianapolis Indians||1963, 2000|
|2||Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees/RailRiders||2008, 2016|
|2||Syracuse Stars||1885, 1888|
|1||Havana Sugar Kings||1959|
|1||Jersey City Skeeters||1903|
|1||Louisville RiverBats (Louisville Bats)||2001|
|1||Newark Little Giants||1886|
The IL recognizes outstanding players and team personnel annually near the end of each season.
The Most Valuable Pitcher Award, first awarded in 1953, serves to recognize the league's best pitcher. Pitchers were eligible to win the MVP award from 1932 to 1952 as no award was designated solely for pitchers.
The Executive of the Year Award, first awarded in 1964, honors team executives who have contributed to the success of the league.
The Spirit of the International League Award, first awarded in 2010, honors team executives who have exhibited dedication to creating and maintaining positive fan experiences when visiting IL games.
The International League Hall of Fame was established in 1947 to honor league players, managers, and executives who have made significant contributions to the league. The Hall of Fame inducted its first class of 9 men in 1947. A plaque was unveiled at the IL's New York City offices located in the Ruppert Building at 535 Fifth Avenue. Today, the plaque has no permanent home, but exists as a traveling display which visits a number of the league's ballparks each season. The Hall became dormant after 1963, but was revived in 2007. New members are elected before the start of each season.
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