Louisville Colonel history
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Five seasons after the demise of the Louisville Grays, the city of Louisville, KY got another chance for a second major league team, the Louisville Eclipse. The Eclipse were organized shortly after the collapse of the Grays. By 1879 they were one of the most popular semi-pro teams in the city. Around that time the team played its home games at Eclipse Park. It should be noted that for several seasons the team was known by several nicknames. Apparently no one could agree on a name. Among the names were the following: Eclipse, Colonels and Louisvilles.
Prior to the start of the 1882 season, the team came under the ownership of J.H. Pank and William Reccius. Pank was the owner of the Kentucky Malt Co. and Reccius was a sporting goods businessman. On November 2, 1881 the Eclipse were invited to join a new league: the American Association. To manage the team, journeyman Denny Mack was brought in. Mack also played shortstop for the team. The Eclipse opened the season and a six-game series with a 9-7 loss to the St. Louis Brown Stockings. The Eclipse got their first win at home in in the fourth game of their series with the Brown Stockings, a 2-1 final score. Starting with the team’s win over the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, the Eclipse would never drop below 4th place in the standings. When the season ended Louisville had a 42-38 record good for a 2nd-place finish. Louisville had a 26-13 home record, but a terrible 16-25 road record.
Over the next couple of seasons, the team increased its win total, but never managed to capture the elusive league pennant. After the 1884 season, Reccius and Pank sold off their shares to a group led by the Phelps Brothers, Zack and John. William L. Jackson, Jr. took over as president. The Phelps Brothers owned the team until 1888, when the brothers sold it to Mordecai Davidson, though Zack remained as a minority owner. Davidson lasted as owner until July 2, 1889 when the league took over. The next day the team was sold to a conglomerate led by George Reiger. Eight days later, Lawrence Parsons was named team president. The front office was reorganized again prior to the start of the 1891 season though by early August, Parsons had stepped down as president, and was replaced by Dr. T. Hunt Stuckey. On November 16th, the team was sold again, to a group led by Larry Gatto, with Stuckey remaining as president.
Meanwhile the changes in ownership had an effect on the team. After three straight winning seasons, the Eclipse went 53-59 in 1885. This was the team’s first year as the Louisville Colonels. After two straight losing seasons in 1885 and 1886, the team would produce back-to-back winning seasons, including a team high 76 wins in 1887. This was then followed by two straight losing seasons including a team worst 27-111-2 record in 1889. The 111 losses would be the most losses by a major league team until the 1899 Cleveland Spiders who would lose 134 games.
The 1890 season saw the team win a team high 88 games. The Colonels finished in 1st place with an 88-44-4 record. It would be the team’s first and only pennant. The team then faced the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in a seven-game postseason series. The Bridegrooms won the first two games and then tied the Colonels in the third. The teams split Games 4 and 5, with the Colonels winning the last two games ending the series 3-3-1. 1891 found the team in 8th place with a 54-83-2 record.
A month after Larry Gatto bought the team; the Colonels joined the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators and St. Louis Browns in moving to the National League for the 1892 season. The Colonels won 63 games in 1892, but still posted a losing season. In the off-season Gatto and Stuckey sold off their shares with minority owner Fred Dexler, Jr. gaining control of the team. Dexler remained as owner for three years before selling to Barney Dreyfuss and Harry C. Pulliam. Following the 1899 season, Dreyfuss, who was now majority owner, was dissatisfied with the way things were going in Louisville decided to close up shop as part of the National League's decision to contract four teams. Having gained control of the Pittsburgh Pirates through syndicate ownership, Dreyfuss decided to merge the two teams together. Among those to make the move were shortstop Honus Wagner and player/manager Fred Clarke. Both of whom would make a big impact on the Pittsburgh Pirates over the next decade.
- John E. Kleber: The Encyclopedia of Louisville, University Press of Kentucky, 2015
- Philip Von Borries: The Louisville Baseball Almanac, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC, 2010
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.