1890 World Champions
1890 World Champions T-Shirt. Available in navy.
100% Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton. Sideseamed. Unisex sizing. Shoulder taping.
In 1889, the Louisville Colonels of the American Association finished in last place with a 27-11 record. The following season, Louisville pulled off one of the most amazing turnarounds in history, clinching the American Association pennant on October 6, 1890 with a 2–0 victory over Columbus.
That turnaround was assisted by a seismic shift in the baseball landscape during the offseason that included the formation of a third major league. Unlike the existing National League and American Association, Players League teams were partly owned by the players themselves. Most of the best players in baseball at the time jumped to the new league, including Louisville star Pete Browning, who signed with the Players League Cleveland Infants.
The Association’s instability ran even deeper. Two entire teams—including the champions from Brooklyn switched to the National League. A third team folded and a fourth dropped to the minors. Four new franchises were added to the American Association to take their place.
Then, on March 27, 1890, a tornado tore through Louisville, killing over 100 people. On the night of the tragedy, Louisville’s baseball team was enjoying a show at a local theatre, just a short distance from where the tornado touched down. The next day, members of the ballclub assisted the town’s citizens in pulling the living, as well as the dead, from the rubble.
In the aftermath of the tornado, pitcher Red Ehret said, “We want to strike the other fellows [in the league] as hard as the cyclone struck the town.” Shortly after the tragedy, the press started referring to the ballclub as the Cyclones and the name stuck. The team, under the ownership of Barney Dreyfuss, played outstanding baseball all year.
The Cyclones took the field at Eclipse Park in Louisville on Monday, October 6 against the third place Columbus Solons as they looked to become the first team to ever go from worst to first.
Louisville’s manager Jack Chapman gave the starting nod to his best pitcher, Scott Stratton, who posted a 34–14 record with a league-leading 2.36 earned run average. Stratton wound up with a six-hitter and didn’t allow a Columbus runner to reach third base.
The pennant was clinched when Louisville left fielder Charlie Hamburg tracked down a long fly ball for the final out to seal the 2-0 victory.
Louisville finished with an 88–44 record in 1890, an astonishing 64-game improvement in the standings. The Cyclones went on to play the National League champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms in an early version of the World Series. Each team notched three victories in addition to playing to a 7–7 tie in the third game, but rain, cold weather, and dwindling attendance led to the cancellation of the series. The anticlimactic end to the 1890 campaign did nothing to diminish the Cyclones’ remarkable accomplishment of being the first major- league ballclub to go from worst to first in just one season.
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