Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick
Welcome to the silent edition of Ghosts of the Minors, adapted from the segment from The Show Before the Show Podcast that asks you to identify a historical Minor League team hidden among two phonies. Here, we skip the quiz element and speed headlong into the past for a quick romp through the true story of the real Minors team.
Fans of summer collegiate baseball in the 21st century may be familiar with the M.I.N.K. League, which takes its initialism of a moniker from the area where the circuit plays -- in or near the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
That collegiate loop identifies itself as "the evolution" of a MINK League dating back to the opening stretch of the 20th century in the Minors.
Announced to the public in February 1910, the MINK League entered a baseball landscape dominated by players like the Tigers' Ty Cobb and the Pirates' Honus Wagner. Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's, having lost the '09 American League pennant by 3 1/2 games to Detroit, were about to reel off two straight World Series titles.
But MLB.TV subscriptions were hard to come by at the time, and big league action was very far from the banks of the Big Blue River, down in Nebraska's Gage County. Unto this territory in 1912 was born a team called the Beatrice Milkskimmers (or, depending on the newspaper you were reading, the "Milk Skimmers" or "Milk-Skimmers.")
Officially taking the place of the Shenandoah Pin Rollers (49-51 in 1911) while the new Hiawatha Athletics replaced the Clarinda Antelopes (43-57 in '11), the Milkskimmers played some of their home games in Fairbury, a town not 25 miles southwest, and went into the books as the Beatrice-Fairbury Milkskimmers.
But they weren't long for the hyphenated name, nor for the MINK League.
The Milkskimmers finished the '12 campaign 42-59, ahead of only Hiawatha and a full 20 games back from the Nebraska City Forresters (who were managed by no lesser a giant than 10-year Major League veteran Ducky Holmes.) Nor was that first Beatrice ballclub a great success financially, and the lean times for the Milkskimmers were, in fact, typical for the circuit as a whole. The MINK League contracted to four teams in 1913 and called it quits in mid-June, when two of them (the Falls City Colts and Humboldt Infants) folded.
Shortly after the Beatrice-less MINK League ended that year, the Milkskimmers embarked on a new beginning. In the middle of the summer, the Nebraska State League's Seward Statesmen beat their own box office blues with a move to Beatrice. Rechristened the Milkskimmers, they had an udderly good time in the greener grass of Beatrice, playing in the dairy air until the cows came home, running right past-eur-ize and into the dugout after beefing up their lead. Having come to town 27-37, they went 25-23 after the moo-oove.
The Milkskimmers were especially frothy in 1915, steak-ing their claim as the best of the Nebraska State League with a 38-18 record after 56 games. But just as the Milkskimmers were proving to be the cream of the crop, things curdled. Broke, the Columbus Pawnees and the Kearney Buffaloes dropped out of the circuit on June 4, and the Grand Island Champions and Norfolk Drummers fell out three weeks later.
On July 18, the Lincoln Sunday Star gave the Milkskimmers' faithful a sinking feeling with a story headlined: “BEATRICE CLUB IS TO BE DISBANDED.”
That every single Milkskimmers player had already received an offer to play elsewhere could only come as cold comfort in Beatrice, and indeed in the entire region. The very day the story of the Beatrice breakup broke, the Nebraska State League officially went bust, not to be revived until 1922.
But that's an apparition for a different edition of Ghosts of the Minors.
Josh Jackson is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @JoshJacksonMiLB.