The American Association was a minor league baseball league at the Triple-A level of baseball in the United States from 1902 to 1962 and 1969 to 1997. Together with the International League, it contested the Junior World Series which determined the championship team in minor league baseball, at least for the eastern half of the United States. Later, its teams would also compete in the Triple-A World Series, and its players in the Triple-A All-Star Game.
For most of the American Association's existence, in both incarnations, it comprised teams primarily from the central part of the United States. The league's attendance base began to be eroded significantly in the 1950s and early 1960s due to expansion and westward migration of major league teams into several of the AA's larger member cities: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; and Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. By 1961, the league was down to six clubs.
After the 1962 season, the American Association disbanded, and some of its member teams were distributed between the Pacific Coast League and the International League, while others (the Louisville Colonels and Omaha Dodgers) folded. The Indianapolis Indians were first assigned to the IL but then, in a geographic oddity, they were switched to the PCL. The Dallas Rangers, the Denver Bears, and the Oklahoma City 89ers also went to the PCL.
With major league expansion in 1969, and the need for four new Triple-A farm teams, the time seemed right for reviving the league, which re-acquired its old Indianapolis territory from the PCL, along with several cities that were new to the Association.
In the early 1990s, with significant cities like Buffalo, Denver, Indianapolis, and others in the league, the American Association published a media guide with a league map on the cover and the question "Can It Be the Third Major League?" The President of the American Association at the time was Branch Rickey III, grandson of Branch Rickey, who integrated major league baseball in 1947 and later headed up the proposed Continental League, which was to be a third major league.
After the 1997 season, the American Association disbanded for the second time, and its teams were again distributed to the remaining Triple-A leagues. The Iowa Cubs, Nashville Sounds, New Orleans Zephyrs, Oklahoma City 89ers (renamed the Oklahoma RedHawks, now the Oklahoma City RedHawks), and Omaha Royals migrated to the West Coast Pacific Coast League starting with the 1998 season. The Buffalo Bisons, Indianapolis Indians, and Louisville Redbirds became part of the International League, also starting in 1998.
The Buffalo Bisons were the last league champions in 1997, and the trophy is still in their possession.
On and off, from 1905 to 1975, the American Association champion played against the champion from the International League in the Junior World Series. The champions from these two leagues and the Pacific Coast League also met during 1983 at the Triple-A World Series.
From 1988 until the league's demise in 1997, players from all three Triple-A leagues were selected to play in the mid-season Triple-A All-Star Game. One team was made up of All-Stars from American League affiliates and the other of National League affiliates.
|1933||Columbus Red Birds||Joe Hauser, Minneapolis|
|1934||Columbus Red Birds||Pinky Hargrave, Minneapolis|
|1935||NONE HELD||Mike Ryba, Columbus|
|1936||Milwaukee Brewers||Rudy York, Milwaukee|
|1937||Columbus Red Birds||Red Kress, Minneapolis|
|1938||Kansas City Blues||W.Wyatt, Mil O.Bejma, St.Paul|
|1939||Louisville Colonels||Gil English, St. Paul|
|1940||Louisville Colonels||Phil Rizzuto, Kansas City|
|1941||Columbus Red Birds||Johnny Pesky, Louisville|
|1942||Columbus Red Birds||Eddie Stanky, Milwaukee|
|1943||Columbus Red Birds||Stew Hofferth, Indianapolis|
|1944||Louisville Colonels||Babe Martin, Toledo|
|1945||Louisville Colonels||Stan Wentzel, Indianapolis|
|1946||Louisville Colonels||Jerry Witte, Toledo|
|1947||Milwaukee Brewers||Steve Gerkin, Minneapolis|
|1948||Saint Paul Saints||Les Fleming, Indianapolis|
|1949||Indianapolis Indians||Froilan Fernandez, Indianapolis|
|1950||Columbus Red Birds||Ray Dandridge, Indianapolis|
|1951||Milwaukee Brewers||Al Unser, Milwaukee|
|1952||Kansas City Blues||Don Bollweg, Kansas City|
|1953||Kansas City Blues||Gene Conley, Toledo|
|1954||Louisville Colonels||Herb Score, Indianapolis|
|1955||Minneapolis Millers||Rance Pless, Indianapolis|
|1956||Indianapolis Indians||Marv Throneberry, Denver|
|1957||Denver Bears||Carlton Willey, Wichita|
|1958||Minneapolis Millers||Wayne Terwilliger, Charleston|
|1959||Minneapolis Millers||Bob Will, Fort Worth|
|1960||Louisville Colonels||Steve Boros, Denver|
|1961||Louisville Colonels||Cliff Cook, Indianapolis|
|1962||Louisville Colonels||Jack Smith, Omaha|
|1969||Omaha Royals||Bernie Carbo, Indianapolis RF|
|1970||Omaha Royals||George Spriggs, Omaha OF|
|1971||Denver Bears||Richie Scheinblum, Denver OF|
|1972||Evansville Triplets||Pat Bourque, Wichita 1B|
|1973||Tulsa Oilers||Cliff Johnson, Denver DH|
|1974||Tulsa Oilers||Pete LaCock, Wichita 1B|
|1975||Evansville Triplets||Héctor Cruz, Tulsa 3B|
|1976||Denver Bears||Roger Freed, Denver 1B|
|1977||Denver Bears||Frank Ortenzio, Denver 1B|
|1978||Omaha Royals||Champ Summers, Indianapolis OF|
|1979||Evansville Triplets||Karl Pagel, Wichita OF|
|1980||Springfield Redbirds||Randy Bass, Denver 1B|
|1981||Denver Bears||Manny Castillo, Omaha 3B|
|1982||Indianapolis Indians||Ken Phelps, Wichita 1B|
|1983||Denver Bears||Mike Stenhouse, Wichita 1B|
|1984||Louisville Redbirds||Alan Knicely, Wichita 1B|
|1985||Louisville Redbirds||Steve Buechele, Oklahoma City 3B|
|1986||Indianapolis Indians||Barry Larkin, Denver SS|
|1987||Indianapolis Indians||Lance Johnson, Louisville OF|
|1988||Indianapolis Indians||Luis de los Santos, Omaha 1B|
|1989||Indianapolis Indians||Greg Vaughn, Denver OF|
|1990||Omaha Royals||Juan González, Oklahoma City OF|
|1991||Denver Zephyrs||Jim Olander, Denver OF|
|1992||Oklahoma City 89ers||Jim Tatum, Denver 3B|
|1993||Iowa Cubs||Eduardo Zambrano, Iowa OF|
|1994||Indianapolis Indians||Dwayne Hosey, Omaha OF|
|1995||Louisville Redbirds||Eric Owens, Indianapolis 2B|
|1996||Oklahoma City 89ers||Lee Stevens, Oklahoma City DH|
|1997||Buffalo Bisons||Magglio Ordóñez, Nashville OF|