Minnesota’s First Major League Baseball Game

By Stew Thornley
Author of On to Nicollet: The Glory and Fame of the Minneapolis Millers

Although Minnesota was represented by a major league team as early as 1884, when St. Paul played nine games in the Union Association, local fans didn’t get a chance to see the big show as all of the team’s games were played on the road.

The first—and until the Minnesota Twins arrived, the only—official major league game played in the state took place Friday, October 2, 1891 between Columbus and Milwaukee of the American Association, one of the last games played in the ten-year-old Association, which would fold at the end of the season.

The American Association was at war with the National League in 1891. Four AA teams replaced their baseball team uniforms to join the National League in the last four years. The current Cincinnati club in the Association, founded by Mike “King” Kelly in 1891 to replace the Reds, who had jumped to the National League a year earlier, was struggling. One of the smallest cities in the majors, Cincinnati could not support two teams, and on August 17 the franchise was transferred to Milwaukee.

Milwaukee was represented at that time by a team in the Western Association. Managed by Charlie Cushman, the Brewers were in first place, but the Western Association team disbanded when major league baseball came to its city. Cushman took over as manager and kept many of his old players for the incoming team. The departure of Milwaukee from the Western Association left Minneapolis in first place with a record of 52-44. The Millers had a chance to win their first pennant, but only a few days later the team, plagued by financial difficulties, also dropped out of the league.

Athletic ParkMinneapolis was then without professional baseball of any kind. But in October Milwaukee transferred its final series of the season, against Columbus, to Athletic Park in Minneapolis because, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Having lost all prestige in their own towns the two teams sought to run up to Minneapolis and replenish their exchequers.”

Rain prevented the first game October 1; the next day, despite a cold, raw wind and heavy clouds which threatened rain or snow, a good crowd turned out to see Milwaukee beat Columbus, 5-0. The Brewers’ Frank “Red” Killen, who had started the season with Minneapolis and had hurled a no-hitter for the Millers the year before, held the visitors scoreless on six hits.

Columbus’s best scoring chance came in the third when Jack Crooks doubled and went to third on Tim O’Rourkes’s sacrifice, but was nailed at the plate trying to score on Charlie Duffee’s fly to Tom Letcher in right.

The Brewers got on the board in the fourth when Eddie Burke was hit by a pitch, took third on Jack Easton’s wild pickoff attempt, and scored on a passed ball with two out. Milwaukee broke the game open in the fifth with four runs, getting four of their five hits that inning, including two doubles, a run-scoring single by Killen, and a two-run homer by Jack Carney. Burke scored the final run on another passed ball.

The two teams were scheduled for another game at Athletic Park the next day, but when cold weather prevented it they moved back to Milwaukee where the Brewers ended the season by beating Columbus, 8-4, on October 4.

The American Association and National League completed peace talks that winter with the Association disbanding and the National League absorbing four of its teams.

Both Milwaukee and Minneapolis had teams in the Western League the next year, but it would not be until 1961 that another regular-season, major league game would be played in Minnesota.

Columbus ab r h po a e
Jack Crooks 2b 3 0 3 2 2 1
Tim O’Rourke 3b 4 0 0 1 1 0
Charlie Duffee ss 4 0 2 0 2 0
Larry Twitchell lf 3 0 0 0 0 0
Jim Donahue rf 4 0 0 3 0 0
Tom Dowse c 4 0 0 7 2 0
Mike Lehane 1b 4 0 1 10 1 1
Jack Easton p 3 0 0 0 2 1
Phil Knell cf 3 0 0 1 0 0
32 0 6 24 9 3

Milwaukee ab r h po a e
Eddie Burke cf 2 2 1 1 0 0
George Shoch ss 4 0 0 1 0 0
Jimmy Canavan 2b 4 0 0 2 3 1
Abner Dalrymple lf 4 0 0 1 0 0
Tom Letcher rf 4 1 0 2 1 0
Jack Carney 1b 3 1 2 13 0 0
Farmer Vaughn c 3 1 1 5 1 0
John Grim 3b 3 0 0 1 0 0
Frank Killen p 3 0 1 1 6 0
30 5 5 27 11 1

Columbus 000 000 000- 0   6   3
Milwaukee 000 140 000- 5   5   1

Runs earned—Milwaukee 2. Two-base hits—Burke, Vaughn, Crooks. Home runs—Carney. Double play—Letcher to Vaughn. Base on balls—By Killen 2. Hit by pitcher—Burke 2. Struck out—By Killen 4, by Easton 7. Wild pitches—Easton 1. Passed balls—Dowse 2. Time of game—1:35. Umpire—McLaughlin.


Copyright 1988 Stew Thornley


Nicollet Park

Twin Cities Ballparks

Minneapolis Millers Yearly Standings

Notable Millers

Minnesota’s First Major League Baseball Team

The Beginning and End of Nicollet Park

Night Baseball in the Twin Cities

Millers Rivalry with St. Paul Saints

Protested Games Involving the Millers

Millers vs. Havana in 1959 Junior World Series

Minneapolis Millerettes

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