The Cardinals and the minor leagues

The Cardinals franchise is often credited with developing the modern concept of the farm system under Branch Rickey in the early twenties. After several years of scouting players, only to have other teams buy them at a higher price, Rickey decided the time had come to implement a scheme he had been considering for a while. He convinced club owner Sam Breadon to move the Cards into Sportsman's Park in 1920 as tenants of the AL Browns, and then sold Robison Field (formerly New Sportsmans Park, where Chris Von der Ahe moved the club in 1893) to the city of St. Louis. (Beaumont High School was built on the site.) The money from the sale was used to purchase shares in three mionr league clubs - Ft. Smith in the Western Association, Houston in the Texas League, and Syracuse in the International League.

At that point, major league clubs owning part or all of some minor league clubs was not unusual. Nor was the practice of placing players with minor league clubs for a few years to prepare them for the majors that uncommon, although it was done on a player-by-player basis for players who were expected to be brought up to the majors after a period of time. Rickey's plan was on a larger scale. He was the first set up a hieracrchical system for player developement, with teams at all levels. Players would move up the chain, with only the best making it to the majors.

By 1926, the system paid its first dividends, as the Cards won their first World Championship since the days of the Browns in the 1880s. The 1926 club featured a lineup dominated by players who came up through the burgoning system - Jim Bottemly, Chick Hafey, Taylor Douthit, Tommy Thevenow, Les Bell, Ray Blades, Flint Rhem, and Bill Hallahan, to name a few.

By the end of the twenties, the Cardinals controlled all or part of between 5 and 10 clubs, while the majors as a whole owned or controlled 29 minor league clubs. In the 1930s, the Cards system reached its maximum extent, topping out at bewteen 25 and 35 clubs (depending on which sources you believe) late in the decade. This talent pool fuelled the Cards to their first World Series title in this century in 1926 and ensured continued success through the next two decades. The success of the Cardinals farm system may best be illustrated by the 1942 World Championship team, which had only two players who were not developed in the Cardinals farm system. In addition, the Cardinals were able to trade or sell excess talent from their system to improve the club. (Rickey received a percentage of all player sales, which probably contributed in part to the number of sales during this period.)

The size of the farm system shrunk down to less than ten clubs during the war years of 1943-1945. In the latter half of the 40s and well into the 50s, the Cards maintained at least 15 clubs in the minors, continuing the practice that had made the team a dominant club in the Natinal League. (One of the few franchises with as many or more clubs than the Cardials throughout the 40s and 50s was the Dodgers - then under Branch Rickey - who also had a fair amount of success during that time span.) By 1961, all but one major league club had trimmed back their farm system to under 10 teams (that club, the Dodgers, trimmed down below ten in 1962), and through the 60s most clubs maintained between 5 and 9 farm clubs each year. The Cards reached a low of 5 clubs in 1963, and again from 1974-1976 and 1979-1980. For most of the 1980s and 1990s they maintained seven or eight clubs, and in 1996 they dropped to the current level of six clubs (AAA, AA, 3 A, Rookie)

Cardinals minor league affiliates as of the start of the 2001 season

AAA - Memphis (Pacific Coast League)
AA - New Haven (Eastern League)
A - Potomac (Carolina League)
A - Peoria (Midwest League)
A - New Jersey (New York-Penn League)
Rookie - Johnson City

Minor league stat database

The minor league database also contains stats for the Cardinals' minor league farm clubs from 1990 through 2001. Choose a team and enter a season to see the roster and stats for that club. (A year outside the range for that club will be adjusted to the first or last season for that club in the Cardinals minor league system.) Thus far, stats are mostly complete back through 1998, and before 1998 the AAA club and some of the AA clubs have been entered.

Select a team


List player transactions

This is a partial listing of Cardinals affiliates from the 1960s to the present broken down by classification level. I'm not sure at what point the modern scheme (using AAA, AA, and A) came into being; I do know that at one point leagues were classified by A, B, C, and D. Some leagues have also changed classificatin through the years, so I only feel comfortable assigning them through the early 1960s or so.

Triple A

Columbus (American Association)1926-1954*
Omaha (American Association)1955-1959*
Rochester (International League)1927-1960*
San Juan** (International League)
Charleston (International League)
Atlanta (International League)1962-1963
Jacksonville (International League)1964-1965
Tulsa (Pacific Coast League)1966-1968
Tulsa (American Association)1969-1976
New Orleans (American Association)1977
Springfield (American Association)1978-1981
Louisville (American Association)1982-1997
Memphis (Pacific Coast League)1998-Present

* From 1927 to 1959, the Cards had a team in both the American Association and the International League. I assume both clubs were AAA level.
** Franchise moved from San Juan to Charleston May 19,1961

Double A

Houston (Texas League)1925-1942
Tulsa (Texas League)1959-1965
Arkansas Travelers (Texas League)1966-2000
New Haven Ravens (Eastern League)2001

* I'm not sure at what point this became classified as AA, but I'm pretty sure it was the AA club by the 1960s. I also don't know if there were other AA clubs at any point. Arkansas was the only one from the mid-1960s onward, as far as I can tell.

Single A (Partial listing)

St. Petersburg Cardinals (Florida State League)1966-1996
Potomac Cannons* (Carolina League)1997-Present

* Known as Prince William from 1997-1998

Springfield (Midwest League)1982-1993
Madison (Midwest League)1994
Peoria Chiefs(Midwest League)1995-Present

Erie (New York-Penn League)1981-1987
Hamilton, Ontario (New York-Penn League)1988-1992
Glenn Falls (New York-Penn League)1993
New Jersey Cardinals (New York-Penn League)1994-Present

Sarasota (Gulf Coast League)1964-1976
Gastonia (Western Carolina League)1977-1979
Gastonia (South Atlantic League)1980-1982
Macon (South Atlantic League)1983
Savanah (South Atlantic League)1984-1995