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Pioneer League

Pioneer League history

Class C 1939-1942, 1946-1962
Class A 1963
Rookie 1964-present

As far as organized leagues go, the Pioneer League is a relative youngster, with its first season coming in 1939. 

That’s not to say that there wasn’t minor-league baseball in the Mountain West before the Pioneer League came around. Indeed, there were several attempts at professional leagues in the region, beginning with the Utah League in 1901. Ogden was the champion of that sole season of the Utah League. Next came with Intermountain League, where Helena won the pennant in that league’s sole season in 1909. A more stable league was formed with play beginning in 1911, as the Union Association managed to hang on through Aug. 5, 1914. In that span, Great Falls won two pennants, while Missoula, Salt Lake City, and Ogden won or tied for one pennant apiece.

The Utah-Idaho League, formed for the 1926 season, managed to hang on for three seasons, with Idaho Falls winning league championships in 1926 and 1927, with Salt Lake City winning in 1928.

Today’s Pioneer League was formed in 1939 with six teams: Boise, Lewiston, Ogden, Pocatello, Salt Lake City, and Twin Falls, which won the league’s initial championship. Since that time the Pioneer League has rarely strayed from its core states of Montana, Idaho, and Utah, although excursions into Canada and Wyoming have been common — in fact, the 2002 season features teams in Medicine Hat and Casper.

One of the more noteworthy things about the Pioneer League has been the instability in its franchises. The Salt Lake City Bees lasted in the Pioneer League from 1939 through the 1957 season, when the Pacific Coast League moved the Hollywood Stars into the city. Salt Lake City would be in and out of the Pioneer League, depending on the whims of the PCL, which moved franchises in and out of the city until 1992, when the Salt Lake City Buzz entered the PCL for good.

The Missoula Timberjacks was a member of the Pioneer League in 1956 through 1960, when it was an affiliate of the Washington Senators (you can spot a freckle-faced Jim Kaat in team pictures from that era).

In 1964 the Pioneer League was downgraded to Rookie League status and shrunk to four teams: Idaho Falls Angels, Magic Valley Cowboys (based in Twin Falls), Pocatello Chiefs, and Treasure Valley Cubs (based in Caldwell, Idaho). The league remained a four-member league until 1968 when the Salt Lake City Giants joined to form a rather unwieldy five-team league; by that time the Pocatello team had moved to Ogden, Utah. After expanded to seven teams in 1969 with the addition of teams in Billings (the Mustangs) and Great Falls, the Pioneer League shrunk to six teams in 1970 after the PCL claimed Salt Lake City once again and down to four teams in 1971 when the Magic Valley and Treasure Valley teams ceased operations. The Ogden team moved to Lethbridge, Canada, in 1975. 

The next two years saw the addition of four teams — the Calgary Cardinals and Medicine Hat A’s (later the Blue Jays) in 1977 and Helena (known over the years as the Gold Sox and the Brewers) and the Butte Copper Kings in 1978. 

The relative stability that the Pioneer League enjoyed in the 1970s was interrupted in 1984 when the Lethbridge team relocated to Pocatello, and again in 1985 when the PCL moved into Calgary and Salt Lake City once again returned to the Pioneer League with a team named the Trappers. The following year saw utter chaos in the league, as both Butte and Pocatello suspended operations. 

The 1990s saw relative stability return to the Pioneer League; although team affiliations changed regularly — with one team, the Salt Lake City Trappers, operating by choice as an independent — there were few franchise movements until 1999, when the wandering Lethbridge Black Diamond franchise found a home in Missoula; 2000, when the Helena Brewers and Butte Copper Kings moved to Casper and Provo; and 2003, when Medicine Hat moved to Helena.

Current Teams (in alphabetical order)
Billings Mustangs
Casper Ghosts
Great Falls Voyageurs
Helena Brewers
Idaho Falls Chukars
Missoula Osprey
Ogden Raptors
Orem Owlz

Teams (in alphabetical order)
Billings Mustangs, 1948-1963, 1969-present
Boise Braves, 1955-1963
Boise Pilots, 1939-1942, 1946-1951, 1954
Boise Yankees, 1952-1953
Butte Copper Kings, 1978-2000
Caldwell Cubs, 1967-1971
Calgary Cardinals, 1977-1978
Calgary Expos, 1979-1983
Casper Ghosts, 2008-present
Casper Rockies, 2001-2007
Gate City Pioneers, 1990
Great Falls Dodgers, 1957, 1984-2003
Great Falls Electrics, 1948, 1951-1956, 1958-1963
Great Falls Giants, 1969-1982
Great Falls Selectrics, 1949-1950
Great Falls Voyagers, 2008-present
Great Falls White Sox, 2003-2007
Helena Brewers, 1987-2000, 2003-present
Helena Gold Sox, 1984-1986
Helena Phillies, 1978-1982
Idaho Falls A’s, 1982-1984
Idaho Falls Angels, 1964-1981
Idaho Falls Braves, 1986-2000
Idaho Falls Chukars, 2004-present
Idaho Falls Nuggets, 1985
Idaho Falls Padres, 2001-2003
Idaho Falls Russets, 1940-1942, 1946-1961
Idaho Falls Yankees, 1962-1963
Lethbridge Black Diamonds, 1996-1998
Lethbridge Dodgers, 1977-1982
Lethbridge Expos, 1975-1976
Lethbridge Mounties, 1992-1995
Lewiston Indians, 1939
Magic Valley Cowboys, 1952-1958, 1961-1966, 1968-1971
Medicine Hat A’s, 1977
Medicine Hat Blue Jays, 1978-2003
Missoula Osprey, 1999-present
Missoula Timberjacks, 1956-1960
Ogden Dodgers, 1967-1973
Ogden Reds, 1939-1942, 1946-1955
Ogden Raptors, 1994-present
Ogden Spikers, 1974
Orem Owlz, 2005-present
Pocatello Athletics, 1957-1959
Pocatello Bannocks, 1952-1956, 1961
Pocatello Cardinals, 1939-1942, 1946-1951
Pocatello Chiefs, 1962-1965
Pocatello Gems, 1984-1985
Pocatello Giants, 1960, 1987-1989
Pocatello Pioneers, 1991
Pocatello Posse, 1993
Provo Angels, 2001-2004
Salt Lake City Bees, 1939-1942, 1946-1957, 1969
Salt Lake City Giants, 1967-1968
Salt Lake City Trappers, 1985-1992
Treasure Valley Cubs, 1964-1965
Twins Falls Cowboys, 1939-1942, 1946-1952