The Australian Baseball League
) was a baseball
league, established in 1988 and disbanded in 1999.
The Claxton Shield
Before the establishment of the Australian Baseball League the Claxton Shield was Australia's premier Baseball tournament since its establishment in 1934.
In 1987 the idea was first conceived to create at Australian Baseball League, this was believed to be caused by the success of Australia's National Basketball League. The final Claxton Shield was held by the Auburn Baseball Club in New South Wales at their home ground of Oriole Park. Auburn funded all visiting teams’ fares and accommodation with the expectation of making the money back through gate takings and increased revenue at the Social Club located at the park.
After the 1988 Claxton Shield the ABL was formed, consisting of 8 teams from around Australia.
Australian Baseball League of the 1990s
The league consisted of between 6 and 9 teams over the 10 years, with its highest point in 1995 with 9 teams competing. Championships were decided by a top two 5 game play off series for the first 3 seasons before changing to a top 4 play off series with winners advancing to the championship series. Following the change to the top 4 format, both semi-finals and championship series were played as a best-of-three series.
The Australian Baseball League formally got underway in October 1989, representing Australia's first professional "major league". Officially, the first ABL game was contested between Perth Heat and Adelaide Giants at Parry Field in Perth on 27 October 1989, with the Giants winning 8-5. The inaugural season was dominated by the Waverley Reds a record of 34 wins and 6 losses, only losing 2 games at home from 19 starts, taking out the Championship series 3 games to 1 against cross town rivals the Melbourne Monarchs.
The 1990/91 ABL championship was won by the Perth Heat, defeating the minor premiers, the Gold Coast's Daikyo Dolphins by 3 games to 2.
In a reversal of the previous season, the 1991/92 ABL title was won by the Daikyo Dolphins, defeating the Perth Heat by 3 games to 1.
The first year of the four-team finals format, the championship series saw the Melbourne Monarchs face the minor premier Perth Heat at Perth's Parry Field, having eliminated the Sydney Blues and Waverley Reds, respectively. The Melbourne Monarchs defeated the Heat 2 games to nil in the final to clinch the 1992/93 ABL championship.
Won by the Brisbane Bandits, defeating the minor premier Sydney Blues 2 games to nil in the championship series held at Parramatta Stadium. The Perth Heat and Adelaide Giants, respectively, were the two defeated semi-finalists.
Won by the Waverley Reds, defeating the Perth Heat 2 games to nil at Moorabbin Oval. The Sydney Blues (defeated by the Reds) and East Coast Cougars (defeated by the Heat) were eliminated in the semi-finals.
Won by the Sydney Blues, defeating the Melbourne Reds 2 games to nil in the Blues' only season at the old Sydney Showground at Moore Park. In the first time a team had reached the final from fourth place, the Reds defeated the minor premier Brisbane Bandits in the semi-final, while the Perth Heat were eliminated by the Blues.
Won by the Perth Heat.
Won by the Melbourne Reds.
The final ABL Championship, held as a test event at the new Sydney Showground at Sydney Olympic Park, was taken out by the Gold Coast Cougars (defeating the Sydney Storm), after the Adelaide Giants dominated the regular season to finish on top.
Decline and Sale
The ABL had a total running cost of AUS$6million by the later half of the 1990s, due to a lack of sponsorship and gate takings the league was only raising AUS$4million by the final season, Due to these mounting debts the Australian Baseball Federation sold off the rights to the league and Claxton Shield
to Australian Baseballer David Nilsson
for a reported AUS$5million who had the vision of forming the International Baseball League of Australia
Over the 10 years of the Australian Baseball League there was a total of 12 franchise licences issued, most seasons the ABL had a total of 8 teams but had as many as 9 and for the final season 6. The founding 8 teams of the Australian Baseball League were;
- Adelaide Giants, The Giants competed in all 10 seasons of the ABL but did not make the championship playoffs once.
- Brisbane Bandits, The Bandits competed in the first 9 seasons but dropped out of the final season due to not having a suitable venue, The Bandits won 1 championship and finished runner up in another.
- Gold Coast Clippers, The Clippers had many different names over their 10 years in the ABL, The Daikyo Dolphins from 1990 to 1993 due to a sponsorship with Japanese company Daikyo, then the East Coast Cougars and finally Gold Coast Cougars, This franchise won 2 championships and were runner up in a further 2 times.
- Melbourne Monarchs, The Monarchs competed in 9 of the 10 seasons, they were expelled from the league for the 1991-92 season. The Monarchs won 1 ABL title and were runners up to the Reds 1990 victory.
- Parramatta Patriots, The Patriots competed in the first 3 season with their best result being 3rd in 1990, The Patriots disbanded after the 1991-92 season due to heavy financial losses, The Sydney Blues purchased their licence.
- Sydney Metros, The Metros have the honour of being the least successful team in the ABL and also the shortest history after they folded shortly after the 1989-90 season. The Metros licence was purchased by the Sydney Wave.
- Perth Heat, The Heat were the second most successful team in the league winning the title twice and finishing runner up a further 3 times.
- Waverley Reds, The Reds were the most successful team in the league, being the only team to win three ABL titles, also finishing runner up once. The Reds also hold the regular-season single-game attendance record (and second-highest overall) at 11,444, in the 1991/92 season against then cross-town rivals the Melbourne Bushrangers at Waverley Oval. The Reds changed their name to the Melbourne Reds after the 1993-94 season in an attempt to broaden their supporter base.
Later additions to the league were;
- Melbourne Bushrangers, The Bushrangers were brought in to replace the Monarchs after they were expelled, the Bushrangers played 2 seasons in Melbourne before moving north to Canberra where they changed names to the Canberra Bushrangers and competed in a further 2 seasons before going broke.
- Sydney Blues, The Blues purchased their licence off the Parramatta Patriots, The Blues encountered a legal battle with New South Wales Cricket Association over the use of the nickname "Blues" after this point the team was known as the Sydney Storm. The team won 1 championship and finish runner up under the Blues name, they finished runner up once more under the Storm name. The Blues hold the overall single-game attendance record, with a 1994 finals series game against the Brisbane Bandits drawing 13,764 to Parramatta Stadium.
- Sydney Wave, The Wave were formed after purchasing the licence of the Sydney Metros, The Wave had no real impact on the league lasting only 2 seasons before folding with heavy financial losses their licence was sold to the Hunter Eagles.
- Hunter Eagles, The Eagles had slight more success in the ABL then their previous two licence owners lasting for a total of 4 seasons, The Eagles were excluded from the 1998-99 season after not being able to supply enough funds to run the team for the upcoming season.
New Australian Baseball League
While no confirmation has been forthcoming from either source, plans remain in place between the Australian Baseball Federation and Major League Baseball to re-establish an Australian National league in November 2008. The new national league is expected to run for 10 weeks from November 2008 to February 2009 and to be partly funded by Major League Baseball
On 10 August 2007 it was announced the 2008 Claxton Shield will be run as a "home and away" series. The revamped series will be made up of 2 pools of 3 teams, each team playing 3 home and 3 away games against the other 2 teams in their pool. Pool A will be made up of the Victoria Aces, Perth Heat and South Australia, and Pool B will be made up of New South Wales Patriots, Queensland Rams and Australia Provincial. The revamped series will run from late December to early February 2008.
the league will conain both Australian and Indonesian teams