Herald-Dispatch file photo

Herald-Dispatch file photo

At a 1989 news conference, Mayor Bobby Nelson pinned an “I Love Huntington?? badge on Dennis Bastien, owner of the Chicago Cubs rookie team coming to the city. In return, Bastien presented Nelson a Cubs baseball cap. The team’s stay in Huntington proved brief.

Editor’s Note: This is the 265th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

HUNTINGTON — In the early 1930s, Huntington had a homegrown minor league baseball team, the Huntington Boosters, which played at League Park in the city’s West End. The team finished dead last in the Class “C” Mid-Atlantic League in 1932 and 1933.

In 1934, the Boosters became the Huntington Redbirds, a Cleveland Cardinals farm team. With an infusion of talented new players supplied by the Cardinals, the Redbirds won the 1935 Mid-Atlantic Championship.

The Redbirds ceased to be a Cleveland farm team when the historic 1937 Ohio River flood destroyed League Park. Undaunted, Huntington joined several the West Virginia towns of Beckley, Welch, Bluefield, Logan and Williamson to form the Mountain State League. Unfortunately, the state league became a 1942 casualty of World War II and didn’t resume play after the war.

After an absence of 48 years, minor league ball returned to town in 1990 when Mayor Bobby Nelson convinced the Chicago Cubs to locate a rookie team in Huntington.

The Huntington Cubs played at St. Cloud Commons. Other than the ball field and the grandstand, there were no facilities. Trailers served as locker rooms and team offices. The Cubs selected Huntington on condition the city build a new minor league stadium to serve the team and Marshall University baseball.

As sports historian Bob Barnett notes in his book “Hillside Fields: A History of Sports in West Virginia,” the Cub players were good and the crowds were good, but “the franchise was moved to Wytheville, Virginia, after the 1994 season because the city was never able to build the promised stadium or even to upgrade St. Cloud Commons.” 

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