(1920-1923, 1946-1971, 1995-1997)
Aberdeen, South Dakota
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Prairie League (1995-1997)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Minor league titles|
|2 (1949, 1961)|
|Municipal Ball Park (1946-1971)|
The Aberdeen Pheasants were a Class C minor league baseball team located in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The Pheasants played in the Northern League from 1946 until the league folded in 1971. Aberdeen was the Class C affiliate of the St. Louis Browns until 1953, continuing with the franchise when the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954, with the Pheasants remaining in the Oriole farm system. Abderdeen had a team in the Independent Prairie League from 1995 to 1997, also called the Pheasants.
Aberdeen has always been a baseball town with organized teams playing semi-professional ball as far back as the 1890s. The Dakota League was organized after World War I and offered Aberdeen fans their first taste of professional baseball, as Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Al Simmons played for Aberdeen in 1922. That league folded in 1922. After World War II another professional baseball team, the Aberdeen Pheasants, was organized in Aberdeen as part of the Northern League and had their inaugural season in 1947.
Ben Siebrecht, owner of Siebrecht Florist and Greenhouse, was the president of a five-member board charged with the duties of organizing and operating that early Pheasants team. The board raised $25,000 by selling stock to local investors and were able to establish a working agreement with the St. Louis Browns as a source for players. That agreement survived the Browns' move to Baltimore and became the longest working agreement between major and minor league teams in baseball history lasting 26 years.
Many big name players wore the Aberdeen Pheasants uniform at some time in their careers. Pitcher Don Larsen, famous for pitching a perfect game in the 1956 World Series as a New York Yankee, played for the Pheasants in 1947 and 1948. Bob Turley was a 1949 Pheasant prior to winning the Cy Young Award in 1958 as a New York Yankee. Tito Francona played on the 1953 Pheasants prior to playing on 8 different major league teams. He even married an Aberdeen girl, Roberta Jackson, at home plate prior to a home game. Earl Weaver managed the club for the 1959 season. Jim Palmer pitched for the Pheasants during the 1964 season. Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer are the only former Pheasants to be named to the baseball hall of fame. Dave Leonhard pitched for the 1963 and 1964 Pheasants and pitched for the Baltimore Orioles from 1967-1972. Mark Belanger was also on the 1964 Pheasants and was eventually named the American League all-star shortstop in 1976 as an Oriole. Lou Piniella played for the 1964 team prior to moving to the majors that same season. Cal Ripken, Sr. was a manager of the Pheasants for the 1963-1966 season.
The minor league Pheasants met their demise when the Northern League folded after the 1971 season. The remaining teams, who all folded, were the Aberdeen Pheasants, Sioux Falls Packers, St. Cloud Rox and Watertown Expos.
Games were played at the municipal ball field located on the campus of Northern State University. The original stadium burned down in 1952 and was quickly replaced. Eventually the replacement stadium was torn down to make room for the Barnett Center. Early games during the first season started at 5:30pm because the field wasn't lighted but later during that season, lights were added thanks to contributions from the enthusiastic fans. The Pheasants built a steady fan base drawing crowds of over 3000 by their second season.
Not to be forgotten is "Philbert" the cartoon pheasant drawn by Gordon Haug, the advertising artist for Aberdeen's Olwin-Angell department store. Philbert appeared on the front page of the Aberdeen American News the morning after each game with an appropriate comment about the game's outcome.
The biggest game in Pheasant history took place in 1964 when the parent team, the Baltimore Orioles, came to town to play their minor league cohorts. The Orioles posted a 6-3 win in front of a capacity crowd.
The Pheasants' final season was 1971.
In 1995, local baseball enthusiasts re-established the Aberdeen Pheasant team and gave Aberdeen fans three seasons of baseball excitement prior to disbanding the organization at the end of the 1997 season. During the 1995 season, the Pheasants ran over their Prairie League competition, setting an all-time minor-league record for winning percentage by going 56-13 (.812) in the league's regular season.
In 2010, the former Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Canaries team was renamed the Sioux Falls Fighting Pheasants, presumably to give new life to the Pheasants franchise. The move was not without controversy, as discussed in this editorial from the Aberdeen American News
Baseball Hall of Fame Alumni
Norm Stewart (1957) Pitcher. Head Basketball Coach, University of Northern Iowa (1961-1967); University of Missouri (1967-1999).
|1947||82-36||1st||Don Heffner||Lost League Finals|
|1948||64-59||4th||Jimmie Crandall||Lost League Finals|
|1949||71-54||2nd||Irvin Hall||League Champs|
|1951||61-60||5th||Joe King / Jim Post / Bruce Ogrodowski|
|1953||60-63||4th||Barney Lutz||Lost in 1st round|
|1955||70-56||4th||Bill Krueger (minors)||Lost in 1st round|
|1956||64-61||4th||George Staller||Lost League Finals|
|1957||51-70||7th||Bill Capps / Barney Lutz|
|1958||39-86||8th||Barney Lutz (2-23) / Billy DeMars (37-63)|
|1959||69-55||2nd||Earl Weaver||Lost League Finals|
|1960||63-61||3rd||Lou Fitzgerald||Lost in 1st round|
|1961||74-54||2nd||Lou Fitzgerald||League Champs|
|1962||64-60||4th||Billy DeMars||Lost League Finals|
|1963||65-55||2nd||Cal Ripken, Sr.||17-13 3rd*|
|1964||80-37||1st||Cal Ripken, Sr.||19-10 1st*|
|1966||47-22||2nd||Cal Ripken, Sr.||none|
* Baukol Playoffs based on last 30 days of the season