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All of the current teams are affiliated with MLB teams located west of the Rockies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, league attendance continued to increase each season, with over one million fans attending games per year, part of a general nationwide growth and expansion to smaller towns, cities, and regions below those in the National League or American League with Minor League Baseball at various levels of play in growing popularity in the last few decades. The league is divided into a Northern Division and a Southern Division.
There were various attempts in the late 1800s and early 1900s to form a "California League" on the West Coast, considering the distance of the two current major leagues which generally had teams only in the Northeast and were restricted at first until World War I by long-distance train travel. The first organized California League lasted from 1887 to 1889, then another followed in 1891, and 1893, and finally in 1899-1902. After the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, an organization of minor leagues was formed in 1902, (following the "truce" and agreements between the older National League of 1876 and the newly "upstart" American League of 1901), the California League operated outside the NAPBL system as an independent league in 1902 and again from 1907 to 1909. This led to huge differences in the quality of teams competing with each other. In 1907, the San Francisco team was 3-34, while later in 1908 San Francisco was 9-67 and Oakland was 4-71. Oakland and San Francisco competed in every year of these various state leagues, with San Francisco having two teams during 1887-88.
The current California League was founded in 1941, and included teams in Anaheim, Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and Stockton. The following year, as a result of World War II, the league dropped to four teams, then ceased and suspended operations altogether, although major league baseball and some minor leagues continued as much as possible with limited availability of players during the war years. It reorganized and came back in 1946, adding teams in Visalia, San Jose, and Ventura by 1947. Further east, Reno, Nevada joined the league in 1955 with the movement of the old Channel Cities Oilers in Santa Barbara and continued as a member for 37 years.
Though nicknames and affiliations shifted, the California League's postwar configuration was largely stable by the late 1950s; four of the six cities in the league in 1960 would still be part of the league 50 years later. The league reached eight clubs in 1966 and would hold that for ten years, briefly dipped to six before wavering between eight and nine clubs in the early eighties, then reached ten in 1986 and held that configuration for thirty-one seasons. From 1996 to 2016, the league had a remarkably stable alignment for Class A baseball, with no teams moving or folding for twenty-one years. After the 2016 season, the Bakersfield Blaze, long dogged by inadequate facilities and unable to negotiate significant repairs, and the High Desert Mavericks, suffering from falling attendance and a lease dispute with the city of Adelanto, were folded; the High-A level replaced them by expanding the Carolina League to ten teams.
On December 10, 2020, the Lancaster JetHawks were folded and the Fresno Grizzlies, who were previously in the Triple-A level's Pacific Coast League, replaced them. The Visalia Rawhide moved to the Southern Division.
Modesto Nuts (1946-present, as Modesto Reds in 1946-1961; as Modesto Yankees 1962-1969, Modesto Cardinals 1970-1974 and Modesto A's 1975-2004)
Oakland Oaks (1941, moved to Visalia as a result of World War II 1942-1945); Oakland became a Pacific Coast League city, while Visalia Oaks folded by 1944.
Palm Springs Angels (1985-1993) before relocation to Lake Elsinore in 1994. Palm Springs was the former spring training camp for the then-California Angels from 1961 to 1993. Palm Springs held other minor league and collegiate teams in the 1990s and 2000s.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (1966-present, as Lodi Crushers under affiliation with the San Francisco Giants in 1966-1969; as Lodi Padres in 1970-71; as Lodi Orioles in 1972; as Lodi Lions in 1973; as Lodi Orions 1974-75 all under affiliation with the Baltimore Orioles; as Lodi Dodgers in 1976-1983; as Lodi Crushers under affiliation with the Seattle Mariners in 1984; as Ventura County Gulls in 1986; as San Bernardino Spirit in 1987-1992) but another team with the name appeared.
The Los Angeles area, Riverside, San Bernardino, Palm Springs, Yuma (AZ) and Las Vegas (NV) were also major league spring training site cities, as well possessed California League teams on different occasions.
Cities that have had California League Teams (current in bold)
^ abcdGo to the California League website (Minor League Baseball; retrieved on 2017-05-23), click on "About" and then "League Award Winners" and then scroll down through the five awards. The Doug Harvey Award is at the bottom.