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As described in Lee Allen's book, The American League Story (Putnam, 1962), the team began as the Sioux City franchise in a minor league called the Western League. This circuit had reorganized itself in November 1893, with Ban Johnson as president. Johnson, a Cincinnati-based reporter, had been recommended by his friend Charles Comiskey, former major league star with the St. Louis Browns in the 1880s, who was then managing the Cincinnati Reds. After the 1894 season, when Comiskey's contract with the Reds was up, he decided to take his chances at ownership. He bought the Sioux City team and transferred it to St. Paul, where it enjoyed some success over the next five seasons.
In 1900, the Western League changed its name to the American League. It was still officially a minor league, a part of the National Agreement and an underling of the National League. The National League gave permission to the American League to put a team in Chicago, and on March 21, 1900, Comiskey moved his St. Paul club to the South Side, where they became the Chicago White Sox.
During the six decades of the original American Association minor league, the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints engaged in vigorous rivalry known as the Streetcar Series. This series has been documented in a book by Rex Hamann entitled The Millers and the Saints, Baseball Championships of the Twin Cities Rivals (2014).
Current franchise (1993-present)
In a tradition started in the team's first year, the Saints' pig brings out game balls and receives a snack between innings.
Despite the considerable naysaying at their inception, the Saints became one of the most successful teams in the Northern League and all of independent baseball. From 2002 to 2004, the Saints saw severely reduced attendance, owing partially to renewed interest in the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball, who won the 2002, 2003, and 2004 American League Central Division championships. In spite of an initially cool, if not outright hostile reception, the Saints and their major league neighbor (less than 10 miles (16 km) away) have worked together for several years to promote the sport of baseball.
The Saints have figured prominently in the creation of modern independent baseball. The team has been featured in books (Rebel Baseball by Steve Perlstein, 1993; Slouching Toward Fargo by Neal Karlen, 1998) and a cable network series (Baseball, Minnesota, FX Network, 1996-97). Mike Veeck wrote a book that covered the mantra "Fun is Good" (2005) and describes the business approach he has used for many years.
On May 31, 1997, the Saints became the first professional men's baseball team since integration to have a female on their roster. Ila Borders, a pitcher, played with the team out of the bullpen for a month before being traded.
Saints pitcher Mitch Wylie during a 2009 game wearing the uniform of the Homestead Grays in honor of Minnesota's contribution to African-Americans in baseball.
In June 2009, the Saints began a push to build a new stadium in Downtown Saint Paul. The proposed 7,500-seat stadium would be located in the Lowertown neighborhood near a planned maintenance facility for the METRO Green Line light rail. The city of Saint Paul requested $25 million in its 2010 bonding wish list to the Minnesota Legislature.
Kevin Millar (1993, formerly with the Florida Marlins, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays; Millar was on the 2010 Saints preseason roster, hoping to make the final roster, but left during the preseason to join MLB Network. On June 24, 2017, Millar came back to the Saints for one final game in his professional career, facing the Winnipeg Goldeyes with his family in attendance. In his first and only at-bat (as a deal was made for Millar to have only one at-bat) of the game, he hit a two-run home run to left field, and called that moment a true walk-off, as Millar said he will not play professional baseball ever again. Millar revealed the week prior on Intentional Talk that he was trying to go deep in the first place. The Saints went on to defeat the Goldeyes 8-6 that night, which was also the team's 25th anniversary)
Phil Weintraub (1942; also a Major League Baseball first baseman and outfielder)
In an attempt to gain publicity in a metropolitan area that hosts four major pro sports teams and a major college program, the Saints have received media attention numerous times for their unique promotions.
The Saints celebrated the 40th anniversary of Animal House on August 14, 2018, by staging the world's largest food fight after the completion of the fifth inning against the Sioux Falls Canaries. Approximately 8,000 fans participated.
On August 22, 2017, the Saints held the world's largest Twister game, with over 56,000 dots painted on the outfield grass.
A May 11, 2013, exhibition game between the Saints and Gary SouthShore Railcats was played without umpires. The team instead had a judge, in a judicial robe, call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher. Calls at first and third bases were made by a "jury" of 12 Little League players, with the judge able to overrule any calls.
In August 2012, as part of a regional conference held by the Minnesota Atheists, the Saints held "A Night of Unbelievable Fun", where the team wore alternate jerseys branding themselves as the "Mr. Paul Aint's". The promotion was reprised in subsequent seasons.
On July 23, 2011, the Saints celebrated National Hot Dog Day and parodied Anthony Weiner and his first sexting scandal. The first 1,501 fans age 18 or older received "Tweeting Wiener Boxer Shorts", depicting a blue bird taking a picture of a hot dog, or "wiener". The bird was deliberately drawn to resemble the logo of Twitter, the social media site that Weiner used to send links to indecent photos.
The Saints announced a giveaway for their May 23, 2009, game against the Sioux Falls Pheasants of 2,500 bobblehead dolls dressed as the Sesame Street character Count von Count, supposedly celebrating the 40th anniversary of the series. The Saints' version of this doll, however, had the face of Al Franken on one side and Norm Coleman on the other and was named "Count von Re-Count"--referring to the prolonged recount in the 2008 U.S. Senate election between the two men. The Saints made further jabs at the race:
Fans were asked during the game to spin the heads of their dolls to either Coleman or Franken. Attorneys were present to count the "votes" from this process, poking fun at the extensive involvement of attorneys in the recount process. The team's website stated that fans could challenge the "results" at the team's Fan Services booth during the game.
The team also facetiously stated on its site that it would not make the results of that night's game official until mid-June--around the time that the entireMinnesota Supreme Court was scheduled to rule on Coleman's appeal of a panel ruling that Franken had won. (The Court issued its ruling in Franken's favor on June 30, with Coleman then conceding.)
In May 2008, the Saints announced the giveaway of 2,500 bobble foot dolls, ostensibly to celebrate National Tap Dance Day. The dolls, which featured two feet visible beneath the door of a bathroom stall, have been covered in the national news for their reference to Senator Larry Craig, notorious for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport restroom in August 2007.
In April 2006, the Saints announced that rubber boats would be given out during a May 27, 2006, game, to honor the 30th anniversary of the television show The Love Boat. However, details of the promotion indicate that it was intended as a jab at the 2005 boat scandal involving the Minnesota Vikings, where several members of the team were allegedly involved in illicit behavior on a private cruise. The promotional rubber boats used the same color as the Vikings uniforms (purple and yellow) and were named Minnetonka Queen (a reference to Lake Minnetonka, where the cruise took place).
In August 2004, the Saints held a Bobblehead Election to tap into the campaign buzz around the election year. Fans were told to select either a John Kerry or George Bush bobblehead as their "vote." The stunt was capped off with a speech by the winning bobblehead. A real donkey and a donkey dressed like an elephant (the Saints were unable to obtain a real elephant) added to the atmosphere.
In August 2003, the Saints held "Randy Moss Hood Ornament Night", poking fun at Randy Moss, then a wide receiver for the Vikings. Earlier that year, Moss was involved in an incident where he bumped a traffic control officer with his car while he attempted to make a turn.
During the 2002 Major League Baseball labor negotiations, the Saints gave away seat cushions with pictures of commissioner Bud Selig on one side and player's association Executive Director Donald Fehr on the other.
In 2002, in response to Selig's controversial decision to end the MLB All-Star Game in a 7-7 tie, the Saints gave out neckties (or "ties") with Bud Selig's image.
Uniform colors: Home: Cream with blue "Saints" on front with name (black) and number (blue) on back; Away: Grey with blue "ST. PAUL" on front, Alternate/Sunday: Blue jersey with cream "StP" logo on player's lower left shoulder and cream number on back
Uniform design: "Saints" in script (1993-2002; was similar to original American Association version)