Friday Flashback: National Professional Indoor Baseball League


It has been three months since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and sent baseball into hibernation for the winter.  I have often wondered why there has not been any attempts to establish some sort of indoor baseball league.  My research found that this was done in 1939 when the National Professional Indoor Baseball League was created.

The idea for an off-season indoor league was drawn up in November 1939 in New York City.  The league was the idea of former Cleveland Indians player/manager Tris Speaker who had led the Indians to their first World Series title in 1920.  The league started with eight teams located in New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis playing a 102-game schedule.

Base paths were only 60 feet apart and the ball was different than the average baseball with a 12-inch circumference being used so it was a lot like playing indoor softball than baseball.

New York and Brooklyn opened the season with a doubleheader which was played at the 14th Regiment Armory in front of 1,500 fans.  The “indoor” Dodgers won the first game 7-5 and New York won the second game 7-0.  The shorter distance between bases added speed to the game.  There were, however, mechanical problems that hindered the game.  The only explanation about these “mechanical” problems were that drapes and pennants had to be removed in order to increase the playing surface.

Unfortunately, the league barely lasted a month.  I could find no reports of the standings when the league folded.  Chicago never played a game.  Fans were not interested in seeing second-tier players.

Today, it is much more possible for an indoor league with the availability of stadiums such as Phoenix, Miami, Milwaukee, Houston, Toronto, Seattle and St. Petersburg where the average baseball dimensions could be used.  A few years ago there was a report of someone trying to start an indoor baseball league after Arena Football had become established but nothing got off the planning stages of that idea.

So, baseball fans, you only have to wait a few more weeks before spring training starts.



Leave a Reply