American Association (1978-1981)
Born: 1978 – The New Orleans Pelicans relocate to Springfield, IL.
Died: November 11, 1981 – The Redbirds relocate to Louisville, KY.
Stadium: Lanphier Park
Owner: A. Ray Smith
The Springfield Redbirds were a Class AAA farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals that played for four summers at Springfield, Illinois’ Lanphier Park.
Key future Major Leaguers who came through Springfield during this era included Leon Durham (1979-1980), Tom Herr (1978-1980), Terry Kennedy (1978-1979), Donnie Moore (1980-1981) and Ken Oberkfell (1978) among others.
The Redbirds won the 1980 championship of the American Association, with Hal Lanier as field manager.
Prior to the Redbirds final season in Springfield in 1981, team owner A. Ray Smith signed a six-year contract with the city of Springfield to lease Lanphier Park for $50,000 per season through 1986. But at the end of that summer, smelling a sweeter deal in Louisville, Kentucky, Smith broke the lease and uprooted his club for the second time in five years. The American Association owners voted 7-1 to allow the move in November 1981. The city of Springfield responded with a lawsuit against Smith and the league in December.
Ultimately, Smith paid a six-figure settlement to the city of Springfield and was allowed to run off to Kentucky. In Louisville, the Redbirds became one of the top minor league attractions of the 1980’s and the first minor league team to attract one million fans in a single season in 1983. Springfield, meanwhile, received a Class A Midwest League farm club – the Springfield Cardinals – in 1982 to replace the departing Redbirds. The Cardinals played from 1982 until 1993.