I was thinking a while back about the articles written here about Ottawa Lynx baseball and the failure of many Canadian teams due to the “inclement weather”. There is a league that manages to be successful despite being precariously close to the Arctic Circle – the Alaskan Baseball League.
The Alaska Baseball League (ABL) is an amateur summer baseball league, with six teams located in four Alaskan cities. Most players are from the college ranks.
The famous Midnight Sun Game, held in Fairbanks on the longest day of each year, is one of the highlights of the Alaska Baseball League season.
In the past, the ABL has sent its top teams to compete at the National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series, with many champions coming from the ABL.
The National Baseball Congress of Wichita, Kansas is an organization of 15 amateur and semi-professional baseball leagues operating in the United States and Canada. Since its founding in 1935 by Hap Dumont, it has conducted an annual North American championship tournament among its members, The National Baseball Congress World Series, held at Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium annually since 1935.
Anchorage Glacier Pilots (Anchorage) (NBC Champs 1969, 1971, 1986, 1991, 2001)
Anchorage Bucs (Anchorage)
Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks (Fairbanks) (NBC Champs 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1980, 2002)
Fairbanks AIA Fire (Fairbanks, sponsored by Athletes in Action
Mat-Su Miners (Palmer) (NBC Champs 1987, 1997)
Peninsula Oilers (Kenai) (NBC Champs 1977, 1993, 1994)
Hawaii Island Movers (1986) (Hawaii Island, Alaska)
North Pole Nicks (1980-87) (North Pole, Alaska)
Palouse Empire Cougars (1986-91) (Palouse)
Valley Green Giants (Palmer, Alaska) (1976-79) became Mat-Su Miners
The Midnight Sun Game is a baseball game played every summer solstice at Growden Memorial Park in Fairbanks, Alaska, United States. Because the sun is out for almost 24 hours a day, the game starts at about 10:30 at night and completes around 1:30 the next morning.
The first game was in 1906. Since 1960, the game has been hosted by the Alaska Baseball League’s Fairbanks-based Alaska Goldpanners. Before the Goldpanners took over the tradition in 1960, various local and military teams were featured in the contest.
Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, and provides nearly continuous light throughout the evening in Fairbanks, which is 150 miles south of the arctic circle. The game is a celebration of the summer solstice, and is a Fairbanks holiday.
The baseball tradition began in 1906 as a bar bet between the Eagle’s Club and the California Bar, led by “Father of the Midnight Sun Game” Eddie Stroecker. There have never been any artificial lights used in a Midnight Sun Game. The light fades towards the middle of the game, but usually returns by the end of the game. The game is stopped at midnight for the singing of the Alaska Flag Song.
In 2005, Fairbanks native Sean Timmons was the winning pitcher. He is now the winningest pitcher (3-0) in the history of the Midnight Sun game. Immediately after the game, his No. 33 jersey was shipped to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Former and current Jays Dave Bush, Jeremy Accardo, Jason Phillips, Jeff Kent, Eric Hinske, Jason Frasor are all alumni of Alaskan Baseball.