Looking Back: 25 Memorable Moments in Northwoods League History
As part of this year’s 25th Season Celebration, every Monday and Thursday leading up to Opening Day we will look back at a memorable moment in Northwoods League history. And our first moment takes us back to where it all began.
On June 10, 1994, the Northwoods League threw its first pitch and a revolution in summer collegiate baseball was underway. Founded by long-time professional baseball owners and operators George MacDonald, Jr., Dick Radatz, Jr., William McKee and John Wendel, the concept was simple yet untested: apply the professional baseball model of promoting games to the summer collegiate baseball landscape. Five teams, all owned by the League, made up the inaugural season membership, including the Dubuque Mud Puppies, Kenosha Kroakers, Manitowoc Skunks, Rochester Honkers and Wausau Woodchucks.
In a letter to the fans published in the Rochester Honkers inaugural season game program, League President George MacDonald wrote: “The Northwoods League is the newest concept in Summer Collegiate Baseball whereby the college player is provided the opportunity to play baseball under professional minor league conditions, playing nightly in stadia, using wooden bats, traveling overnight; all while advancing his skills to one day hopefully being drafted to play professional baseball and one day reach The Major Leagues.”
Those aspirations have been realized. Northwoods League alumni have made, and continue to make, an impact on professional baseball teams at all levels. And League owners and operators continue to innovate, finding new ways to provide elite development opportunities to players, and affordable, memorable entertainment options to fans across a growing number of host cities.
Fun Facts about Opening Day 1994:
- Because the League had an odd number of teams, games were played against local town teams to fill out the season schedule.
- Two of the original five teams have been a part of the League for all 25 seasons: The Wausau Woodchucks (now the Wisconsin Woodchucks) and the Rochester Honkers.
- Chad Tidwell, a right-handed pitcher for the Rochester Honkers, struck out 13 and walked none on his way to a 4-3 win on Opening Day.
Games Programs from 1994