First Claxton Shield
1934: When Norrie Claxton (1880-1951) donated a trophy to be awarded to the State winning the annual Australian Championships. Claxton, first president of the South Australian Baseball League, in 1913 originally intended the team which won the trophy for 3 successive years to become the permanent holder. After South Australia won the first 3 years of competition involving presentation of the trophy, all States agreed that it become a permanent competition trophy and named it the Claxton Shield Competition.
After 53 successful years of Claxton Shield competition, the ABF decided in 1988 to form a National Competition under the banner of the AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE. The League initially consisted of eight teams from around Australia. It was the next step in establishing Baseball as a major sport throughout the country.
Claxton Shield National Championship Winners: 1934-88
|1934||South Australia||Adelaide, SA|
|1935||South Australia||Melbourne, VIC|
|1936||South Australia||Sydney, NSW|
|1937||New South Wales||Adelaide, SA|
|1938||New South Wales||Perth, WA|
|1939||New South Wales||Melbourne, VIC|
|1940-45||Series suspended due to World War II|
|1946||New South Wales||Sydney, NSW|
|1950||New South Wales||Sydney, NSW|
|1951||New South Wales||Adelaide, SA|
|1952||Western Australia||Perth, WA|
|1953||New South Wales||Brisbane, QLD|
|1955||New South Wales||Sydney, NSW|
|1957||South Australia||Perth, WA|
|1959||South Australia||Melbourne, VIC|
|1960||South Australia||Sydney, NSW|
|1963||New South Wales||Brisbane, QLD|
|1964||South Australia||Melbourne, VIC|
|1967||South Australia||Perth, WA|
|1969||South Australia||Melbourne, VIC|
|1970||South Australia||Sydney, NSW|
|1971||South Australia||Adelaide, SA|
|1975||Western Australia||Sydney, NSW|
|1976||South Australia||Adelaide, SA|
|1977||Western Australia||Perth, WA|
|1978||Western Australia||Brisbane, QLD|
|1979||Western Australia||Melbourne, VIC|
|1980||South Australia||Sydney, NSW|
|1985||Western Australia||Home and Away|
|1986||Victoria||Home and Away|
|1987||Queensland||Home and Away|
|1988||New South Wales||Home and Away|
Historic Switch of Seasons
Summer and winter baseball was played in Melbourne in the 1920s and Sydney from 1913 until the end of World War II, when baseball across Australia became mainly winter only, except for summer night baseball at Norwood Oval in Adelaide in the 1950s and at Oriole Stadium in Sydney from 1969. During the late 1960s, some states switched to summer day baseball.
When the NSW League decided to play summer-only day baseball in 1973, a breakaway Sydney Winter League formed to continue playing in winter, while most NSW country centres continued in the winter. The VBA in Melbourne switched to summer-only in mid-1970. Since 1974 Sydney baseball is now indeed an all year round sport.
In 1973, baseball, which until then was mainly a winter sport, switched to summertime. The move was intended to provide spectators with more comfortable weather conditions and to avoid clashes with overseas seasons.
Baseball’s premier season now falls in the summer months of October – March. However, a very strong winter competition not only continues to exist but flourishes.
Original Australian Baseball League
As the next stage in the development of baseball in Australia, the Australian Baseball Federation established the first Australian Baseball League (ABL) in 1989.
The ABL was “licensed” by the Australian Baseball Federation to conduct a “senior national baseball competition to determine a ranking of excellence amongst competing clubs”.
Each team had representation on the ABL’s Board of Directors along with representation from the Australian Baseball Federation, the largest equity holder in the League.
The League commenced its competition on the 27th October 1989, in Perth at Parry Field between the Perth Heat and Adelaide Giants. Since that time, the eight teams from around Australia slugged it out in a 42-game competition for the rights to be declared National Champions. The season was extended to 48 games in 1991/92 and to 56 games in 1993/94.
The ABL as a competition was recognised and sanctioned by bodies such as the International Baseball Association, the Australian Baseball Federation, the Japan Amateur Baseball Association and Major League Baseball in the US. It developed a strong relationship with the USA Major League teams by way of player participation in the League with ABL clubs forming affiliations with big-league clubs in America.
The League was an outstanding success with spectator attendances jumping from an average of only 1,500 in 1989 to an average of nearly 4,000 in 1993/94. Some games attracted over 10,000 spectators.
The games were played at home grounds and away with the majority of these fixtures being held at night.
International exhibition matches augmented the matches, the first of which was the exciting clash between Australia and Japan in January 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993.
In its ten years of operation the Australian Baseball League was a competitive and (at times) a promotional success and provided a platform for developing elite players. However, ultimately the league was not viable financially.
Australian Baseball League National Championships Winners:1989-99
|1998/99||Gold Coast Cougars|
International Baseball League Australia
Following the collapse of the ABL there were no (previous) owners or joint venture partners in the states prepared to put up enough capital to place a state team in a “touring” national league competition. The cost of accommodation and airfares were major disincentives.
Continuation of a national league in its previous format was and is simply unsustainable.
Australian baseball took a quantum leap forward on Christmas Eve 1998 when, in a tri-part arrangement, the Australian Baseball League, the Australian Baseball Federation and Nilcorp Pty Ltd signed a Heads of Agreement that effectively handed the reins of national league baseball in Australia over to David Nilsson (the International Baseball League Australia).
Whilst retaining many of the strengths of its predecessor, the IBLA implemented sweeping changes in an effort to re-establish and grow the sport beyond its then-current boundaries. Of highest priority amongst the changes was the recognition of the need for an integrated approach to marketing the game, and the potential inclusion of international teams into the competition.
IBLA Claxton Shield Winners: 1999-2001
The inaugural 2000-2001 IBLA season concluded on Sunday, 21 January 2001, with the Internationals winning a closely fought final against the Australian team (2 – 1 final score). The quality of the game was testament to the high standard teams maintained throughout the entire season. The result likewise was reward for the Internationals whom over the later part of the season established themselves as the premier team.
In 1999-2000, the Western Healers won the IBLA, but the shield was not contested the following season.
Whilst individual performances and team standings were important, the overall development of players (on and off the playing field) was by far the primary objective with results in this area extremely satisfactory.
Seventeen (17) MLB organizations, one (1) Korean professional organization and three (3) Taiwanese professionals combined with amateur players from the Australian and Taiwanese Baseball Federations to participate in the League (a total of 141 players from ten different countries).
IBLA Development League Champions
After the IBLA disbanded, the Claxton Shield’s national title competition continued between states in the 2000s until the dawn of the new Australian Baseball League in 2010/11.
Claxton Shield National Championship Winners: 2002-09
|2001/02||Victoria Aces||Melbourne, MBP|
|2002/03||Queensland Rams||Sydney, BOP|
|2003/04||NSW Patriots||Sydney, BOP|
|2004/05||NSW Patriots||Sydney, BOP|
|2005/06||Queensland Rams||Sydney, BOP|
|2006/07||Victoria Aces||Perth, Baseball Park|
|2007/08||Western Australia||Sydney, BOP|
|2008/09||Western Australia||Perth, Baseball Park|
|2009/10||Victoria Aces||Melbourne, La Trobe University|
All Time Claxton Shield Titles by State
|Victoria||1947-49, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1962, 1965, 1968, 1972-74, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1990 (Waverly Reds), 1993 (Melbourne Monarchs), 1995 (Waverly Reds), 1998 (Melbourne Reds), 2002, 2007, 2010|
|South Australia||1934-36, 1957, 1959-61, 1964, 1966-67, 1969-71, 1976, 1980|
|Western Australia||1952, 1975, 1977-79, 1985, 1991 (Perth Heat), 1997 (Perth Heat), 2000 (Western Heelers), 2008-09, 2011-12, 2014-15|
|New South Wales||1937-39, 1946, 1950-51, 1953, 1963, 1988, 1996 (Sydney Blues), 2004-05,|
|Queensland||1982-83, 1987, 1992 (Daikyo Dolphins), 1994 (Brisbane Bandits), 1999 (Gold Coast Cougars), 2003, 2006, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19|
|Australian Capital Territory||2013|
*Teams denoted in parentheses are from previous Australian Baseball League (1989-99).