Chicago Pit Bulls
|Subleague||Lake League (2012-present)|
AEL East (1991-2011)
|Name||Chicago Pit Bulls (1995-present)
|Other nicknames||Chi-Town Pitbulls, The Chi-Dogs
|Previous names||Chicago Knights (1989-1995)
|Colors||Grey, white, black
|Owner||Sam Clark, Jr.
|General manager||Scott Davis|
|Ballpark||Pit Bulls Ballpark|
|Bull Cup championships||1991, 2020—2024 (6)|
|League pennants||AEL – 1991, 2004 (2)
LL – 2020—2024 (5)
|Division titles||AEL East – 1991—1992, 2004—2005, 2008, 2011 (6)
LL West – 2013, 2021—2025 (5)
|Playoff appearances||1991—1992, 2004—2005, 2007—2015, 2020—2025 (19)|
The Chicago Pit Bulls are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The team competes in the Bull League playing in the Lake League (LL) West division. They play their home games at Pit Bulls Ballpark.
The Pit Bulls were the first team to win the Bull Cup trophy in 1991, when they were named the Chicago Knights. After a lengthy championship drought of 28 years, a record among non-active streaks, they won again in 2020, and then managed to repeat in 2021.
The club has an all-time win-loss record of 1317-1217 (.520) as of the end of 2021.
- 1 History
- 2 Awards and other achievements
- 3 Championships
- 4 Minor League Affiliations
- 5 References
1989-1994: Inaugural Bull Cup Champions
The team was originally formed as the Chicago Knights in 1989, one of two teams based in the city of Chicago, Illinois. When the original Bull League reorganized in 1991, only the Knights remained, while the other team, the North Chicago Batmen, were folded. The Knights were placed into the American Eagle League, where they stormed to the top of the AEL East division with a record of 18-12, clinching the division pennant and setting themselves up for a championship series against the Nevada Speeders.
The Knights defeated the Speeders in a best-of-five handily, taking them down in four games, despite Nevada having been arguably the better team that season with a 24-6 (.800) record, and the league's RBI, runs, wins and pitcher strikeout leaders. Advancing to the Bull Cup Championship Series, the Knights found themselves up against the Boston Brawlers, who had managed to best a far superior Ohio Oxen team in the LLCS, taking that series to the full five games. The Knights edged the Brawlers 3 games to 1 and were crowned the Bull League's first Bull Cup champions.
The success could have continued, but the 1992 was cut short due to labor troubles, and although the Knights were the top team in their division at the half, when the regular season was stopped, their record was only 9-7, and the Seattle Salts were 13-3. The AEL champions were chosen by best record, instead of by a championship series, and the Salts were in. They went on to defeat the Ohio Oxen to take keep the Bull Cup in the AEL.
The following season, 1993, the Knights fell to 12-18 (.400) finishing in 2nd place behind the California Tidals, and failed to make the playoffs. Labor troubles returned again the next year and no baseball was played at all for 1994.
1995-2001: Cool, Schaffer lay HOF tracks
In 1995, the league had completely reorganized and expanded, entering what is considered the Modern Era by moving to an 80-game schedule, and reaching 16 teams in size. Chicago was renamed to the Pit Bulls and two new expansion teams joined them in the AEL East, while the California Tidals were moved to the AEL West where they were more geographically acceptable.
With the addition of the Calgary Chinooks and the Denver Highlanders, the future looked bright for the established Pit Bulls, and the other original legacy team in the division, the Speeders. But the Highlanders surprised everyone by latching onto a tenuous pennant spot with just a 40-40 (.500) record, while the Pit Bulls tied the second expansion team with a 37-43 (.463) record. The Speeders were just another game behind, at 36-44 (.450).
The Pit Bulls top arm was Joe Cool, who was 5-3 with a 4.15 ERA on the year, and an AEL leading 135 K's. Edison Stratton and Steve Brett made up the bulk of the offense, but a weakness at 1B led the team to trade for Mike Edwards from the New York Minutemen in November, and the club acquired LF George Slammer and RF Bill Schaffer as free agents in the offseason to really give themselves a leg up for 1996.
The spending paid off immediately, as the club vaulted to a 44-36 (.550) finish the next season, just 1 game behind Calgary. The Pit Bulls led the AEL East in runs scored, claimed a Woodchuck Trophy for reliever Brian Bell, and had three players win Gold Crown Awards, including Schaffer, Slammer and pitcher Marcus White. Chicago sent six players to the All-Star game. Schaffer finished third in MVP award voting.
Slammer renewed for two more years, and the Pit Bulls continued their momentum, rising to 48-32 (.600), but still falling one game short of the pennant, behind the maddeningly good expansion Calgary team. Bell took the saves title with 19, and LHP Marcus White tied for the wins title with 11.
Second place became an unbreakable glass ceiling for the Pit Bulls, as they bumping into it again in 1997, 1998 and 1999, with Schaffer winning the MVP award in 1999. In 2000 they again finished 44-36 (.550), the fourth time since 1996 they ended the year with that win-loss record, but that would only be good enough for a third place finish that season as now the Speeders found their momentum and joined the Chinooks in the race for the pennant. Chicago was 12 games behind Calgary, and players were starting to age out and leave. Slammer had left three seasons prior, and Schaffer had turned 36 during the season and his production was waning (though he did manage to hit three home runs in a game against the Seattle Salts that July).
The next year, 2001, Edison Stratton was traded to the Chicoutimi Cinquantes along with $300,000 in a huge swap that saw Chicago gain five players, including Connor Pearce, who would eventually develop into a formidable pitcher. Joe Cool stayed on and picked up 8 wins, and Schaffer had another good year at the plate, but many players left for free agency feeling that their ability to win a championship in Chicago was curtailed by the aging roster and stiff divisional competition. Mike Edwards, who had arrived in the trade with New York a few years prior, had been flirting with .350 in 2000, but by 2001 an injury had hampered his output and he hit .214 and played barely more than half the season.
The team dynamic was changing, but while some players would leave, the team was about to get a boost from some international talent. For their part, Schaffer and Cool had solidified themselves as premier players in the Bull League, even if they were missing that key piece, a Bull Cup ring to wear. Both would go on to earn Hall of Fame inductions, first Schaffer in 2009, and then Cool six years later.
2002-2011: Becoming perennial contenders
The 2002 marked a turnover year for the Chicago Pit Bulls. The club lured Prennick Argon into the fold with a 4-year, $23 million deal for the former San Diego Seagulls third baseman, a former #4 prospect, Rookie of the Year finalist, 3-time All-Star and 1998 All-Star MVP. International free agent, power-hitting first baseman Eduardo Alvarez joined the club after signing a $520K, 1-year deal the previous December. Former #1 prospect, Ricky Terrazas, an international amateur who in 1996 was scouted out of Cuba at age 16, had finally developed into what the club predicted would be a very lethal right handed starter, and he was inked to a 6-year, $37.8 million extension after his break-out 2002 season.
Right field was now being patrolled by Martin Duff, picked up from San Diego in a trade just before Spring Training opened. Though he went down for three months with a concussion in his first season with Chicago, he was batting .318 at the time, and came back to play 77 games the next year and hit .282. An important addition to the rotation was a young, 24-year-old Nick MacLellan, who would eventually go back to the bullpen for the club, but not before posting an impressive 7-1 record in 2002, and crafting a 2.42 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
Gone was the injury-prove Dontbea Fool, a veteran right-hander who had given valuable innings earlier in his time with Chicago, but who was 1-8 in his last year with the club, in 2001. Low production utility man Cory Armbrust was gone, having spent just 1 year in a Chicago uniform in 2001, and batting .172. Mediocre backup shortstop Anglo Phone left for free agency, as did veteran Edison Stratton. But the biggest blow to the Chicago offense had been the departure of Bill Schaffer for free agency after 2001, and the team was forced to reorganize and retool for 2002 to stay relevant.
With all the changes, the team managed to nearly post a .500 season, improving to 39-41 (.487) whereas the end of 2001 saw them crash to a franchise worst 28-52 (.350), their first time in last place ever. The recovery was quick and lasting. With Terrazas leading the rotation, and MacLellan moving back to the bullpen to lock down the late innings, the pitching improved immensely, with Terrazas even winning the Sandy Koufax Award and the MVP in 2004, a year the team found itself in first place for the first time since 1993.
The 2004 season was also the first time the team found themselves back in the Bull Cup finals since having won it in 1993. The high-flying Pit Bulls handily beat Seattle in the AELCS, and then went the full five games against Chicoutimi settling for a 3-2 series loss.
Chicago steamed along and would finish in 1st place three more times by the end of 2011, when the league prepared for another reorganization and expansion that would place the Pit Bulls in the Lake League. From 2007 to 2011 they had five straight trips to the playoffs, thanks in part to the new wild card that had been introduced in 2007. Two players picked up Rookie of the Year awards in that time, Victor Gomez and Hoshi Mizuguchi. Terrazas would collect four of his nine total Sandy Koufax Awards with the Pit Bulls, starting with his 2004 trophy, and adding one a year until 2007, when he left for free agency and joined Montreal.
Though they did not reappear in the Bull Cup again after 2004, the team proved they were no bull.
2012-2019: A Long Decline
The Pit Bulls had several more successful seasons, making the playoffs another four straight years from 2012 to 2015, but with only one first place finish. The tide had started to turn, as a dominant Ohio Oxen emerged in the LL West. Nick MacLellan had returned to the bullpen, after signing a 2-year, $5.44 million contract after 2014. But his first year back was unremarkable, and though he saw some improvement in 2016 the writing was on the wall for the 37-year-old.
The 2015 season was the last in Chicago for Tomas Maldonado, as the capable 2-time all-star starter left for free agency. But the biggest blow came on the batting side of the ledger, as a 34-year-old Bill Ross declined to extend his contract, instead leaving for a massive 2-year, $48.4 million deal with the Kingston Cannons after that year. Joining him in free agency was Hoshi Mizuguchi, who had been a capable contact infielder with excellent defensive skills, and who won the 2010 Rookie of the Year. The loss of Ross and Mizuguchi was felt the very next year, as the Pit Bulls crashed from a wild card-worthy 47-37 (.560) in 2015, to a not-good-enough 42-40 (.512) in 2016.
The next year, with payroll obligations topping $133 million (second highest in the LL), and attendance down 10,000 despite a schedule with 9 extra home games, the Pit Bulls performance continued to falter and they finished 45-55 (.450) for the 2017, winding up in 4th place for their first time since 2001. The team still had bright spots on the roster, and new GM Scott Davis had taken the reigns with plans for a major overhaul. But the Pit Bulls were falling further away from playoff contention as more veterans left for greener pastures.
At the end of 2018, the team hit as new club record low, finishing 30-70 (.300). The team batting average had crashed to a franchise worst .230, and they found themselves in the basement of the LL West for the first time since arriving from the American Eagle League. It would be the last year of the 100-game schedule, and the future did not look promising for 2019, as a new, longer schedule was introduced and GM Davis raised ticket prices to an astronomical level to bolster revenues.
In 2019, the Pit Bulls became the first team to lose 100 games, collapsing to a 62-100 (.383) record, which was statistically an improvement over the previous year, but nonetheless an embarrassing mark on the club history. Attendance, given the new higher prices, reached a record low of 291,317, or just under 3,600 per game. The one positive was that with their league-worst 2018 finish, they were able to secure the top overall draft pick, selecting high-flying power-hitter John Rambo from the NCAA's ASU Sun Devils, an impressive specimen who batted .419 in his graduating year, crushing 34 dingers and driving in 86 runs on his way to a 2019 College Player of the Year award.
The only way to go for the Pit Bulls now would be up.
2020: Dynasty begins
Beginning with the 2020 season, the Pit Bulls embarked on a successful championship run that continues to this day, winning a record-setting four consecutive Bull Cups and tying the New York Dragons for the record for all-time championships with five.2023, after winning their third straight championship, the club unveiled a new logo, retiring the former Pit Bulls logo that had served the club from 1995. The new, aggressive "Chi-Town Pit Bulls" logo was indicative of the team's playoff tenacity, as they solidified their reputation as a force to be reckoned with that year with their record setting fourth straight Bull Cup.
|Chicago Pit Bulls General Managers|
|1995–2001||Aaron O'Connor||289-271 (.516)||O'Connor was the first GM of the Pit Bulls modern era, and honed his skills with the club, finding some successes early on with above-.500 seasons, including a 48-32 (.600) run in 1997. But the team was blocked out of the postseason by a tough set of division opponents. Eventually, O'Connor was given the pink slip after cratering in 2001, overseeing the team's crash to a 28-52 (.350) last place finish.|
|2002–2016||Kevin Lucas||662-550 (.546)||Oversaw a very lengthy and successful run, becoming one of the winningest general managers in the Bull League, and leading the Pit Bulls to 9 consecutive playoff appearances from 2007 to 2015.|
Awards and other achievements
Carl Simms MVP Award
See article: Carl Simms MVP Award
Sandy Koufax Award
See article: Sandy Koufax Award
Rookie of the Year Award
See article: Rookie of the Year Award
See article: Woodchuck Trophy
|Statistic||Single season record||Career record|
|Batting average||John Rambo||.413||2021||David Herbst||.320|
|On base percentage||John Rambo||.459||2021||Bill Ross||.421|
|Slugging percentage||John Rambo||.825||2021|| Bill Ross
|Games||Dennis Guppy||159||2021||Oscar Barajas||729|
|At bats||John Rambo||692||2021||Oscar Barajas||2,848|
|Runs||Justin Kelly||176||2021||Edison Stratton||467|
|Hits||John Rambo||286||2021||Oscar Barajas||796|
|Doubles||John Rambo||48||2021||Oscar Barajas||179|
|Triples||Frank Erickson||7||2019||Cameron Pettiford||21|
|Home runs||John Rambo||77†||2021||Mike Strang||161|
|Runs batted in||John Rambo||206†||2021||Mike Strang||472|
|Stolen bases||Justin Kelly||89||2021||Justin Kelly||228|
|Earned runs average||Bret Gilbert||4.47||2019||Ricky Terrazas||3.08|
|Wins||Morgan Marley||16||2020||Bret Gilbert||69|
|Losses|| Bret Gilbert
|Saves||Travis Wilson||30||2020||Nick MacLellan||145|
|Games pitched||Morgan Marley||76||2020||Nick MacLellan||376|
|Games started||Bret Gilbert||39||2020||Gret Gilbert||159|
|Complete games||Dan Robinson||6||2011||Salvatore Resendiz||16|
|Shutouts||Tomas Maldonado||3||2010||Tomas Maldonado||6|
|Innings pitched||Bret Gilbert||229.1||2019||Ming Ou||1081.0|
|Strikeouts||Bret Gilbert||181||2019||Bret Gilbert||1,002|
Season listings in bold with a &dagger indicate current Bull League records.
Hall of Fame Players
The table below lists the players who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame who have played for the Pit Bulls. Players listed in bold were inducted in a Pit Bulls uniform.
|Chicago Pit Bulls Hall of Famers|
|Player||Position||Years with Pit Bulls||Inducted|
|Joe Cool||Pitcher||1995, 1999—2001||2015|
|Bill Schaffer||Right field||1996—2001||2009|
|George Slammer||Left field||1996—1998||2016|
|Paulo Tilano||First baseman||2005||2013|
The Chicago Pit Bulls were the first Bull Cup Champion team, winning the inaugural playoffs of 1991. It would be another 12 seasons before they would make another appearance, losing to Chicoutimi in 2004. Since then, however, they have found championship success, setting a record with four consecutive wins and appearances from 2019–2023.
|Bull Cup champions|
|New championship|| 1991
(As Chicago Knights)
| Succeeded by:|
|St. Petersburg Admirals|| 2020—2023
|| Succeeded by:|
|Lake League pennants|
|Minneapolis Ravens||2020—2023|| Succeeded by:|
| Metropolitan League pennants|
(Formerly American Eagle League)
|New championship|| 1991
(as Chicago Knights)
| Succeeded by:|
| Preceded by:
|2004|| Succeeded by:|
|American Eagle League East division titles|
|New title|| 1991—1992
(As Chicago Knights)
| Succeeded by:|
| Preceded by:
|2004—2005|| Succeeded by:|
| Preceded by:
|2008|| Succeeded by:|
| Preceded by:
|2011|| Succeeded by:|
|Lake League West division titles|
| Preceded by:
|2013|| Succeeded by:|
| Preceded by:
|2021—2023|| Succeeded by:|
Minor League Affiliations
|Chicago Pit Bulls Minor League Affiliates|
|AAA||Milwaukee Pugs||Cow League||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|AA||Anchorage Sky Chiefs||Heifer League||Anchorage, Alaska|
|A||Peoria Mosquitos||Calf League||Peoria, Illinois|
|Short Season A||Aurora Swashbucklers||Texas Rio Grande League||Aurora, Colorado|
|Rookie||Largo Pit Bulls||Florida Rookie League||Largo, Florida|
- Chicago Pit Bulls: Batting Leaders. BNN. http://bullleague.org/public_html/bull-league/reports/html/history/team_14_batting_leaders.html.
2020/01/01. Accessed: June 17, 2019.
- Chicago Pit Bulls: Pitching Leaders. BNN. http://bullleague.org/public_html/bull-league/reports/html/history/team_14_pitching_leaders.html.
2020/01/01. Accessed: June 17, 2019.