For the first time in their history, the Indians became an affiliated franchise. They were the last team in the American Association to become a join up with a parent MLB organization. Indianapolis signed its first PDC in 1939… a three-year contract with Cincinnati, and instantly saw the team go 10 games over .500 finishing at 82-72. The Reds placed 24 year old Red Barrett in the Indians rotation where he put up a 16-12, 3.41 record while Johnny
Niggeling went 16-7, 3.13 and Don French won 15 games as well, to lift the Indians back to the playoffs… where they would make it to the finals against a team who were about to become their nemesis... the Louisville Colonels. The Colonels would take the series (as they would often do against the Indians in the post-season), and deny Indianapolis their first Trophy for Bush Stadium. Barrett would go on to become a 20+ game winner (23-12, 3.00 in 1945) for the St. Louis Cardinals. More future All-Stars came to town in 1940 as 4 time All-Star starting pitcher Johnny Vander Meer put up a 6-4, 2.40 record in 1940 on his way to a fantastic career while Wally Berger and Ray Starr (20-15 in 1941) finished up their All-Star careers here at Bush Stadium. The Indians however began to flounder and when the Cincinnati Reds pulled out of town in 1942, they left the Indians to carry on for themselves as an independent franchise again. Former NY Giants 6 time All-Star JoJo Moore came to town to finish out his fine career and batted .281 while "Old Tomato Face", Gabby Hartnett batted .220 with 12 doubles and 4 homers as he played in the final years of his Hall of Fame career while managing the Indians. As the war began to really take hold, former and very successful Indians manager Donie Bush took over the team in 1942 and renamed the stadium "Victory Field" from its former moniker "Perry Stadium". With Jo-Jo Moore returning for a second season and batting .305, James Trexler went 19-7, 2.14 on the mound to lead the Indians back to the playoffs. They would push on to the finals only to lose to the Columbus Red Birds who had won their 3rd Championship in a row. Donie Bush would return in 1944 but the team was decimated by the war… with most of the good players heading overseas to fight. The Indians had one of their worst season ever going 57-93. Most Minor League systems suspended operations altogether for 3 years, but the American Association, the International League and the 3rd Triple-A system, the Pacific Coast League continued on.