Friday, October 10, 2014

BISCUITS SEEK NEW MANAGER, 100 Yrs of Progress?

Its usually a slow time for a minor league blogger in October, but we always have Biscuits news to go over...


The Biscuits fixed the pig.
They also fixed the field.
Both needed it badly. Could Big Mo be next?
Might help cut down on his wandering


BILOXI IS BLOWING IT

No movement on the Biloxi scene, nothing confirming the obvious - that the team will stay in Huntsville until late in the 2015 season or, looking more likely, waiting to open the 2016 season at their new park.

We have speculated alot about Biloxi building a new ballpark and the efforts to move the Stars to the coast, but there is one person who told us it would be like this and would probably say that things are going just as planned.
well, yes, but thats not who I meant...


Sherrie said "it'll be years" before Biloxi has a team

Along the same lines, no coinciding word on how it could affect divisional alignment. If North Division Montgomery has to travel NORTH to face a team in the Southern Division it will look bad on league Prexie Webbs permanent record.



ANOTHER PLAYER APPEARS?
No word on Panama Citys efforts to lure a double-A team, which would have to be a Southern league participant. Mobile perhaps? The BayBears and Dbax reluctantly agreed to a new two-year pact that neither was happy about. The Dbax might enjoy shifting over to PCB, and Mobile might let them.



100 YEARS OF PROGRESS IN FIELD DRAINAGE TECHNOLOGY: 
A PICTORIAL IN TWO PHOTOS

Photos of the field being worked on were posted by the Biscuits at their faceplace site and on twitter. Riverwalk needed it badly, it had been looking rough the past couple years.

The trench for the drainage...

Looks like ditch technology hasnt come that far, here is Cramton Bowl ca 1920s getting the same treatment...

I can't help but feel there was a similarity. It also made me want to put on a fedora and wool suit to watch while some digging took place.



BISCUITS SEEK NEW MANAGER

Not fired yet
Closer to home, starting last week the Biscuits were known to be seeking a new Manager. And while no news comes our way yet on the field staff from Tampa we can be sure to see a new face running the show - in the box office!


Yes, its true, the box office managers chair has been vacated by kyle who no longer appears on the website contact list. So if you have ever had to explain the intricacies of your seat preference at the box office instead of just taking "best available" you are going to have to go over it for them again this spring.

And for a few dollars more per ticket. Gotta cover that vet trip for the pig, Auburn Uni don't spay pigs cheap!
Miss Gravy, future spinster pig

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Winning Is Mental - Develop-Mental!


Long have I chafed at casual fans who feel losses by minor league teams are acceptable. "Its about development, not winning games" is a crock. I have pointed out that if that adage were true we would never see an intentional walk or bring the infield in with the bases loaded at the minor league level.

Losing games at the any level does little to further the advancement of a team, an organization or its players. It doesn't make sense to develop players by teaching them to accept losing.


Frank Ward, tired of losing
But don't take it from me alone, hear what Nashville Sounds owner Frank Ward says about the value of winning. In a recent conversation with the Milwaukee Sentinel the Sounds owner cites losing as the main reason the Sounds abandoned the Brewers affiliation.
"The biggest thing was winning," and "...winning is very key to us and the A's bring that to us..."

And then there is major league GM Billy Beane, who says of minor league victories "We consider winning at this level (Triple-A) as a major part of the relationship, a major part of development,"
Billy Beane as most know him

Beane also says "We recognize the importance that the team means to the community and part of that is making sure that it's a good team. I reiterate that commitment we have to the fans, the city, to Frank, to everybody else involved with the Sounds."


THE TENTH MAN
Of course, the fans have their thoughts too. Some comments on the above article have the same flavor we have heard at Biscuits games the past seven seasons.

bagman: With probably the oldest minor league roster year of the year the Nashville fans were tired of watching career minor leaguers and other teams first round busts. Not to mention the poor fundamentals throughout the organization.

papa geezer: Maybe alot of fans will sever ties with the Brewers after this total collapse. Not too many Nashville players make it big in the MLB, which says alot and why Nashville is going with another team.

So who says that winning is important to minor league teams? I do, Triple-A owners agree, Major league GM's agree and obviously fans agree as well.

For the record, the last time the Nashville Sounds were in the playoffs was 2007.

In order to improve an organization it takes learning to win, not just learning to play. It takes building a complete foundation, not just a couple of good bricks. 

Hopefully the Rays organization wakes up and works on building a full team, not just parts. Since the Biscuits last won the Southern league the team has been a farm for single players, almost always pitchers. Position players have been surprises when they prove themselves, pitchers have been rushed through and often end up hurt or overmatched at higher levels.

The Tampa Bay Rays have taken a step backwards in the focus on creating a winning organization and the team needs to address how it has been teaching players to lose.




SEPTEMBER 25 1920
Montgomery, AL
"Colored League Champs to Play - Championship of Country Will be Decided in Series Beginning Today.

Championship honors will be at stake at South Side Park this afternoon when the Chicago American Giants clash with the Montgomery Grey Sox club. The Chicago team won the pennant in the colored national league, while the Grey Sox team won the bunting in the Southern league. The visiting team has played sensational ball all season, and according to reports have a strong aggregation.
1920 Chicago American Giants
Sam Streeter
The Grey Sox team had a light workout Friday in preparation for the game, and Manager Cunningham announced that he was confident his club would make a credible showing in two games with the Chicago outfit.

Sam Streeter or (Charlie) Mason will probably pitch for the local Club, with Williams catching. Secretary Stables of the Grey Sox announced Friday night that the Chicago team which played here a few weeks ago, is not the club scheduled for play here Saturday and Sunday.

Extra seats have been placed in the white grand stand and a tremendous crowd is expected to witness the game today and Sunday. Play will begin at 3:30 o'clock with Cotton acting as umpire."

Friday, September 19, 2014

2015 Biscuit Promotions, Dressed Like A Biscuit




Congrats to the JaxSuns on their 2014 SL Championship, they knocked the Lookouts back into the "Most Futile" category. Cant wait to face both next year, hopefully we can take the trophy back from Florida.


2015 Biscuits Promotional Schedule Released

It looks like the Biscuits front office took notice of the fans concerns about the promotions and have stepped it up for the upcoming All Star season. Among the highlights:

Desmond Jennings Bobblehead giveaway
Turn Ahead the Clock Back to the Future Night with futuristic jersey auction
Craft Beer Fest
Hot Dog Festival

Add the usual assortment of Jimmy Buffet, Star Wars, 1980s themed nights. A couple autograph days and the AUM "Premium Giveaway" that is usually a lunchbox-related item.

We also get Miss Gravy's Birthday, which used to be Big Mo's Birthday so we may see Big Mo traded in the offseason.


THE BISCUIT UNIFORM
Long time fans and casual observers probably don't pay much attention, but with the impending change in uniform tops for the Montgomery Biscuits, the team will be wearing its third home jersey and sixth overall uni top. Its been over a decade since the Biscuit duds were first introduced and the changes have been subtle. But there have been changes.
Chris Nowak in the classic Skitz uni


FONT & COLORS
The Biscuits use their own script/font for the team name and numbers on the uniform as well as other signage around the park, but the player names on back of the shirts are always a basic sans serif block lettering.

The colors are uninspired but unoffensive, based on the yellow-blue contrast popular in many sports logos.

Monty Biscuit is the palette
The Biscuits yellow is a bright but not neon the team likes to call "Butter" but in fact has almost no resemblance to the dairy product OR to any paint palette reference to "butter yellow".

The Butter-Yellow of the Biscuits uniform will vary from a middling yellow of a variety close to the average "school zone" sign to an almost orange hue seen on "road work" signs.
Offsetting the bright tones of the yellow in the uniform is a dark navy blue trim. The Biscuits uniform is often referred to as the "Butter and Blue" by announcers, but rarely among fans. I suspect this is because the yellow isn't butter colored, and even if it WAS yellow isn't the dominant color of the home uniform.
Andrew Bellatti reads to Keith Castillo and friends


2004
FIRST LOOK

The home whites and road blues were first seen for the new team in Montgomery and they were impressive. The only flaw on the design was in the name, Biscuits were about as embarrassing a name as could be flung on a southern team by carpetbagging ownership. Still is, but I digress.

The white tops were sleeveless vests with a bright yellow scripted "Biscuits" on the chest outlined in dark blue. Yellow and blue piping runs vertically up the chest on either side of the buttons and circles the collar.

The vest is worn over a dark blue undershirt with a Biscuits logo-M on the left shoulder. After the first season, the "Monty-Biscuit M" logo on the shoulder would not be a requirement, though some players would still wear it at times.
Isenia wearing M logo undershirt
The uniform number is seen smaller on the front left and larger on the center of the back, also in yellow with a blue outline. The name on back of the home white jersey is arched above the number at the shoulders in blue capital letters.


PANTS, SOCKS, SHOES

Long pants? Must be April '04!
The Biscuits have maintained a strict high-cuff rule since early on in their existance. You can find images of Biscuits wearing pajama pants from early 2004, but sometime during that season a Tampa official mandated that our players should look like ballplayers and not kids at a sleepover.

The home pants are white with yellow/blue piping along the outside of the leg. They are worn high cuffed with dark blue stockings. 
While noone has informed me there is a shoes rule, all players wear black shoes with white trim. I have never seen a player with other colors in their shoes, so I am going to say there is probably a dress code limiting shoe expressions.

ROAD UNIFORMS

The road uniform is a dark blue top with yellow "Biscuits" emblazoned on the chest above the number. Yellow and blue piping lines the buttons and circles the neck. The yellow trim on the road blue jersey is a different color than the home, this is the almost-orange trim that must be an intentional thing, as they have had opportunities to change it to match the home colors but haven't.
Hellickson in road blues

No name on back for any road jersey, just the large uniform number to prevent hecklers in other cities from getting too personal.

Road pants are gray with yellow-blue piping down the outside leg, worn high cuffed with dark blue stockings.


2007 PLAYOFFS FORCE UNI CHANGE 
In 2007 the Biscuits went to the playoffs, facing the Huntsville Stars in the championship series. When the two teams were preparing to line up on the field for the national anthem, we saw a change was needed. Both teams were essentially identical in dark blue tops, only the home teams white pants setting them apart.

The Stars ended up wearing their road Red tops for most of their home games during the championships.
2007 Playoffs

So in 2oo8 the Biscuits unveiled their new road alternates, a set of grey tops that would go on to be known as....

 THE SILVER SURFERS

They were ugly. They were cheap. They might be jinxed. Some loved them and some called them the worst shirt in the history of sports. But the 'Skitz wore them from '08-13.
Delmon Young in Silver Surfer 2013

Season Ticket holder Jennifer says they are jinxed, bad luck somehow. Not sure why, the Biscuits won it all in the first season with the Silver Surfers, so I would think that knocks curses out of the discussion. But then again, we have had some really lean years since they were introduced and haven't won a title since that 2008 season, so there is that.

The Silver Surfers are the alternate road top, a gray so pale its almost pink when viewed under stadium lights at dusk. The Biscuit script is the same on the chest as the home and blue road top. No front number, no name on back. The design is essentially the same as the blue road top, minus the front number. Yellow and blue piping flank the buttons vertically, then curve up and around the collar.

Matt Buschmann in the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfers are a mesh material, which made them popular among some players for being a more comfortable jersey during the hot and humid Southern league months. Other players, however, felt them an affront to style and would rather have worn burlap than the pink mesh.

Of the Biscuits uniform designs, the road gray alternates have probably been worn the least, and getting less use means less replacements - they were in use through '13.
Omar Luna wears the Silver Surfer as Billy Hamilton sets the MiLB steals record


BISCUITS GO STRAIGHT

In 2007 the radial arch NOB for the home jersey became a straight block nameplate across the back, and has remained so. This makes it easy to date photos of Biscuits players, a curved name means the pic was taken in the first three seasons!
 Mike Prochaska in '07

 2013 BISCUIT JERSEY
In '13 the Biscuits unveiled a new uniform top. Replacing the blue sleeves under a white vest, the 2013 jersey was a short sleeve white shirt of heavy poly. The jerseys look great but were very hot for players, due in part to their top-shelf quality.
As such, the team wore them just two seasons and starting next spring will be wearing a new lighter jersey.

Albert Suarez stylin in the 2013-14 style jersey
WILSON VS RUSSELL
The Biscuit jerseys have always been made by Wilson, but the folks I talk to at the Skitz say they will be using Russell for the 2015 uni. I had thought there was a deal in place by Wilson with MiLB, but somehow that doesn't seem to bother the Montgomery staff.
They tell me we can expect a much lighter cloth, perhaps even a mesh home jersey next year, made by Russell.They will be similar to ....

2014 NEW ROAD GRAYS
Hellickson rehabed in the gray

The Montgomery Gray was the name of our team for several years in the past, and as often as the Biscuits wore their new road uniforms opposing fans must have thought we had gone back to being the Grays.

Floro pitching in road uni
The new road tops are of lighter material, almost a mesh fabric that was very popular with the players and didn't look as odd as the Silver Surfers. The Biscuits wore them three or four times in their five game road series, and were obviously happy with them.

The road grays are of the same design as the road blues and home whites, sharing the same piping and trim on other Montgomery uniform styles.
Biscuits enjoy rain delays in road grays



CAPS
The Biscuits have had quite a few caps, I will have a later post detailing the hats and their changes over the years. There is alot to cover with caps!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Ex-Excelsior, Founding Father of Montgomery Baseball

Dr.Pearsall, I presume...

or

 Alabama's Link to Elysian Fields and the First Banned Player

Excelsior Club of Brooklyn 1860 (left to right): Thomas Reynolds, SS; John Whiting, 3B; Jim Creighton (holding ball), P; Henry D. Polhemus, 2B; Aleck T. Pearsall, 1B; Edwin Russell, LF; Joe Leggett, C; Asa Brainard, LF; and George Flanly, CF.

This is a chapter from my book: Montgomery's Nines - A History of Baseball in Montgomery Alabama.

A while back I read a post in MLB historian John Thorn's blog about Elysian Fields in which a letter writer is from Montgomery. Its not the focal point, just a sideline, but I made note of it since it fell in our city baseball history. Later when I looked deeper into it, I found a nice page with a little written about the player in question, but now that I go back and try to access it that page has fallen off the internet. 

I would like to credit both Thorn and this anonymous internet scribe for inspiring me to look into this odd piece of early Montgomery Baseball history a little deeper and expanding on what is known about this unheralded early figure in our baseball story. 



FORMER EXCELSIOR BRINGS THE ELYSIAN FIELDS TO MONTGOMERY

Aleck
Andrew Thurston Pearsall
known as A.T. or maybe "Aleck", Pearsall was born in Florence, Alabama in April of 1839 and there he stayed until his family moved to Hoopers Valley in New York around 1845, where his father had grown up.

Pearsall would grow up as a dedicated student but like most boys, developed an interest in playing cricket and its variant, town ball. The early pre-baseball townball game was a sandlot sport played in many northern towns and cities, and has roots going way back into a murky antiquity.
"Stump ball" ca.1500's


A.T. Pearsall studied at several fine schools and eventually earned his Doctorate in 1861 from the Columbia, NY College of Physicians and Surgeons. While he was studying for his medical exams, he would take time out from classes to play cricket or baseball. He had progressed beyond simple town ball and had taken a position with one of the early organized amateur base ball teams. Comprised mainly of med students, the Aesculapians team deployed Aleck as a first baseman.
Pearsall ca 1859-60
That is where he was when the Excelsiors found him in early 1859, picking him up and adding him to the roles of the first organized league. With a membership of just over 50 men, the National Association of Base Ball Players was a very exclusive group of the best base ball teams in the world, and Aleck Pearsall was about to join them.


THE BROOKLYN EXCELSIORS
Jim Creighton
The Brooklyn Excelsiors, also known as the "Jolly Young Bachelor Base Ball Club", were led by star James Creighton, known as the top pitcher of the era - Jim Creighton is baseball's first great pitcher.

However, Creighton would also be its first fallen hero, dying from an on-field injury caused by his fierce swing of the bat rupturing internal organs.


Pearsall would man first base for the Brooklyn Excelsiors during their 1859 and 1860 seasons. He drew praise for his play and it was said there was no equal to him at the position to be found anywhere. It was an especially tough time to be a first baseman or catcher, since no gloves were used.
Pearsall, second from right in photo of Knickerbocker and Excelsior players
Pearsall was known for his big bat in the lineup, literally. He reportedly used a 50 inch bat. His defense was impeccable, known to not let any throws past him, an impressive feat even if embellished a little when described as his "steel trap style".

More than that, they were gentlemen. At a time when on-field antics and outrageous behavior plagued most teams, the Excelsiors demanded a more refined and level headed game that was ahead of its time. Bickering and unsportsmanlike play was simply not accepted, and in its place grew one of the first great teams in the early history of the sport.

THE FIRST ROAD TRIP

The team took to the road in 1860, winning each contest handily while traveling as far south as Baltimore. One such victory was against the Hudson River club, who fell 59-14. The Excelsiors won 18, lost 2 that season. They had one tie - with the rival Atlantics.

That a baseball team would take to the road for an overnight trip was an oddity in 1860, but would set the precedent to encourage later teams to organize and eventually form leagues that involved travel requirements.

Even their hats were trend setting, the Excelsiors wore the first hats that would be considered "ball caps" by modern standards. With a bill and panels that would later be known as the "Brooklyn style" the Excelsiors were ahead of their time in so many ways.

THE WAR
Entrenched in the War between the States as the nation was, medical experts were in high demand and Pearsall was fresh from medical school in October 1861. He was contracted at $100 a month to be an Assistant Surgeon for the Confederates, working on the wounded at Richmond and Atlanta. He served at Roy Hospital and Fair Grounds Hospital in Atlanta, and was attached to the Kentucky Cavalry. He was known for his positive and easy disposition with patients, who were both Union and Confederate.

In fact it was while doctoring Union wounded and inquiring on the welfare of ex-teammates fighting for the Federals that word got back to the Brooklyn team about the Excelsior player now tending injured rebels. Of 91 current or former members of the Excelsiors who fight in the war, only Pearsall sided with the south. The remaining Excelsior players banned their former star first baseman, vowing to bar anyone who assists the Confederates from ever playing again.

Pearsall is discharged from duty in 1863, likely avoiding the worst of the triage that would be seen in the Confederate hospitals around Atlanta in the following months.

POSTWAR 
BASEBALL COMES TO MONTGOMERY
1870s baseball players in MGM
After the war, Aleck Pearsall came to Montgomery Alabama and opened a medical practice downtown. He also joined the Montgomery baseball team, the 1867 Montgomery team was known then as Pelham, though not based IN Pelham it is likely named for the local teams sponsor. Pelham, along with the Mobile Dramatics are the first recorded baseball teams in the state of Alabama, both being organized in the late spring of 1867.

I found it more than a little noteworthy that when the former Excelsiors star first baseman comes to Montgomery, Montgomery suddenly has its first baseball team.

Pearsall was one of, if not THE founding father of the game of baseball in Montgomery and all across Alabama, simply with his presence. He was instrumental with his participation on the first team in Montgomery. There is no more pedigreed player in Montgomery's baseball early ranks, perhaps the entire state.

Having Pearsall on the team would have educated its players on how to play the gentlemans game the right way. He brought knowledge of Jim Creightons pioneering fast pitching, of Leggets legendary catching moves, Asa Brainerds pitching brilliance and of the strategy employed by the early managers never known locally.

The postwar baseball scene was usually a locals vs locals event, rarely did teams travel far, but on at least one occasion a barnstorming team of Northern pros came through the south, playing games against Southern teams. It was reported that "former Brooklyn players" would appear for the Southern team, which would be Pearsall as the lone Confederate AND former Brooklyn Excelsior.

The 1870 Census records indicate Pearsall and his wife Mary had a daughter Osa, who was shown to be age 0. Also with them in residence was Mosses Holland, a 16 year old black youth from Georgia that the Pearsalls hired as domestic help and enrolled in the Negro School.
1870 Census


Dr.Pearsall was active in the medical community, listed among the areas prominent phsyicians. One reference describes some of his surgeries in the year of 1871:
Dr. A. T. Pearsall reports five amputations, two of the leg, one of 
the arm, and two of the fingers, also a number of fractures and 
dislocations.  



EXPLORER OF THE WILDS
Tombigbee River, White Bluffs at Demopolis
A "Mr.Pearsall" is on record as having been "highly recommended by prominent parties" to lead an expedition from the mouth of the Tombigbee River to the end of its navigation and file a report with the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers.

This excursion took place from the middle of September 1870 until March of 1871, when the report was filed. Its easy to guess that this exploring Mr.Pearsall is our former Excelsior.

1870s Fire Brigade on Parade on Dexter Ave
Aleck, now Dr.Pearsall, lived and worked in Montgomery until at least the late 1870s, which is where he was when he was asked about the 1866 Currier and Ives woodcut of the Elysian Fields game. Pearsall was able to identify the players as his former teammates and pick them out by name, as seen in a letter written to a New York newspaper describing the famous image and its historic players....

ELYSIAN FIELDS - THE AMERICAN NATIONAL GAME
from THORNS blog:
A letter from a Mr. A. Jacobi of Montgomery, Alabama, to the New York Clipper, published on September 4, 1875, provided the identities of each man in the 1860 salt print, from which the Clipper executed a woodcut: Through the courtesy of Mr. A. Jacobi of Montgomery, Ala., we are enabled to lay before our readers a picture of the model baseball nine of the period when the game was entirely in the hands of the amateur class of the fraternity. Mr. Jacobi, in a letter to us, says he is indebted to Dr. A. T. Pearsall of Montgomery for the photograph sent us, that veteran first-baseman being still a “play list” in the South….  

 The picture contains the portraits of the following players: On the extreme left is the old shortstop of the nine, Tommy Reynolds…. Next to him stands John Whitney…. The third is James Creighton—he has a ball in his hand—the pitcher of the period par excellence, and the first to introduce the wrist throw or low-underhand-throw delivery. His forte was great speed and thorough command of the ball…. This team defeated nearly every nine they encountered in 1859 and 1860, but in the latter year they had to succumb to the Atlantics….



POST SCRIPT
A.T.Pearsall moved back to Oswego New York in the 1880s with his daughter and retired to run a small doctors practice there until his passing in 1905. He was active in watching youth sports, especially baseball and basically enjoyed being a quiet town doctor.

Just a year before his death, Oswego NY learned that their old doc was the star first baseman of the 1860s, and the elderly Aleck received a round of recognition for his past diamond exploits before the sun set on the first banned player.


RESEARCH NOTES:
*** Some references list Pearsall as a native Virginian, but there is little to back up that claim.

*** Other sources place Pearsall as a New York state native who is married to an Alabama woman and say he changed his birthplace claim when the war breaks out. In fact, Pearsall doesn't marry until after the war. I find the most reliable family reference to him as born in Lauderdale County, Alabama, near Muscle Shoals.

*** Some references say the nickname "Aleck" was never used during his lifetime, only attached later by sportswriters and baseball historians. Either way, this is how he is known, so I use it too.

*** Census records sometimes spell his last name as "Pearsol"

*** The Montgomery Medical Assn in 1871 spells his middle name "ThuRston", as does Hobart College where he attended pre-med classes. Others list the name as "Thuston", without the R.

*** The A.Jacobi of Montgomery likely isn't "of Montgomery" at all - Dr.A.Jacobi of Albany, New York 1870-90's era is probably friends with Pearsall and enjoying a visit. Jacobi may even have known Pearsall as the former ballplayer and is surely the author of the letter.

*** In Greek Mythology, The Elysian Fields was where the souls of the heroic and virtuous reside after death, ruled by Hades. In base ball, The Elysian Fields of Hoboken is the site of the first organized base ball game ca.1845. In 1865 the championship match between the Mutuals and Atlantics was the subject of a popular print by Currier and Ives.