Thursday, December 20, 2012

SOUTHERN LEAGUE WOES

SOUTHERN LEAGUE RANT

Today I want to make a few points about the league that I see the most, the league the Montgomery Biscuits play in. The Southern League has a long history, one that sparkles with big names and great teams.

It also has the reputation of being a really harsh league for decades in terms of racist and bigoted fans and owners and players and teams. Its a reputation that continues today in the minds of players and fans.

Its a matter of history, the Southern League is made up mostly of teams that were in the Southern Association - a league that folded when faced with integration. Being told to accept blacks or die, the S.A. chose the latter and the void was created that the Southern League now fills. (Nat Peebles played in two games for the '54 Crackers while the Atl team was on the road in Mobile, but Nat was then sent down before the team began its next homestand, integration efforts didnt continue after that)


Just for the record... Montgomery fielded teams in the Sou.Assoc. league only twice after 1914, in 1943 and 1956.

I point this out now so that the current Southern League will realize that it is up against a fairly rotten legacy as concerns its own history. The onus is upon the new league President to steer the league in a direction that is positive and to show a steady hand guides the organization.

Lack of new impressions means that fans and players can only draw conclusions from what has already occurred. From what we see above, its aint a pretty picture being drawn. A message will be sent with the new name at the top of the offices, what message that is will be determined by the new League Prez.

THE STATUS QUO

Things need to be fixed - and not just patched or handed off as it has been in the past three to five years. Remember, this is the league that has had the same poll on its website for three seasons... I think by now we could get a good idea of what the visitors to Southern League websites like best, food or entertainment or the game.

Also, the content on the website has dropped off a cliff since they let MiLB.com take over the design. Its like they fired their staff reporter and have just linked to whatever article is written for MLB by one of its writers, often including information that is not current, misleading or flat out mistaken. The league seems to take a backseat to other minor leagues, even on its own website!

Its been at least two full seasons since the league newsletter was put out. Southern Bases is a good concept but has been killed by whoever was sending it out. So much for actual information from the league, which now relies on the website alone.

At least put the new presidents name on the ball, sheesh!

ANOTHER ONE GONE

You can add Chris Rearick to the litany of names that begin with the title "former Biscuit" as the reliever was sent packing in a deal to the Padres this week. Rearick was good but not stellar for the home team and should far even better in the new uniform.

The just-turned 25yr old lefty is very stingy with walks which I love from a reliver, but gave up some hits in big spots which hurt his overall numbers. He should bounce back to be the usual "go to guy" lefty reliever he was for Charlotte and Bowling Green the past two years. I suspect he may have been a little overwhelmed his first trip to Double-A and will have a better grasp on what he has to do this coming year. Its a good acquisition by the Padres!


In return the Rays pick up Vince Belnome.

The soon to be 25 year old utility man has a .300 batting average and hit a career high 17 homers for Double-A San Antonio in 2011. A right-handed thrower who bats lefty, Vinny plays first and second base. He spent most of his time last year at triple-A Tuscon, playing 80 games for them. He likely provides the dreaded "organizational depth" for the Rays, which means he fills the roster in Durham or Mgm. I think he would eat up Double-A pitching and hope we get to see him to start the year. He seems to be coming off injury and could show more ability than his stats show.

HISTORY LESSON

WHERE IS
College Hill Park, Montgomery?
Its where The Montgomery Grey Sox played in 1932, listed alongside Cramton Bowl as their home park
Its also where Montgomery became a Major League team
Its also not listed on any map, and I dont know where it is located. I have a couple guesses, but not sure yet

The Grey Sox are listed as being terrible on B-ref, but known to the press as being a formidable team of the era, in 1921 on Sept 12th, getting an invite to Chicago to play the American Giants.

The Negro league teams of Montgomery are greatly under studied in spite of being very capable teams with famous and interesting characters. At some point an image of the game in Montgomery has to take shape, and it will include Turkey Stearns and Steel Arm Dickey, as well as unknown marvels of the diamond like Fred Bell or even executed accused murderer Jim Hugh Moss.
"Steel Arm" Dickey, Ace of Montgomery GraySox


The team here played host to the Negro Southern league, the highest level of play at the time and recognized as being Big League ball, although by default. After the stock market crash, teams had a hard time financing themselves and their leagues started to collapse. Eventually only the Negro Southern League was left standing, and the teams that could still keep heads above water financially joined and brought the talent level up to top notch.

Montgomery was in the same league as the KC Monarchs, Chicago American Giants, Memphis RedSox, Atlanta Black Crackers, Cuban House of David, and many other of the famous great names of the heyday of barnstorming baseball. Their record was good, a .564 W-L%.
Montgomery baseball legend "Turkey" Stearns

Luis Tiant Sr was the main man for the Cuban House of David, who along with other independant barnstorming teams held games against Negro League teams. The Atlanta Black Crackers and the Bham Black Barons were also of the independant affiliation in 1932.

Tiant Sr "here kid, hold my jacket while I show you how its done"

The 1932 KC Monarchs were led by Cool Papa Bell who hit a very cool .373 that season for three teams combined, cause you cant afford to tie Cool Papa down to one team all season right?

That year the other Monarchs were embroiled in controversy when the Monroe La Monarchs took the NSL title by just percentage points over the second place team and engaged in a series billed as the Negro World Series against the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In fact, the Chicago American Giants walked away with the best record in the league, so good were they that even the team with the second best record didnt challenge them to a postseason series. This left the next two teams down to take up a series to say there was a playoff series and pump up the fans into thinking there was more on the line. Even then they were trying to figure out how to get the fourth best team in the league a backdoor to a championship!

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