Friday, January 31, 2014

Buying Meridian

January 31st, 1943
On this date in Montgomery baseball history, team owner Ben Goltsman purchased the Meridian Eagles baseball team, adding their players to the Rebels to round out the roster. The Rebels had finished first the previous year, Meridian was last in the Southeastern league. Here is the story from the St.Petersburg Times....

Fascinating, eh?
The league is folding but the team owner is buying a whole 'nother team in order to move up to a higher class!

Yet Ben Goltsman would not get into the Sally League, and was forced to sell off two teams worth of players when Montgomery didn't gain entry into any league. However Montgomery would have baseball, on July 11th the Chattanooga Lookouts were purchased midseason and with them a spot in the Southern Association for the second half of 1943.
1943 Rebels Mgr Marv Olson

However it wouldn't last - there was a war on and the Rebels were in a tough spot as the second best team in town. The military team had some of the best talent Montgomery would ever put on the diamond (per post Best Pitching Rotation in Mgm history).

And so, in spite of stocking the team with a second roster, the Rebels would fold the tent until after VJ day, returning to action in the Southeastern League in 1946.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Biscuits announce coaches today!

Coaches finally announced today
This time of year its slow but I always enjoy it as a time to research new info. Hopefully with the announcement of the coaching staff today the news picks up, but till then I will share a couple of my fave odd finds during the archival diggings.

Announced today, the new skipper for the 'Skitz is Brady Williams. I put forth Williams as a likely candidate back on January 1st, the son of a big league skipper like outgoing manager Gardner. Should be a fine choice to advance up the ladder like the players he managed last year for the Stone Crabs.

 Actual blog below, happy scrolling!

What an attraction, who could turn down enormous head?

Heres Shoeless Joe Jackson selling us garters... he uses them to hold his socks up cuz he aint called Sockless Joe!

Some kids get batting tips from the Cubs Johnny Evers... and the dog from Our Gang.

Nice!~ I wonder if it comes in "enormous"?

Baybears, Lookouts, Braves, Smokies, Barons, Wahoos, Stars, Generals have all announced minor league field staffs. That leaves the Jacksonville Suns and Biscuits as the last teams to divulge the info to fans. The Rays will announce the new assignments today, so we will have almost all of the coaches boxes filled.

We had ten teams in 1868
Here is the coaching list so far:

South Division
Biscuits - Rays - TBA
Suns - Marlins - TBA
Baybears - Az - Andy Green mgr, Jacob Cruz hitting, Wellington Cepeda pitching
Braves - Atl - Aaron Holbert mgr, Jamie Dismukes hitting, Dennis Llewallyn pitching
Wahoos - Cinci - DeShields mgr, ? Pitching coach, Alex Pelaez hitting

North Divison
Barons - WhiteSox - Vinas mgr, Brandon Moore hitting, Britt Burns pitching
Stars - Mil - Carlos Subero mgr, Sandy Guerrero hitting coach, Chris Hook pitching
Generals - Sea - Jim Horner mgr, Roy Howell hitting, Lance Painter pitching
Lookouts - LA -  Razor Shines mgr, Shawn Wooten hitting, Scott Radinsky pitching
Smokies - Cubs - Buddy Bailey mgr, Desi Wilson hitting, Storm Davis pitching

When I look at that list of names I think, wow, DeShields and Storm Davis - other than them there just aint alot of name recognition!
Great guys, good skippers all, but not marquee names on the back of their shirts!


Former Biscuit Alex Torrez was traded for Logan Forsythe and three other players who add up to "organizational depth".
Maybe we will end up seeing one or two of them. Also included in the trade was Jesse Hahn, who I had ticketed for the Biscuit starting rotation. Time will tell on this deal, but so far the early consensus is that the Rays gave up alot in just two guys.

Season ticket holders for the P-cola team will be given free admission to the Reds-Wahoos exhibition game. A very cool perk, no doubt!
The Babe indeed appeared here in exhibition games

We here in Mgm have to pay twice as much for our seats, so the team will make twice as much money and punt the goodwill department.

The Wahoos will make half as much, but they will pull a double whammy by giving the season ticket holders a free gift and also having seats to sell to the general public.

In Mgm season ticketholders got first whack at the seats and bought up alot of prime real estate, so there is expected to be slim pickings for the public consumption.

Already Rays-Biscuits tix are being scalped online for about double the face value of the tickets.

Bottom line, score another win for the Wahoos front office. They have consistently equaled or bettered most season ticket benefits available in the Southern league. Hopefully its the first shot in a war to win baseball fans among the teams in the league - a war fans should win!

Friday, January 17, 2014

1/17/1920 Montgomery Gray Sox Formed

JANUARY 17 1920 Pensacola, FL
"Would Like to Hear From All Managers.
Pensacola, Florida, December 29

Mr. Sporting Editor of The Freeman:
We would like to hear from all Southern baseball managers, we are trying to form a colored circuit. The 1920 baseball season is approaching, so let us get together at once and push the Southern baseball cities over the top.

All baseball managers answer this letter at once. Don't be a slacker. Give us assistance, and we will go over the top.

Hoping to get a bunch of replies at once,
I remain, Dan Brown,
Manager of the Pensacola Baseball Association.
Address, 427 West Belmont Street,
Pensacola, Florida."

The same day as Prohibition took effect, banning alcohol sales and distribution, the call went out to managers of teams across the south. By March 2nd the Negro Southern League would be formed fully, with league president Rube Fosters headquarters in Atlanta.

Eight franchises were chartered, including Montgomery. launching one of the city's most important, successful - yet nearly undocumented - baseball seasons ever.


The Negro league teams played at Southside Park, on South Holt Street at Mill Street. Games were also sometimes held at Cramton Bowl or other ball fields around the city, as available.

How popular are the Montgomery Sox? At midseason over 1500 people show up to the Southside park for a game against Rube Fosters famous Chicago team.

The grandstand erected for white patrons is often filled to capacity and additional seats are brought in after July to accommodate the large crowds of both black and white fans who attend GreySox home games.
Rube Fosters 1920 Chicago American Giants will come to Montgomery to play the Sox

John Staples is the listed manager of the Montgomery team, who took the name Montgomery Gray Sox, on the Baseball Reference website. However he is not the one named in articles covering the team. That honor goes to Henry Hannon and later in the season  to Red Cunningham. Staples is referred to as team president by writers covering the Gray Sox at that time.

First baseman Henry Hannon also managed the team when manager Staples was forced to step in for absent umpires. Likely Staples found that running the team took all his time and focus, and delegated the daily management of players to others.

Henry Hannon, outfielder/first baseman and occasional manager, was a Montgomery native, born here August 21, 1882.

An unknown Montgomery champion, Hannon was a veteran of Negro league campaigns and had experience dating back to 1908 when he was a member of the Cuban Giants. Henry spent two seasons with the Giants, playing mostly corner outfield spots but also getting into games at shortstop and once as catcher.

In 1909 Hannon was sold to the Philadelphia Giants in midseason. Here he played with Negro Leagues legend Henry "Pop" Lloyd as the team won the league championship.

HOF Pop Lloyd (back row, 2nd from right) w/the 1909 Champion Philadelphia Giants, just before Hannon arrived.

1911 and 1913 saw Hannon playing with the StLouis Giants alongside Jimmie Lyons and Johnny Taylor, both legends of the era.
Can you pick out Henry Hannon?
Between stints for the Giants in St.Louis, Henry found other Giants to hang with - he signed for one season with the Chicago Giants in 1912 and played his home games at classic Schorling Park. Several of the Gray Sox that faced the CA Giants would end up on Rube Fosters northern clubs in later seasons, having been scouted during the 1920 game in Montgomery.

In 1913 it was two teams offering playing time, the aforementioned StLouis Giants and the French Lick Plutos. I just had to include the French Lick Plutos, because you just dont see goofy minor league team names anymore.

Hannon had gotten a few games in with French Lick back in 1911, including participating in what could be the first no-hitter in Negro pro ball history against the West Baden Sprudels when Talledega Alabama native Johnny Goodgame proved himself aptly dubbed at hurling the spheroid past Sprudels.

And how many of us wouldn't love to see the French Lick Plutos no-hit the West Baden Sprudels!

Hannon also appeared with Louisville alongside the legendary Rube Foster in 1914. This was his last known pro baseball before joining Montgomery in 1920. Its possible he was working a steady job that offered him a good position on their industrial team in the interim.

Hannon was at the helm of the Montgomery Sox, along with Red Cunningham, filling out the lineups for the games for the 1920 season. And what a season he would guide the Montgomery team through, one that we will spotlight their exploits here on the blog over the course of the summer, following the Gray Sox in their first campaign in the Negro Southern League.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Predicting the Skitz 2014

Every January I take a guess at the roster for the Biscuits, though its a tough peer into the crystal ball this year - especially considering we don't even know who is going to be writing the lineup cards! 

Manager: Jared Sandberg
Hitting Coach: Ozzie Timmons
Pitching Coach: RC Lichtenstein

Casali with Crabs
Curtis Casali probly returns to start behind the plate. The Vandy alum is set for a monster season this summer.

Ali Solis, the newly signed castoff from the Pirates had time at Double-A last year and could inhabit the roster here or in Durham.

Eddy Rodriguez - the ink has yet to dry on his contract but the 28 year old will be behind the plate in Montgomery or Durham after splitting time between double and triple-A last year with the Padres.

Mayo Acosta could return, but doubtful, the starting catcher job in Durham is his to lose in spring camp.

Seitzer at work
1b Cameron Seitzer returns to play 1b.

2b Robby Price should be back, he only hit .238 for us last yr in 25 games though he provided a steady glove afield.

3b Richie Shaffer, if not on opening day than by the start of June. The 1st round pick of 2012 hit .254 with 11 homers. He made some errors, so his defense could be what holds him back from an April Biscuits debut.

SS Jake Hager - the 1st round pick in 2011 hit .258 and stole about a dozen bases last year. His defense could use some work, so he is much like Shaffer - if not April than by mid-season we should see him in Biscuits colors.

Mahtook riding Biscuit bus
Mikie Mahtook - and boy is he going to be pissed about it.
Mikie turned around his season after a bad start last year and stole a career high 25 bases but his mid-.250's average could send him back to Montgomery.

I see Mahtook as a possible trade candidate, as the Rays could be losing patience with his development. That said, I think Mahtook is in line for a breakout campaign in 2014. Mikie played 43 error-free games in centerfield for Montgomery last year, and I think he will be back in center for us again this year, with a vengance.

Willie Argo should be in left field come April, his .308 average and 37 stolen bases should earn him the promotion I felt he was due last July.

Kess Carter might be our center fielder, but his low average in single-A doesn't boost confidence.

Drew Vettleson played alot of right field for Port Charlotte last year, and could be in the mix for Biscuits outfield time.

Hector Guevara's 1st Biscuits at bat
Hector Guevara utilityman could return to same role.

Ryan Brett MI, could return to same role, or even win the starting 2b job after playing at three levels plus Arizona Fall league in 2013.

Taylor Motter, 1b/of, .290 average, 20 sb for Port Charlotte last year likely means a seat on the Biscuit bus.

James Darnell, new to the Rays, hit just .245 for Tuscon in the hitter friendly PCL and could be sent to Montgomery to prove himself to the new organization as a corner infielder/occasional corner outfielder.

Starting pitchers
Victor Mateo
Victor Mateo hits 106mph on the radar gun vs Bham
 The man who threw the first no hitter at Riverwalk will return to the scene of the masterpiece. Mateo broke the 150 Innings Pitched mark for the first time in his career last year, and the Rays will likely keep an eye on his workload.

Jake Thompson
One of bright spots of 2013 was watching Thompson learn to adjust to the hitters in the Southern League. He should be back for another campaign in Montgomery, with a midseason promotion a likelihood.

Ryan Carpenter
Working his way up the Tampa chain, Carpenter is ready for the double-A rung after notching his second straight 115 IP season. He gives up hits, he walks guys, he pitches in trouble often. But he is a six-foot-five lefthander. 

Felipe Rivero with Charlotte
Felipe Rivero
The Venezuelan lefty Rivero should be on the same track as Carpenter, though he just logged his first 100+ IP season. Felipe led the StoneCrabs pitchers with 9 wins and keeps the ball in the yard. He is stingy with the hits but prone to allowing walks

Jesse Hahn
Jesse Hahn with Crabs
Added to the 40man roster to protect him from Rule 5 Draft this past fall, this means that the Rays think its possible a team would have claimed Hahn and kept him on the major league roster. Injuries have slowed his progress but he may finally be ready for double-A

Another reason I suspect we will get Hahn is based on his profile.

Assigned to New Team/Level? Sounds like a Biscuit the the baking!

Relief pitchers
Relievers are especially tough to guess in January, the bullpen could include an assortment of about five of the following names or others maybe even yet to be signed by the Rays!

Andrew Bellatti
Andrew Bellati
Lenny Linsky
Shay Crawford
Austin Hubbard
Matt Ramsey
Erik Hamren
Sam Runion
Nate Garcia
Albert Suarez
Braulio Lara

Former Biscuit Delmon Young has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles, with an invite to major league spring training. Young looks to stick with the O's as DH and occasional 1b.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jan.12th Historic MGM baseball date

January 12, 1954
A New Page in Montgomery Baseball History Begins

The winter is a time for teams to make plans and the 1954 season was different for the Montgomery team. The Grays are coming off a terrible season, one that saw them lose 90 games and finish last in the SALLY league. They had watched as Hank Aaron broke the color barrier in the South Atlantic League playing with Jacksonville.

Hanks 1953 double-A championship ring

So the Montgomery front office went to work. Even as an affiliate of the Tigers, the executive branch of the team was doing everything it could to change the public impression of the team. And it started at the top - a name change.


Rebels program 1955
And so the team became known as the Rebels again.

Montgomery shared the name Rebels in the South Atlantic League with the Charleston S.C. franchise, who also used the name Rebels. Montgomerys team went back to the old nickname Grays "to avoid confusion".

Montgomery hadn't used the name Grays since 1895. However it was a popular nickname for local teams since it was a pre-civil war era volunteer militia from the area.

Montgomery used the Rebels name when they entered the Sally league and took the title in the first season. Afterwards the team changed it to Grays, probably under pressure from the league which worried about a possible "Rebels vs Rebels" championship series.

However when Charleston left the league, Montgomery quickly took the opportunity to reclaim the longtime moniker and became the Rebels once again for 1954.

Charlie Metro

Along with the teams name, popular manager Charlie Metro was also replaced. He had managed the team for four straight seasons, the longest tenure of any Montgomery skipper until the seven year streak by Biscuits Billy Gardner Jr.

One of my fave facts about Metro is that he is the inventor of the batting tee, which he didn't patent so received no compensation for. However it totally innovated baseball and every player since then has used Charlie Metro's creation to refine their craft.

In as new manager is Sparky Olson.

Marv "Sparky" Olson

Olson was in his second stint as Montgomery manager, having previously been at the helm during the 1943 season. That was the year the team split time between Chattanooga and Montgomery.
Sparky w/Sox

Since then Sparky, a former Boston RedSox second baseman, had managed Jamestown in the Pony league and was being given a promotion in the Tigers chain by coming here in 1954.

Along with Sparky the team brings in new players, announced today along with the new team name and new manager.

At that time free agent signings by minor league teams was the norm and Montgomery made efforts to improve. Much like todays free agent signings, not all were successful...
Wiltse now resides in Iowa

Robert Wiltse is signed before he finished his military stint, he would lose two of the eight games he appeared in before being dealt to Greenville.

Harry Desert
Harry Desert is lured from retirement though he wouldn't make an official appearance.

Bill Glendenning is signed to pitch, he played in one game in 1953 but also would fail to make the team out of spring training and retire from pro ball.

Gerry Kleinsmith is purchased, but would be sold off again before the start of the season.

All veteran pitchers signed to boost the new team image. All busts, only Wiltse would see regular season action.


those arent the only signings, but the others aren't announced with such fanfare as the reclaimed Rebels nickname. However it does set the stage for the biggest change in Montgomery baseball history.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

ShOwMalley to LAA

Congrats for former Biscuit infielder Shawn O'Malley - he signed with the Angels and we wish him the best of luck in his new organization.

Shawn hit in the .265 neighborhood and has good speed and the versatility to play shortstop or second. Hes got great skills around the keystone sack and excellent baseball instincts. He came in without fanfare but proved to be a steady and dependable player both in the field and at the plate.


No Brave Caravan This Year

The Atlanta Braves will indeed skip us on the Caravan this year. I mentioned it yesterday on twitter (give me a follow over there! @DrMiraculous) - no Tim Hudson means no big star offering coffee and a warm spot to crash the night before! In the past it was Hudson who gave shelter to the "lesser" players and hosted the caravan as it came thru Montgomery and Auburn.

Now that Huddy is off to the Giants, the caravan wont be headed here or to Auburn. Its a disappointment to area fans and a relief to Academy Sports employees, both of whom would have been out in force early on a saturday morning. In each of the past few seasons Montgomery has lined up as many as five hundred fans willing to fight the cold and the crowd for a chance to meet their Atlanta Braves.

Perhaps the Braves are giving up the area to the Rays, ceding to the Biscuits parent club ahead of the big league visit. More likely, they don't have the resources to support the trip without Hudsons help - or should I say the desire to foot the bill for hotel rooms for the notables and not-so-notables.

Our visits from the Bravos have had a theme of also-rans and sidekicks, role players and rehabbers. The most famous face the caravan brought us was Don Sutton, HOF pitcher for the Dodgers and current Braves announcer.

Triple-A Heartthrob Cory Gearrin
A rookie Freddie Freeman (once) and Auburn resident Tim Hudson have been the headline names for the morning meet and greets, supported by Eric Hinskes and Brandon Beachys. Chipper Jones? No, we got coach Chino Cahadia. Heyward? No, we got Tyler Pastornicky, who like Freeman had been here playing vs the Biscuits just about five months earlier.

Guys who are fighting for a 25man roster spot and doing everything they can to endear themselves to the brass and guys who have been injured and are trying to do the same. Also minor leaguers who are almost prospects but not quite, also trying to jockey into more playing time in spring camp.

So all in all, we lose out on getting up early to stand in a long line for four hours and talk for thirty seconds to a few minor league guys, maybe a broadcaster and one big leaguer. Im not crying about it, but it is a sign of disrespect for the area Braves fans who turn out in droves to support the team at the appearance, support the double-A team and also drive to Atlanta with the family for big league games.

Come on Braves, we deserve better than that.


The City of Mobile has been told to improve "The Hank" by the Diamonbacks. The city has postponed voting on replacing the clubhouse carpet, home and visitor, to the tune of almost $17,000.

Other pending issues at the home of the Baybears have mounted up to nearly $1million. Unfortunately the city of Mobile, owners of the ballpark, has $4.4 million deceit and even the 17 grand for the carpet may not happen.

The City had budgeted over $150K for stadium improvements but the funding may be shifted before the check is written as the Mayor wants to redesign the budget to address the gaping hole in municipal funding.

Hank Aaron Stadium

Mobile city officials say the Dbax have a long list of concerns still growing, including the need to upgrade and expand the clubhouses as well as the items the City needs to address to keep the park a viable public gathering place. Basic stuff like a new outfield fence, new seating and an elevator for handicapped access as well as patrons in general, who have to sit above the ground level suites in one of the worst designed ballparks ever.

The city of Mobile may be pointing the finger at the Arizona Dbax over the demands but the ballpark badly needs either drastic improvements or abandonment. If the Stars indeed bail from Hunstville as planned, it would make the Mobile ballpark the oldest in the league. Baybears ownership didn't return calls for comment, but I would say that the writing is on the wall for the franchise.


Former Biscuit and blog fave Henry Wrigley is back in action making two straight starts for the Caracas Leones. Already he has big hits from the bench, now getting into games at DH and his natural position of first base. One of those was a game winner, reminding fans in Caracas of last years great season by Wrigley and the Leones.
Leones teammates celebrate Henry's game winning RBI

Video from the Leones games is hard to find this year, a real step back from last season when their website promoted its own teams broadcast. Now they want us to watch gameday and we all know how dramatic and precise that is.

Ball in dirt? Looks like down the middle on gameday!