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.

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