January first marks a sad but very significant note in Montgomery baseball history.
It was on the first day of 1955 that we learned a plane carrying Hoke Vandigriff and three other passengers had crashed in a Ramer field on a stormy New Years Eve.
Vandigriff and the others were returning from the Gator Bowl in the private plane owned by Hoke and flown by his personal pilot. The details of the crash from the AP report are not for the faint of heart....
It was a major change in local baseball history put into motion with the sudden loss of the team owner on that rainy new years eve 1955. The Rebels had dominated the SALLY league winning 248 games from 1950-52, but in just five seasons they would be sent to the Alabama-Florida League at the bottom of the baseball ladder.
In 1957 things would change drastically and not for the better. Montgomery would drop to the dreaded D-League level. We would field lowly D-league teams for six years then lose our team - getting no pro baseball from the end of 1962 until 1965 when we would finally re-enter the Southern league.
It took a full ten years for Montgomery to regain relevance in baseball and so many other things after that rainy last night of 1954. We had a lot to work on.