This past weekend I attended the Southern Association Baseball conference in Birmingham. Held at historic Rickwood Field, the focus of discussion was on the 1800s, specifically the formation of the Southern League. I was a rookie and sat on the edge of my seat, trying to make mental notes of every move the veteran researchers made.
LEAGUE ORIGINS HAVE MGM CONNECTION
The Southern league's first meeting was held in Montgomery but over the course of planning in winter of 1884 to spring 1885, our city's team was left out of the league. Headed by Atlanta journalist and orator Henry Grady, the league was filled out by cities such as Atlanta, Nashville, August, Bham and others. The teams were determined not as much by population as location, according to the featured speakers J.E.B. Stewart and Sean Corcoran, as much as financial stability and recent growth in the host cities.
After their presentations I had a chance to speak with Mrrs Stewart and Corcoran about the league organization and why Montgomery would have been left out. Both agreed with my assertion that a possible reason could be the railroad accessibility. In 1885 railroads were individually owned and making connections from distant cities could be troublesome when putting together a travel schedule for eight teams.
Mr. Stewart also agreed with my suggestion that Montgomery could have been left out of the league due to the philosophical beliefs held by Henry Grady. Grady, who popularized the term "New South" would likely have felt that Montgomery was not representative of the vision he put forward for post-civil war Southern ideals.
Added to those factors, when New Orleans fell out of consideration for a team in the league, Montgomery was no longer a city teams would pass through while en route.
The second half of the day included lectures on the Negro Southern League, an examination of a day in the life of Rosswood Park in Memphis and a discussion of historic Southern League and Southern Association ballparks. We enjoyed hearing author Bill Plott speak on the Negro leagues and his new book on the Negro Southern league. He may be able to give us some box scores on our Montgomery team!
On display was a fantastic collection of vintage and antique bats, uniforms and equipment, as well as some very nice photographs of southern players from the 1800s. I had a chance to see a couple innings of a collegiate game taking place at Rickwood that day and got to walk around the back of the park to see the old original concrete wall.
It was a good day.
A recent note says that if the Biloxi park isn't ready for the start of June, additional games could be played in Huntsville. The chances of Montgomery closing The Joe forever just went up!
HAVANA INDUSTRIALES TO PLAY IN BILOXIIn the same note it was slipped in that the Biloxi admin was making strides in its months-long effort to bring international baseball to their park.
The Havana Industriales would play at least one game in Biloxi, though not against the Brewers affiliate. A likely opponent would be another international team, possibly Samurai Japan, a team from KBO, China or the Dutch National team. A second Cuban team is another possibility.
The Industriales series would take place this fall. Team officials have already been to Biloxi as part of the negotiations.
Details are sketchy, but the concept is firm - getting such a renowned Cuban team to appear in the USA would be a rare and important step in relationships between the two nations. Not to mention the "very cool" factor!