Tuesday, July 14, 2015

SEGREGATION STRIKES BACK July 14 1956

Summer of 1956 was an important time in the struggle for equality both on and off the field. At Paterson Field, changes were being made in a municipal effort to go back and un-do progress.

Montgomery had lost its team just about a month earlier in the season and quickly found a new one to replace it, but it was more a political struggle than the financial one as seen portrayed in the papers.





SO, WHAT BRINGS YOU HERE?
In the heat of the summer the Rebels were replaced by the Little Rock team. Attendance was terribly low for Little Rock's Travelers, who were happy to find a new home in Montgomery in mid-July.

Travelers/Rebels ace Rotblatt
Little Rock wasn't supporting the team, probably due to the same segregation that helped them land a place to play in Montgomery.

At that time, fans wanted to see good baseball, no matter the color of the players. Teams in segregated leagues were struggling in attendance and in the end the league would fail when it refused to change its racial stance. Baseball fans speak with their dollars and attendance, and we can see from the article that Arkansas wasn't giving anything to a white-only team.

The '57 season would find Montgomery in the Alabama-Florida league.


BUT WHY?
Vandigriff plane wreck in Ramer
This is a direct result of several factors coming together, including the Rebels fielding black players against the wishes of city leaders and the death of powerfull magnate & team owner Hoke Vandigriff in a plane crash.

Without forward thinking Vandigriff and his fortune to support the team and fight segregationists in city government, the Rebels were essentially run out of town in spite of being in first place.

Out went the integrated, upper level South Atlantic League Rebels, the team is sold for literally pennies on the dollar. In their place appear the segregated, lower level Southeastern League Rebels.


 CITY REWARDS TEAM AND FANS FOR COMPLIANCE
Perhaps of more import, to Montgomery fans at least, was the new legislation involving barley-pop in the stands.

The banning of beer was one of the way the City Council punished the Rebels ownership for bringing in black players. With the SALLY league team being replaced by the segregated Southern Association team, the beer was allowed to flow once again.



TRUTH COMES OUT
Later it would be obvious what the issue was, 1957 saw the passing of local legislation that would prohibit mixed race sports of all types!

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