Friday, April 14, 2017

Elite Giants vs Black Yankees at Cramton Bowl, Correct Me

Cade Gotta was promoted to Durham, with Granden Goetzman right behind him. However I suspect one or both may be back as the parent club juggles early lineups at several levels to accommodate the returns of Mallix Smith and Cory Rasmus.


Kyle Winkler wears #8
Last blog I mentioned the unique situation of having multiple pitchers wearing single digit uniform numbers, but I failed to note Kyle Winkler wearing #8. That makes three hurlers with single digit unis, so weird!

I also recently said that the street parking in front of the ballpark wouldn't be slanted, obviously I was wrong about that too. Last time I looked there were holes ready to hold parking meters that would serve slanted parking.

Lines painted for the parking spots also leads me to wonder how they will ever make the street a two-way traffic area. You can't slant the parking spaces against the grain of traffic, so unless they plan on painting new lines we can expect the road to stay one way for a while.

Tallapoosa Street, before the work

The hot dog stand with the specialty dogs didn't return for a third season, the former Franx counter is now just a standard concession stand. The fans decided pretzel buns covered in mac-n-cheese just wasn't something that "worx".

There are a ton of historic contests played in Montgomery around this time of year, in 1948 the Phils trounced the Washington Senators 9-1 at Cramton Bowl, for example.

However, with Jackie Robinson Day upon us, I thought I would mention one of the coolest exhibition games in our cities baseball history.

APRIL16 1944 
NY Black Yankees vs Baltimore Elite Giants in an exhibition game at Montgomery.

The Elite Giants, pronounced "EE-Light", started as the Nashville Giants and were well known to Montgomery fans with a rivalry dating to the 1920s when the Gray Sox would challenge the Giants for pennants in the NSL.

By the time WW2 breaks out the Giants had relocated to Baltimore and enjoyed much success, winning a championship there in 1939.

Much of the Elite Giants success was due to its star catcher, future Hall of Famer Roy Campanella. The Giants are indeed "Ee-light", at the time of the exhibition they are one of the premier teams in baseball - they just happen to be doing it in the Negro Leagues.

Former Montgomery Gray Sox star George Scales was also on the '44 Giants roster, perhaps one reason behind the exhibition. Scales is from the Talladega area and is on the tail end of his 25 year baseball playing career.

The Elite Giants hold their 1944 spring training in Arkansas and had few problems with coming to Montgomery for one in a series of premier matchups against a league rival.

Across the diamond are the New York Black Yankees, who also have an Alabama connection.

New York Black Yankees ca.1942
Yankees infielder Artie Wilson, a future major leaguer, is from Jefferson County and would be sold by the Black Yanks to the Bham Black Barons later in that same summer of 1944.

Artie Wilson
With the Barons Artie becomes an All Star, the best shortstop in the Negro Southern League. He would later mentor a young rookie named Willie Mays and much later would be Billy Martin's roommate in the Pacific Coast League.

The game is held at Cramton Bowl and is well attended by patrons of all ages, races and genders. Baseball games are wildly popular in Montgomery during the war years, since travel is restricted the exhibition offers fans a chance to see a big game between two teams they would otherwise only read about weeks after the event.

Cramton Bowl baseball game, huge crowd!

While I don't have a summary of that game to share (yet!) we get a great idea about the atmosphere during a game at Cramton from an article written just three years previous about a Southeastern League about a regular season game between Montgomery and Anniston.

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