New Orleans’ Abner Powell: The Great Innovator

APowellToday is the birthday of Abner Powell, who along with Newt Fisher and Charlie Frank organized the Southern Association that began play in 1901.  The Southern Association of Baseball Clubs was organized the previous year in Birmingham, Alabama.

At one of the first meetings, franchises were granted to six cities: Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Shreveport, New Orleans, and Birmingham. Applications were also received from Atlanta, Montgomery, Little Rock, and Mobile; eventually Little Rock was accepted into the league. Atlanta had been a strong favorite for the last selection but in a surprise move the league directors chose Selma, Alabama.

Abner Powell became one of the most innovative owners and team leaders of all time.  Born in 1860, Powell played and managed New Orleans beginning in 1888 and played for Nashville’s Southern League team for eighteen games in 1894.

He managed the New Orleans club in 1901 and 1902 and Atlanta’s entry in the new league in 1903 and 1904. He sold his interest in his team and purchased a share of the Nashville club in 1905.

Powell is credited for introducing rain checks, knothole gangs, and ladies days to baseball, and innovated the covering of the playing field with a tarpaulin to keep the surface dry.

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