Tag Archives: Louisiana

Too Little, Too Late

Integration did not come to the Southern Association until a 1954 experiment by Atlanta Crackers owner Earl Mann, when Nat Peeples was inserted as a pinch hitter in the Crackers’ season opener in Mobile. A week later, he was sent down to Jacksonville after appearing in two games and coming to the plate four times.

Reportedly, Mann considered the same action the previous season with a different negro player who was playing in Jacksonville: Henry Aaron. For whatever reason, the future Hall of Famer was not selected and had an outstanding season with the South Atlantic League club.

There was no Southern Association rule that kept rosters segregated. But with teams in New Orleans (the franchise would cease to exist after 1959, replaced by Little Rock), Nashville, Memphis (replaced by Macon after 1960), Birmingham, Atlanta, Shreveport, Mobile, and Chattanooga, civil rights issues were just coming to the forefront of American culture, and integration never occurred.

However, a Birmingham city ordinance prohibited integrated games from taking place on city-owned fields, and Louisiana state law did not allow different races to participate in sporting events together.

One occurence brought attention to the situation: in August of 1960, after six years as the parent organization of the Nashville Volunteers, Cincinnati withdrew its affiliation. Without negro players, said Reds GM Gabe Paul, development of potential players could not properly take place.

In his August 30, 1960 Sports Showcase column, Nashville Tennessean sports writer F. M. Williams quotes Paul on the issue:

“Having a team in the farm system, at Double A level, where Negro players cannot perform creates a void that hinders the entire player development program, he says. Player development is expensive at best, and it becomes even more so when there is one link in the chain that does not help the best young players.”

Williams’ opening lines in his column predict a dim future for the trouble league, emphasizing a rule (unwritten or not) of segregation and acknowledging the tension in race relations:

“If Gabe Paul’s thinking is in line with that of other major league executives, time is running out on Double A baseball.

“Paul took a public stand against the Southern league’s policy of not using Negro players. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that any big league executive has used the racial issue to establish farm policy.

“Eventually it could lead to a Southern boycott.”

On August 31, the Tennessean published an Associated Press story that the American League announced plans to expand to 10 teams by 1962.[1] The National League had previously agreed to absorb up to four teams of the proposed Continental League, but followed suit with an announcement during the World Series that Houston and New York would become members of the league.[2]

nashville-tennessean-08-30-1960-gabe-paul-quote-cincinnati-reds-nashville-vols-08-29-1960If Gabe Paul knew of the plans, which certainly would change the course of developing players, it appears he did not let the directors of the Nashville club know.

Minnesota Twins* farm director Sherry Robertson offered an affiliation proposal to Vols general manager Bill Harbour on January 20, 1961. The agreement was ratified by Nashville board members on February 9.

Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was invited to throw out the first pitch at Sulphur Dell on April 8, and the Southern Association began its final season. Team owners did nothing to integrate the storied league, but waning attendance was the final culprit in its demise.

By season’s end, one of Williams’ predictions had come true, as time ran out on Double A baseball. Nashville drew only 64,450 for the entire season.

Attempts to revive the league went for naught, even though on October 31 a federal judge ruled that Birmingham, Alabama, laws against integrated playing fields were illegal, eliminating the last barrier against integration in the Southern Association.

On January 24, 1962, the Southern Association suspended operations “due to a lack of enough major league working agreements.”

*The original Washington Senators, now relocated to Minneapolis-St. Paul; a new expansion team was set in Washington as a replacement.

[1] Corrigan, Ed. Associated Press. “AL Votes to Expand to 10 Teams by ’62”. Nashville Tennessean, August 31, 1960

[2] McCue, Andy and Thompson, Eric. “Mis-Management 101: The American League Expansion for 1961”. Published in The National Pastime: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, 2011. Phoenix: Society for American Baseball Research, 42

SOURCES

baseball-reference.com

Nashville Tennessean

newspapers.com

Paper of Record

sabr.org

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Another “Moonlight” Moment: Garth Mann

Moonlight3Many of us know the story of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham: he appeared in one game with the New York Giants in 1905 but never made an appearance at the plate. His character was immortalized by actor Burt Lancaster in the classic movie Field of Dreams.

Did you know there was a similar occurrence, this time with a Nashville connection?

Benjamin Garth “Red” Mann was a 6’0″, 155-lb right-handed pitcher who worked his way from Class D ball in Rayne, Louisiana in 1937 to the A-1 classification team in Knoxville by 1942. After World War II he was placed on the major league roster of the Chicago Cubs to begin the 1944 season.

On May 14, 1944, in the second game of a double header against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cubs manager Charlie Grimm inserted Mann as a pinch runner for left fielder Lou Novikoff, who had singled. Mann took third on a double by Bill Nicholson, and scored on Andy Pafko’s single.

GMannCubs

Sixs day later on May 20th, Garth Mann was sent to Nashville. For the remainder of the Vols season he was 7-7 with a 4.88 ERA. During the next few years he would make it to Triple-A with Oakland, Sacramento, and Seattle before retiring in 1949; his pitching record was 114-86 with a 3.53 ERA over 11 minor league seasons.

Today is Garth Mann’s birthday, born on November 16, 1915 in Brandon, Texas. He passed away September 11, 1980 in Waxahachie, Texas at the age of 64.

May 14, 1944 was Mann’s only appearance in a major league game and like “Moonlight” Graham, did not make a plate appearance. It’s a less famous story, of course, but at least Mann scored a run and “Moonlight” Graham did not.

I wonder who would best portray Mann in his “Field of Dreams” story?

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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