Minor League history: Delta League

Today a league that I have never heard of before. The Delta League was founded in 1904 and had a class D rating. The league operated in the state of Mississippi. The league started as a four team league but after one week into the season, two teams were added: Hattiesburg and Canton. There are sources that claim that the league folded after the 1904Delta League season, others say that the league kept playing for another season in 1905. But the attached Sporting Life article (dated October 15, 1904) states that the Delta League officials decided to split up the league into two new leagues.

Cities represented:

Brookhaven, MS: Brookhaven
Canton, MS: Canton
Clarksdale, MS: Clarksdale
Hattiesburg, MS: Hattiesburg
Jackson, MS: Jackson Senators
Yazoo City, MS: Yazoo City Zoos

The tiny league in the South of the US never was mentioned in the Sporting News. But the only season of this league was a memorable one. Especially because of southpaw James Baxter Sparks. Even though there are no records of the games he played in the Delta League, the Sporting Life said that Sparks made 31 starts and won 21 consecutive games.
During one week in the Delta League, he beat the Brookhaven franchise in three consecutive games. After one day off he shut out the Jackson Senators. During the 21 game winning streak, Sparks also threw a no-hitter.
Sparks also played and managed in the Cotton States League. From 1910 to 1912 he posted a 49-23 record for Vicksburg. After many years he returned to the Cotton States League as a manager for the Clarksdale Cubs (1923) and the Laurel Lumberjacks (1924).

Another record breaking feat was a scoreless nineteen inning game between Jackson and Brookhaven on August 24, 1904. The record was only tied by the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds in 1946.

Despite the fact that the records of the league were not well kept, the champion of this sole season is known, the Clarksdale franchise that ended on top of the standings in 1904, leading second place Brookhaven by four games.

The Clarksdale team contained two players that ended up in the Major League: Beals Becker who was an MLB journey man that played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1908), the Boston Doves (1908-1909), the New York Giants (1910-1912), the Cincinnati Reds (1913) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1913-1915).  The other one was Harry Kane (originally named Cohen) who debuted with the St. Louis Browns in 1902 and then was traded to the Detroit Tigers, where he played in 1903. Kane spent time in Rochester and Clarksdale in 1904 but returned in the Bigs in 1905 with the Philadelphia Phillies for whom he also played in the 1906 season, his final in the Majors. While with Clarksdale, Kane did not allow a run in 52 innings.

Next to the first 19 inning game in professional baseball, the Delta League had another “first” and probably “only” as umpire Davis (first name unknown) made a number of questionable calls during a game between Hattiesburg and Clarksdale. The players of the Clarksdale team started to sing a song that referred to Davis. After a couple of warnings, without result, the umpire forfeited the game and appointed the win to Hattiesburg.

Delta All StarIn the same Sporting Life article as stated above, there was news about an Delta League All Star team, a kind of honorable mention for several players. Named are several aforementioned players like Harry Kane and James Baxter Sparks.

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