Minor League history: Georgia-Alabama League

Through the history of minor league baseball, there were three versions of the Georgia-Alabama League. The first edition of the Georgia-Alabama League started in 1913 and lasted four seasons. The second edition lasted three years from 1928 through 1930. The final edition started in 1946 and lasted through 1951. All three editions were class D leagues. 

In total sixteen cities were represented during these three editions: nine from Alabama and seven from Georgia. None of the sixteen cities played in all three editions.

Cities represented:

Alexander City, AL: Alexander City Millers 1947-1951
Anniston, AL: Anniston Moulders 1913-1917;  Anniston Nobles 1928-1930
Carrollton, GA: Carrollton Frogs 1928; Carrollton Champs 1929-1930; Carrollton Hornets 1946-1950
Cedartown, GA: Cedartown Sea Cows 1928-1929; Cedartown Braves 1930
Gadsden, AL: Gadsden Steel Makers 1913-1914
Gadsden, AL, Alabama City, AL & Attalla, AL: Tri-Cities Triplets 1917; Gadsden Eagles 1928-1929
Griffin, GA: Griffin Lightfoots 1915-1916; Griffin Griffs 1917; Griffin Pimientos 1947-1949; Griffin Tigers 1950; Griffin Pimientos 1951
Huntsville, AL: Huntsville Springers 1930
LaGrange, GA: LaGrange Terrapins 1913-1915; LaGrange Grangers 1916-1917; LaGrange Troupers 1946-1951
Lindale, GA: Lindale Dragons 1928; Lindale Collegians 1929; Lindale Pepperells 1930
Newnan, GA: Newnan Cowetas 1913-1916; Newnan Brownies 1946-1950
Opelika, AL: Opelika Opelicans 1913-1914; Opelika Owls 1946-1951
Rome, GA & Lindale, GA: Rome Romans 1914-1916; Rome-Lindale Romans 1917; Rome Red Sox 1950-1951
Selma, AL: Selma River Rats 1914
Talladega, AL: Talladega Indians 1913-1914; Talladega Tigers 1915-1917;  Talladega Indians 1928-1930
Tallassee, AL: Tallassee Indians 1946-1948; Tallassee Cardinals 1949
Valley, AL, Lanett, AL & West Point, GA: Valley Rebels 1946-1951

In the fourteen seasons that the league was active, Georgia harvested eleven championships and Alabama only three. No city was represented in all three editions.

In the first edition of the Georgia Alabama League the Gadsen Steel Makers won the very first championship of the league in 1913. The next year the team would not fare so well as it finished dead last and even turned into a road team on August 3rd 1915.

After the US government declared war on Germany on April 6 1917, many men were needed for the war effort. 2.8 million were drafted into the army, so this also had its impact on US baseball. Many minor leagues folded in the first months of the season and so did the Georgia Alabama League. On May 23rd, the league disbanded after having played 17-18  games.
During the first edition, the league was rather instable as many teams came and went. After a successful first season with six teams, the league expanded to eight. But of the two new teams (the 1914 champions Selma RiverRats and the Rome Romans) only Rome would stick with the league in 1915. Selma disappeared as did Gadsen after the 1914 season. Also the Opelika Pelicans disappeared. For the 1915 season the city of Griffin would be represented by the Lightfoots. Griffin would remain in the league for the remaining three seasons. The war shortened 1917 season would see a new franchise in the Tri-Cities Triplets, representing the cities of Gadsden, Alabama City and Attalla in Alabama. Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Bill Terry

One player of the (1913-1917) Georgia-Alabama League made it to the Majors and eventually to the Hall of Fame. Bill Terry, who played for the Newman Gowetas in 1915 and 1916. In 1923 he broke into the majors. He played in three games and hit .143 in seven at bats. But Terry proved to be a keeper as he improved every season that he played with the New York Giants. In only two (full) seasons of his fourteen year career, Terry hit below the .300 mark. In 1930 he even hit .401. In 1933 Terry would win a World Series ring as the Giants beat the Washington Nationals (Senators) 4-1. Terry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954.

The league would return in 1928. But once again it would be struck by an historic event.

Compared to its predecessor of 1913-1917, this edition was rather stable. Only one team disappeared after two seasons. The Gadsen Eagles never played a role of any importance and was replaced in 1930 by the Huntsville Springers.
For the first time in the history of the GAL, the league used a play off format in 1928.
The Carrolton Frogs won the first half of the season and beat second half winner Tallageda Indians, who played a three game play off series for the second half title, by 4-2. The next year Carrolton, now named Champs, would win the championship again, this time by beating Lindale 4-0.
Despite the economic setback after the crash at the New York stock exchange of 1929, the Georgia-Alabama League would start and finish the 1930 season. But the economic depression was felft in Tallageda and Carrolton as both teams disbanded on August 14 due to lack of paying fans. The Cedartown Braves would beat the Lindale Pepperells 4-3 to win the final championship of the second edition. The league would not return in 1931.

Photo of Paul FitteryOne player that stood out in the second edition of the Georgia-Alabama League was Paul Fittery. This former MLB pitcher, who had a cup of tea with the Cincinnati Reds in 1914 (0-2 record in eight games (four starts) with a 3.09 ERA) and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1917 (1-1 record in seventeen appearances of which two starts), won a league leading 21 games in 1928 as player/manager of the Carrolton Frogs. In 1929 he was one win shy of the shared lead in wins but he had the best winning percentage that season: .889 (16-2). In 1930 Fittery would be the winningest pitcher again with sixteen wins, this time with the Anniston Nobles.

The longest running edition of the Georgia-Alabama League would be the one of 1946-1951. It was one of the many leagues that were erected after WWII, the booming age of minor league baseball. The league started modest with six teams but after a successful 1946 season the league expanded to eight teams. This rather stable edition would return to six teams in 1951.
Except for the final season, all seasons of the last run had a play off format. The number one of the regular season would play the number three and the number two would play the number four. The winners of both series would advance to the championship series.
The championships of the six seasons were won by only three cities. The Tallassee Indians would win in 1946, the Valley Rebels in 1947 and 1948, the Alexander City Millers in 1949 and the LaGrange Troupers would win in 1950 and 1951.

Two teams would not make it until the end of the 1951 season as they were the worst drawing teams of the league. Where the top four teams drew well over 20,000 fans for the season, the Alexander City Millers and the Opelika Owls only drew 19,737 and 18,000 fans. Both teams disbanded in July.

One of the reasons why the LaGrange Troupers won the championship in 1950 was pitcher Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Don BessentDon Bessent. Bessent won 22 games, struck out 229 batters and posted an ERA of 2.33. Bessent was signed by the Yankees before the 1950 season. After a season at class B in 1951 he wasn’t able to pitch in the next season due to a spinal condition. The Yankees gave up on him but after  the condition was corrected by bone graft surgery and the Brooklyn Dodgers drafted him on December 2, 1952, in the minor league draft. Bessent would break into the majors in 1955. He would stick with the Dodgers for four seasons before he was demoted to AAA St. Paul in 1959. After spending the 1962 season at AAA, Bessent hung up his spikes. Bessent won game two of the 1956 World Series. He entered the game in the 3rd inning with the score tied 6-6 and held the Yankees to just two runs in the 13-8 victory.

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