|Ivy "Poison Ivy" Andrews of Dora, Ala.|
Today, June 25, marks the anniversary of a somewhat unique sports-related event in the history of Evergreen. It was on this day in 1940 – 75 years ago – that the Montgomery Rebels of the Southeastern Baseball League stopped in Evergreen to eat on their way to Mobile for a series against the Mobile Shippers.
This event was such a big deal at the time that The Evergreen Courant newspaper had a front page story about their visit to Evergreen in the June 27, 1940 edition. That story read as follows:
“MONTGOMERY BALL CLUB PAYS VISIT HERE TUESDAY MORNING: The Montgomery Rebels of the Southeastern baseball league honored our fair city with a visit Tuesday morning when they stopped to dine at a local café, enroute for a series with the Mobile Shippers. The Rebs are holding down third place in the league standings, and are enjoying the best season they have had in years. More power, we say, to the capital city horsehiders.”
The Southeastern Baseball League was an old minor league organization that dated back to 1910, and in 1940 it was considered a Class B league, that is, it was four levels below Major League Baseball. Over the years, a wide variety of teams were part of the Southeastern League, but in 1940 the league included the Montgomery Rebels, the Mobile Shippers, the Gadsden Pilots, the Jackson (Miss.) Senators, the Pensacola Pilots, the Anniston Rams, the Selma Cloverleafs and the Meridian Bears.
Montgomery had a middle-of-the-pack team in 1940. They finished the season in fourth place behind first-place Gadsden, second-place Jackson and third-place Pensacola. Anniston came in fifth, and Selma was sixth. Mobile finished the season seventh overall, just ahead of Meridian.
The 1940 Rebels, who played their home games at Cramton Bowl on Madison Avenue in Montgomery, had an impressive roster, including at least seven players who played in the Majors. Those Major League players included second baseman Bill Adair of Mobile, pitcher Ivy Andrews of Dora, pitcher Orville Armbrust of Beirne, Ark., outfielder Tom Cafego of Whipple, W.V., pitcher Larry Crawford of Swissvale, Pa., first baseman Bob Prichard of Paris, Texas and pitcher Ernie Wingard of Prattville.
Adair played his entire career for a long list of minor league teams, but never cracked the Major Leagues as a player. However, after his playing days, he became a successful coach and manager. He made his official Major League debut in 1970 when he was named the manager of the Chicago White Sox.
When the Rebels stopped in Evergreen, Andrews, a right-handed pitcher nicknamed “Poison Ivy,” had already played for four different Major League teams. He made his MLB debut on Aug. 15, 1931 when he took the mound for the New York Yankees. He went on to play for the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Browns and the Cleveland Indians before appearing in his final MLB game on Sept. 28, 1938.
Armbrust was also a right-handed pitcher, and like Andrews, he had already had a taste of the Majors. He made his Major League debut on Sept. 18, 1934 when he took the mound for the Washington Senators. He went on to appear in two more games for the Senators, appearing in his final game on Sept. 30, 1934. He died in 1967 without ever appearing in another Big League game.
Cafego had also had a short stint in the Bigs before the Rebels stopped to eat in Evergreen. He made his Major League debut with the St. Louis Browns on Sept. 3, 1937 and played in four total games before making his last MLB appearance on Sept. 9, 1937. Cafego, who threw right-handed but hit left-handed, was still a pretty good hitter in 1940, when he finished the season with a .371 batting average.
Crawford, a right-handed pitcher, was also a Major League veteran. He made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on July 27, 1937 and played in his final MLB game on Aug. 20, 1937. In 1940, he played in 17 games for the Rebels and finished the season with a 4-8 record.
Prichard also had some Major League experience under his belt. He made his Major League debut with the Washington Senators on June 14, 1939 and played in his final MLB game on Aug. 24, 1939, less than a year before the Rebels visited Evergreen. The 1940 season was Prichard’s last with the Rebels, but he went on to play for at least seven other minor league teams before hanging up his spikes in 1949.
Wingard, who was 39 years old when the Rebels came to Evergreen, which is ancient for a ball player, was also a Major League veteran, but he hadn’t appeared in a Big League game in 13 years by the time the Rebels stopped in Evergreen. He made his MLB debut for the St. Louis Browns on May 1, 1924 and was on the team for three more years, making his final MLB appearance on Sept. 25, 1927. His official MLB pitching record was 29-43.
In the end, if you’re interested in learning more about these players, the Southeastern Baseball League or the Montgomery Rebels, be sure to check out one of my favorite Web sites, Baseball Reference.com, www.baseball-reference.com, which is where I found a lot of the information above.