On August 11, 1939, the city of Birmingham, Alabama baseball fans were excited about the purchase of the Birmingham Barons by the Cincinnati Reds’ chain.
First named the Coal Barons
In 1885, the Birmingham Barons was organized as the Coal Barons. They played in many leagues throughout the south during their early days. Their home fields were “at the Slag Pile (West End Park), located on 6th Street between 1st Avenue North and the Alabama Great Southern Railroad tracks.” They also played in East Lake and a field in Elyton.
The team was owned by J. William McQueen, (vice-president of Sloss Iron & Stell Company) in 1901 when it became a part of the newly organized Southern Association. It was bought by A. H. (Rick) Woodward, a Birmingham millionaire industrialist in 1910. Woodward constructed Rickwood Stadium for his new baseball team and the first game played there occurred on August 18, 1910 before a crowd in excess of 10,000.
Birmingham Baseball club Team Portrait 1914 (Oscar V. Hunt, Birmingham Public Library)
Birmingham Barons Baseball team 1917 (by Oscar Hunt Birmingham Public Library)
Cincinnati Reds purchased Barons outfielder in 1919
Evidently, the Cincinnati’s Red’s were watching Birmingham Baron’s players because they purchased a Barons player in 1919 The Lewiston Daily Sun, in Maine of August 12, 1919, reported:
Nashville Tenn. August 11 – The Cincinnati National League baseball club has purchased outfielder Pat Duncan from the Birmingham Southern Association Club. Duncan, who has been batting above the 300 mark, left here tonight to join the Cincinnati team.
Dixie Series Baseball Game – Rickwood Park Oct 2, 1929 (Oscar V. Hunt, Birmingham Public Library)
Cincinnati Reds purchase Barons
The Cincinnati Reds interest grew and they purchased the Birmingham Barons in 1939
The Florence Times Daily of August 12, 1939 reported
Birmingham, Aug. 11 (AP) –
Birmingham baseball fans awaited today’s outcome of a conference to decide whether the Barons will become part of the Cincinnati Reds’ chain.
Ed Norton, president and chief stockholder of Birmingham’s club of the Southern Association, was to talk the matter over with Warren G. Giles, general manager of the Cincinnati system.
Declaring he was “convinced a minor league club should have access to players owned by major league teams, Norton said he had “made a price” to the Reds, but hoped they would accept a long-term working agreement instead.
Norton purchased the Birmingham club in 1937. The Barons won their last Southern Association pennant in 1931, and now occupies sixth place.
A followup article in the same paper on the same day reported
Birmingham, Aug. 11 – (AP) –
The Cincinnati Reds purchased the Birmingham Barons, of the Southern Association, today for an undisclosed sum.
Warren C. Giles, general manager of the Reds, announced the purchase after a brief conference with Ed Norton, Birmingham president.
Giles said that the club would become Cincinnati property as soon as the necessary papers are signed. No immediate change in player personnel is contemplated, Giles said, although moves to strengthen the team will come “as soon as possible.”
Rickwood Field, opening day 1912 (Oscar V. Hunt, Samford University)
More details of the Cincinnati Reds purchase
On August 13, 1939, The Tuscaloosa News reported more of the story about the purchase.
Birmingham, Ala., August 11 – (AP)- The Cincinnati Reds purchased the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association today for an undisclosed sum. Warren C. Giles, general manager of the Reds, announced the purchase after a brief conference with Ed Norton, Birmingham club president.
Giles said the club would become Cincinnati property as soon as necessary papers could be signed.
No immediate changes in player personnel are contemplated, the Red executive said, although moves to strengthen the team, now in sixth place, will “come as soon as possible.”
Giles will be president of the new operating corporation with Frank Lane as vice-president and Bill McKechnie, Jr., son of the Cincinnati manager, as secretary-treasurer. Mckechnie will make his home in Birmingham.
Bill West, business manager for the Barons for several years, will be retained in an advisory capacity.
The Birmingham club, in the A-1 Southern Association, will be the top link in the Cincinnati baseball system. The purchase includes all players now owned by the Barons and Rickwood Field, one of the best baseball plants in the minors
Usually, informed sources said the price paid by Cincinnati was around $225,000. The club owns considerable real estate about Rickwood, besides the actual playing field.
Cincinnati Reds sold the Barons to two Birmingham businessmen in 1944
In 1944, the Cincinnati Reds sold the Barons to two local residents according to this article in the St. Petersburg Times, Florida of March 12, 1944.
Birmingham, Ala. (AP) – Birmingham’s baseball club in the Southern Association, a farm outfit of the Cincinnati Reds for the last four seasons, was purchased yesterday by two local residents.
The buyers are G. J. (Jeb) Jebeles, until recently a restaurant operator here, and Paul Florence, who served as president of the Barons under the Cincinnati management.
No announcement was made regarding the division of the club’s stock between Jebeles and Florence. The former, who was in Cincinnati Friday negotiating with Warren Giles and Powell Crosley, officials of the Reds, was notified yesterday upon his return here that his offer had been accepted.
“I am just a fan, very interested in baseball, and hope we can give the folks here good baseball,” Jebeles declared. “Mr Florence will have complete charge of the business end of the club and I will help all I can.”
Jebeles will become president of the club under the ownership transfer, and Florence will be general manager.
The purchase price was not made public.
In Cincinnati, Giles announced the Reds might negotiate a working agreement with the new owners of the Barons.
Barons sold again to three local men businessmen in 1949
In 1949, the Barons were sold again to three Birmingham businessmen according to this article from The Evening Independent, St. Petersburg, Florida on September 13, 1949
Birmingham, Ala. – (AP)
Three Birmingham businessmen today bought controlling interest in the Birmingham Barons of the Southern Association, it was reported today.
Formal announcement was expected later in the day.
The new purchasers had been negotiating with Baron President G. J. Jebeles for about a week for his 50.7 per cent share of the stock.
They had been reported offering $300,000 while Jebeles was asking $350,000.
The businessmen are Al Dement, sportsman and automobile dealer, Rufus Lackey, insurance executive, and W. A. Belcher, lumber company owner. Dement already owns 21 per cent of the stock.
The report said the 50.7 per cent of stock will not be split but will continue to be voted as a block.
Jebeles bought the interest from the Cincinnati Reds in 1944 for a reported $50,000. A mortgage of about $75,000 also was outstanding at that time but since has been reduced to $26,000.
With the controlling interest remaining in Birmingham’s hands, the Boston Red Sox are expected to renew their working agreement with the Barons. The agreement has been in effect the past two seasons.
Birmingham is proud of our historic Birmingham Barons
The team has been sold several more times since the 1940s, but today, the team plays in the Southern League and is the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox major-league club. The Barons play most of their games at their home field, Regions Field, in downtown Birmingham. More of the Birmingham Barons history can be found on their official website at Barons.com – The official site of the Birmingham Barons. Rickwood Field is still standing and is now officially the oldest standing baseball park in America.
Rickwood Field, 2010 (by Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress)
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