Southern Association Pennant Race Scandal

15 Oct

The Memphis Egyptians collapsed in the final three weeks of the 1907 Southern Association race.  After leading the league from the beginning of the season, poor play in the last weeks led to them being overtaken by the Atlanta Crackers.

Vague rumors circulated that Memphis might have thrown the race—but became a full blown scandal on June 2 of 1908 when the rumors became formal allegations.

Former Memphis pitcher Otis Stocksdale, who had been released following the ’07 season and signed with the Mobile Sea Gulls, said Memphis manager Charlie Babb:

“Threw the pennant…to the Atlanta club, and did so deliberately and for business reasons.”

Stocksdale alleged that he had been forced to pitch while he was sick and that players were instructed by the manager “Not to win games.”  Stocksdale charged that Babb, who also played 3rd base, had deliberately misplayed balls during games in Nashville.

If there was any doubt, Stocksdale doubled down on his charges later the same day, telling reporters:

“Every word of this charge is true, and, what is more, I am going to prove the correctness of what I say and by affidavit…I am not going to stop, now that I have started, until this thing is given to the public and Babb gets the punishment he deserves.  The thing was done in order to make a closer race for the flag and get the money in the gates.

“Charley (sic) Babb has no right to be a manager in this league.”

Stocksdale also claimed that two additional players Richard James and Robert “Nick” Carter could, and would corroborate the charges.

Babb denied the allegations.  Atlanta Manager William Smith said, “The league will have to blacklist either Babb or Stocksdale, and I don’t think it will be Babb.”

Atlanta Mayor Walthall Joyner asked Southern Association President William Marmaduke Kavanaugh for an immediate investigation.

A hearing was scheduled for the following week in Memphis.  Stocksdale promised to make his case.

He didn’t.

According to The Sporting Life:

“He had no witnesses.  He had no affidavits.  He merely entered formal denial of the published statements.”

Stocksdale blamed reporters for misquoting him.

The Memphis club presented their case which included live testimony and dozens of statements refuting the charges, including one from Nick Carter, who Stocksdale had said would affirm his allegations.

Stocksdale was suspended indefinitely for, as The Sporting Life said, “Besmirching Baseball’s Fair Fame.”

Otis Stocksdale, the accuser

It was speculated that 36-year-old Stocksdale’s career was over, and that even if he did manage to play again that he would be blackballed from the Southern Association; however, when the suspension was lifted before the 1909 season after a petition drive that collected more than 1000 signatures in each Southern Association city, Stocksdale returned to the Sea Gulls and stayed in the league through the 1910 season.

Stocksdale finished his career as a player-manager with the Lynchburg Shoemakers in the Virginia League in 1912.

Babb remained as manager of Memphis until 1910 and continued managing in the minor leagues until 1913.

Charlie Babb, the accused

An interesting Postscript involving Atlanta Manager William Smith who vigorously defended Babb and insisted Stocksdale’s allegations were false.  After leading the Crackers to another league title in 1909 Smith was fired.  The deposed manager claimed the reason for his firing was his refusal to rein his team in the final weeks in order to increase gate receipts.  Smith’s complaint was dismissed by the league.

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7 Responses to “Southern Association Pennant Race Scandal”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Baseball will be in Utter Disrepute” | Baseball History Daily - September 18, 2013

    […] As common as contract jumping was during the first 30 years of organized baseball, there are very few cases in which the particular inducements that led to the player breaking his contract are available.  Such is the case with Charlie Babb. […]

  2. “Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players” | Baseball History Daily - September 19, 2013

    […] of the league,” because of Frank’s numerous injunctions.  He was replaced by vice president William Kavanaugh.  A motion was passed to suspend Frank and St. Vrain indefinitely, but Babb and Evans were […]

  3. “The Montgomery Team Threw to us Three Games by Arrangement” | Baseball History Daily - November 12, 2013

    […] President William Kavanaugh scheduled a meeting in Memphis for October 17 to investigate the charges, and Phyle went to West […]

  4. “I Consider him a Weak, Foolish Talker” | Baseball History Daily - November 13, 2013

    […] Phyle was a no-show.  He failed to appear before Southern Association President William Kavanaugh at the league’s hearing regarding his charges that the end of the 1903 season was fixed.  After […]

  5. “Wilmington is in to the Finish” | Baseball History Daily - December 10, 2013

    […] took her seventh inning and retired without any chance at the home plate.  Durham came up and (Otis) Stocksdale reached first on a clean hit and stole second. […]

  6. “Apperious is a high-toned Man” | Baseball History Daily - January 8, 2014

    […] Apperious became part of the biggest controversy of the Southern Association’s 1906 season—the league had no shortage of controversies each […]

  7. Lost Advertisements–Southern League Opener, Memphis, 1919 | Baseball History Daily - July 29, 2016

    […] refers to the lingering concerns in Memphis about the integrity of the league which began when the Memphis Egyptians collapsed in the last three weeks of the 1907 season, giving the pennant to the Atlanta Crackers, after holding a wire-to-wire […]

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