Southern Association

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Southern Association
Sport Baseball
Founded 1901
Ceased 1961
No. of teams 13
Country United States
Last champion(s) Chattanooga Lookouts (1961)

The Southern Association was a higher-level minor league in American organized baseball from 1901 through 1961. For most of its existence, the Southern Association was two steps below the Major Leagues; it was graded Class A (1902–1935), Class A1 (1936–1945) and Class AA (1946–1961). Although the SA was known as the Southern League through 1919, today's Double-A Southern League is not descended from the Southern Association; the modern SL came into existence in 1964 as the successor to the original South Atlantic ("Sally") League.

A stable, eight-team loop, the Southern Association's member teams typically included the Atlanta Crackers, Birmingham Barons, Chattanooga Lookouts, Little Rock Travelers, Memphis Chicks, Nashville Vols, and New Orleans Pelicans. Either the Knoxville Smokies, Mobile Bears, or Shreveport Sports typically comprised the eighth club.

Resisted integration

After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1946 with the Montreal Royals of the International League, the Southern Association continued to adhere to the Jim Crow segregation laws of the time. Only one African-American ever played a meaningful game during this time--Nat Peeples of the 1954 Atlanta Crackers, the only black player in the league's history.[1] On April 9–10, 1954, Peeples played in two road games in Mobile, and went hitless in four at bats.[2] He was demoted to the already-integrated, Single-A Jacksonville Braves before the Crackers played a home game.

The Southern Association then played the rest of its history, through the end of 1961, as a racially segregated league.[3] Partly due to this, its Major-League parent clubs were among the last to integrate during the 1950s, a period when African-Americans and Latin-American players of African descent were beginning to dominate Major League Baseball. By the end of the 1950s, the SA was the target of a boycott by civil rights leaders.

Disbanded in 1961

In its last three years, the Southern Association was plagued by frequent franchise shifts. Little Rock moved to Shreveport after the 1958 season, and New Orleans moved to Little Rock after the 1959 season. Memphis' park burned down just before the 1960 season, forcing the Chicks to play in several temporary facilities before moving to Macon, Georgia for 1961. The league finally ceased operation after the 1961 season.

Member cities slowly began to join remaining leagues, which were racially integrated. The Atlanta club moved up to the AAA International League in 1962, with Little Rock following suit (as the renamed Arkansas Travelers) in 1963. Macon, a longtime member of the Sally League, returned to that circuit in 1962. After a one-year hiatus, Nashville and Chattanooga joined the Sally League in 1963, which became the Southern League in 1964. Birmingham and Mobile later joined the Southern League, and Memphis and Shreveport would enter the Texas League (and Arkansas/Little Rock would settle there), later during the 1960s.

Member teams


While a league pennant winner was crowned each season, some seasons (1928 and 1932–61) also concluded with either the top two or four teams in the league competing in playoffs to determine a league champion. These playoffs varied between being best-of-five and best-of-seven contests. The Atlanta Crackers, termed by some the "New York Yankees of the minors," won the Southern Association pennant 13 times, the most among all teams.[4] They are followed by the New Orleans Pelicans, with nine pennants.[4] As far as playoff championships are concerned, the Nashville Vols captured the most, with nine—dominating the league with six straight championships from 1939 to 1944.[5] They are followed by Atlanta, with six playoff titles.[5] Combining both pennants and playoffs, the Crackers won the most (21), with the Vols trailing them with 17. On the other hand, the Chattanooga Lookouts, charter members of the association, won only one title during their 54 years in the league—with that coming during the Southern Association's final, 1961 campaign.[4]

Most Valuable Player Award

The Southern Association gave a most valuable player award to the most outstanding player in the league from 1937 to 1957. In 1937, Coaker Triplett won the first ever Southern Association Most Valuable Player Award. Stan Palys won the final award in 1957.


  • Johnson, Lloyd; Wolff, Miles, eds. (1997). The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd ed.). Durham, N.C.: Baseball America. ISBN 978-0-9637189-8-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Baseball Reference
  3. Fenster, Kenneth, "Earl Mann, Nat Peeples, and the Failed Attempt of Integration in the Southern Association," NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 2004
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Timeline" (PDF). Southern Association Baseball. Retrieved September 21, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 O'Neal, Bill (1994), The Southern League: Baseball in Dixie, 1885–1994, Eakin Press, pp. 306–7, ISBN 0890159521<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>