Forgotten Trails: Brewton once part of baseball's golden days

Published 5:41 am Wednesday, August 27, 2008

By Staff
For some time now I have been trying to gather enough information to write about Brewton's involvement in the Deep South Class D Baseball League.
I have come up with a little but hopefully this little bit will encourage some of you to get in touch with me. First of all, I want to give thanks to Scott Parks, who maintains a Web site about the league. He has kindly given me permission to use some of his material for this column. If you would like to see the Web site, go to
The Alabama-Florida League's first season began in May 1936, and featured teams from seven Alabama towns and Panama City, Fla. It originated “from the ashes” of the Dixie Amateur League that folded in 1935.
The league was lucky enough to have attracted a few major league players, including Everett “Yam” Yaryan, who was signed by the Andalusia Reds. Yaryan was born in 1892 and joined the Chicago White Sox during the 1921-22 seasons, and had been playing since that time. He joined the Alabama-Florida League when he was 42 years old.
During these years, baseball was indeed “America's sport,” and there were different leagues springing up all over. The Alabama-Florida League hometowns were Ozark (who was the first to join the league, and the one that I remember attending during the 1950s), Troy, Enterprise, Dothan, Abbeville, Andalusia, Union Springs and Panama City, Fla.
Baseball was so popular that in places such as Enterprise, half-holidays were declared so fans could make the 2 p.m. start time.
The first season was played in halves and the winners of the halves would meet each other in a season-ending playoff. The Troy Trojans won both halves of the season, so the other six teams (Abbeville had dropped out halfway through the season), had a playoff to win the right to play Troy in the playoff. Andalusia was the winning team and beat the Trojans four games to two (and a tie game). Although Andalusia won the series, Troy was considered the league champions.
It is thought that there was an attendance of 2,000 fans to see the championship game.
The Panama City team had three different nicknames during the 1936 season, Pelicans, Pilots and Papermakers. The Ozark Cardinals was the first team to be affiliated with a major league team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Andalusia/Ozark were affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1962, Brewton Millers with the Chicago White Sox in 1946 and with the Washington Senators in 1948. Other teams affiliated themselves with various other major league teams.
Over the next 20 years the Alabama-Florida League, the Alabama State League, the Alabama-Georgia League and others would entertain hundreds of thousands of people all over the southeast.
The Brewton Millers joined the league, and in the late 1940s, one of Brewton's own, Scottie Byrne, played with the Millers while they were part of the Alabama State League, which consisted of teams from small towns all over south Alabama. Some of these were Dothan, Troy, Brewton, Greenville, Ozark and Geneva.
Byrne was a pitcher and played some outfield and utility positions with the Brewton Millers.
Another well-known player who came out of this baseball background was none other than Chase Riddle. I remember watching him play ball in Ozark. I think that he was a catcher, but I could be wrong. He managed and played for four seasons. In 1953 he batted .411 and drove in 125 runs for Panama City.
If I am not mistaken, the Brewton Millers probably played on what was known as Liles Field. This baseball field was located where Brewton Iron Works and Alabama-Ductile and Citation is now located. The field was built on land that was donated by Duncan P. Liles. Tommy Liles, son of Duncan, (I believe that is right) played a little bit of professional baseball and his widow told me a story that she remembers. She said that her mother-in-law told her that she and some other women sewed sheets to go on the beds the ballplayers used on the second or third floors of the old Luttrell Hardware building. That is the building that today houses The Hourglass.
If you have any photographs or stories from these baseball years, please let me hear from you. I would like to share them with others who remember the old days when baseball was king of the sports.