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Rickwood Field

Team and League History

May 25, 1978
It was announced that Birmingham and Washington, DC would be a part of a new baseball league. The announcement was made by the creator of the league, Arthur Peterson of Falls Church, Virginia.

Peterson's plan is to have one team at Rickwood Field in Birmingham and 3 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, DC.

The first games are scheduled to begin in mid or late June.

The unnamed league will be a 2 city, 4 team rookie league made up of players who have been cut or were never given a chance to play professional baseball. "We'll use players who have been released and college players who have the ability and need a chance. We plan to have a 17 or 18 man roster and play perhaps 6 games a week. We had hoped to play an 80 game schedule, but our problems with lease arrangements have caused us to cut it back to about 60," Peterson said.

However, Peterson isn't looking for high school or junior college players. "We don't want to hurt their chances. That's why we're looking mainly to those who already had a chance."

Peterson is also thinking of hiring player-managers. "Our pay scale will compare with class AA or AAA baseball. We feel we can attract some outstanding baseball players." However, there will be no working arrangement with Major League Baseball like the minor leagues enjoy, which means the new league will receive no financial assistance.

Peterson does have prior experience in baseball. He took over in Seattle when the American League's Seattle Pilots left for Milwaukee and worked for an independent Northwest League franchise until the major leagues returned in the form of the Seattle Mariners. "I've been in and out of baseball for most of my life. There is a market for good, entertaining baseball. That's what we are going to provide," Peterson said.

  Manager Roy Mewbourne
Peterson said he has even placed an ad in the Sporting News looking for baseball players and indicated the response has been good.

June 13, 1978
Peterson announces the new league will be named the Freedom Baseball League. The Birmingham team will be named the Alabama Barons.

Revising his original announcement, the FBL will now be made up of 4 teams which will be based in Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Tentative plans call for a 30 game schedule, with most of the games played on the weekends.

Peterson also announces that the Barons manager would be Roy Mewbourne, who is also currently Birmingham-Southern University's baseball coach.

Mewbourne will also continue his position at Birmingham-Southern.

July 2, 1978
  Freedom Baseball League   
   Alabama Barons
   Maryland ???
   Virginia ???
   Washington ???
July 7, 1978
Problems with RFK Stadium in Washington, DC forces the upcoming Friday games to be postponed. RFK Stadium is managed by the Washington, DC Armory Board, which is demanding the league pay $7,000 in advance for 'day of game expenses'. According to the Armory Board, these expenses are for ticket takers, security personnel, and other stadium support service staff.

"I think there is a better than 50-50 chance we will play. We plan to meet with them Saturday and try to work something out. If we can reach agreement, we'll open Sunday. If not, I don't see how we can continue. We can't play 4 teams in Birmingham. This is a surprise to us. We've paid them $6,000 advance rent and we have a letter stating that we would be able to work out here starting 2 or 3 weeks ago. But something has always come up. We have yet to work out in the stadium, and now they want day of game expense money in advance. They are charging us major league rental and giving us minor league service. The soccer and football interest don't want us in Washington. And there are others in the city who would just as soon see us not make it," Peterson said.

While an agreement is being worked on, the Alabama Barons await their next game in a Washington, DC motel.

July 8, 1978
The general manager of the Washington, DC Armory Board, Bob Sigholtz, announces that there will not be any games at RFK Stadium during the weekend. "No sir, there will be no games Monday either unless we have a certified check from Mr. Peterson in hand by Sunday. He brought us a personal check yesterday and, as is our custom, we had our comptroller check with a bank in California against which it was written. And we were told that there was not sufficient funds to cover the amount."

Peterson admitted that at this point the league isn't financially strong. "We got a late start and our advanced sales were almost negative. And your day of game attendance is what makes things go. We're having some problems, but our plans are to see the season through. We hope some cities, suitable for baseball, will join the league next year. If the major leagues do not expand next season, I think you'll see teams in New Orleans, Buffalo, and possibly Louisville. The concept of the league is good and I plan to see it through unless I keel over with a heart attack."

July 11, 1978
Peterson announces that the league, and all of the teams, have folded.

"I'm sorry, I really am. We've been shot down. These folks up here just bled us to death by putting us off and putting us off. Finally, my partners and I came to the realization that our losses have been mounting so rapidly that we simply can not continue. So, we are out of business. By the time we take care of our players through the 15th of this month, our losses may very well be in excess of $100,000," Peterson said.
Contact Gene Crowley

Last update: July 13, 2018