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Team and League History

May 25, 1978
  Freedom Baseball League
advertisement published
in the Sporting News
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 three at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, DC. Rickwood Field has been dormant since the Birmingham Athletics left after the 1975 season for Chattanooga.

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

The unnamed league will be a two city, four 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 six 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.

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 four 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 will be Roy Mewbourne, who is also currently Birmingham-Southern College's head baseball coach.

"This is something new and we're excited about it. It's going to give us a chance to work with some young men who really love the game of baseball. Most of these fellows have been told, 'Hey, we don't need you.' But we feel there is still some talent there and we feel that baseball fans get the greatest enjoyment out of watching someone who loves to play, not someone just playing it as a job," Mewbourne said.

Mewbourne will also continue his position at Birmingham-Southern.

July 2, 1978

  Freedom Baseball League  
  Alabama Barons
  Washington Senators

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 four 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 two or three 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
  Manager Roy Mewbourne
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.

Baseball in Birmingham would lay dormant until 1981, when Art Clarkson brought back the Birmingham Barons as members of the Southern League.
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: November 29, 2020