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Birmingham Athletics logo Southern League
Rickwood Field

Team and League History


???, ???
     Southern League logo
   
The Birmingham Athletics, owned by Charles O. Finley, join the Southern League.
















??? 1967
     Photograph 
  Manager John McNamara
   















April 1967
 
1967
 Southern League 
   Birmingham Athletics   
   Charlotte Hornets
   Evansville White Sox
   Knoxville Smokies
   Macon Peaches
   Montgomery Rebels
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Birmingham Athletics logo    Charlotte Hornets logo    Evansville White Sox logo     Knoxville Smokies
logo
needed
              
Macon Peaches
logo
needed
  Montgomery Rebels logo        
             
??? ???
     Photograph
  Manager Gus Niarhos
   
Gus Niarhos is named the Athletics manager.
















April 1968
 
1968
 Southern League 
   Asheville Tourists
   Birmingham Athletics   
   Charlotte Hornets
   Evansville White Sox
   Montgomery Rebels
   Savannah Senators
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Asheville Tourists logo    Birmingham Athletics logo    Charlotte Hornets logo    Evansville White Sox logo
              
Montgomery Rebels logo   Savannah Senators logo         
             
??? ???

     Photograph
  Manager Phil Cavaretta
   
Phil Cavaretta is named the new Athletics manager.














April 1969
 
1969
 Southern League 
   Asheville Tourists
   Birmingham Athletics   
   Charlotte Hornets
   Columbus White Sox
   Montgomery Rebels
   Savannah Senators
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Asheville Tourists logo    Birmingham Athletics logo    Charlotte Hornets logo    Columbus White Sox logo 
              
Montgomery Rebels logo   Savannah Senators logo        
             


     Photograph
  Owner Charles O. Finley
   



















April 1970
 
1970
 Southern League 
   Asheville Tourists
   Birmingham Athletics   
   Charlotte Hornets
   Columbus Astros
   Jacksonville Suns
   Montgomery Rebels
   Mobile White Sox
   Savannah Indians
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Asheville Tourists logo    Birmingham Athletics logo    Charlotte Hornets logo    Columbus Astros logo
              
Jacksonville Suns logo   Montgomery Rebels logo   Mobile White Sox
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  Savannah Indians
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December ??, 1970

Athletics owner, Charles O. Finley, is angered that the city is considering the idea of raising the rental of Rickwood Field from $12,500 per year to $15,000 per year. Finley threatens to move the team before the 1971 season.

??? ???
     Photograph
  Manager Harry Bright
   
Harry Bright is announced as the Athletics' manager for 1973.

The last two years he was the manager of the class A Burlington team. In 1967, Bright became the manager in Quincy of the Midwest League. The next year, he went to AA Texas League's San Antonio club. In 1969, he moved to Elmira of the AA Eastern League. The next year Bright made a stop in class A Northwest League's Coos Bay before moving on to Burlington.











April 1971
 
1971
 Southern League 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
     Birmingham Athletics logo          
              
             
             
April 1972
 
1972
 Southern League 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
     Birmingham Athletics logo          
              
             
             
April 1973
 
1973
 Southern League 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
     Birmingham Athletics logo          
              
             
             
January 9, 1974
Finley announces he will be selling his major league sports teams as soon as possible. "My doctor has told me to get out of all sports for physical reasons."

Finley currently owns Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics, the National Hockey League's California Golden Seals, and the American Basketball Association's Memphis Tams.

What effect this decision will have on the Birmingham Athletics is unknown.

March 26, 1974
Shirley Finley, wife of owner Charles O. Finley, files for divorce after 32 years of marriage. She is seeking custody of the couple's three minor children and $1,250 a week for child support. The couple have seven children.

April 1974
 
1974
 Southern League 
Western Division Eastern Division
   Asheville Orioles    Columbus Astros
   Birmingham Athletics       Jacksonville Suns   
   Knoxville Sox    Orlando Twins
   Montgomery Rebels    Savannah Braves    
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Asheville Orioles logo    Birmingham Athletics logo    Columbus Astros logo     Jacksonville Suns logo
              
Knoxville Sox
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  Montgomery Rebels logo   Orlando Twins logo   Savannah Braves logo 
             
January 9, 1975

A major blow to the chances of the Athletics remaining in Birmingham was landed today when the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board voted to increase Rickwood Field's yearly rental fee 100%, to $25,000. The Athletics have been battling decreased attendance with their last place team.

"I really can't argue with them trying to raise prices. Everything is going up this year. But I do resent having to read about it in the paper. It seems the least they could have done was pick up the phone and tell us they would like to discuss our lease agreement. An increase is one thing, but a 100% increase is something else. Because of the increase, there is a very real possibility there won't be a baseball team at this location, or in this city, next year," said Athletics general manager Glynn West.

Southern League president Billy Hitchcock agrees the increase is too severe. "Birmingham has always had to pay much more than any other city in the league for its park. Other cities have different agreements. Some pay $1 a year and maintain the park. Others pay the light bill, and others provide the maintenance crews. None came close to paying what Birmingham has to pay. If Oakland gets out of Birmingham it will be a very serious blow to the Southern League. Our plans for the coming year are already firm, and its going to be very hard to find another city this late in the year."

Frank Wagner, a member of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, explained the reasons for the increase. "We have been losing from $10,000 to $15,000 a year just on that operation. This is simply an effort on our part to break even. We understand Mr. Finley's problems in trying to field a minor league baseball team, but that's his problem and we have ours. We are in no way trying to squeeze them out of Birmingham."

January 22, 1975
Birmingham's immediate future in the Southern League is being decided by Finley after the Park and Recreation Board offered the Athletics two options in the  leasing of Rickwood Field. They now have the option of paying $18,750 yearly rent or the option of taking over the maintenance costs and booking operations of Rickwood Field from April 10th to September 6th for $1,000.

West says the first option is unlikely to be agreed to, but Finley is considering the second option.

January 30, 1975
Birmingham Park and Recreation Board officials announce they have come to an agreement with the Athletics in terms of the rental of Rickwood Field. The Athletics will continue to pay the $12,500 they did last year but a review for the 1976 season will occur in April.

West lays it on the line and issues a challenge by saying, "Baseball fans will get a chance this season to show whether or not they want professional baseball here. How well we do this season at the gate could go a long way toward determining whether or not the Oakland organization feels it can meet any increase in rent."

West also announces that manager Harry Bright left the Athletics to become manager of the Class AAA Pacific League's Sacramento, California team.

February 22, 1975
     Photograph
  Manager Harry Malmberg
   
It is announced that Harry Malmberg will be the Athletics manager for the 1975 season. Malmberg was born in nearby Fairfield when his parents were on the way from Florida to California but only lived here for two months.

Malmberg began his coaching career as an assistant with Major League Baseball's Boston club in 1963. His managerial career began in the California League. Since 1973, Malmberg has been with the AAA American Association's Omaha franchise.

Malmberg played in the minor leagues from 1947 to 1963 except for the 1955 season when he played for Detroit. While there, he played for Billy Hitchcock, who is currently the Southern League's president. "Harry is a good baseball man. I think the people at Birmingham will like him," Hitchcock said.

March 15, 1975
A bad thunderstorm and a lightning bolt that knocked out a right-field roof transformer stopped the Athletics from playing a much-anticipated exhibition game against Finley's Oakland Athletics.

"If there had been enough light, those fans would have seen a game they'd remember all their lives. The World Champion A's and the Birmingham A's would have played barefooted, all of 'em, except the pitchers and catchers," Finley said.

April 1975
 
1975
 Southern League 
Western Division Eastern Division
   Asheville Orioles    Columbus Astros
   Birmingham Athletics       Jacksonville Suns   
   Knoxville Sox    Orlando Twins
   Montgomery Rebels    Savannah Braves    
  xxx   xxx   xxx  
             
Asheville Orioles logo    Birmingham Athletics logo    Columbus Astros logo    Jacksonville Suns logo
              
Knoxville Sox
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  Montgomery Rebels logo   Orlando Twins logo   Savannah Braves logo
             
June 24, 1975

At a meeting between Athletics officials and the Birmingham Park and Recreation board, the prospects of the Athletics returning in 1976 are rapidly dimming. At issue is the board's increase for rental of Rickwood Field.

The board wants to increase the fee by 100% to $25,000. Board member Tom Bradford summed up the board's feelings. "I'm not interested in subsidizing professional sports. I'm willing to rent the facility for what it costs and not a penny less."

Athletics officials insist the rent can't exceed the current fee of $12,500 or they will be forced to leave the city. Team officials have already looked at Huntsville as an alternative to keep the franchise in the Southern League. "We would like to stay in the Southern League. It is a good league with some fine cities. But if a spot should come open in the Texas League, we would also take a quick look in that direction," said John Claiborne, Oakland's director of minor league operations.

A recent study by the National Association of Professional Baseball reported that the Birmingham Athletics currently pay the highest stadium rental in AA baseball. The Southern League's Jacksonville Suns are next highest at $6,000, less than half of what the Athletics pay.

The board voted to provide a cost breakdown for 70 playing dates that should be ready in 30 days.

July 17, 1975
West reports the team is considering a move to Talladega, Huntsville, Mobile, Graysville, Tuscaloosa, or Macon (GA). The Athletics are also considering moving to the Texas League. This is a long-shot, however, since there is currently no opening in that league.

July 22, 1975
After weeks of number-crunching, the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board announce they must charge the Athletics $25,000 for next season's rental of Rickwood Field. West is present at the board meeting and approaches them with an alternative plan for the Athletics to pay the city $12,000 and assume all costs of grounds keeping, which is the bulk of the yearly rental fee. The board will consider West's proposition and will vote on it at their August meeting.

September 4, 1975
The Birmingham Park and Recreation Board and the Birmingham Athletics hold their final meeting. The city does not back off its $25,000 rent or $12,000 and services offer.

"I can't speak for him (owner Charlie Finley), but I would guess that if anyone wants to see Class AA baseball at Rickwood Field, they had better come out tonight or Friday. After that we'll probably be gone," West said.

October 29, 1975
The Birmingham Park Board submits a final proposal to the Athletics and want an answer from Finley within fifteen days.

The proposal offers the Athletics rental of Rickwood Field for $1 for the season (April through September) but the Athletics would be in charge of ground crews and electricity. The Park Board would retain the right to book events in Rickwood when the Athletics were on the road, and the Board would be responsible for cleanup after those events. The Board would also credit the Athletics $100 for each event held at Rickwood.

November 18, 1975
West manages to convince the Park and Recreation Board to extend the final proposal's deadline by five days.

November 19, 1975
     Chattanooga Lookouts logo
   
Late this evening, investors in Chattanooga secure permission from the Oakland Athletics to move the Class AA Southern League team to their city. Approval of Southern League directors was secured by telephone from Southern League president Billy Hitchcock.

West was unaware of the decision the next morning until asked for comment by local media. "I don't know anything about it. Therefore I feel I should withhold any comment until I have talked to Mr. Finley," a shocked West said.

While the approval is tentative, final league approval should only be a matter of formality during the league meeting in December.

"I have always felt, and still feel, that Birmingham is a great baseball town, and under the right circumstances I think the city could again be a minor league stronghold as it was in the 1940's and early 50's. But at this time we feel it is in the best interest of the Southern League to approve the move to Chattanooga," Hitchcock said.

Epilogue
After the 1975 season wrapped up, the league voted to allow the team to be moved and the franchise became the Southern League's Chattanooga Lookouts.
 
 
 
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: August 17, 2018