Minor League history: East Dixie League

The East Dixie League was a spin off from the 1933 Dixie League. That league played for one year and split up in the East Dixie League and the West Dixie League. The Dixie League was a mix of teams from Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The teams from Louisana, Arkansas and Mississippi moved to the East Dixie League.
As the teams were all southern teams, the name of the league can be explained as it was the historical nickname of the Southern states.

Cities represented:

Baton Rouge, LA: Baton Rouge Red Sticks 1934
Clarksdale, MS: Clarksdale Ginners 1934-1935
Cleveland, MS: Cleveland Bengals 1935
Columbus, MS: Columbus Bengals 1935
El Dorado, AR: El Dorado Lions 1934-1935
Greenville, MS: Greenville Buckshots 1934-1935
Greenwood, MS: Greenwood Chiefs 1934-1935
Helena, AR: Helena Seaporters 1935
Jackson, MS: Jackson Mississippians 1934-1935
Pine Bluff, AR: Pine Bluff Judges 1934-1935
Shreveport, LA: Shreveport Sports 1934

Remarkable feat about the East Dixie League is that as a spin off of a class D league, it received a class C rating. The East Dixie League lasted for two seasons: 1934 + 1935.
In 1934 the two teams at the bottom of the league had trouble luring fans to their ballpark. Eventually both teams moved elsewhere. The Shreveport Sports moved to Greenwood to become the Chiefs. The Baton Rouge Red Sticks moved to Clarksdale to become the Ginners. The name Red Sticks was/is a literal translation of the French name of the city: Baton Rouge.

After the 1935 season the East Dixie League would change its name into Cotton States League and would play on through the 1941 season before ceasing activities.

The 1935 Greenwood Chiefs. Walter Alston is the sixth person from the left in the back row. 

A well known baseball person that played in the East Dixie League was Walter Alston, the man that guided the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first and only World Series title in 1955 and was at the helm of the team for several decades until he was replaced by Tommy Lasorda in 1976. Alston played with the Greenwood Chiefs, a farm team of the Detroit Tigers in 1934 and of the Cardinals in 1935. Alston rceived an offer from Frank Rickey, the brother of Branch, who was still building the Cards’ farm system. In those days of recession, $125 per month was a nice amount. With the Chiefs, Alston hit .326 and this earned him a promotion to Huntington of the Mid-Atlantic League where he also hit .326 and led the league with 35 homeruns.

Hugo “Dutch” Klaerner

The East Dixie League was home to players that had a cup of tea in the Majors. One of
them was Hugo “Dutch” Klaerner. Despite his European sounding name he was born in Fredericksburg Texas. In 1934 he debuted in the Majors and pitched three games for the Chicago White Sox. He went 24-7 with the Pine Bluff Judges and that earned him a promotion to Chicago. In the Windy City he wasn’t as successful as he went 0-2 with an ERA of 10.90.

Another example of a player that had a very short stint in the Majors was Cecil Bolton. He debuted with the Cleveland Indians, late in the 1928 season. In thirteen at bats he only produced two triples. For the rest, Bolton was a career minor leaguer.  He played for several minor league teams, but he was part of the Greenville Buckshots in the two years that the East Dixie League existed.

Club names in those days were often related to the region in which the teams were located (in fact it is still the same way nowadays). For example the Clarksdale Ginners. A ginner is a person who operates a cotton gin machine that separates the seeds from cotton.

One player that had an extensive career in the Majors was Eddie Stanky. Stanky debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1943. During the 1944 season he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Stanky made his first steps in professional baseball in the East Dixie League, where he played for the Greenville Buckshots in 1935. In that first season he hit .301 in 396 at bats.

The 1935 East Dixie League champions, the Pine Bluff Judges

Where the previous players started their career in the East Dixie League, Frank Welch ended his career in that league. Welch started his career in 1916 in the South Atlantic League and debuted with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1919, where he played eight of his nine year MLB career. After his last MLB game with the Red Sox in 1927, Welch went down to the minors. First he played in the Pacific Coast League, but went down as his career went on. Eventually he played his final professional game with the Jackson Mississippians, where he hit .232.


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