#Shortstops: Bearing a Championship

Written by: Matthew Carter

The city of Mobile, Ala., has a rich baseball history. In addition to being the hometown of five Hall of Famers – Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith, and Billy Williams – the city has been the home to various minor league teams from 1886 until 2019.

Over the years, teams that represented the Port City included squads like the Swamp Angels, Bluebirds, Blackbirds, Sea Gulls, Bears, Marines, Red Warriors, Shippers, Athletics, White Sox, Baysharks and BayBears.

Out of all of the teams that called Mobile home, the Bears played there the longest. Playing in the Southern Association from 1918-1930, then again from 1944-1961, the Bears were a successful team. In that stretch, they won two pennants (1922, 1947), four SA playoff championships (1945, 1947, 1955 and 1959) and two Dixie Series championships (1922, 1955).

A scorecard from the Bears 1947 championship season is preserved in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Library and Archives collection. Printed in red and black ink, the scorebook’s cover depicts a bear swinging a baseball bat and the ball soaring off into the sky. The ball has the words “1947 Mobile ‘Bears’ Season,” printed on it.

The red lettering at the top of the cover says, “Hartwell Field Official Score Book 10 ¢,” bearing the name of the Bears’ home field. At the bottom of the cover is an advertisement for a taxi company. The box score inside is unscored and the back cover has two other advertisements.

The 1947 Bears finished the season with a 94-59 record, edging out the second place New Orleans Pelicans by a half game. They then swept the Chattanooga Lookouts four games to none in the semifinals and beat the Nashville Vols four games to two in the championship series.

They would go on to lose to the Texas League champion Houston Buffaloes in the Dixie Series four games to two.

As a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Bears had plenty of talent. Out of the 21 players on the team, nine previously played or would go on to play Major League Baseball.

The nine included Cal Abrams, who led the SA with 134 runs scored, John Hall, who led the league with a 2.80 ERA, George “Shotgun” Shuba, who played on the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship team, and Chuck Connors, who would go on to greater fame as Lucas McCain in the 1950s television show The Rifleman.

The Mobile Bears would continue to play in the Southern Association until the league folded after the 1961 season.

Matthew Carter was a curatorial intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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