The 1909 baseball season was just around the corner. It would be March before spring training began for most teams, but many players arrived early to jump-start their daily regimens.
The St. Louis Cardinals would be training 55 miles away in Little Rock, but outfielder Joe Delahanty, who had played in the Southern Association with Memphis and New Orleans in 1903, joined pitcher Johnny Lush as among the first to appear in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on February 21; the next day, St. Louis Browns infielder Jimmy Williams, New York Yankees outfielder Charlie Hemphill, and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Art Fromme. They met six players from the Brooklyn Superbas who also gathered to begin their exercise routines: second baseman Whitey Alpermann, outfielders Al Burch and Jimmy Sebring, and pitchers George Bell and Jim Pastorius, and even manager Harry Lumley.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox were scheduled to hold workouts in Hot Springs beginning in early March. Boston had agreed to rent Majestic Stadium for the next five years.
The Cubs were scheduled to spend time there, too, before heading to West Baden, Indiana, for final preseason activities. From there they would hit the exhibition game travel circuit on their way to Chicago in time for the regular season. All the other major league clubs did same from their own training sites.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the upcoming season, Southern Association directors gathered in Mobile, Alabama at the Battle House Hotel on Monday, February 22 for their own spring meeting. Nashville was coming off a championship, with the pennant captured on the last game of the year against New Orleans in what Grantland Rice dubbed, “The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie”. The win gave the Vols a .002-percentage point lead over the Pelicans: .573 to .571.
President William Kavanaugh had already performed some of his official duties. Before the meeting in Mobile, he had previously hired his umpiring staff for the year. Four would be returning from the 1908 season: Dan Fitzsimmons, Augie Moran, William Carpenter, and Dan Pfenninger, who would be calling balls and strikes in the Southern Association for a fifth straight year.
They would be joined by Frank Rudderham, who had served in the National League in 1908, and former New England League umpire, J. O. O’brien. Although little is known about O’Brien, in the off-season Rudderham ran a bowling alley, Fitzsimmons and Pfenninger were union workers. Moran, who calls Philadelphia his home, runs a department at Wanamaker’s Department Store. Carpenter was from Cincinnati.
League directors attending the meeting included league president Kavanaugh and secretary Clark Miller, Mobile president H. T. Inge and secretary Charles Z. Collson, New Orleans manager Charles Frank, Atlanta manager Billy Smith and president J. W. “John” Heisman (the Heisman Trophy is named for him), Little Rock manager Mike Finn, Birmingham president R. J. Baugh and manager Carleton Molesworth, Montgomery manager Ed Gremminger and team president R. J. Chambers, Memphis president Frank Coleman and his manager Charlie Babb, and Nashville president Ferdinand E. Kuhn and manager Bill Bernhard.
The main course of action was to approve the dates for the 1909 schedule. A preliminary calendar had been mailed to each club prior to the summit and was quickly approved with a few minor changes. It was decided that opening day would take place on April 15, with Memphis hosting Little Rock, New Orleans hosting Mobile, Atlanta hosting Birmingham, and Montgomery meeting Nashville at Sulphur Dell.
For the first time, Nashville was given both opening and closing home dates, as well as the July 5 Holiday and September 6 Labor Day games.
An additional item on the docket was the case of Mobile pitcher Otis Stockdale. In 1908 he accused his 1907 Memphis manager Charlie Babb of having thrown a few games. Stockdale appeared before the board members and apologized, and after shaking hands with Babb, was promptly reinstated. Interestingly, once the reinstatement was made, Birmingham offered Mobile $1,000 for Stockdale, but the Sea Gulls turned down the offer.
Two rule changes were considered and approved:
1. Postponed games must be played the following day as a double-header unless the two clubs mutually agree upon a future date and so notify the president before playing the next game.
2. All admissions paid by the ladies on ladies’ day shall be equally divided with the visiting club.
Nashville president Kuhn made a motion that the league enter a contract with Western Union that stated the telegraph company would not furnish any information of games to pool rooms or gamblers, but the company would furnish home ball clubs with details of other games. League approval was made. It was also determined to allow Mobile and Montgomery to maintain separate gates for admission of colored patrons during the season.
At the end of the 1909 season, the Atlanta Crackers ball club would be crowned champions with a 5 ½ game lead over the defending Nashville Vols.
 “Early Birds at Spring Training,” Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1909, 12.
 “Red Sox at Hot Springs,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, February 28, 1909, 9.
 Simpson, John. (2007). The Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie: The Nashville Vols, Their 1908 Season, and the Championship Game. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc., 23.
 Wright, Marshall D. (2002) “The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc.
 “Six Umpires for Southern,” Atlanta Constitution, January 31, 1909, 7.
 “Umpires for The Southern League,” Nashville Tennessean, February 16, 1909, 6.
 “Southern Moguls,” Nashville Tennessean, February 23, 1909, 12.
 “Stockdale Declares Babb Threw Games,” Nashville Tennessean, June 3, 1908, 7.
 “Southern Moguls.”
 “Baseball Moguls Meet at Mobile,” Atlanta Constitution, February 23, 1909, 4.
 “Stockdale Is Reinstated,” Nashville American, February 23, 1909, 6.
© 2019 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.