Emmy-winning journalist Charlie Whinham from Louisiana: The State We’re In looks back at the Bayou State’s rich baseball history. Segments will include a profile of Hall of Famer Mel Ott, who hit 511 homers for the New York Giants during his 23-year career, and a look back at the Evangeline League which prospered from the 1930s to the 1950s with teams such as the Thibodaux Senators, New Iberia Pelicans, Alexandria Aces, Baton Rouge Red Sticks and Crowley Millers. Over sixty players from the Evangeline League would go on to play in the majors.
Even though most people consider Louisiana a football state, the Bayou State also has a rich baseball history.
Before Ron “Louisiana Lightning” Guidry won two World Series championships and a Cy Young Award with the New York Yankees, this Lafayette native had to sneak out his family’s house to play on his first Little League team. But thanks to Ron’s over protective mother, he also spent countless hours with her watching Mom’s beloved Yankees on the television in their living room. After being drafted by the Yankees in the third round, he pitched 14 seasons for the New York, finishing with a career record of 170-91 and a 3.29 earned run average. He had three 20-win seasons including a 25-3 and a 1.74 ERA in the pennant-winning season of 1978.
There was a time when baseball was king in many Louisiana communities. Whinham looks back at The Evangeline League of the 1930s – 50s which included teams such as the Thibodaux Indians, New Iberia Pelicans, Alexandria Aces, Baton Rouge Red Sticks and Crowley Millers. Over 60 players from the Evangeline League went on to play in the majors. The league was also known for its “rough and tumble” side and suffered a gambling scandal in 1946.
Casino Park in Monroe was once home to a professional Negro baseball team called the Monroe Monarchs. In 1932, the Monarchs advanced to the Negro League World Series, but were defeated by the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Thanks to some local baseball fans, the story of the Monarchs lives on even though the ballpark on the corner of 29th and Hope Street no longer exists.
Once upon a time, a 17-year-old boy from Gretna hopped a train to New York City to play baseball. Mel Ott went on to hit 511 homeruns and drive in 1860 runs during 23-year Hall of Fame career with the New York Giants. When Ott retired, he was the leading homerun hitter in National League history and still ranks 23rd on the all-time homerun list.
The most famous homerun in LSU Baseball history was hit by second baseman Warren Morris against Miami with two outs in the ninth inning to give the Tigers a 9-8 victory and the 1996 College World Series title. His liner over the right field wall at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha was heard around the sporting world, and still resonates today in Louisiana. The game winning hit sealed LSU’s third national title and also earned the 1997 Showstopper of the Year ESPY Award.
Louisiana Baseball Stories|
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Credit: New-York Historical Society - "Great Egret," painted in Louisiana 1821