By Keith Antigiovanni
Before Major League Baseball expanded in 1961 it was a regional sport which stretched from the northeast to St. Louis in the west and south to Washington DC.
However there were numerous "minor leagues" which were unaffiliated independent professional leagues that filled the void of a major league team throughout the South, Midwest, Mountain West and Pacific Coast.
Two of the leagues, the Texas League and Southern Association agreed to play in a championship series, the Dixie Series, starting in 1920 which was considered the "World Series of the South". It was great for the fans because not only could they follow their team in a pennant race but fans could keep track of the pennant race in the opposing league to see which team they could be facing.
The Fort Worth Panthers under manager Jake Atz dominated the Texas League and went on to dominate the Dixie Series in the early 1920's winning 5 of the 6. In 1920 they defeated Little Rock in 6, in 1921 they beat Memphis in 6 and looked to three-peat until the Mobile BayBears stopped Atz' Cats with a 6 game series win in 1922.
The Panthers rebounded with 3 more Dixie Series titles (1923-1925). After Fort Worths' great run parity became the rule as the Dallas Steers (1926), Wichita Falls Spudders (1927), Houston Buffaloes (1928) and Birmingham Barons (1929) rounded out the roaring 20's as series champs.
in 1933 the Shaugnessy playoff system was instituted in both leagues as the league champion would have to win 2 playoff series and win the Dixie Series. The New Orleans Pelicans won the series in 6 games over the San Antonio Indians and followed it up in 1934 with back-to-back titles over Galveston.
The Fort Worth club re-named the Cats won 3 more Dixie Series during the Great Depression decade in 1930, 1937, 1939. In 1930 Fort Worth won in 5 over Memphis, in 1937 they won again in 5 this time over Little Rock and again in 1939 over the Nashville Vols. The series' loss to the Cats did not deter the Vols as Nashville went on to win 3 straight series' in the early 1940's. In 1940 they swept Houston, in 1941 they beat Dallas in 6 but just a few months after the United States entered the war following the Attack on Pearl Harbor on 12/7.
The war caused a shortage or manpower which affected all levels of sports but in 1942 the Vols continued their dynasty with a 5-game series win over the Shreveport Sports. The Dixie Series was put on hiatues the remainder of the war (1943-1945) but resumed in 1946.
The boys from Big-D won their first Dixie Series in 20 years with a 4-0 sweep over the Atlanta Crackers in the first Post War series. The Houston Buffaloes also won their first series in 20 years with a 6-game series win over Mobile. Birmingham won a third championship in 1948 while Nashville won their fourth Dixie Series in the 1940's in a competitive 7 game series against the Tulsa Oilers.
In 1950, the golden years of the "minor leagues" were nearing an end as most clubs were now affiliated with the majors as the "Fabulous Fifties" began. Americans began to stay at home and watch Television which hurt attendance in the majors and minors but the Dixie Series continued on for another decade.
The San Antonio Missions won ther first and only Dixie Series in 1950 in a 7 game series over Nashville. Birmingham won two more titles (1951, 1958). The 1951 was a 6 game win over Houston and the 1958 series over Corpus Christi. Memphis also won its' first title in a 6 game series over Shreveport.
Mobile won its' first title since 1922 when they defeated the mighty Fort Worth Panthers. Houston became the only repeat winners in the decade with back-to-back series wins' over Atlanta in a series reminiscient of the Atlanta Braves-Houston Astros NL Playoff series of the late 1990's and early 2000's. Despite the close defeats in 1956-1957,Atlanta won a second title in 7 games over Houston in 1954.
Overall Standings appearances wins
Fort Worth 10 8
Houston 8 4
Nashville 7 4
Atlanta 7 2
Birmingham 6 5
Dallas 5 3
New Orleans 5 2
Memphis 4 1
Mobile 3 2
Shreveport 3 0
San Antonio 2 1
Tulsa 2 1
Little Rock 2 0
Beaumont 2 0
Oklahoma City 1 1
Chattanooga 1 1
Wichita Falls 1 1
Corpus Christi 1 0
Galveston 1 0
While the northeast enjoyed the World Series in the 1920's thru 1950's the South enjoyed their own World Series.