Friday, September 16, 2016

Columbus Confederate Yankees Wore CSA battle flag patch

Considering all the fuss made over public display of the Confederate battle flag a year or so ago, how do you suppose the political correctness police would react to that flag being displayed as a uniform patch on the uniforms of a minor league team?

In 1964, Columbus (Ga.) returned to professional baseball ranks after a four-year absence with an entry in the Class AA Southern League. The team was a farm club of the New York Yankees and operated for three seasons as the Columbus Confederate Yankees.

When the Confederate Yankees took the field, their uniforms included a left-shoulder patch of the Confederate battle flag.

Paul Lukas, an columnist writes the Uni Watch blog, which he calls "The Obsessive Study of Athletic Aesthetics." In August, 2011, he wrote a definitive study of the Columbus Confederate Yankees unique (or nearly so) sleeve patch. You can access it here: Confederate flag patch .

Lukas contacted a number of former players and team officials and surprisingly, almost to a man, they seem to have forgotten that uniform adornment.

The Columbus Confederate Yankees included more than a dozen future major leaguers, including guys like Roy White, Mike Hegan, Ellie Rodriguez, Fritz Peterson, Roger Repoz, etc. They sandwiched a pennant-winning season between a pair of seventh-place finishes.

The CYs had joined the Southern League in 1964 when the circuit was reconstituted from the South Atlantic League and upgraded from a Class A outfit to Class  AA. The Columbus  team remained a Yankees farm club during its entire three-year existence. The Yanks' AA team moved to Binghamton in the Eastern League after the 1966 season. Columbus returned to the Southern League for 1969 as a White Sox farm, and the city maintained a team in the minor leagues through the 2008 season.

There weren't many Negro players on the Confederate Yankees teams, and as Lukas points out, "During the three years when the Yankees wore that patch, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Right Act were passed. Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the 'Mississippi Burning' murders took place, Malcolm X was assassinated, the 'Bloody Sunday' march from Selma to Montgomery took place, the Watts race riots erupted, and more."

Surprisingly, there exists tangible baseball card evidence of the short-lived Columbus Confederate Yankees.

In 1966, the Royal Crown cola bottlers in Columbus issued a set of 20 carton-stuffer baseball cards picturing players and manager (Jack Reed) of the CY. On many of the cards the Confederate battle flag patch is seen. The strip included a 2-1/4" x 3" black-and-white player posed photo. Beneath a dotted line was player biographical details. The bottom of the strip provided details of an exchange program by which a full set of cards and the accompanying album could be exchanged for a case of RC cola and become eligible for a July 31 drawing for baseball equipment and soda coolers.

That program explains the scarcity of surviving cards, especially those that include the complete bottom tab. The album is almost never seen. A group of 14 of the 1966 RC cards, all graded by SGC and all without tabs, was included in the July 27-Aug. 6 Huggins and Scott auction. The lot sold for $96, a tremendous bargain in my opinion.

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