Remembering The Evangeline League: 1951
The Evangeline League was a minor league baseball league that ran in southern and central Louisiana from 1934-1957.
The league, which had it’s name taken from Evangeline, the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, began as a 6-team class D league in 1934, and then expanded to 8 teams the next season, before shutting down for two seasons following the 1943 season due to World War II.
After resuming play in 1946, the Evangeline League remained a class D league, before being promoted to the class C level in 1949.
The league remained in operation until 1957, when two of the six remaining teams dropped out, suspending play that season with no champion being named.
The Evangeline League, which featured a betting scandal back in 1946, featured teams in cities such as Lafayette, Abbeville, Crowley, Opelousas, Rayne, Jeanerette, and Lake Charles.
Despite the stability of the league, the only franchise they lasted all 21 seasons was the Alexandria Aces, while New Iberia had a franchise every season, with the exception of the final one.
Because of the close proximity of the franchises, a number of heated rivalries developed, with crowds that would certainly quality as raucous, getting into it with umpires, players, managers, and one another.
It was an immensely popular league for over two decades, with some franchises actually outdrawing some Major League Baseball franchises, in terms of attendance.
All summer long we’ll be going back in time and look back at the Evangeline League, which was commonly referred to as the “Pepper Sauce League”, “Hot Sauce League”, or “Tabasco Circuit”.
Yesterday, we took a look back at the 1950 season.
Today, the 1951 season.
The Evangeline League continued with eight teams for the 1951 season but there were a couple of changes.
The biggest change was the Crowley Millers coming into the league, replacing the Abbeville Athletics.
The only other change of note was that the New Iberia franchise change their nickname from the Rebels to the Pelicans, marking the fourth-consecutive year that that they had a different one.
The Hammond Berries defeated the Baton Rouge Red Sticks, four-games-to-two, in the finals, marking the fourth league title for Hammond.
New Iberia finished with the most wins (76) during the regular season, followed by the Thibodaux Giants (75), Hammond (73), Baton Rouge (72), Crowley (70), the Alexandria Aces (68), and the Lafayette Bulls and Houma Indians (both with 60).
John Radulovich of Baton Rouge, a left-handed hitting infielder from Detroit, Michigan, was the league’s leading hitter in 1951, batting a .409, the first player in Evangeline League history to eclipse the .400 mark.
Radulovich accumulated 215 hits in the process, including 41 doubles and 31 home runs.
New Iberia's Remy LeBlanc blasted the most home runs in the league (42), while Hammond's Bob Ankenhead paced the league in runs batted in (153).
Hammond right-hander Jack Cardey led the league in wins (25) and ERA. (2.67), while Houma's Roy Price paced the league in strikeouts (344).
Baton Rouge defeated Thibodaux in the first round of the playoffs, while Hammond eliminated New Iberia, as the two teams advanced to the finals.
New Iberia led the league in attendance in 1951, drawing 105,077 fans.
Sadly, the 1951 season will be forever remembered for a bizarre tragedy, which took place in June 1951, when Andy Strong, a center fielder for the Crowley Millers, was struck and killed by lightning during a game against Alexandria at Bringhurst Field.