Remembering The Evangeline League: 1956
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”.
Today, the 1956 season.
The Evangeline League went back up, from 6 teams to 8, for the 1956 season, as the Monroe Sports and Thibodaux Senators entered the league.
In addition, there were three nickname changes, as Lake Charles became the Giants, Baton Rouge became the Rebels, and New Iberia became the Indians.
The playoffs were cancelled, due to a lack of interest, as the league, in it's second-to-last season, was in it's final stage.
As further evidence of the league's demise, the New Iberia franchised disbanded in late May.
The Lafayette Oilers finished with the most wins (78) during the regular season, followed by Thibodaux (66), the Crowley Millers (63), Lake Charles (62), the Alexandria Aces (55), Monroe (54), Baton Rouge (53), and New Iberia (15).
Jose Garcia of Baton Rouge, a right-handed hitting outfielder in his fourth year in the league, was the league’s leading hitter in 1956, batting a .329, three percentage points ahead of Monroe's Keith Mitchell.
Garcia also accumulated a league-high 152 total hits.
Eugene Johnson of Lake Charles finished as the league leader in home runs (20), while Thibodaux's Grady Watts led the league in runs batted in (99).
Lafayette right-hander Dave Gerard had the most wins in the league (18), while teammate Dave Stenhouse paced the league in ERA. (1.92).
Thibodaux led the league in attendance in attendance in 1956, drawing over 61,000 fans.