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What was the AFL?

Sports Editor

The Alabama-Florida League was a Class D Minor League which got its start in 1936 and lasted for 24 years.

The league, in fact, was formed in Troy and was started by businessman George Grant who later went on to become a United States Congressman. He served as the league’s first president.

The initial league featured teams in Dothan, Panama City, Troy, Union Springs, Abbeville, Andalusia, Ozark and Enterprise. The years following would see expansion, with teams being added in such places as Greenville, Crestview, Fla., Graceville, Fla., and Headland.

The AFL was a place for young talent to show their stuff and hopefully get noticed by a Major League scout. Many of the players held down part-time jobs and most of the teams barely broke even in any given year.

Still, the lure of big league paychecks and an honest, pure love for the game of baseball kept the players coming back year-in and year-out.

Notable Major League players and coaches who appeared in the AFL include: Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox (Panama City, 1961), Lou Pinella (Selma 1962), Bob Purkey (Greenville 1948), Virgil Trucks (1937-38 Andalusia), Phil Gagliano (Dothan 1960) and Cal Ripken, Sr. (1959 Pensacola), among others.

The end of segregation signalled the end of the AFL. Major League Baseball was beginning to actively recruit and sign African-American players and a minor league which did not support integration had no place in professional baseball’s future. Considering the political climate of Alabama and the south in general during the 60s, it isn’t too hard to see why the league folded.

For more information on the rich history of the Alabama-Florida Baseball League go to www.alabama-florida-league.com.