The brief reign of the Rams’ 31-year-old president

When Anniston’s Joe H. King III died in 2008 at the age of 88, neither his obituary nor a story in the sports section of The Anniston Star newspaper mentioned his involvement with city’s last minor-league team in 1950. It was quite an omission.

It’s not as if King’s life story didn’t have other chapters, however. He was a graduate of Georgia Tech and served in the Army during World War II. He was a vocal advocate for the Boy Scouts. His father, T.C. King, owned a string of heavy industries in Anniston that included making prefabricated houses, metal signs for gas stations and underground pipes. His father’s company eventually sold out to U.S. Pipe and Foundry, and King III moved to Birmingham with that combined operation.

Baseball wasn’t King III’s passion; golf was. And both his obituary and the newspaper’s sports coverage of his death are filled with King III’s love affair with that sport. Most notable: he was club champion at Anniston Country Club; he served as the executive director of the Alabama Golf Association and president of the Southern Golf Association; and also served on the USGA Rules Committee. The Alabama Golf Association gives the Joe H. King Award each year to a worthy volunteer.

But, the Rams.

In 1950, Anniston’s baseball team survived only because of a reorganization of its ownership. Instead of being owned by a single owner, the cash-strapped team was owned by its shareholders — local residents who had bought Rams stock in an offseason effort to keep the team alive. A board of directors was elected from those shareholders, King III was elected the team’s president. He was only 31.

King III and the board of directors pleaded with Rams fans to buy “booster” tickets that would be good for any game that season. Their sales goal of 10,000 booster tickets was based on the team’s financial requirements — the tickets, priced 10 cents higher than a regular ticket, would allow for better players and constant revenue.

King III had a problem, though. The 1950 Rams weren’t just awful; they were putrid. And ticket sales, never robust, matched the team’s lackluster record. In 1962, years after the Rams folded, King III told The Star that there were nights when “we didn’t even have enough people in the park to pay the light bill, let alone the umpires and the players.”

So it was no surprise that King III’s time as president of the Rams board ended in mid-July 1950 when the Southeastern League took over the team and turned it into the Ramblers — an “orphan” team the league oversaw and played all of its games on the road. That arrangement only lasted a week. The league ended the charade on July 25. The Rams were done, forever.

So, too, was King III’s reign as a baseball team president.

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