The night of June 5, 1950, was nothing if not wholly typical of that version of the Anniston Rams. The Southeastern League’s second-worst team that summer played two games that day at Johnston Field, and they whiffed both times. In scorekeeper’s verbiage, the moribund Rams scored 21 runs over 18 innings and still were swept by the Meridian Millers.
The first game of that day’s doubleheader, a 13-10 Meridian win, was the Rams’ 32nd loss that season. (Loss No. 33 would come a few hours later.) Equal parts godawful and embarrassing, Anniston would crawl to its last day of existence — July 25, when the cash-poor team folded — by losing a staggering 51 of its remaining 57 games. That the ’50 Rams managed to win 21 games in a frightful season in which they cycled through three managers and averaged fewer than 500 fans for home games seems more like an accomplishment than a nightmare.
Featuring a cover photograph of pitcher Hank (Henry) Delay, who played three seasons for the Rams, that night’s scorecard is decorated with nuggets from the last professional baseball team to call Anniston home. The biggest nugget is the appearance of Tony Smeraglia.
Reared in a Birmingham, Alabama, suburb, Smeraglia wandered around the minor leagues until arriving in Anniston in the middle of May. That night, the Rams’ new second baseman hit leadoff and went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.
A month later, on July 3, he died in a car crash. He was only 21 years old.
Also in the Rams’ lineup that night was Bob Kline, an infielder whom the New York Yankees coveted for their farm system. Smeraglia aside, Kline was the top prospect on a Rams roster whose players would either be sold to the highest bidder or released before the summer was through. Kline went 1 for 4. He’d be a Yankee farmhand by season’s end.
Three players in the Meridian lineup — Bob Ferguson, Jake Propst, Mel Quinn — were former Rams. Two players in the Rams’ lineup, Lou Bevil and Dick Wentworth, were either current or former player-managers. And three players — Bevil, Kline and Ferguson — had either played in the Major Leagues before that night, or would afterward.