LOOKING BACK: Southampton Athletic Association formed

Published 4:54 pm Thursday, November 30, 2023

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Seventy-five years ago, on Nov. 27, 1948, following the completion of the 1948 baseball season, Frank D. Lawrence of Portsmouth, owner of the Franklin “Cubs” professional baseball team, announced his intention to withdraw the Franklin team from the Virginia Class D Baseball League. In response to that decision, a local committee was formed and met in the offices of Vaughan & Company, Bankers: George J. Lane, chairman; Harold Atkinson; William M. Camp, Sr.; William C. Jones; Theodore B. Kingsbury, III; and Cecil C. Vaughan, III. Its mission was to make sure that Franklin / Southampton would continue to have a professional baseball team – and would field that team in 1949. 

The Southampton Athletic Association, Inc. was formed which was made up of individuals in Franklin and Southampton. The new organization, they believed, would gain more enthusiastic support from neighboring communities than was in evidence in the summer of 1948.

As a result, ownership of the Franklin “Cubs” was transferred from Frank Lawrence and the Portsmouth “Cubs” to the Southampton Athletic Association. Franklin-Southampton would, indeed, continue to have a professional baseball team and would start playing in the spring of 1949. 

The local team would now be known as the Southampton “Kildees” and still be a part of the Virginia Class D Baseball league – along with the following other teams: Hopewell “Blue Sox,” Petersburg “Generals,” Lawrenceville “Cardinals,” Emporia “Nationals” and the Suffolk “Goobers.”

Harold Atkinson, a member of the 1948 Franklin Cubs team, was appointed business manager of the new Southampton “Kildees” and George Lacey was hired as team manager. 

In late 1948, the committee started a campaign to sell stock in the Association at $10 per share, the goal was $8,000. The stock was sold and a stockholders’ meeting was held — for the purpose of electing officers and directors of the Southampton Athletic Association. As the backers of the local Virginia League team had hoped, the distribution of stock was general throughout the county. 

Incidentally, the promoters of a team for Franklin and Southampton County were seeking a working agreement with some big-league outfit. It turned out to be with a team in Lynn, Massachusetts which was associated with the Class B New England League; exchange of players between Southampton and Lynn was planned.

A meeting of the Virginia Class D League was held in Richmond on November 28, at which time plans for the 1949 season were formulated. 

The Franklin / Southampton baseball team was first organized as the Franklin “Cubs” in 1948 as a farm team of the Portsmouth “Cubs,” owned by Frank Lawrence of Portsmouth. The 1948 Franklin team was in the Virginia Baseball League, Class D, with the following teams: Petersburg “Generals,” Blackstone “Barriers,” Lawrenceville “Cardinals,” Emporia “Nationals” and the Suffolk “Goobers.”

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.