The Industrial League is a general term for several amateur or semi-professional baseball leagues pitting company-sponsored teams made up of employees against each other. Industrial League and sandlot baseball was an extremely popular past-time in the Birmingham District and is credited with serving as a seed-bed for numerous professional ball-players.
During enforced segregation, separate leagues were organized for Black and white ballplayers. In the context of the Birmingham Amateur Baseball Federation, which sent its champions to play in regional and national tournaments, the term "industrial league" often was used to refer to the Black organizations, which only played for a local championship.
In the heyday of amateur baseball, industrial league games attracted as many or more fans than the professional Birmingham Barons and Birmingham Black Barons, with reports of more than 10,000 spectators for the biggest games between ACIPCO and Stockham Valve at Sloss Field, and an observation by Frank McGowan of The Birmingham News that crowds of 3,000 to 5,000 were fairly common in 1940.
Before the 1930s, Birmingham's "Blue Laws" or "Sunday Laws" precluded the playing of baseball on Sundays. Pioneering Sunday leagues such as the Italian League held games outside the city limits in Dolomite and Yarbrough, attracting large crowds or picnickers from Birmingham. A 1932 Sunday sports referendum was held on July 13, resulting in overwhelming approval of the initiative, that had been spearheaded by Bull Connor, then a popular Barons announcer.
During World War II many of Birmingham's Industrial League baseball players had opportunities to play alongside and against professional minor and major leaguers from around the country on military teams. More than one reported that many of those pro players would have struggled to stay on a roster in Birmingham's amateur leagues.
- Prowell Hardware Co.
- Cotton, Odum & Bowers
- Massey Business College
- Birmingham Railway, Light & Power Co.
In 1926 there was an Industrial League and a City League, each organized into three divisions:
By 1936 there were more than 150 company-sponsored teams in more than a dozen leagues across five divisions playing under the umbrella of the Birmingham Amateur Baseball Federation. The Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company sponsored two of those leagues and eleven teams.
Notable industrial league players
- Ivy Andrews
- Dan Bankhead
- Sam Byrd
- Ben Chapman
- Willie "Cat" Mays
- Willie Mays
- Nat Pollard
- Harry Salmon
- Joe Sewell
- Mule Suttles
- Dixie Walker
- Artie Wilson
- Brasher, Jusin (2006) "The New South and the Sandlot: Company-Sponsored Baseball in Birmingham, AL." The Vulcan Historical Review, Vol. 10, pp. 20–32