Industrial league baseball, a form of semi-professional baseball, was an integral part of many Alabama communities during much of the twentieth century. In Alabama the strongest of these leagues was the Birmingham Industrial League, composed of iron and steel companies with most games being played at Sloss Field. Both Willie Mays and his father played in the same outfield during one season with the Fairfield Stars.
Intended to provide entertainment and enhance employee loyalty, the company–sponsored leagues were made up of teams of players who were also employees. With rosters supplemented by professional athletes, players frequently became heroes to their fellow workers in the company.
Reflecting the segregated society of the day, many companies financed separate white and black teams. These teams, in turn, provided a feeder system of white players to the Major Leagues and African American players to the Negro Leagues.
Photos courtesy of: National Sporting Library and Museum, Birmingham Public Library, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Archive.org