Abner Powell – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
New Orleans Pelicans
Charles Abner Powell was born in Shenandoah, Pa., in 1860. He entered professional baseball in 1884 as a member of the Washington Nationals. His career as a major leaguer ended two years later in 1886 with the Cincinatti Red Stockings. His major league career included 76 games, ending with a .246 batting average and a 6-18 pitching record. The 5’7″ 160 lb Powell, spent the majority of his career as an outfielder and pitcher.
Powell continued his playing career in the city of New Orleans. In 1887, he joined the Southern Association as a member of the fledgling New Orleans Pelicans. After serving as the team’s captain in 1887, Powell went on to assume the role of manager in 1888. He would remain the Pelicans’ manager and partial owner until 1904.
During his early years with the Pelicans, Powell became one of baseball’s innovators. In 1887, Powell was successful in encouraging Pelican’s owner Toby Hart to institute Ladies’ Day at the ballpark. Powell believed that Ladies’ Day promised to be economically beneficial to the Pelicans, similar to the success enjoyed by horse tracks that utilized similar promotions. Ladies’ Day would permit men to more regularly attend games, while helping to filter out the unruly element that had often filled the stands. The Pelicans made Ladies’ Day a regularly occurring event on April 29, 1887.
It was Powell who first utilized tarpaulin as a means of covering the diamond. Powell noticed that dockworkers often used canvas to cover cotton bales when it rained. He believed that using tarpaulin would prevent the flooding of the field and began using it during the 1887 season. By 1910, every professional baseball team had an infield tarp to cover the field in case of rain.
Lastly, Powell is credited as the inventor of the “rain check.” In 1899, Powell noticed that people were more interested in attending future games rather than seeking to get money back and devised a method of perforating tickets. In those days, a ticket was a piece of cardboard that was collected after the game and reused. Powell contracted with an Alabama printer to create perforated stubs, which were retained after admission. In the event of a rainout, the stub would be accepted for admission to a future game.
Powell stepped down as manager in 1904 and sold his interest in the team. He would then go on to own four clubs and was responsible for much of the continued success of the Southern Association. However, Powell remained a New Orleanian for the remainder of his life. In 1953, Powell passed away at the age of 92.
Bio from the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.