Yet another "mass meeting" was called early to determine interest and support for baseball in Union City for 1953. Union City was not the only Kitty League city with this problem. However Union City may have been the only city to call such a meeting in January and have only seven fans show, and those were the previous years officers. Ten days later after the local news media properly chastised the local populace another meeting was held and a new board of directors was elected.
The 1953 board included president Jimmy Haskins, business manager Roy Vincent, Isadore Rubenstein, Cecil Moss, Dr. Pete Blanton, Harry Norrid, Ben Howard, Tom Doss, C. T. Holbrook, and Dr. Robert Latimer. The expenses for the 1952 season were discussed and announced at $41,000. Salaries amounted to $18,000, meaning the Dyersburg group was correct when they charged that no team in the Kitty League paid attention to the salary cap. Groundskeepers Ellis Park and Leonard Hodge cost a combined $1150 for the season. While the numbers were not encouraging, the team was ready to step forward again and signed an agreement to become a full-fledged farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers including changing the team name from Greyhounds to Dodgers.
The 1953 season was designated as the Golden Anniversary of the Kitty League. It was founded in 1903, but because of the various shutdowns had played actually all or parts of 28 years before 1953. It was decided each player would wear a golden emblem on their uniform to denote the fifty years of the league. The emblem was the idea and design of Jay Stasko the Union City second baseman who had made his home in the city , managing a local sporting goods store.
Every team in the Kitty had a major league tie in 1953. Mayfield had an agreement with the New York Giants. Owensboro was affiliated with the New York Yankees, Madisonville, the Chicago White Sox; Paducah, the St. Louis Cardinals; Jackson, with the Cincinnati Reds; Fulton, the Washington Senators; and Hopkinsville, with the Philadelphia A's. The Hopkinsville team owned by Billy Goff since 1946, was sold to W. N. McKinney, a Nashville lawyer, and Russ Melvin, a sportswriter for the Nashville Tennessean. A few years before there were 59 minor leagues in operation. Seven leagues folded after the 1952 season, and 59 fewer towns had professional baseball to look forward in 1953.
Fulton as the winner of the past two championships, was treading on historical ground. No team had ever won three titles consecutively. The Vincennes Hoosiers won the league in 1905, 1906, and shared the title in 1910 with McLeanboro. The league was shut down in 1907-09. Dyersburg won in 1923 and 24, when the league was operating on split seasons. Each year Dyersburg won the first half of the season, beating Mayfield for the championship in 1923 and Paris, Kentucky in 1924.
The arrangement with Brooklyn was changing the face of the Union City team. John Rothenhausler was bought by Austin, Texas. J. T. Jaynes went to Monroe, Louisiana. The Dodgers named Earl Naylor to manage the Union City team. Naylor had 16 years in professional baseball, mostly at the upper levels of the minor leagues. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1942 and 43 as an outfielder/pitcher, and with Brooklyn briefly as an outfielder in 1946.
The team would take spring training with all the Brooklyn family in Vero Beach, Florida. At the spring meeting of the Kitty League a good deal of time was spent considering the behavior of team managers and players. This was a thin masquerade to bridle the behavior of Fulton's Sam Lamintino. They decided there was entirely to much foul language being used on the field and within the hearing of ladies and children. Any manager cursing an umpire would be fined for a first offense. A second offense would bring a heavier fine, and a third offense would bring possible expulsion for the league. They also passed a rule that would prohibit players smoking inside the playing area of the parks, including the dugouts. This rule caused Earl Naylor to become well acquainted with the crowd behind the Dodger dugout.
Spider Rives retired as batboy for the team and Buster Thomas was named his successor by virtue of a winning essay on "Why I Want To Be Batboy For The Dodgers". Buster was 12 years old. The runner-up was Jimmy Ethridge, also age 12. The runner-up got to be batboy for the visiting teams if they did not bring their own. Batboys got to keep any broken bats and usually could pick up a used ball anytime they wanted. This was very important to the sandlot games played around town. All the bats had been mended with small nails and tape. Many of the balls were also covered with electrical or adhesive tape.
Team managers for the 1953 season in addition to Earl Naylor in Union City, were Everett Robinson, Madisonville; Austin Knickerboacher, Mayfield; Marvin Crater, Owensboro; Norm Wilson, Hopkinsville; Mickey O'Neill, Jackson; Lee Peterson, Paducah; and Sam Lamintino, Fulton. Opening day the Union City Dodgers wore the blue and white uniforms of the Brooklyn club. They were provided second or third hand from Fort Worth, Texas. The players dressed out included Manager Naylor, outfielders, Bill LaZotte, Bruce Hekking, Danny Daum, and John Bohna; Hank Coladonata, 1b; Jay Stasko, 2b; Henry Salazar, ss; Tony Matsikoudes, 3b; catchers, Eddie Alberts and Dan Pritchett; and pitchers, Lloyd Frischer, Don Hanson, Jerry Rellihan, John Dickerson, Ron Petrovich, Tom Sheridan, Gene Nalley, Earl Gordon, and Vern Lensing. Many of these players were gone by the time the roster had to be cut to the sixteen man limit on May 20. The team continued to change as Lloyd Woodling rejoined the team, along with two young recent high school graduates in Wiley Walker from Atlanta, and catcher Sonny Crisp from Corpus Christi. By the end of June Union City was in fourth place, but only three games back of first place Fulton.
The Miss Dodger contest was chaired and directed by former Greyhound Jim Cawley. It was won by Martha Jernigan. The winner was selected by an applause meter set up by Charlie Holland of WENK. Second place went to Patsy Jo McCutchen and third place to Margaret Jernigan, twin sister of the winner. Martha Jernigan went on to win the Miss Kitty League title before the all star game in Fulton, and subsequently was a finalist in the Miss Minor League contest in Atlanta in December, 1953.
Fulton won the all-star game 6-5 on a homer by Sam Lamintino. Jay Stasko and John Bohna were the Union City representatives. Financial problems continued to plague Union City, Hopkinsville, Mayfield, and Jackson. There was talk and consideration given to folding the league. Another public outpouring of support raised enough money to meet the Dodger payroll. Al Shinn, a first baseman/outfielder joined the team in July. Others coming in were an American Indian Billy Joe Cornsilk, and outfielders Red Mitchell and Lowell Mendenhall.
Another donation drive was necessary in August to meet payroll. A group of 35-40 people were assigned the task of calling on 5 people each in an effort to raise $2300. The group was co-chaired by Jim Cawley and Guy Weldon. It was getting harder and harder to find people willing to get involved. In the midst of the problems the Dodgers continued to lose, falling to seventh place. Earl Naylor at .326 was the only three hundred hitter on the team. Tom Sheridan was the bright spot on the mound with a 12-8 record. One of the gimmicks used to draw fans was a game called Bing-O-Ball. Played on a card similar to bingo, the squares described various plays such as homerun, triple, or double play. If you had a card with a play as it happened, you were allowed to cover that spot on the card. Covering five in a row won a game, and the winners were called out over the public address system. Winners won cash prizes.
On the last day of the season the Dodgers beat Madisonville 1-0 behind the pitching of Wiley "Dixie" Walker. The game was significant because it gave Fulton their third straight pennant. In the playoffs Fulton beat fourth place Hopkinsville, 2-1. Paducah beat Madisonville, 2-0, then defeated Fulton in three straight. Fulton's Howie Weeks was the batting champion with a .373 average, and their star pitcher, Ron Foster, finished 21-13. Sam Lamintino, the "greatest manager in the history of the league", winner of three straight pennants, three all-star games, and 2 of 3 playoffs, would not be back for 1954. Washington promised to move him up in the organization to Rock Hill, South Carolina in the class B Tri-State League. Roy Vincent said he was worn out and encouraged other persons or groups to step up. The Brooklyn Dodgers wanted baseball to return to Union City and admitted they did not provide the caliber of player needed to win in the Kitty League.