OK, maybe there’s someone out there who can help me – unless, of course, I’m dealing with a false memory.
When I was a kid – somewhere between the ages of 7 and 9 – I was watching television before heading out to school. And if you were a kid growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, and watching weekday morning TV in the late 1960s, chances are it was something called “The Tom York Morning Show.” Hosted by (spoiler alert!) Tom York, it had news, sports, weather, talk and a bit of this to go with a little of that. And one daily segment featured human interest-type stories with in-studio guests.
Now, here’s where I need assistance.
I could almost swear that one guest was the coach of a semi-pro football team called the Birmingham Moonshiners. I was wildly excited because football was something I had only recently discovered and I didn’t realize Birmingham even had a team. Also, I didn’t know what moonshine was but I was already a big werewolf fan so I was hoping it had something to do with the moon shining on a man-beast. (Only later did I learn it was an adult beverage you drink that can cause you to think you see werewolves).
Anyway, I remember the coach narrating over some grainy, black and white 8mm film featuring one of the Moonshiners’ games. (I think they wore dark jerseys and dark helmets, although I have no idea what the colors were because, you know, black and white film).
I headed off to school hoping to learn more, and I must’ve talked about the Moonshiners with other kids who had seen the segment.
I guess I got distracted, though, because by the time the weekend came I’d turned my attention to the “Batman/Superman Hour of Adventure” and “Banana Splits.”
Since then, however, I’ll occasionally think about the Moonshiners and once I started getting serious about sports research a few years ago I decided I’d find out all I could about this team.
Only problem is, I’ve found out absolutely nothing.
When I narrow my search down to the 1960s, the only semi-pro teams I come across from the era are the Birmingham Vulcans (not to be confused with the 1975 World Football League franchise) and Birmingham All-Stars. The Continental Football League had a franchise called the Alabama Hawks that played mostly in Huntsville before making a brief stop in Birmingham until folding in 1969, but the COFL was a “major” minor league.
When you look for “Birmingham Moonshiners” in any newspaper during the 1960s you’ll discover a few unrelated stories. For example, a German Shepherd named “King” was used to sniff out moonshine stills in Birmingham in 1961, and in 1968 100 stills around Birmingham were destroyed and 60 moonshiners arrested as part of “Operation Dryup.”
Do a search for “Moonshiners football” and you learn there was a Fall Rivers, Massachusetts, soccer team called the Moonshiners that played in the early 1900s, and that moonshiners in Oregon had turned football lockers into distilleries in 1926.
Interesting, but not the information I needed.
So, was there even a football team called the Birmingham Moonshiners, or is it something I remember because I want it to be true?
According to the American Psychological Association, a false memory is “… a distorted recollection of an event or, most severely, recollection of an event that never actually happened. False memories are errors of commission, because details, facts, or events come to mind, often vividly, but the remembrances fail to correspond to prior events.”
Maybe that’s it.
Or perhaps – and this is my main theory – the Moonshiners were simply a team with so brief a history they never warranted any media coverage other than a plug on “The Tom York Morning Show.” You can’t swing a chinstrap without hitting a semi-pro football team, and that was as true in the 1960s as it is today.
But if you ever coached them, played for them or think you heard of them, please let me know. It doesn’t rank as one of the world’s big mysteries, but it’s still one I’d like to see solved.