Monday, March 29, 2010
Atlanta Baseball before the Braves
On a recent trip to one of the greatest bookstores in the state, Poor Richard's in Frankfort, I found this Summer 1993 issue of the Atlanta History Journal. I don't know much about the magazine, but that's fine. I am not particularly interested in the history of Atlanta, but I am interested in the history of minor league baseball.
Atlanta Cracker's owner Earl Mann and the legendary Joe Engel are pictures on the cover. The photo is from the 1954 All Star Game.
Inside of the journal, there is an informative article, titled, "Southern Bases:Baseball Before the Braves."
The article coincided with an exhibition at the Atlanta History Center.
This was a great time in Atlanta baseball history, as the Braves were kicking some major post season tale the previous 2 years.
The article gives a great intro to baseball history in Atlanta, dating back to 1885. The origins of the Southern Association are discussed, and some of the early teams are mentioned. The names should still sound familiar to baseball fans: the Birmingham Barons, the Chattanooga Lookouts, and the Mobile Bears.
Ponce de Leon Park and it's rich history is discussed. The article really makes me want to research this park more, as it really saw a lot of great baseball history, while displaying its own character. The original park featured a full grown magnolia tree- in fair territory!
The Atlanta Crackers had a lot of fans. They had a strong following in the black community too, and their games were covered in the black publication, the Atlanta Daily World. The Atlanta Cubs were the area's black team. They were informally called the "Black Crackers" so much that they formally took the name in 1920.
The financially struggling Negro Southern League used 4 balls per game (each team supplied 2 balls). Games were often stopped to retrieve balls.
All leagues struggled with players. The Southern Association continued playing a full schedule using underage and 4-F players
In 1949 Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers played three exhibition games against the Atlanta Crackers at Ponce de Leon Park.
The first time that seating was integrated at Ponce de Leon was opening night in 1962.
In the mid-60s Ponce de Leon was demolished after a new park was built (the article notes that the magnolia tree still stands!). In 1966 the former Milwaukee Braves replaced it's triple A farm team as they moved to Atlanta!