Editor's note: Baseball in the Peach State

By Ken Fenster and Wynn Montgomery

This article was published in the 2010 The National Pastime.

This journal was conceived when SABR chose Atlanta to host its 2010 national convention. Three Magnolia Chapter co-editors distributed a call for papers, seeking articles that focused on some aspect of Georgia’s broad history of baseball at every level—from youth leagues (such as the ones that produced current Braves phenom Jason Heyward and three Little League World Series winners) through high schools and colleges to the professional ranks.

We received proposals that covered a wealth of topics and came from a diverse group of writers (published authors and rookies) from across the United States and Canada. Most of these authors met the established deadlines and survived the rigorous rounds of comments from our triumvirate of editors; only ten fell by the wayside. We also lost one local editor, who had to devote more time to the increasing demands of his paying job.

Those authors who weathered the local editing process soon learned the difference between amateur and professional editors, as SABR’s factcheckers and copy editors scrutinized every article for accuracy, clarity, and compliance with the SABR style guide. Some found the process to be painful; all agree that their articles were much improved.

Those articles are what this effort was about. As you will discover, they do capture Georgia’s rich and varied baseball traditions, which began long before the Braves became our first major-league team. A quintet of vignettes presents little-known episodes that illustrate the game’s influence in a variety of nineteenth-century settings. Another article explores our state’s long history as a spring-training site. We also offer a detailed look at the spring-training camp that housed Braves’ prospects while the parent club was still up North.

The Braves were not Atlanta’s first successful professional baseball team; three articles tell of the exploits of the Atlanta Crackers. One looks at a single extraordinary game played in 1910; two others look at powerful teams from the 1950s, when the Crackers were called “The Southern Yankees” because of their dominance on the field. Another article traces the history of the Atlanta Black Crackers.

Georgia’s link with minor-league baseball did not begin or end with the Crackers. Over the years, some thirty-eight Georgia cities have fielded teams in fifteen minor leagues—from Class D to Triple A. You will find here a detailed account of the brief life of one such league and an exploration of the importance of the semiprofessional teams that represented the textile mills of northwest Georgia.

Of course, the Braves receive some attention. They are the subject of the publication’s only poem, paying tribute to some of the players who became hometown heroes. Many of these players also made the Magnolia Chapter’s “All-Time Atlanta Braves All-Star Team,” which is presented here. Other articles examine the impact of the Braves and Ted Turner on the broadcasting industry and pay homage to a beloved Braves announcer.

Georgia is the birthplace of some of baseball’s greatest players, several of whom were selected for the Magnolia Chapter’s “All-Time Georgia-Born All-Star Team.” Biographies included here give you insight into the careers of some of these players (and some others who are less well known). You will find the story of the Georgia beginning of one Hall of Fame career and one fan’s case for enshrinement of a local legend. You will meet one of the few surviving participants in the Negro Leagues, the youngest person ever to play professional baseball, and a legendary college coach. All of them are Georgians. You also will gain new information about Ty Cobb, the “Georgia Peach.” One article traces his acting career; another explores his relationship with his controversial biographer; the third offers a first-person account through the eyes of a young batboy.

Several authors share their personal stories with us. One describes the life of a minor-league executive during the late 1940s and early 1950s; another relives the excitement of being the Braves’ radio and TV announcer during the team’s first ten years in Atlanta. One fan describes his baseball odyssey that culminated at what is perhaps the most memorable game in Atlanta baseball history—Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

Baseball is a team sport that, unlike most, systematically places each individual team member in the spotlight—as he stands alone on the mound or in the batter’s box, or as the ball is hit or thrown in his direction. Preparation of this journal replicated this process. It was certainly a team effort, and the final product gives each of our authors time in the spotlight—the undivided attention of the reader.

Just as baseball teams benefit from behind-the-scenes work by a cadre of dedicated, but often anonymous support personnel, this journal reflects the efforts of just such a crew. You will find their names listed at the front of the journal. You are holding the fruits of their labors.

We trust that you will enjoy these articles. We know that you will recognize and appreciate the passion that the authors brought to their task. Most of all, we hope that you will gain new knowledge and a better understanding of “Baseball in the Peach State.”

KEN FENSTER is professor of history at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston Campus. His baseball writing has appeared in "Nine", "The New Georgia Encyclopedia", "The African American National Biography", and "The Baseball Research Journal". He currently is researching the life of Atlanta Cracker executive Earl Mann.

WYNN MONTGOMERY, author of the biography of Willard Nixon for SABR’s BioProject, has seen ballgames in every major-league city except Arlington, Texas, and in almost fifty minor-league parks. His article “Georgia’s 1948 Phenoms and the Bonus Rule” appears in the Summer 2010 issue of the Baseball Research Journal.