My post on the Atlanta Braves’ demotion of Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren brought this response from my neighbor Fred. It’s not directly related, but because the past is ever with us in baseball, I enjoyed it and thought you might, too:
Georgia’s team is long gone, but it lives on in the minds of some who were just young men and in love with baseball many decades ago.I was there in the stands or with an eye pushed up against the knot hole at Ponce de Leon Park in the late 1940s and early ’50s. It was the best of times. I met Ty Cobb and he signed my autograph book. Same for Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Roy Campenella, Don Sutton and Jackie Robinson when the Brooklyn Dodgers played an exhibition series against my Atlanta Crackers . I was 13 or 14 and walked right up outside their locker room and held out the book. They gladly obliged, to my great delight. I remember a young third baseman who would go on to the “Bigs” (and the Hall of Fame ), Eddie Matthews, also signing my book when he was a Cracker.
I used to listen to their road games, my bedroom radio close to my ear (so Mom & Dad wouldn’t know I was up past bedtime), with the hokey sound effects as the pitch-by-pitch results were relayed by the announcer from Western Union wire reports. The days and nights at PdLP were wonderful and mystical. Ed Danforth and Furman Bisher (of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution [this was when they were still separate papers — Lex]) wrote about the exploits of the old Southern Association in legendary places like Nashville’s Sulphur Dell. Augie Donatelli was behind the plate calling balls and strikes; “Country” Brown was stretching a single into a double with daring base running. Chuck Tanner, Ky Ky Cuyler and Dixie Walker were managing. “Swish” Sawatski or “Babe” Barna would break our hearts with one of their prodigious home runs. I would take the bus downtown to pick up the latest copy of Sporting News.
Those were the good old days, and even if the Braves win another World series it will never surpass the fond memories of spring, summer and fall in Atlanta when my passion for the game, our national pastime, was all-consuming. Although the souvenirs and mementos have since been misplaced, I am still able to cherish those happy outings in the grandstand or the bleachers, always hoping for a foul ball to come my way. For some reason today the magic is now lost, although I would like very much to recapture it.