Much like America herself, as James Earl Jones’ Terrence Mann famously said in “Field of Dreams,” Atlanta’s baseball history has been rolled by “like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again.”
Now, as the Atlanta Braves prepare for their 2017 move to Cobb County, Turner Field—just like Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and Ponce de Leon Ballpark before it—will soon stand empty.
The question is, will it be razed like those famed ballparks before it, or can we at last hold onto a priceless piece of our city’s baseball history?
Perhaps the best hope for Turner Field lies in the plans of my alma mater, Georgia State University. If a deal can be done, the school has designs to retrofit Turner Field—which was originally the city’s massive Olympic Stadium in 1996—into a football stadium.
And the school has conceptualized plans to turn the grounds of Atlanta-Fulton Stadium—now a parking lot—into a college baseball stadium, using the stadium’s original outfield wall.
Imagine that. An Atlanta ballpark that actually pays homage to the city’s baseball history as part of a modern facility … unheard of, in our metropolitan area that has always found it much more convenient—and financially feasible — to tear down instead of adapt and preserve.
After the Milwaukee Braves relocated south, Ponce de Leon Ballpark—itself a mighty field of dreams in its day—was torn down. Atlanta Crackers owner and general manager Earl Mann knew that Major League Baseball’s first team to move south of the Mason-Dixon Line would doom his minor league franchise.
When ol’ Poncey was demolished in 1966, many locals said a curse would be placed on its grounds, that nothing would flourish where it once stood. Sure enough, from the late 60s until the early 21st century, the ballpark’s famed acreage was home to urban flotsam, its only successful business being a catering service called, appropriately enough, Affairs to Remember.
Let’s hope the same fate does not await Turner Field.
Tim Darnell is an award-winning journalist who has written for numerous Atlanta sports and political publications. He is also the author of 101 Atlanta Sports Legends and The Georgia Tech Trivia Book. The Crackers: Early Days of Atlanta Baseball is available from the University of Georgia Press in paperback.