Baseball in a War Torn World, Atlanta 1915

The world can be a scary place and it didn’t get much worse than it did in 1915, the first full year of World War I. Although the United States didn’t enter the greatest war in the history of mankind up to then until later, Atlanta newspapers faithfully recounted all the horrors of that conflict in exacting detail – day after day after day. Only one thing could take the war off the front pages of 1915 Atlanta, and that was the start of baseball season with all those exhibition games pitting the local Crackers against the Big Leagues.

 

Battles and destruction in Europe had so dominated the Atlanta press that one local cartoonist penned an im-age showing the “War News” fleeing in terror from a gigantic baseball and headed off the front page. With the coming of March, “Popular Attention” would be diverted by the most popular game in America. The Crackers had been very successful in recent years and faced several teams from around the region in the pre-season games with some success, but there were also Big League teams coming to town.

 

The most exciting match-up in March of 1915 was with the World Series winners of 1914, the Boston Braves. Headed by Georgia born and raised coach George Stallings, the Braves had moved from last place in July 1914 to pennant winners. They were dubbed the “miracle team” and went on to face highly favored Philadelphia in the World Series. To everyone’s surprise, the Braves swept the Series.

 

Atlantans were excited about the games at the old Ponce de Leon Park (across from where the old Sears building now stands). Despite predictions of rain, crowds turned out to see the famous players from Boston. Two of the team members, Johnnie Evers and “Rabbit” Maranville, would go on to be members of that elite group in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Another named Hank Gowdy would come close with votes for membership for 17 years.

 

The games on the Ponce field were exciting with the Braves pitchers who dominated the World Series “twirl-ing.” The Crackers managed to tie the first game at one point but were no match for the big leaguers in the end. They eventually lost both games in the Atlanta series to the World Champions. Those eager fans 100 years ago were able to forget about the war for a few hours in early spring, little realizing that the vaunted Boston Braves would one day thrill Georgia baseball fans as the Atlanta Braves.

 

-Dick Funderburke