Have you been to the new SunTrust Park yet for a Braves game? I've not waded into the crowds yet, but I've heard great things. Yes, I will admit to being one of those naysayers who was dumbstruck regarding the thought process behind tearing down or abandoning sports arenas within a decade or two of being built. Still, it would appear the Mister and I will have to go take a look soon.
You know how you tell a real Braves fan from a nominal one? A real Braves fan stayed true during those lean years -- year after year of losses when Chief Noc-A-Homa (or Knock-a-homa, depending on the source) was the only person in the stands. I have fond memories of my Papa Blanton sitting on our front porch at Red Oak listening to the games on his transistor radio. Simultaneously, he'd have the newspaper in his lap opened to the sports pages discussing the team. Papa never missed a game, and I learned early on to not interrupt him, or I'd get a stern look. Yes, my grandfather and the Chief strained with every crack of the bat, every jump for fly balls, and ran step-for-step with the Braves players as they rounded the bases even though they generally came up short.
In the early days of baseball it seems as if every town, cotton mill, or community had a baseball team -- even Douglas County. I know there was a cotton mill team and have photographic evidence of a team playing for the community of Ralph (think Mt. Carmel running down towards Sweetwater Creek State Park), the high school would have a team, and the city of Douglasville had a team as early as the 1870s.
In 1932, Fairburn's Will Ferguson, an avid fan like my grandfather, was interviewed. Ferguson stated he followed "the fortunes of pitchers in the big leagues with the interest of a youngster" though he was in his 69th year. He claimed to know "all the tricks present day pitchers [were using], and said he knew about all of them except [the spit or knuckle ball] back in his day on the mound."
Ferguson first heard of a curve ball in 1879 and mentioned "the baseball books told about them that spring and printed diagrams showing how to hold the ball and turn it loose. [Later,] that summer Ferguson got a chance to watch a pitcher from Knoxville throw curves and dogged his steps until he showed him how it was done."
Apparently, "the best doggoned ball game ever played in Georgia" occurred between Fairburn and Douglasville in 1884. Ferguson's catcher was W.S. McLarin, who would later be a respected attorney and Ordinary of Campbell County, but in 1884, per Ferguson, McLarin could catch anything thrown crooked or straight and had the toughest hands Ferguson had ever seen. It needs to be remembered that during this early period of baseball there was no equipment to speak of other than the ball and bat -- no masks, no breastplates, and no gloves.
Ferguson remembered the Douglasville team racked up 50 runs against him in 1884, but "the Fairburn boys countered with 150!"
Now that seems like some sort of wild fish tale, doesn't it? 50 runs? 150 runs?
Of course, I tried in vain to prove Ferguson's mention of the game. While I found games covered in the newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s, this particular game with such a high score was not mentioned. I did see games where runs went into the 40s.
I guess I'm just going to have to wait until the right puzzle piece falls into place for this story. However, in 1892, the "Paulding New Era" mentioned the "Douglasville New South" devoted nearly a column "trying to explain how it was that the Dallas baseball team beat the Douglas boys so badly," but Douglasville losing a game by 100 runs?
If this great loss by the Douglasville Nine is true, I guess we can take solace in knowing that in 1895 Fairburn got smacked around badly by the boys from Jonesboro. At the close of the sixth inning the score was in Jonesboro's favor 40 runs to Fairburn's measly 8. Jonesboro abandoned the game at that point because the umpire furnished by Fairburn was kicking people, causing quarrels, and cussing up a storm.
Today, we have the luxury of watching orderly games the majority of the time, leaving the brawling, name calling and kicking with Congress where it belongs, right?
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her book can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art and the Douglasville Welcome Center located at O'Neal Plaza in the former Douglasville Banking Company building.