March 27, 2006
After tracking down a rare book in my old stomping grounds in the libraries at the University of Virginia on Saturday, I squeezed in some time to look up some baseball references which I had misplaced long ago. When I first began drawing pencil sketches of stadiums in my grad school days (as a diversion to stay sane), one of my main sources was The Mutual Baseball Almanac (edited by Roger Kahn), which included stadium diagrams in several of the editions in the 1950s. Another very useful source was Baseball Guide and Record Book (1947), by J.G. Taylor Spink and others. It included wonderfully detailed and amusing cartoon illustrations (by Gene Mack) of all the major league ballparks then in operation. For the Polo Grounds, for example, a young lad is pictured in the right field corner upper deck saying, "Aw, I could hit a homer here."
I also came across a book I had never seen before: Miracle in Atlanta: The Atlanta Braves Story, by Furman Bisher. It's all about the lengthy negotiations that led to relocation of the Braves franchise from Milwaukee to Atlanta, which was finally consummated in 1966. In October 1964, the Braves signed a 25-year contract to play in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, then under construction, and if it weren't for the legal injunctions filed by the state of Wisconsin, they probably would have moved to Atlanta in 1965. (Actually the Braves did play an exhibition game with the Tigers just before the 1965 regular season began, much like the Expos played two exhibition games in Washington in 1999, one of which I saw.) Negotiations between the Braves and Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen began in 1963, and the possibility of using rickety old Ponce de Leon Field for the 1964 season was even considered! Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, was also courted in 1962 and 1963. The Atlanta stadium was a classic case of a sports facility built on speculation, but the book's author puts a quaint upbeat spin on the deal, writing that the stadium was
built purely on one big league baseball team's promise that it would be there. No greater faith can one man have in the word of another, for it could have cost Mills B. Lane $600,000 of somebody's money, mostly his own, and Ivan Allen Jr., his political career.
Can you imagine someone writing something like that in today's world? I've added that book and the other two mentioned above to the list of Sources, and will add brief citations to the list of sources on the appropriate stadium pages.
Virginia Rep. Tom Davis (R), known as a big baseball fan, has threatened to introduce legislation to compel Comcast to show more Washington Nationals baseball games this summer. Because of the continuing impasse with Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (a.k.a., ""Mr. Angelos Screws the Nationals", fewer than half of the home games will be available to Comcast subscribers this year. Washington Post. I'm sympathetic to what Davis is seeking, but there is always a danger in using legislation for highly targeted economic regulation purposes, such as when the Maryland legislature passsed a law aimed at WalMart.