Ponce de Leon Park

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Night game at Ponce de Leon Park

Ponce de Leon Park (local /pɑːns də ˈl.ən/ PAHNSE-duh LEE-awn; Spanish: POHN-say deh leh-OHN), also known as Spiller Park or Spiller Field during 1924-1932, was the primary home field for the minor league baseball team called the Atlanta Crackers for nearly six decades. The Crackers played here in the Southern Association (1907–1959) and the International League (1962–64). It was also home of the Atlanta Black Crackers who captured the second half championship of the Negro American League in 1938.[1]

The ballpark was located at 650 Ponce de Leon Avenue; the street ran along the south side of the park i.e. along its first base side. Atop the slope bordering the park on east and behind the outfield were the tracks of the Southern Railway, now part of the BeltLine, a trail and future transit ring around the central neighborhoods of Atlanta. Across the street was the Ponce de Leon amusement park, upon which in 1926 was built the hulking Sears Roebuck southeastern headquarters, now known as Ponce City Market.

The original ballpark on the site opened in 1907. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1923. It was rebuilt in 1924 and was named for club owner Rell J. Spiller. It reverted to its original name in 1933. The seating capacity of the park was about 20,000.

Magnolia tree at shopping center

The park was known for a magnolia tree in deep center field. Balls landing in the tree remained in play, until Earl Mann took over the team in 1947 and had the outfield wall moved in about fifty feet.[2] During exhibition games, Babe Ruth and Eddie Mathews both hit home runs that became stuck in the distant tree.[citation needed]

After the Crackers moved to Atlanta Stadium in 1965, Ponce de Leon Park was demolished in favor of a shopping center (now also demolished) and today a strip mall, Midtown Place, occupies the location. The famous magnolia tree is still standing at the rear of the shopping center along the BeltLine trail.

College Football[edit]

Other Events[edit]

On July 1, 1940, the park hosted an exhibition fight[3] between a 45 year old Jack Dempsey and wrestler Clarence (Cowboy) Luttrell which Dempsey won.

The park also hosted regular Friday night high school football games between Tech High Smithies and Boys' High Purple Hurricanes during the 1940s which sometimes outdrew the college games.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ NLBPA Atlanta Black Crackers
  2. ^ Tree stands as link to city's baseball roots, an April 25, 2003 article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  3. ^ Aging Bull - Jack Dempsey's 1940 'comeback' was a sad and mercifully short spectacle, an April 17, 1995 article from Sports Illustrated
  4. ^ Asher, Gene (July 2006). "The Ultimate Rivalry". Georgia Trend. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  • Ballparks of North America, by Michael Benson, McFarland Press, 1989.
  • Ernie Harwell's Audio Scrapbook, by Ernie Harwell and Bob Harris, AudioBook Publications, 2006.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°46′29.94″N 84°21′54.87″W / 33.7749833°N 84.3652417°W / 33.7749833; -84.3652417