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A Citizen on the Diamond: Georgia Power celebrates over a century of baseball

On May 23rd, 1907, a crowd of nearly 10,000 gathered to celebrate the first of what has become a tradition in Atlanta and around the world. That afternoon on a plot of land across from an amusement park on Ponce De Leon Avenue, Atlantans came from a newly installed streetcar stop to enter for the first time the state-of-the-art monument to America’s pastime that would come to be known as “Old Poncey” – Ponce De Leon Ball Park, home of the Atlanta Crackers and Atlanta Black Crackers. A ballpark that was built by the brand-new owners of the baseball team, The Georgia Power Company.

You probably know that Georgia Power is the official energy partner of the Atlanta Braves, a team that’s holding the world’s attention these days for its record-setting offensive dominance in the 2023 regular season and hopeful run to another championship in 2024. Fewer people are aware, however, that Georgia Power has had a deep connection to baseball in Atlanta since long before the Braves’ arrival. In fact, we’ve been connecting communities in Georgia through America’s pastime almost from the very beginning.

In 1906, believing it would bring more riders to its streetcar service, Preston Arkwright and what was then known as the Georgia Railway and Electric Company purchased a majority stake in a fledgling Southern Association team known as the Atlanta Crackers – a shortening of its previous “Firecrackers” moniker – and immediately built a state-of-the-art stadium at the end of one of the streetcar lines near the amusement park at the Ponce De Leon Springs. The team responded enthusiastically to its new owner – promptly winning 78 games and delivering the first pennant in Atlanta baseball history. After the inaugural season, Arkwright overhauled the Crackers’ management team, hiring local football coach John Heisman to lead the charge. 

What we know now as Georgia Power would own the Atlanta Crackers and Ponce De Leon Park for only nine years, selling the team to a local city council member in 1915 for $37,000. Old Poncey would live on, however, hosting both the Crackers as well as the Atlanta Black Crackers of the Negro Leagues until the Crackers — by then a Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins — moved to Summerhill and the new Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1965 in advance of the Braves arrival from Milwaukee the next year. 

Over more than five decades, Ponce De Leon Park would play host to 18 championships – more than every team in organized baseball in that time frame save the New York Yankees. It welcomed baseball luminaries like Eddie Matthews, Babe Ruth, and Jackie Robinson, whose appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers for a three-game exhibition series marked the first integrated sporting event in Atlanta history.

Perhaps the most famous inhabitant of Old Poncey, however, may still be found standing guard where the outfield used to be. A large magnolia tree grew in center field – in play until 1947 when new Crackers owner Earl Mann moved the center field fence, shortening the field and relegating the tree to onlooker status. Both Eddie Matthews and Babe Ruth hit home runs into the tree, which can still be seen from the Atlanta Beltline near Ponce City Market.

Georgia Power’s baseball history didn’t end with Ponce De Leon Park. The Braves arrived in 1966, and Georgia Power has been their official energy partner ever since. We’ve been there for Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run, the team’s dominance in the 1990s and 2000s, the first Atlanta World Series win in 1995, its 2021 championship run, and this season’s highly anticipated squad, from the beginning. 

This month the Braves begin the charge on to what will hopefully be their third championship in Atlanta, and Georgia Power will be there like we have been from the beginning. Helping to connect communities across Georgia with something to root for – a team to rally behind no matter your background.