Baseball's colorful history in the Scenic City
Professional baseball played a large role in in the reconstruction efforts around the South, and Chattanooga was a large part of that history.
Professional baseball played a large role in in the reconstruction efforts. In a post-Civil War America, attracting business to the south and portraying a positive image of the former Confederacy was of the utmost importance.
"So you started seeing these southern civic boosters start talking about things that were already happening,” explained former UTC adjunct professor, David Martin. “And they needed to show that things were already happening. And one of those things was a baseball circuit, a professional circuit. That also had to be complimented by universities, symphonies, hospitals. And that was a much easier sell to labor to come in, for investment to come in and industry to come in. Not an idea, but an actual product."
Chattanooga joined the original Southern League when it formed in 1885.The league consisted of eight charter members: Atlanta, Augusta, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Columbus, Macon, Memphis and Nashville. Henry W. Grady, the managing editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was named the league's original president and ran it out of his newspaper office. The original schedule called for teams to play a 100-game season but only two teams reached that mark in 1885.
"The first year of professional baseball in Chattanooga, in terms of wins and losses, was not a success,” explained Martin. “They floundered around between 5th and 7th place. And there was worry at one point that they might go under. At the time, the newspaper's editors implored Chattanoogans to come out and show support. And Chattanoogans realized that they needed this to be a success. It would be a black eye on the city if they did not stay afloat. And so citizens in Chattanooga started flooding in to see the games even though they weren't seeing great baseball by the home team. And that's something that exists today in Chattanooga. We really get behind our big projects. And we really see the value of these projects and what they can do for our city."
The location of Chattanooga’s original baseball field was located on the fields of the Stanton House, one of the premier hotels in the Scenic City. The sight was picked due to its, “favorable location midway between the city and the Fifth Ward”, according to an 1885 article from the Chattanooga Times. The trolleys increased their daily stops at the fields during baseball season. This location sits near the modern day Main and Market Street intersection. The hotel and fields were razed in the early 1900s to make room for the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
Baseball, from its beginning, drives change, development and opportunity.
"They saw that in 1885, Chattanoogans and then other cities across the south saw that. We're seeing the same thing today. A relocation of the stadium, what can that do for an undeveloped part of the city? What does that mean for jobs? What does that mean for development? We've seen that in 1885, we've seen that down through the years, and we're seeing it today. Baseball is more than baseball. It always has been."