Before the Atlanta Braves ushered in the era of Major League Baseball in the South, the Atlanta Crackers were the preeminent baseball organization in the Southeast.
The Crackers played their first game in 1902, and for the next 63 years, they were the show for Atlanta baseball fans.
All that changed in 1966 when the Braves moved down from Milwaukee and took up residence in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. But the Crackers left a city with nostalgia and memories, including two Dixie Series titles, seven league titles and 21 pennants.
In a day when minor league baseball captured the nation's interest daily, the Crackers were one of the best. So, when the Crackers came calling to Newnan's Pickett Field in 1934, it was a big deal.
Newnan had lost their minor league franchise in the Georgia Alabama league after the 1916 season. But Newnan was still a baseball town, and the locals got their fix from the local semi-pro teams and the nearby Atlanta Crackers. A quote from Feb. 20, 1935, Atlanta Constitution declared, "Newnan is a red-hot Atlanta Cracker town, and the team has many boosters there.”
The game, which was held on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m., was of such magnitude that Newnan Mayor James E. Brown declared the day an official holiday.
While Newnan did not have an official team at the time, a group of minor league all-stars were assembled to play under the leadership of Carl Attaway.
Included in the mix for the hometown team was a local kid, Marvin "Lefty" Duke, who graduated from Senoia High School. After playing a season at Georgia Tech, Duke joined the professional ranks, where he got as high as AAA. He had pitched for the Newark Bears that season and finished with a record of 10-6 and a 3.59 ERA.
Also on Attaway's all-star team were minor league standouts, Dave Barbee and Gordon Johnson. The Crackers had just completed a disappointing season in the Southern Association, but their roster was deep; they had 27 players that season that would play in the majors.
On game day, 2,000 people showed up to see the Crackers defeat Newnan 8-2. Harry Taylor hit a home run, leadoff man and manager Eddie Moore had three hits, and Buster Chatham added two.
Newnan fell behind 2-0 early but was able to tie the game up in the bottom of the fourth. The Atlanta depth and experience proved too much from there.
The game's success pushed Newnan leadership to join the Middle Georgia Semi-Pro league in 1935. Again led by Attaway, the team entered the league with East Thomaston, Silvertown, East Griffin, Griffin and Hogansville.
The Crackers rebounded from a mediocre 1934 campaign to win the league in 1935 with Moore at the helm.
Ironically, the Crackers franchise ultimately led to the Newnan minor league baseball demise.
After fielding teams again in the Georgia Alabama league from 1946 to 1950, Newnan dropped out of minor league baseball. One of the reasons cited was that the Crackers broadcasted 35 games in 1950 on live television for the first time that season, severely cutting attendance.
A few years later, the Crackers faded into memories as Atlanta transitioned into a major league town. But for one day in 1934, Newnan shared a bit of the big-time, and Pickett Field was there to witness it all.