#Braves 25: Ivan Allen

Ivan Allen made Atlanta a major league city even before he lured the Braves from Milwaukee. While Bull Connor was turning the dogs on civil rights marchers in Birmingham, Allen was in Washington testifying on behalf of the Civil Rights Act.

But when it came to getting the Braves, the visionary Allen gambled, and won.

The new battle of Atlanta began on April 6, 1963. Charles O. Finley was making one of his usual scouting trips, looking for a place to move the Athletics. In Atlanta the mayor showed Finley three possible stadium sites, and Finley selected the one that later was used.

“Mr. Mayor,” said Finley, “if you’ll build a stadium here, I’ll guarantee you a major league baseball team.” It was at least the third city in which Finley had made the same guarantee—but Ivan Allen believed him.

The mayor went to a banker, Mills B. Lane, and told him about Finley.

“How bad you want this stadium?” Lane asked.

“Bad,” said Allen, knowing that in that precise moment he was gambling his city hall future.

Lane advanced $750,000 for architects and engineers while the mayor reactivated a dormant stadium authority and began chasing down titles to the property. By early July it became depressingly clear to Finley that he was stuck in Kansas City—again—and clear to Allen that he was just plain stuck. Atlanta thereupon went shopping for another team, with Arthur Montgomery, chairman of the Stadium Authority and head of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Atlanta, as the lead shopper. It was Montgomery who landed the Braves’ promise to leave Milwaukee for Atlanta in 1965, a promise that resulted in the city paying out $700,000 in bonuses to the contractor in exchange for getting the new stadium ready in record time.

When the Braves moved into The Ted I hoped they’d choose another name for the soon-to-be old stadium: Aaron Allen Field, after the two men who did the most to make Atlanta major league.

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3 comments

  1. I see that after spending the off-season trading off most of the better parts of our everyday lineup for minor-leaguers, only one of the players we got in return made MLB’s top 100 prospects.

    I’ve tried to stay upbeat about whatever the hell Hart is doing, but when he signs the awful Jonny Gomes and trades away a usable big-league pitcher for minor-league catching depth, it’s hard to do so.

  2. We’ve got 4-5 guys in Keith Law’s Top 100. I know he can be an ass but I take some heart from that.

  3. As a fan in the later ’80’s, I focused less on the major league team and for the first time, paid attention to the farm system. It was enjoyable and ultimately rewarding to follow guys like Glavine and Mercker up through the leagues. We now have an outstanding group of pitching prospects. There are seven or eight guys down there who could be really good. There are only two exciting position players, but there are five others who are interesting. All but four came through trades this winter.

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