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.