Review by Gary
Grayson Stadium is home to the world-famous Savannah Bananas of the Coastal Plain League. History abounds in this venerable ballpark. Built in 1926 with a renovation done after a hurricane in 1941, Historic Grayson Stadium (as it’s known) was the spring training home of the 1932 Boston Red Sox. In 1926, legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig took the field here. Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech here to an audience of 35,000 people in 1933 during the bicentennial of Georgia’s founding.
Thirteen different teams have called Grayson Stadium home, but sadly, none were Negro league teams or players. In the segregated south, when Savannah's white minor league baseball teams played at the stadium, Black spectators were relegated to the "colored section" in left field. Jackie Robinson was scheduled to play at Grayson Stadium in a 1946 exhibition game for the Montreal Royals against the Savannah Indians, but the city of Savannah barred Robinson from playing, so the Royals refused to play. Robinson did eventually play here in 1951 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The first integrated minor league game at Grayson Stadium was played in 1953.
The Bananas not only field a competitive team, but also ask the players to engage with the fans during and after games. The players have to know how to “turn it on and off” with regard to playing baseball and entertaining the fans. The Bananas have been featured on just about every sports media outlet. They also field a Globetrotter-esque travelling Banana Ball World Tour that sells out wherever they play. The Bananas have 2.7 million TikTok followers, more than any major league baseball team.
In 2022, the Bananas popularity was such that tickets were sold out four months in advance, with 60 people on the waiting list for an early June game. Failing to secure a ticket, I contacted the Bananas’ front office to request a tour. Curt, the team’s group ticket sales and stadium’s unofficial historian, happily obliged and allowed me to bend his ear for an hour before the game that evening while he took us all around this magnificent ballpark.
Grayson Stadium has no luxury skyboxes or tiered seating. Its attraction lies in the rich baseball history emanating from every square foot of it. Plastic fold-down seats can be found in the cordoned off box seat area close to the field and the entirety of the main grandstand is made up of classic wood benches with backs. Massive ceiling fans with helicopter blades sit high above the crowd to provide a much-needed breeze in the summer. The concourse is located under the grandstand. Lining the walls of the concourse are posters of players who appeared at Grayson. A vast timeline of its history also lines the wall along the third base side of the concourse.
A manual scoreboard is set into the left-centerfield fence, which is much more apropos given the vintage ambience of this great venue than the large electronic scoreboard that now simply serves to display the Bananas’ iconic logo. The former football press box that lines the right field line is now a party deck beyond the metal bleachers which separate it from the main grandstand. A picnic area on the 3rd base side is yet another option for fans to sit and enjoy the game. The most unique thing about the playing field that immediately catches one’s eye are the bright, yellow, banana-colored bases.
Grayson Stadium is a shining example of what seeing a baseball game must have looked like 50+ years ago. Many thanks to Curt for allowing us to roam the park and even step on the hallowed pitcher’s mound. I hope to return someday to see a game, but now I know to plan that trip well in advance.