On the Road: Looking Out for Chattanooga's Past

Engel_seating bowl.JPGSurely you all remember Tuesday’s blog post, which detailed a day that included time spent at the Birmingham Barons’ old home of Rickwood Field as well as their current Regions Park digs.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu on Friday, as I experienced the same dynamic in Chattanooga. My day in this vibrant city began at the Lookouts’ previous home of Engel Stadium, and concluded with a rainout at AT&T Park (Mother Nature has a lot of nerve, tampering with my all-important road trip. Doesn’t she know I have a reputation I’m trying to establish?)

But let me tell you — visiting Engel Stadium was a real treat. This ballpark served as theEngel_barn.JPG Lookouts’ home from 1930-99, but has fallen into disrepair over the past decade. As I was researching potential article topics for this trip, I came across a story on a new group that is seeking to restore the facility to its former glory. I got in touch with Engel Foundation director Janna Jahn, who set up a visit to the stadium along with an interesting group of fellow stadium devotees:

Andy Broome: Senior Vintage Card Grader for Beckett Media, and lifelong Lookouts fan. Broome has written a novella on Jackie Mitchell, the 17-year-old girl who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at Engel in 1931. His website is well worth checking out, as it is a treasure trove of Engel ephemera.

engel.jpgNancy Cogar: An employee of “Choose Chattanooga”, an organization that espouses the positive attributes of the Tennessee metropolis. Cogar wants to spearhead a storytelling project that collects the Engel Stadium memories of former Lookout players and fans.   

Ray Deering: As a long-time Lookouts fan who has written columns on baseball history for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Deering is an endless fountain of Chattanooga baseball knowledge.

Brian Wright: A wise-beyond-his-years recent high school graduate, who fell in love with Engel after breaking into the place. Wright is a member of the Engel Foundation’s board, and equipped to be a leader in the restoration efforts for a long time to come.

I mention these individuals because I believe they show the kind of diversity and unique skill sets that can make an ambitious project such as stadium restoration succeed (and many more are getting involved in the effort). Here is what they have to restore — Engel Stadium! (read my article about it HERE).

An unassuming exterior:

Engel_exteriorsign2.JPG

Standing on the same mound where Jackie Mitchell once struck out Babe Ruth:

Engel_from mound.JPG 
 
In the dugout:

Engel_dugout.JPG

From the Roof:

Engel_from roof.JPG
 

Yes, this roof, which once boasted one of the country’s first press boxes (the current press box was not the original one):

Engel_rooftop press.JPG

The seats, they are old and wooden:

Engel_old wooden seats.JPG

Just like Yankee Stadium, Engel features luxury boxes. Actually, just one:

Engel_luxury box.JPG

You’re Welcome:

Engel_concourse sign.JPG

I am just now realizing how unwieldy this post would be if I tacked on pictures and anecdotes regarding my time at the Lookouts’ current home of AT&T Park. I am also just now realizing how soon the bars are going to close.

Therefore, I make a solemn promise to you, my readers, that a “part two” of this post will appear tomorrow morning. And then, I will drive to Gwinnett County, GA, in my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

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