Overview · Construction · History in the Making
The Sand Gnats are a Savannah baseball tradition dating back to 1904. The Savannah Sand Gnats continue Savannah's baseball legacy by playing their games at Historic Grayson Stadium. Baseball legends such as Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson have graced the field at the corner of Bee Rd. and Victory Dr. Current stars such as Texas Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock and Cleveland Indians first sacker Travis Hafner both got their start on the field at Grayson.
Not only has the stadium served as baseball's home in Savannah, but it has also hosted events ranging from concerts to the Thanksgiving Day Football Classic between Savannah High School and Benedictine Military Academy from 1927-1959.
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Originally built in 1926, Municipal Stadium, as it was formerly known, marked the return of baseball to Savannah after a 10-year hiatus in the form of the Savannah Indians. Two years later, the Indians were forced to close operations a month before the end of the season while the country struggled in the midst of the Great Depression and the Indians would not return until 1936.
When baseball returned to the Coastal Empire in 1936, 99,000 fans flocked to Municipal Stadium to watch the Savannah Indians that season. The Indians won their fourth league championship in 1937 and went on to post three consecutive 80+ win seasons from 1938-40. On Aug. 11, 1940, a hurricane ripped through the city of Savannah causing over $850,000 in damage to the coastal city. Winds in excess of 73 miles per hour left only two sections of bleachers standing, and the need to rebuild Municipal Stadium arose.
On the front lines of the rebuilding process was Spanish-American War veteran General William L. Grayson. With his help, the bill to rebuild the stadium passed through City Council and $150,000 was allocated to repair the stadium. Half of the funds allocated to repair the facility would come from the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Construction took place throughout the 1941 season with the team still playing at the stadium during the rebuilding process. With the stadium almost completed, construction was suspended due to the country's entry into World War II. The roof was eventually completed, but the brickwork on the third base side remains unfinished. William Grayson, unfortunately, would not live to see the finished ballpark, but the City Council unanimously voted to name the park after the former general.
The Indians played in their newly constructed home until 1943, when the South AtlanticLeague suspended operations for the duration of World War II. A second era of baseball at Grayson Stadium would begin in 1946 and last through 1962.
In this 17-year period, many milestones would occur at the home of Savannah baseball. Baseball was the talk of the town in 1947 as 192,275 fans, the third largest single-season total on record, came through the turnstiles at Grayson Stadium to watch the home team. The Indians were the first team in the South Atlantic League to break the color barrier, when Al (Izzy) Israel and Junior Reedy started on Opening Day in 1953. Less than a month later, 15,363 fans packed the house on Merchants Appreciation Night to set the largest single-game crowd in Savannah history.
In 1995, Grayson Stadium took on some of its current form when the current press box, along with a new computerized sound system, enlarged restrooms and a stadium club were installed prior to the season. A series of upgrades took place prior to the 2007 season, the goal being to combine Grayson's historic past with modern technology. A new scoreboard featuring a nearly 300 square foot video board replaced the outdated scoreboard in centerfield; the manual scoreboard remains in centerfield to keep the historic aesthetic in tact.
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History In The Making
Most recently, The Savannah Sands took home the 2013 South Atlantic League Championship, sweeping the Augusta GreenJackets in two games, and then defeating the Hagerstown Suns three games to one in the Championship Series. This is the first SAL title in 17 years for the Gnats, and the 10th SAL title all-time. Savannah has more championships than any other current memeber of the South Atlantic League.
As always, the Savannah Sand Gnats along with our Major League Affiliate, the New York Mets are committed to our involvement throughout the community. During this off-season and continuing throughout the upcoming year, the Sand Gnats are committed to supporting Savannah and the Coastal Empire. Without the support and affirmation from our fans, we would not be successful in our own endeavors! The Sand Gnats eagerly await Opening Day 2014 to continue the tremendous outstanding tradition of baseball in the city of Savannah!