Who Brought Professional Sports to Atlanta?

Who Brought Professional Sports to Atlanta?

When looking at the history of professional sports in Atlanta, it is clear that one man had a huge impact in bringing them to the city. That man was Ted Turner.

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In the early 20th century, many cities vied to be the southernmost host of professional baseball and football leagues. Birmingham, Memphis, and even Chattanooga all made bids for teams. But it was Atlanta that ultimately won out, thanks in large part to one man: Judge Robert Munford.

A former professor at Emory University and newspaper editor, Munford was a key player in bringing professional sports to Atlanta. In 1913, he led a group of investors that purchased the Atlanta Crackers, a minor league baseball team. The following year, he helped bring the city its first professional football team, the Atlanta Flames.

Munford’s efforts not only made Atlanta a major city for sports, but also helped to integrate the city’s teams. In 1946, he was instrumental in signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Crackers, making him the first African American player in professional baseball. And in 1966, he helped the Flames become the first major league sports franchise to hire an African American head coach when they hired Lester Maddox.

Thanks to Judge Robert Munford, Atlanta is now home to some of the biggest names in professional sports, including the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and Hawks. And it all started with a few minor league teams over 100 years ago.

Early History of Sports in Atlanta

Professional sports have been a part of Atlanta’s culture since the 1800s. The city’s first professional team was the Atlanta Black Crackers, a Negro League baseball team that played from 1919 to 1948. In 1926, the team became a charter member of the Negro National League. The Black Crackers were one of the most successful Negro League teams, winning five pennants and three World Series titles.

In 1965, Major League Baseball awarded Atlanta a franchise, and the Atlanta Braves began play in 1966. The Braves were originally based in Milwaukee and were known as the Milwaukee Braves before relocating to Atlanta. The team won its first World Series title in 1996.

In 1967, the National Basketball Association awarded Atlanta a franchise, and the Atlanta Hawks began play in 1968. The Hawks won their only NBA championship in 1958, when they were based in St. Louis.

In 1974, the National Football League awarded Atlanta a franchise, and the Atlanta Falcons began play in 1976. The Falcons have appeared in two Super Bowls (1998 and 2016), but have not yet won a championship.

The Birth of the Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves are a professional baseball team that has called Atlanta, Georgia home since 1966. The team was originally established in Boston, Massachusetts in 1871 and was known as the Boston Red Stockings, later the Boston Beaneaters, and then the Boston Braves. In 1953, the franchise moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they were known as the Milwaukee Braves. In 1965, they moved again to Atlanta.

The Braves have won three World Series titles (1914, 1957, 1995), 17 National League Pennants (1876–1880, 1882, 1883, 1885–1889, 1891–1905, 1907–1911, 1914–1915, 1948–1965), and five West Division titles (1969, 1982–84 , 1991). The franchise has also experienced some of its greatest success in recent years, making the playoffs 14 times since 1991 and winning the National League East division title a record-tying 13 times from 1991 to 2005.

The Arrival of the Atlanta Falcons

In 1966, the NFL awarded the Atlanta businessmen Rankin Smith Sr. and Elliott Jones an expansion franchise. The new team was originally named the Atlanta Georgians, but Smith Sr. quickly changed the name to the Falcons. Although the franchise was not set to begin playing until the fall of 1967, construction began on Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Fulton County Stadium and then Georgia Dome) in May of that year.

The Atlanta Hawks Join the Party

In 1968, the NBA awarded an expansion franchise to Atlanta, which became the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks played their home games in the Georgia Dome for 12 seasons until 1999, when they moved to Philips Arena. The franchise has won four conference championships (1957, 1958, 1960, 1961) and one division title (1970).


In conclusion, it is evident that while Atlanta was not the first city to have a professional sports team, it has become a very successful city in terms of sports. The city has seen a lot of success in recent years, and it looks like this trend will continue.

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