They don’t call Atlanta “Hotlanta” for nothing. On a recent sojourn to the Georgia city, the weather was oven-like and humid (we know about that, eh?), and the activities we undertook were of the blazingly fun variety.
This late summer junket all started a few weeks ago when an old friend and Atlantan Dick Ingwersen invited a couple of us up to see a Braves game. So, my compadre, colleague, and local sports historian Gary Stevens and I hit I-65 on August 12 and headed north.
Our first venture upon arrival was to navigate I-285 in rush hour traffic (thank God Dick was now driving) and go see the Atlanta Braves play the Cincinnati Reds. This was my and Gary’s first trip to Truist Park, the shiny, relatively new venue for the team, and it did not disappoint. Located several miles above the city (still not happy about that—I like downtown ballparks), this facility is quite impressive. It has all the modern bells and whistles a stadium can have but still retains a classic ballpark feel. It didn’t hurt that Dick’s season tickets are outstanding—behind home plate, offset just toward first base and the Braves dugout, just the right height level.
The Braves, who are on quite a roll right now, actually got drubbed 12-3. Didn’t matter: three old buddies were chatting it up, the beer was cold, and watching the skills of the major league players was, as always, eye-opening. I have now attended games at all three parks the Braves have called home since coming to Atlanta in 1966: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field, and now Truist Park. All three had/have their distinct charms. I saw Hank Aaron play at Fulton, Chipper Jones at Turner, and Freddie Freeman at Truist. Pretty good passing of the torch.
As fun as that evening at the ballpark was, I have to say that my event highlight of the trip took place the next morning when we hit it downtown to the College Football Hall of Fame. As writers, we need to watch our use of superlatives in descriptions, but this place is absolutely spectacular. The displays honoring the members of the Hall of Fame are amazing, and the additional historical collections and exhibits are terrific.
Seeing Ole miss represented strongly throughout the facility warmed my heart, as you would imagine. The Rebels have 10 former players and one coach who are members of the Hall, which ranks quite high compared to schools across the country. Checking out their exhibits was very cool, especially the one honoring Bruiser Kinard, our good friend and fellow Pascagoulan Johnny’s father, who was inducted in the inaugural class of 1951.
Dick has been to the museum several times, but he never tires of going. Being a former Auburn player, he enjoys the strong representation that the Tigers also have in the Hall.
The Hall of Fame has several interactive options, and we were able to participate in a few. There is a simulated football field where you get to try a 20-yard pass to a basket target (your intrepid columnist hit on his first try, then watched his buddies labor through several efforts), then a 20-yard field goal (none of us were able to split the uprights).
I would say this: whether you are a football fan or not, the College Football Hall of Fame is a worthy trip, due to the history and educational values involved and the pageantry displayed therein.
After several hours of pure enjoyment at the HOF, we walked across Bicentennial Square to the World of Coca-Cola Museum. Dick and I had already been, but that was some time ago, and Gary had never been, so it was a good choice for another tour stop. Lots of archival artifacts and historical information in the facility, including the locked vault which contains the original Coca-Cola formula. I kiddingly asked one of the armed security guards if we could try to pick the lock and get in. He did not crack a smile.
All in all, it was a great day of cool stuff and learning experiences. That night, we slipped out to the Tucker Brewing Company for a tasty meal and some unusual craft beer sampling. Back at Dick’s house, we talked late into the night, a combination of rehashing the day plus the usual review of old tales about growing up in Pascagoula at the same time.
See, that’s the thing. As extremely enjoyable as the Braves game and the museum tours were, still the best part of the trip was being able to bring lifetime friends together to visit. Dick and his wife Terry were perfect hosts (that grits casserole was superb, T), making the atmosphere around the Ingwersen home warm and inviting.
Hey, let’s be honest: we are continuing to go through one of the strangest, and most trying 18-month periods in our lifetime. So, when you can spend a few days taking in a major league ball game, throwing passes at the College Football Hall of Fame, and spending hours laughing and reminiscing with friends you cherish, it is a blessing. A truly God-sent blessing.