By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Last month, the Savannah Bananas took off the mask.
The collegiate semi-pro team from Chatham County announced that they are abandoning their league affiliation and will be taking “Banana Ball” nationwide.
This move proves what I’ve been saying all along; the Bananas are a sideshow with a baseball game playing in the background.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m in the minority here. Everyone in America seems to be enamored with the Bananas. From ESPN specials and viral video clips, it seems that the yellow-clad sub-minor leaguers are everyone’s darlings. The saviors of baseball, some are even heralding.
Friends of mine from across the country are asking me what a game is like, and even non-sports fan friends are singing their praises. They seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I’ve never been to a Bananas game, nor do I have any desire to go to one.
My disdain for this whole situation actually goes back to my time in middle Georgia back in the late ‘90s. For most of the Atlanta Braves’ magical run from 1991-2005, their Class-A affiliate was a South Atlantic League team known as the Macon Braves.
Shady dealings and monetary disagreements with the local politicos led to the South Atlantic League team moving to Rome, Georgia in 2002. City leaders went on record saying that they were certain it wouldn’t be long until Minor League Baseball returned to the Heart of Georgia.
Fast forward to a decade later, where I was a season ticket holder for the Savannah Sand Gnats. Shady dealings and monetary disagreements with the local politicos led to the South Atlantic League team moving to Columbia, South Carolina in 2016. City leaders went on record saying that they were certain it wouldn’t be long until Minor League Baseball returned to the Coastal Empire.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Money-grubbing, power-hungry local officials under-estimating how difficult it truly is to not only get a MiLB franchise, but to get one after letting one go.
Since 2002, Macon has seen four unaffiliated semi-pro teams call Luther WIlliams Field home, three of them lasting a season or less.
The Bananas, on the other hand, started play the year after the Gnats became the Fireflies. Historic Grayson Field welcomed a new franchise that apparently didn’t mind the facilities that were substandard by any modern benchmark.
Grayson was a big part of why the Sand Gnats wanted a new stadium before they decided to leave in the first place; no in-house laundry, no in-house weight room, an outfield that often looked better prepared for the mud ‘rasslin’ portion of the Redneck Games to make a visit from Dublin than it did for a baseball game.
Kinda surprised the Bananas didn’t bring that to fruition.
That’s what the Bananas are. Sports entertainment, not a baseball team. They, especially now that they’ve gone full Globetrotter, are but half a step up from professional wrestling. There’s entertainment and there’s sideshows, often at the expense of the actual sport that’s allegedly being played. And that’s why I could never get on board.
The history of baseball in Savannah is long and rich, with championships dating back to 1906. With the Bananas’ disaffiliation from the Coastal Plains League, Savannah will be bereft of true competition on the diamond with no chance of raising another championship banner for the foreseeable future.
And that’s what really gets me. Call me a dinosaur, call me an old fogey, call me what you will (as long as it’s not “boomer.” I’m GenX, fer pete’s sake…), but I prefer my baseball to be just baseball.
There’s nothing wrong with nine frames, nine starters and the dugout, the seventh inning stretch, and a Sunday afternoon doubleheader with the occasional race against a goofily-costumed mascot between innings.
And now, thanks to the Banana Era in Savannah, Southeast Georgia is even further away from getting a real, affiliated minor league team to root for. At least here in the Golden Isles we can travel south and see the Jumbo Shrimp.
Oh, and stay the heck offa my lawn. Lousy punks.