This is the spring home of the Cincinnati Reds and has been since 2010. A charter member of the National League, the Reds were a fixture in Florida historically, but found its facilities in Sarasota, 61 miles south of Tampa, insufficient by 2009 and left south Florida for the Cactus League.
Lately, there has been an urge to explore, at least cursorily, the Cincinnati career of one Ivey Merwin Shivar, who grew up in Sylvester in Georgia's peanut belt and played football and baseball for the University of Georgia. Football was his best sport. In 1927, Shivar made All-Southern and All-America and captain of the Bulldogs. This was the "Dream and Wonder" team, which won the national championship although Georgia does not claim the title.
Georgia was headed to the Rose Bowl until losing in the mud to Georgia Tech in the finale at Grant Field. That nauseating loss, however, had a silver lining. Dr. Steadman Sanford became so incensed (ole-timers of that era contended that, in addition to heavy downpours that week, that Tech, nonetheless, watered down the field to neutralize the speed of the Bulldogs' fast halfbacks), he vowed to build the classiest stadium in the Southland. That he succeeded is notably obvious.
Baseball, as it was on many campuses then, was the big sport, and was the money sport for years. Football had finally gained traction in the Roaring '20s, but superb athletes like Shivar favored baseball opportunity in the play-for-pay business. Tom Nash, also a member of that '27 team, enjoyed a "cup of coffee" with the New York Giants, but experienced notable success with the Green Bay Packers, starting for the NFL championship teams of 1929, '30, '31.
Shivar's football resume included a highly regarded reputation for his punting expertise, spent time in the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1931 (another cup of coffee duration of two games), but with the Reds in 1934 he played 19 games, collecting 13 hits in 68 bats for an encouraging average of .322. He began to bounce around the minor leagues after that, having difficulty hitting the curve ball, a disease which has derailed many big league hopefuls over the years.
By that time, Shivar was a part-time football coach who played baseball in the spring and summers. In 1936, this routine had him occupying left field with the San Diego Padres with the realization that while baseball was fun, his future was not in the Major Leagues.
So, he left baseball to return home to Georgia to be a full-time football coach in Savannah. A slender young outfielder with one of the best hitting strokes in baseball then gained an opportunity to make his debut in professional baseball. His name: Ted Williams.
Georgia's first big leaguer was Claud Derrick, an infielder from Clayton, who was a member of Connie Mark's world champion A's in 1910 and 1911. Derrick was the centerpiece of another incident of a Bulldog being involved in an historical celebrity circumstance.
Babe Ruth was just getting into pro ball, playing for his hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore offered the Babe to Cincinnati, but the Reds chose Claud Derrick and George Twombly over Ruth.
The Falcons traded Brett Favre, nobody in the old Southwest Conference wanted Terry Hoage. The "rest of the story" has made many happy, others left with egg on their faces. This not a latent thing.
Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. Write to him at email@example.com.