Loserville

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Loserville

How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta—and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports

Clayton Trutor

504 pages
12 illustrations, index

Hardcover

February 2022

978-1-4962-2504-7

$34.95 Pre-order

About the Book

In July 1975 the editors of the Atlanta Constitution ran a two-part series entitled “Loserville, U.S.A.” The provocatively titled series detailed the futility of Atlanta’s four professional sports teams in the decade following the 1966 arrival of its first two major league franchises, Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons. Two years later, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association became the city’s third major professional sports franchise. In 1972 the National Hockey League granted the Flames expansion franchise to the city, making Atlanta the first southern city with teams in all four of the big leagues.

The excitement surrounding the arrival of four professional franchises in Atlanta in a six-year period soon gave way to widespread frustration and, eventually, widespread apathy toward its home teams. All four of Atlanta’s franchises struggled in the standings and struggled to draw fans to their games. Atlantans’ indifference to their new teams took place amid the social and political fracturing that had resulted from a new Black majority in Atlanta and the whites' exodus to the outer suburbs, and sports could never quite bridge the divergence between the two.

Loserville examines the pursuit, arrival, and response to professional sports in Atlanta during its first decade as a major league city (1966–75). It scrutinizes the origins of what remains the primary model for acquiring professional sports franchises: offers of municipal financing for new stadiums. Other Sunbelt cities like San Diego, Phoenix, and Tampa that aspired to big league stature adopted Atlanta’s approach. Like the teams in Atlanta, the franchises in these cities have had mixed results—both in terms of on-field success and financial stability.
 

Author Bio

Clayton Trutor holds a PhD in U.S. history from Boston College and teaches at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He writes about college football and basketball for SB Nation. Trutor is also the Vermont state chairman of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and is a regular contributor to the SABR Biography Project.   
 

Praise

“Clayton Trutor vividly and expertly untangles the complex ball of issues that made Atlanta's transformation into a ‘Major League’ sports town so unexpectedly (and maddeningly) difficult. A fascinating look at the way professional sports collided with politics, economics, and social upheaval in the 1960s and 1970s, Loserville also serves as a cautionary tale for any twenty-first-century city that’s hoping to land its own MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL franchise. In other words, be careful what you wish for!”—Dan Epstein, author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s

“In Loserville Clayton Trutor uses painstaking research and impressive command of Atlanta’s political and racial history to depict the birth of a modern American sports town. Only this creation story comes with a surprising twist. Build it and they will come? Think again.”—John Eisenberg, author of The League: How Five Rivals Created the NFL and Launched a Sports Empire

“As a baseball historian and writer since 1969, and as a fan of the Braves since 1957, I loved every page of Loserville, a well-crafted and well-researched history of both Atlanta and its sports teams. I especially enjoyed reliving the roller-coaster ride the baseball team took from its arrival in 1966 through its dismal years as the Bad-News Braves, with attendance so poor that it took Ted Turner to keep the team in town—and eventually in national view via TBS and some shrewd acquisitions. I like the place and the book.”—Dan Schlossberg, author of When the Braves Ruled the Diamond: Fourteen Flags Over Atlanta

Loserville is a fascinating history of Atlanta’s emergence as the epicenter of Sunbelt sports. . . . In a revealing portrait of Atlanta and the ground-shifting changes in American sports, Trutor demonstrates how the age of franchise free agency collided with the political fracturing of a divided city. Anyone interested in the history of American sports, the South, or Atlanta should read this book.”—Johnny Smith, Julius C. “Bud” Shaw Professor of Sports History at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty that Changed College Basketball


 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1. Forward Atlanta
2. America’s Virgin Sports Territory
3. Franchise Free Agency
4. “The Greatest Location in the World”
5. Wisconsin v. Milwaukee Braves
6. “Gravitating Toward Atlanta”
7. “Not Catching On Around Town”
8. “Losing But Improving”
9. Atlanta Stadium: “A Center of Gravity”
10. “Outside the Stadium, It’s the City”
11. Atlanta Stadium: “A Meeting Place”
12. The Madison Square Garden of the Southeast
13. “The Developer is Boss”
14. The Politics of Metropolitan Divergence
15. Probably Room for Basketball
16. “The Logical Choice”
17. How the Falcons Lost Atlanta
18. “Atlanta’s Ice Society”
19. “A White Player of His Ability is Just What Atlanta and the NBA Need”
20. I Think The Fans Showed Poor Taste
21. Instant City
22. “Keep Hockey a Southern Sport”
23. “Loserville No More”
24. How the Sunbelt Became “Loserville, U.S.A.”
Bibliography

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