Long before Ted Turner and the Atlanta Braves, Earl Mann was known as “Mr. Atlanta Baseball” and the “Baseball Genius in Dixie.” Mann rose from humble beginnings as a Georgia farm boy to build a baseball dynasty. Born Otis Earl Mann on October 2, 1904, in Riverdale (Clayton County), Mann was selling peanuts, cushions, and soft drinks at Spiller Field (later known as Ponce de Leon Ballpark) by the time he was twelve.
After attending Oglethorpe University for a couple of years, Mann sold tickets for the Atlanta Crackers baseball team. He became assistant team secretary in 1924 and was eventually promoted to team secretary, a position he held until 1929. Over the next four years he managed four different minor league teams throughout the South, each of which won a pennant under his leadership. In 1934 he returned to the Atlanta Crackers as vice president. He was named president the following year at age thirty, and bought the Crackers outright in 1949.
Mann was among the first minor league operators to send scouts to other baseball parks to look for talent. After recruiting a player, Mann paid him between $1,000 and $2,500 up front and wrote into his contract a provision that he would be paid a percentage of what Mann made if the contract was sold to the majors.
Mann’s Atlanta Crackers would lead the Southern Association in attendance more times than any other city. His teams also won more league championships than any other Southern Association team.
In 1959, after losing money for several consecutive years, Mann turned control of the team’s operations over to the league. He continued to remain active in the Atlanta sports scene. He died on January 6, 1990, and his ashes were spread under the magnolia tree on the site of the former Ponce de Leon Ballpark.