It’s been nearly 72 years since the Anniston Rams played their final game. (Which, predictably, they lost.) So, glimpses of the fan experiences at Johnston Field are essentially lost or, at best, relegated to snippets gleaned from old newspaper stories that typically focus on results, not the ballpark culture of pre- and postwar Anniston.
Scorecards, such as the one pictured above, can fill in those gaps. They’re troves of tidbits about games, concessions, in-game contests, advertisers and people who plopped down a few coins to watch Southeastern League games on Anniston’s east side.
This one is from an April 22, 1948, game against Selma, which walloped the Rams that night, 11-2. Folded neatly, the scorecard is a bit smaller than an 8 1/2 by 11-inch sheet of paper, is printed on mid-weight card stock and uses only black ink. It features the original owner’s hand-written notes and tabulations — they kept score and recorded specific details, such as RBIs and which players were involved in double plays — but is otherwise in pristine condition. No doubt it sat dust-free in a desk drawer for seven decades.
From a practical standpoint, the Rams’ 1948 scorecard is surprising in both design and information. Instead of a single sheet with rosters and room to keep score, this one folds out to display eight full-size pages, four to each side. The front cover (above) is boilerplate and doesn’t include the date. The back cover (below) includes a cigarette advertisement and an “up-to-date” list of Cooperstown enshrinees.
(Anniston baseball nerds will notice the names of Ty Cobb, or Tyrus, as he’s listed, who played in the city in 1904, and Connie Mack, who affected the careers of many Rams.)
The second page features the Rams’ ’48 home schedule; a photograph of Charles Baron, Anniston’s manager; and Johnston Field’s concession prices. Bleacher cushion rentals cost 10 cents and 15 cents, though there’s no explanation of the difference: size or quality, or perhaps both?
Page 3 presumably was the same each game, featuring a local advertisement, a baseball-themed quiz, a math lesson for batting averages, and one of the scorecard’s two lucky numbers.
The fourth and fifth pages are the scorecard’s heart. Turned horizontally, the pages gave fans the starting lineups and space to keep score, not to mention more local advertisements and one for The Sporting News in St. Louis, which, the scorecard boasted, was perfect for settling disagreements about baseball minutia. (“Settle them by inside knowledge of the game by regular reading of The Sporting News!”)
It’s the small details that matter — how, for instance, the Rams apparently sold scorecards that featured starting lineups printed on small pieces of paper and affixed inside. Presumably, that would allow bulk printing of the scorecards, with management printing small lineup sheets and gluing them in place before each home game.
The sixth page featured another lucky number, more advertisements and a mail-in contest that urged fans to answer questions about the ads. The winner would get “a very valuable souvenir.” Valuable, perhaps, but unspecified.
The Rams were terribly fond of contests and quizzes. Page 7 included another gimmick in which participating fans wrote the name of their favorite Ram on a form and dropped it in a collection box at Johnston Field. The Ram who earned the most votes would get a $50 gift certificate from an Anniston clothing store. Also on the page were Johnston’s ground rules.
All for a dime, a bargain even in ’48.