Nighttime fun at Johnston Field with the Rams

A 1938 editorial cartoon from The Anniston Star.

In the late spring of 1938, just as the grass at Johnston Field was beginning to grow in, the inaugural Anniston Rams’ entire world was covered in a patina of newness. Enthusiasm hovered over the city’s expansion Southeastern League team, and for good reason. Professional baseball, absent since 1930, was back. And even the Rams’ first home night game received excess hype.

Anniston High School’s football team had played night games at Johnston Field in the 1930s, but the arrival of Class B baseball forced an upgrade of the city-owned facility. The Rams started the season on time despite having to rebuild the grandstands following a February fire. Night games, however, were another matter. With improvements to the park’s lighting system leaking into the season, the Rams held only afternoon games at home until mid-May, which also helped avoid April’s evening chill.

The day before the Rams hosted Jackson in their first night game at Johnston Field, the editorial page of the city’s newspaper, The Anniston Star, published a cartoon illustrating the community’s eagerness for nighttime baseball. In the cartoon, an unnamed Ram, holding the hand of a female fan, tells her, “I’m expecting to see you a lot more now!” The artist even thought to decorate the moon with baseball seams and have it peeking above the hills northeast of the park.

Typical of their first season, the Rams lost their first night home game, 3-2, to Jackson. But pregame hype turned into game-night success for management wanting a packed Johnston Field when the Rams drew 1,485 fans. Despite warnings beforehand from Anniston police, men and young boys climbed trees lining the streets around the park to watch the action without buying a ticket. A homeowner whose house sat on the other side of Snow Creek near the outfield wall went a step further: he built a small grandstand on top of his garage.

The hype over night baseball didn’t last; only 803 fans paid the following night. The Rams lost that game, too, 2-0.

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