Baseball, the one-time focal point of life in Norcross, has slipped more into the background over the years.
The city's baseball team faded away years ago, booming growth changed the way of life in the area and Norcross' baseball field may soon be turned into a public park. Soon all that may be left of its baseball heyday are artifacts and stories.
Luckily a group of historians - the Norcross Old Timers Baseball Association - is keeping the city's baseball history alive.
The organization will host a grand re-opening of the Norcross Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday in its new space in the City Hall's rotunda. The Old Timers will gather there at 1 p.m. to celebrate the past, share old stories and check out the new home of the Hall, which was previously in a small space on Carlyle Street.
"Always when you get together like that you hear old stories," said Old Timers chairman Carl Garner Jr., whose father Carl Sr. played for Norcross' town team as early as 1910. "Some of those stories have been told over and over and over. But it's always good to get all of them together to talk about the old days."
The old days of Norcross baseball were pretty special.
Long before Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann and others led the recent spurt of Gwinnett players reaching the major leagues, the bulk of the county's baseball talent went through Norcross. The area's top talent played in the city's downtown and crowds flocked to see the athletes who would go on to become college and minor league players.
Two sets of Norcross brothers - Ivey and Red Wingo and Roy and Cleo Carlyle - even made the major leagues early in the 20th century. Ivey Wingo played 17 major league seasons and caught 1,233 games, including the 1919 World Series. He hit .571 that year as Cincinnati won the title. Red Wingo played six seasons in the bigs, hitting .370 in 130 games for Detroit alongside Ty Cobb in 1925.
Both Carlyles also reached the highest level, although Roy is best known for his 618-foot home run for the Oakland Oaks in 1929. It remains the longest tape-measured home run in baseball history.
That feat, along with information and artifacts on Norcross' baseball history, is now on display for all to see in City Hall. It serves as a nice reminder of days gone by, days when the sport ruled Norcross.
"There were only three things here at that time, baseball, church and the railroad, that's what made Norcross," said John Adams, an Old Timers member who remembers playing with the Carlyles. "This was a settling point for people on the railroad and everybody that could move played baseball."
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays.