We know that more than 6,400 fans were in attendance in 1949 when Jackie Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodgers teammates played the Macon Peaches in an exhibition game at Luther Williams Field.
But as big as the crowd was to see Macon play Brooklyn, it was not the largest crowd to witness a baseball game at Macons historic ballpark. That distinction belongs to the Macon Peaches and the Birmingham Barons, who drew 7,005 spectators for a game on June 11, 1964.
That game marked the professional debut of Macon native John Blue Moon Odom, who 10 days earlier had claimed a $75,000 signing bonus with Birminghams parent club, the Kansas City As.
At the time, the bonus was believed to be the largest ever signed by a player from Georgia. The As owner, Chicago insurance executive Charles O. Finley, personally came to Macon to sign Odom and was back in town as part of the record crowd.
The 19-year-old right-hander went 5-1/3 innings, throwing 134 pitches, allowing eight runs -- all earned -- with seven strikeouts and seven walks while being tagged with the loss as Macon beat Birmingham 9-7.
In July of that season on a return trip to Macon, he was the winning pitcher in a 5-4 game, going six innings and allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk. A crowd of 2,505 saw that game.
Blue Moon was called up by the As in September of 1964, and in his major league debut against the New York Yankees he gave up his first home run, a three-run shot by Mickey Mantle in the first inning. He also was tagged with three more runs in the second inning before being relieved.
After splitting time between the majors and minors in 1965, 1966 and 1967, he became a full-time major leaguer in 1968 when the As relocated to Oakland. In his first season in California, Odom went 16-10 with a 2.45 ERA, and in 1969 he was 15-6 with a 2.92 ERA.
Odom was named to the AL all-star team in both of those years.
Later, Odom played on Oaklands world championship teams in 1972, 1973 and 1974, compiling a 3-1 record in postseason action, a mark that includes a win in the 1973 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was traded by the As to Cleveland in 1975, and then he was traded by the Indians to the Atlanta Braves that same year.
In 1976, Odom spent his final major league season with the Chicago White Sox. While with the White Sox, he and Francisco Barrios combined for a no-hitter against the As. He pitched five innings of that game, striking out three with nine walks.
In his 12 major league seasons, Odom compiled an 84-85 record with a 3.70 ERA. Blessed with excellent speed on the base paths, he was used as a pinch runner 105 times during his career.
Never to be considered superstitious, Odom wore the number 13 in high school and during all 12 years as a professional.
Arguably the best baseball player to ever come out of Macon, Odom led Ballard-Hudson to two state championships, compiling a 42-2 record during his high school playing days with eight no-hitters.
The 67-year-old Odom lives in Fountain Valley, Calif. He is a frequent participant in celebrity golf tournaments throughout the country, including the Medical Center of Central Georgia Childrens Hospital Classic, where he has played numerous times. He still is involved with the As and will throw out the first pitch at their game Thursday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com