Thomas Co. film may show oldest baseball action in GA

Published: Apr. 22, 2013 at 9:41 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2013 at 9:41 PM EDT
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THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - An historic south Georgia plantation continues to make history.

Or at least uncover it.

Folks at Pebble Hill Plantation recently discovered a nearly 100-year old home movie featuring employees playing baseball.

And researchers at the University of Georgia say it may be the earliest moving images of the sport in the state.

You may not see Pebble Hill versus Chinquapin on SportsCenter tonight, but in 1919 Thomasville, it was serious business.

"Each plantation had their own ball team and I have to say that they were not above hiring a really good baseball player. Even if he wasn't so good at working at the plantation. Just to make sure Pebble Hill won," said Pebble Hill Museum Manager Barbara Cohenour.

This baseball footage and other 28-millimeter home movies were recently discovered on the property.

But they had no idea what they'd found.

"We couldn't watch them. We don't have a 28 millimeter projector. There's probably not one in the entire state of Georgia. So they just sat in their can and waited for something wonderful to happen," said Cohenour.

That's when they decided to call the University of Georgia.

"We made a contact with the University of Georgia film archives. And they have a brand new $40 million building just for archiving films. Now that's the place you want your films to be."

Cohenour says they were able to date the film by a Christmas list and a few pairs of socks.

"We have pictures of the baseball players, still pictures, of those years and you know how baseball socks have those rings around them. We match the rings on the socks to the still pictures."

Film researchers say this film is believed to be the only existing moving image of a baseball game between teams made up of African American employees on southern hunting plantations.

"That's what makes my job particularly wonderful. Building new exhibits, finding new information, digging through the history," said Cohenour.

Cohenour says donating the films to the archive is a win-win for the school and the plantation.

She says not only did the archive send Pebble Hill digital copies, but they will also send an updated version every time a new format is created.

The film also contained footage of four generations of Pebble Hill Plantation owners.

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