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Sandow's pet on today's Braves is Jerry Royster. "I like them all, but if I have to pick one, he's my favorite," she says. "In the beginning, I liked Jerry because he wasn't getting a chance to play, and I knew he was a good player. I felt sorry for him. Last year he wasn't used much in the first part of the season, but in the last half he did a wonderful job. Whatever the Braves want him to do, he does it and never complains."
What about the manager?
" Joe Torre? Oh, he's just wonderful. I remember when he would come down from Brooklyn to visit his brother, Frank," says Sandow. "Frank used to play for the Crackers, you know. Joe would come out to the park and field grounders, shag fly balls, be a bat boy, whatever. He was a fat little boy.
"I remember the little Coke boys they had at Ponce de Leon in the 1930s. They'd see me downtown and borrow a dime for bus fare. After selling their first Cokes of the game they would come over and pay me back. One night at the park one of those little boys came over to see me. Well, actually, he wasn't a little boy anymore. He said, 'You don't know me, but I sure know you.' " Sandow, it seems, has some fans of her own.
But any discussion of the Crackers and Ponce de Leon Park would be incomplete without mention of the stately old magnolia tree that used to stand in centerfield. There was no centerfield fence, and that magnolia became a symbol of the open spaces that characterized the park. A good centerfielder there had to cover a vast territory. "Country Brown, Buddy Bates, Jack Daniels—they were the best I ever saw out there," says Sandow. "They could sure move."
Behind centerfield was a terraced bank. Up the bank was that beautiful magnolia tree. Eddie Mathews as a minor-leaguer made that tree a symbol of power—his own. "He used to bop it over that tree all the time," Sandow recalls, a distance of approximately 525 feet.
She was to have been a reluctant witness at the last game ever played at Ponce de Leon Park. It was on a Friday night in September of 1964, between the Crackers and Jacksonville. "I hope it starts raining Friday afternoon and rains all Friday night," she had said. "It will be so hard, seeing a game in this park for the last time. I'd rather have the game rained out and have it go out that way."
Pearl got her wish. The game was called because of rain. Ponce de Leon Park is no more. A parking lot covers the base paths. But the magnolia tree still stands in what used to be centerfield, and Sandow is still as avid a fan as ever as she waits for her 49th season to begin.