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Chattanooga Lookouts 2

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The Chattanooga Lookouts are a Southern League team that serves as the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinati Reds. The Lookouts play their home games at AT&T Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Early History[]

Although baseball was played in Chattanooga in the 19th century, the first team associated with Organized Baseball in the city came to be in 1906, when local industrialist O.B. Andrews purchased a South Atlantic League team and moved it to Chattanooga. A few years later, wanting to move up in the minor league hierarchy, Andrews sold that team and purchased the Little Rock, Arkansas franchise of the Southern Association and moved that to Chattanooga. The name "Lookouts" was chosen by a fan poll; it refers to Lookout Mountain, which commands a view of the city and was an important military objective during the Civil War. During this period, the team had no major league affiliation.

Joe Engel and the Washington Senators[]

Joe Engel was a scout and former player for the Washington Senators, who made several trips to Chattanooga to scout Lookouts players. In 1926, he convinced Senators owner Clark Griffith to front the money to purchase the team and affiliate it with the Senators. Griffith in term named Engel as the Lookouts' president. Engel became an impresario of baseball promotion, sort of a minor league equivalent of Bill Veeck; under his control, the team engaged in a variety of outlandish promotions and stunts, such as having players enter the field riding an elephant. Engel fronted the money for the construction of Engel Stadium, to be the home park of the Lookouts; it was one of the largest ballparks in the minor leagues when it opened in 1930. Engel's promotions kept the fans coming; one evening, a promotion to raffle off a house drew a crowd of 24,600, double the stadium's rated capacity.

In 1937, Engel signed a 17-year-old female softball player, Jackie Mitchell. In an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Mitchell faced and struck out Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Historians today disagree on whether or not Gehrig and Ruth took a dive; Mitchell went to grave swearing that the whole episode was on the level.

However, the promotions were often more successful than the team itself. After Southern Association championship wins in 1932 and 1939, the team fell into the second division, mirroring the misfortunes of its major league parent. Engel led a movement in 1939 to sell enough stock to fans to buy the team from the Senators, but the movement didn't raise enough money to pay off a mortgage held by Griffith, who was able to retain control of the team. Griffith ordered the team to be moved to Montgomery in 1943, but a letter-writing campaign and season ticket pledges by Chattanooga fans convinced Griffith to move the team back to Chattanooga the next year.

End of the Senators affiliation[]

The team returned to success in the 1950s, winning the Southern Association title in 1952 and drawing over 250,000 fans for the season. But trouble was on the horizon. In the late 1950s, a Lookouts player was accused of throwing games to benefit gamblers, and suddenly small-time proposition betting that had been commonplace in minor league ballparks became a big scandal for the Chattanooga media. Grand jury investigations found no evidence that Engel or the Lookouts management were involved, but the reputational damage was done. That wasn't the most difficult problem, though: The Southern Association leadership was bound and determined to resist the integration of baseball, and major league teams were pulling their affiliations. The entire Southern League drew only 600,000 fans in 1959, and Griffith decided to sell the Lookouts to a local non-profit organization, with the city of Chattanooga taking over Engel Stadium.

For 1960, Engel managed to affiliate the team with the Philadelphia Phillies. But attendance was dropping all across the minors, as television and other forms of entertainment competed for the attention of fans. The Southern Association, stubborn to the end, folded in 1961 rather than integrate, and the Lookouts found themselves without a league. The team was inactive in 1962, before joining the new Southern League the following year. They regained the Phillies affiliation, but this lasted only through 1965. In 1966, losing money and unable to secure a major league affiliation, the Lookouts folded. Engel succumbed to a stroke in 1969.

1970s Revival[]

After the Lookouts, Engel Stadium, still owned by the city, sat neglected. But in 1976, baseball returned to Chattanooga when Woody Reid bought the Southern League's Birmingham Barons and moved them to Chattanooga. When he and his son went to visit the dilapidated Engel Stadium for the first time, they were unable to open the rusted main gate, and gained entry by climbing through a broken window in the box office. Repairs were done to the stadium over the course of the season; broken chairs were gradually replaced, and the locker rooms and concession stands were gradually restored to working condition. The schedule featured "Sparkle Days", where fans showed up early to volunteer for cleaning duty, in exchange for free admission. (Engel Stadium, however, did not get a major renovation until 1988.)

For the first two years, the team was affiliated with the Oakland A's but then switched to the Cleveland Indians. The affiliation bounced around over the next decade; at various points the team was affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, and Minnesota Twins (the former Washington Senators, ironically). The team returned to the Reds affiliation in 2018 and has remained so since.

The Lookouts logo, seen above, was drawn by a team employee in 1991. Prior to that time, the team had never had an official logo.


The Lookouts played their final game in Engel Stadium in 1999. The following year, the team moved to the downtown AT&T Park, where it plays currently. Since 2021, the city and the team have been discussing building a new ballpark fronting the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend, on the site of a defunct foundry and in the shadow of Lookout Mountain. Discussions are still ongoing as of April 2024.

Engel Stadium still stands, but as of 2024 is unused.

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