Most days of the Macon Bacon’s home games, Luther Williams Field plays host to 3,200 fans in the ballpark. On other days, 100-250 people enter the gates.
It’s not because of weather or poor play – it’s just film crews setting up to shoot in one of the nation’s oldest ballparks.
First opened in 1929, Luther Williams Field, named for a former mayor of Macon, has been home to many minor league and amature teams and is full of history. It is also the perfect locale for filmmakers who need a period ballpark backdrop – playing a part in the large Macon film scene and growing Georgia movie market.
Although the stadium has been around for 93 years, the Macon Bacon are a relatively new tenant. The team as it is now known first began play just four years ago in the Coastal Plain League – a collegiate summer league with teams in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
The Bacon are one of the many baseball franchises that have graced the field. The Macon Peaches called Williams Field home for about 50 years. A variety of affiliates played under the Peach logo, most notably a Cincinnati Reds affiliate team. Pete Rose played his only season in the minor leagues here in 1962.
“If you think about it, how incredible is it that the hit king gets his professional baseball career started in Macon, Georgia,” said Brandon Raphael, the president of the Bacon. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Rose isn’t the only famous name to have graced the field. Raphael said Jackie Robinson took the field in 1949, breaking the color barrier in the state of Georgia two years after he broke the major league barrier. Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones both started their careers in Luther Williams.
The 1970s saw the Macon Dodgers play in the stadium, while the ‘80s brought the Macon Pirates and Macon Redbirds to play the role of the hometown team. The Macon Braves were the Single-A Affiliate for the Atlanta Braves for 12 years beginning in 1991, until relocating to a new stadium in Rome, Georgia.
New item on an old menu
After the Braves left in 2002, Williams Field survived as a series of independent team tenants floundered. A new team under the Peaches moniker played in 2003 before folding. The Macon Music and Macon Pinetoppers met the same fate after one-season efforts in 2007 and 2010, respectively.
Baseball and any activity at the ballpark dwindled until the Bacon arrived in 2018. So have the crowds as the franchise has rethought promotion and refurbished the stadium.
Today, Luther Williams Field is a popular stop for minor league players and film scouts alike.
“I think they like the old school ballpark,” Raphael said. “We get scouts about once a month coming through here and wanting to take a look at the ballpark – it’s pretty cool.”
And they like it for good reason: the ballpark is beautiful. The stadium itself has a large brick facade, with “Macon Base Ball Park” etched on an attached sign. In front, a brick ticket booth boasts a curved metal arch with individual letters welded to the frame, spelling out “Luther Williams Field.”
Inside, the stadium has a traditional seating bowl. While a normal length from home plate to the backstop, the field extends outward from the base paths, leaving additional ground for fielders to travel on errant throws or foul balls hit toward the stands.
While the Bacon have made some noticeable updates – the franchise have added suites, hospitality seats, revamped the concession stands and made a few other modern touches – the team also included a hall of fame and history wall to their renovations to keep the past intact.
“You’ve got that grand facade,” he said. “When you walk in, obviously you walk in at home plate, you kind of see the whole field. It’s awesome. It’s got that newness, combined with the historical reference.”
Big screen ballpark
The first film to shoot at Luther Williams Field was The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, a 1976 comedy film that details a group of Negro League players wanting to get to the major leagues.
The majority of the baseball scenes from the first season of the comedy sitcom Brockmeyer was filmed at the park. The show, which depicts a former MLB broadcaster looking to restart his career, first aired in 2017.
Trouble With The Curve, the story of a baseball scout starring Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams, was filmed in the park before its release in 2012. Undefiled, a faith-based film, shot at Luther Williams in 2021. 42, a film depicting Jackie Robinson’s journey to the major leagues, was partially filmed in the stadium and in select parts of the city of Macon.
Elliot Dunwody was a location scout for the film industry in Bibb County when several of the above were shot. He said the preservation of Luther Williams has helped it become such a good spot for film.
“It’s a period ballfield,” Dunwody said. “They’ve upgraded the dugouts, but as far as the footprint itself, it hasn’t changed. There were a few things in 42 to kind of get back to the ’40s, but other than that, they really didn’t have to dress it up that much.”
For 42, the scoreboard was changed from digital to analog, along with some of the outfield advertisements, Dunwoody said. The concession stands were changed, and the dugouts were scuffed up. While these modifications were done for one movie, each film has a different way of setting up the shot.
“It’s temporary,” he said. “They have set designers that come in, they have propmasters that come in.
“It’s movie magic.”
When it comes time to shoot, Dunwody said there are many cameras to capture the action. With different angles and shots – like reverse angles – cameras can be seen at a variety of locations in the park, although they aren’t all used at once.
“You’ve got cameras in the stadium, cameras on the field, cameras everywhere,” he said.
And cameras were all over the city of Macon during the filming of 42. Dunwoody recounts how film crews elected to stay a little longer.
“We showed them the field and they really liked it,” he said. “While they were here, we were able to get a look at some of the script, and we took them around and showed them some other locations as far as a lot of scenes that they had. Macon was Daytona, New York and some other places. Instead of being here for just a week, they were here for over a month.”
A local cafe and other spots in the city were used for some of these extra shots. Aaron Buzza, chief operating officer of the Macon Convention & Visitors Bureau and camera-ready liaison for the Macon Film Commission, said the city has seen several major film productions in the past few years, speaking to the versatility of the town.
“There has been a lot of focus on the downtown, just because of the fact that it can be almost anywhere in the U.S. and play for a variety of different time periods,” Buzza said.
It’s not just big films, either. The city has seen several other smaller productions shoot in the past several years.
“There are some like Black Widow where streets are shut down and multiple buildings are used and so everybody knows,” Buzza said. “Others fly a little bit more under the radar just based on where they are shooting.”
Buzza said one of the major assets of the Macon film community is the county staff. Buzza said staff members are willing to do the work that film companies want done to get a perfect shot or if they can’t do it, find a contact that can.
“If someone asks ‘Can we make this work?’ generally speaking, the answer is ‘Yes, let’s figure it out,’” Buzza said.
Great scenes, local coordination and a willing staff help create a perfect production point.
“Macon, as far as film goes,” Dunwoody said, “it’s one of a kind.”
So is its ballpark.