Mom’s Nostalgia For Stuckey’s Leads To Special Baseball Game Day At MGA

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 12:00 AM
Categories: Events- Students | Faculty/Staff | Pressroom | Events- Public


Cochran, GA

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Kathy Wilson and her son Ryan, a catcher and designated hitter for the Knights. It was Wilson's idea to host Stuckey's Game Day at Stuckey Field on Saturday, April 24. Photo by Alexandria Brooks.

One of Kathy Wilson’s fondest childhood memories is all the stops her family made at Stuckey’s while driving her from one dance competition to another around the Midwest.  

From the late 1930s through the 1970s, the roadside stores with the blue teal roofs were popular stops for travelers looking to fill up their car tanks, take restroom breaks, peruse aisles full of such chotskies as alligator heads and boxes made of cedar wood, and stock up on branded treats, especially the pecan log rolls the franchise was famous for.

“My brother and I liked the Stuckey’s billboards and how you would see them every few miles,” said Wilson, a St. Louis native who relocated to the Atlanta metro area nearly 30 years ago. “We would joke about getting ‘stuck at Stuckey’s.’”

Fast forward to the present. Wilson’s son enrolls at Middle Georgia State University (MGA) to major in aviation and play baseball for the Knights. Having heard his mom wax nostalgic about the once-iconic stores, Ryan Wilson called her one day and said, “Hey, we play at Stuckey Field.”

Kathy Wilson wasn’t entirely sure the name was connected to the family behind the stores, but when she and her husband drove to the Cochran Campus earlier this year to catch one of the team’s first games of the season she took a cell phone photo of the field sign and posted it to the Facebook page of the Stuckey’s Corporation.

That post eventually led to an email exchange with Stephanie Stuckey, the granddaughter of company founder W.S. Stuckey Sr., who recently took over as CEO. Stuckey confirmed that the field does bear her family’s name.  

As a result of the back-and-forth among Wilson, Stuckey, and MGA representatives, the baseball team is hosting Stuckey’s Game Day on Saturday, April 24, when the Knights take on Brewton-Parker in a double-header at 1 and 4 p.m.

Admission is free and the general public is invited. The company will provide pecan log rolls to everyone who attends (while supplies last) and MGA will hold giveaways for other Stuckey’s-branded prizes. At the invitation of Paul Knight, the team’s head coach, Stephanie Stuckey will throw the ceremonial first pitch at the 1 p.m. game.

“I have to practice,” she said in a recent phone conversation.

Julie Davis, who is helping to organize Stuckey’s Game Day as interim executive director of the MGA Foundation, said the special event brings together her interest in the history of the Cochran Campus, once known as Middle Georgia College, and the nostalgia that she, like Wilson, has for Stuckey’s.

“I love the history associated with Middle Georgia College, and I also have memories of stopping at Stuckey’s when traveling with my parents on vacation years ago,” she said.  “I’m happy to see the comeback of the franchise and thrilled with Stephanie’s interest in supporting our baseball team.”

Stuckey Field got its name in the late 1970s, according to Robert Sapp, the legendary baseball coach who led Middle Georgia College to four National Junior College Athletic Association championships.

Sapp had been the team’s coach for about a year when he began trying to raise money to install light poles at the then-unnamed campus baseball field so the team could play night games. He approached the Stuckey family, which contributed $10,000. That donation, according to Sapp, helped attract a few additional private donations, as well as some public funding through the state legislature.* 

It was around the same time period that the Stuckey’s company star had begun to fade. According to the company’s Facebook page, the family sold the business to a large corporation and the number of stores declined from a high of 350 to a handful of locations. The founder’s son, W.S. “Bill” Stuckey Jr., later reacquired the company but ran other businesses as well. When he and his partners were ready to sell again, his daughter stepped up to the plate.  

Stephanie Stuckey – a lawyer specializing in environmental issues and a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives – became CEO in 2019 and began accelerating the company’s rebuilding plan. Among other initiatives, she and her business partner recently bought a candy plant in Wrens, Ga. Instead of outsourcing, which the company has been doing for 50 years, they can once again make their own Stuckey’s-branded treats, including updated or new items such as pralines, divinity, and flavored and roasted pecans that she said will begin rolling out in about six weeks.

She also plans to open more corporate-owned stores. The 65 current Stuckey’s locations are a mix of stand-alone and stores-within-stores owned by franchisees.

Stuckey said she appreciated hearing from Wilson and is thrilled to take part in the special game day.

“We’re so excited that folks still remember” her family’s connection to the field. “We take pride in it.”

Wilson, a self-described history buff, was intrigued to learn that Stuckey’s was founded in Eastman in 1937. Eastman is also where MGA’s School of Aviation is based. Wilson’s son, the aviation major, lives in a house in Eastman located across the street from an old facility where the Stuckey’s company once manufactured some of its products.

In the email exchange with Wilson, Stephanie Stuckey described her grandfather’s love of baseball and his commitment to Eastman and the surrounding region.

Years ago, Stuckey’s sponsored a Little League team in Eastman called the Candymakers. In the late 1950s or early 1960s, “The Yankee Clipper” himself, Joe DiMaggio, stopped by one of the team’s practices and gave the players some batting instruction. (DiMaggio had retired from professional baseball and was in Eastman doing promotional work for a distribution company that handled Stuckey’s products.) 

Earlier this year, Stephanie Stuckey posted two photos on a business blog that show DiMaggio with the Little Leaguers. The black-and-white photos were taken from a distance, but even casual baseball fans would instantly recognize DiMaggio’s tall, lean frame and batting stance.

Given that the founder of Stuckey’s was such a baseball fan, Wilson is delighted she was able to serendipitously connect some dots from her childhood memories of his roadside stores to her son’s collegiate baseball career.

“Probably most of the guys on the team don’t have a clue about Stuckey’s,” she said. “But maybe Stuckey’s Game Day will help them gain an appreciation for it and the connection it has to the field.”

 

*Thanks to April Renfroe Warren, MGA cataloging librarian on the Cochran Campus, for help gathering this information.