There has to be a place for Walter Banks at SunTrust Park

Walter Banks, civic treasure. (Hyosub Shin/AJC photo)

Walter Banks, civic treasure. (Hyosub Shin/AJC photo)

Even though I write subjective things, I try to be objective. (If that makes any sense, which it probably does not.) I am not, however, objective about Walter Banks. He’s the nicest man who has yet lived. If you disagree with me on this, you’re wrong.

Doubtless you know him as the Atlanta Braves’ legendary usher and best ambassador. You probably know that Walter worked the Braves’ first exhibition game in 1965 at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. You’ve seen him on TV, I’m sure, and this year’s farewell to Turner Field featured his photo in print and online ads. Heck, he even delivered the final “Play Ball!” on Sunday.

As it stands, Walter isn’t sure he’ll be able to work at SunTrust Park next year. He’s 77. He lives along Cascade Road. He doesn’t like to drive after dark. He took MARTA to Sunday’s farewell game. He takes MARTA to Georgia Tech and the Georgia Dome and the College Football Hall of Fame. (He has standing gigs at all three.) But the Braves, I feel safe in saying, are the team of his heart.

You haven’t really lived until you’ve met Walter, who makes everyone he meets feel like the most important person on Earth. You also haven’t lived until you mention a number and he free-associates. Like “51”, which he wore on his shirt Sunday, denoting the number of years he has been a Braves’ usher. “In 1951,” he said, “Willie Mays was the rookie of the year.” (Yes he was. Walter is never wrong.)

Full disclosure: Walter used to work with my wife at Rich’s — he knew her long before he knew me — and has met our daughters many times. When they come to a game, they care more about seeing Walter than they do the game itself. They love the guy. Everyone does. The one time I’ve gotten Ted Turner on the phone was for him to talk about Walter, who was Ted’s personal usher back in the day.

As we know, Cobb County is a MARTA no-go zone. I know connections with Cobb County Transit exist, but I’m not sure they’d be do-able for someone whose working day might end at 11 p.m. I’m not sure they’d be feasible for Mr. B. Neither is he.

But what, I asked, if the Braves found a way to get Walter to SunTrust, be it a season-long Uber pass or even a ride on John Schuerholz’s golf cart? Would he want to work there then? Yes indeed, he said.

Then, being Walter Banks, he said: “I don’t want to be a problem for anybody.” And I know him well enough to know that’s not just lip service: He’s one of those rare people who loves doing stuff for you but gets antsy if you try to do something for him. What can I say? The man is a saint.

Here’s also what I’m saying: The sight of Walter Banks, 51 years a Braves usher, in the new home of the Braves even a few times a week would go a long way toward making SunTrust Park feel like a real home. Braves players have come and gone, and managers and GMs and presidents and even owners, but Walter has been the constant. The Braves need to make a place for him in Cobb County.

That’s not open for debate. If you disagree with me on this — although I can’t imagine anyone would — you’re wrong. This has to happen. There can be no Braves without Walter Banks.

A profile of Walter can be found here.

Walter at work before Sunday's farewell game. (M. Bradley)

Walter at work before Sunday’s farewell game. (M. Bradley)

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
Melissa Medina Feaster
Melissa Medina Feaster

Maybe this is God's way of closing a door for this gentleman so he can open a window.

Jamie Cooper
Jamie Cooper

Pay this man. \U0001f4b0\U0001f4b0\U0001f4b0

Brina Doc
Brina Doc

Walter Banks has been " The Face Of The Atlanta Braves for Years... just let's Everyone Know Just How Valued his Contributions have Meant to the Organization... What's that Old Saying , " Out of Sight , Out of Mind... Sad\U0001f63f

Diane McCluskey
Diane McCluskey

What? SunTrust Bank has customers who are people of color? You would never know from their website - looks pasty white to me.

Jim Chapman
Jim Chapman

The Braves should give him his own limo that will take him anywhere at anytime. If the Braves can't at least do this for this man, then this will truly be a worthless franchise.

Timothy Donahue
Timothy Donahue

Maybe someone could set up a GoFundMe for him to pay for an Uber driver to get him to every game. I doubt it would take take long to raise enough to get him back and forth for several years.

Bill Kitterman
Bill Kitterman

If the braves don't set Walter up then it speaks volumes for this franchise. Been here all my life. Used to sit as a child as close to chief knockahomas tee pee as I could, was at the stadium the game before Hank hit 715 against the dodgers. Watched Butkus destroy my Birds ( rise up) at Fulton County Stadium. Braves don't just honor Walter, step up and set Walter up. Show some gratitude for his 51 years. BTW I'm 51 myself. Trust me, that's a long time. Go Dawgs

Marie T. Carter
Marie T. Carter

A person who has been this loyal deserves recognition! How many people are that loyal to a job anymore?

Rachel Roe
Rachel Roe

Love this post. I hope the Braves make this happen.

Linda Samples Williams
Linda Samples Williams

If , they don't hire an intern driver, for Walter, shame shame on them, always about money money, never really about people. But the people, is their money. Do I make any sense at all , Braves????

Joel Shipp
Joel Shipp

Bank, Banks, Banks...get him to the new park....

Cordele Rolle
Cordele Rolle

If he wants to work and all he's asking for is a car ride? They can hire an intern driver for the money they have, he's practically the team.

CaptainAmerica38
CaptainAmerica38

I sat on Walter's aisle 105 at Atlanta Stadium from 1981-1996. My seats were moved off of his aisle at Turner Field. But after nearly 2 decades of not sitting on his aisle, he still remembers me and every time I would visit him you'd think it was the highlight of his life. I ran into him 3 years ago in Charlotte at a Falcons/Panthers game. It made my day. Walter is a true Atlanta icon. I'll never forget him. Hopefully he (and I) find a way to make it to the games at Cobb County Field.

Julie Merrill
Julie Merrill

I worked with Walter at Fulton County Stadium in the late 70's-early 80's. Wonderful gentleman. I hope they find a way to continue Walter's contributions to the Braves and honor his faithful service. What an example of civility and kindness he has been to all. Irreplaceable.

Centrist
Centrist

Could not agree more.  Met him a few times at the Ted.  The word " genuine " doesn't even come close to describing him.  He is an integral part of Braves' fabric and there should be a way to include him at Suntrust.  I believe it will happen.

Cindy McCard Turner
Cindy McCard Turner

Atlanta Braves and Walter Banks go hand-in-hand. We were fortunate enough to sit in his section near home plate many times, and he did make us feel like the most important people in the world. I'll especially never forget how kind he was to my mother. She might as well have been Queen Elizabeth the way he made over her and welcomed her to Turner Field. I had already wondered if he would be able to make the transition and am hoping to hear that the Braves make it happen. He is a wonderful ambassador for the team, and I'd say just as important as any owner, coach, or player has ever been. ⚾️ If you should happen to see this message, Mr. Banks, thank you for your hospitality and gentle spirit.

Susan Garrett Bagwell
Susan Garrett Bagwell

Surely the Braves can add a pick up and drop off Uber fee for Walter to their expense account or travel account. Loyalty and hard work for this many years should be rewarded..Let his legend live on!

Ginna Evans
Ginna Evans

Walter Banks is a class act. I agree with Mark Bradley. There has to be a place for Walter at SunTrust Park.

Clyde Cattles
Clyde Cattles

If Mr. Banks wants to continue his 51 years as a Braves usher, then I think the Braves should make it happen.

Demetris Marshall
Demetris Marshall

And who has been loyal to any job for half a century? Not many. This is so wrong in epic proportions.

Adam Polk
Adam Polk

I first met Walter this year, which is astounding considering how often I go to the park. Came up to us in the 6th inning, and I don't even know how the game ended. He is what made the ticket worth it that night.

Marie Hart-Bromley
Marie Hart-Bromley

It's guys like him and people who depend on public transportation who can't go to freaking Cobb County!!!!

Carol Ingalsbe Robertson
Carol Ingalsbe Robertson

I will go on record here, that I have contacted the front office of the Braves and volunteered my company's (A Heavenly Carriage Limousine) services to transport Walter to and from the first game at Suntrust. 

JBW2868
JBW2868

Without Ted, we would have long forgotten the great Walter Banks.

JBW2868
JBW2868

Mark, the AJC should be asking the money grabbing, self serving Braves management about its disrespect of Ted.

JBW2868
JBW2868

Why was Ted not invited to tear down a number at TURNER FIELD? Why was Ted not included in the ceremonies yesterday. The Braves should be ashamed by the disrespect of TED TURNER. Without Ted, the Braves would have been gone a long time ago

Tydis Marshall
Tydis Marshall

If someone in the braves front office will contact me I would be happy to work out something with them concerning transportation for Mr. Banks to and from SunTrust Park. Www.Facebook.Com/marshallslimo

Step Ware
Step Ware

Wow ,,that's awesome.. what a kind hearted person you are

Ginna Evans
Ginna Evans

May you be blessed many times over Mr. Marshall for making such a wonderful offer. Walter Banks is such a kind person. I hope you hear from the Braves soon about your generous offer.

Gary Rebholtz
Gary Rebholtz

It would be sad for him not to be present. The Braves wit all there money could afford to get him to the games. He said it would be difficult for him to get to games, but with his record, they need to do the right thing!

Glenn Kinard
Glenn Kinard

I worked with Walter at Rich's Department Stores many years ago. He's a very positive and kind person. He is certainly deserving of a place at SunTrust Park.

Dogbert
Dogbert

This is spot on. I have had the unique pleasure of sitting in Walter's section; what a great representative of the Braves organization! Plus, as Walter would say, he's 77, and the only Brave to wear number 77 was Rico Carty (although only as  Milwaukee Brave) and Rico is also 77. Walter needs to be at SunTrust next year even if it takes Derek Schiller personally driving him there and back. 

Wanda Steely
Wanda Steely

Awesome story hope they find away to get him to the games.

Pat Mobley
Pat Mobley

Limo or Uber, at Braves expense. He needs to be there.

TideDawg
TideDawg

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Braves organization move because the city wouldn't make some changes in contracts? That's a legitimate question because I am not sure how or why the change came about.

Pamela Taylor
Pamela Taylor

This is a awesome story about Mr Walter Banks congratulations on his many years of wonderful service to others. I pray his dedication does not go unnoticed by the Braves organization and numerous people he has crossed paths with.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

they'll find a way to get this guy to the game because he's a public face of the franchise and they'll do it as a PR thing....but there are dozens of other loyal employees being left behind by the move out of the city (and away from public transportation/walking options). Nobody much cares about that. 


which reminds me, I was at the park Thursday night and was reminded again at how ridiculous this move is...even though its being touted as "for the fans" we all know its being done so the corporate owners out of Colorado can realize a larger annual profit on their tax write-off.  I'm sure Suntrust Park will be a fine ballpark...but the city and the franchise lost a big opportunity to be part of the great ballparks in the country right now...that is, those that have blossomed in their city settings.


Oh well, at least Liberty Media made some money. 

Vickie Tallent
Vickie Tallent

The Braves need to have him picked up and delivered at every game he wants to be at!

Jim Lanham
Jim Lanham

i came from chicago.and the first thing i did? met him