Savannah Bananas owner Jesse Cole writes a book about his baseball team’s origins
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“Banana Ball: The Unbelievably True Story of the Savannah Bananas” by Jesse Cole with Don Yaeger (Dutton)
Jesse Cole’s father shared the following wisdom with his baseball-obsessed 5-year-old son: “Swing hard in case you hit it.”
To say the younger Cole has taken that advice to heart is an understatement. He is, after all, the yellow tuxedo-wearing owner of the Savannah Bananas, the Georgia-based ballclub that became a national phenomenon with its unique and cheeky style of baseball.
Cole explores the team’s origins in his new book, “Banana Ball: The Unbelievably True Story of the Savannah Bananas,” which he wrote with journalist and author Don Yaeger.
A highly regarded prep pitcher in Massachusetts, Cole landed a spot playing at Wofford College. But he suffered a torn labrum while at the South Carolina school, effectively ending his career on the diamond and opening the door to a career just off of it.
After stints as a coach and as a minor league executive, Cole and his wife, Emily, landed in a certain Georgia coastal city. Their new team, the Bananas, joined a summer league for college players in 2016, playing in historic Grayson Stadium after the departure of Savannah’s longtime minor league team. With antics that drew attention from national media — players wearing kilts and using stilts, dancing grandmas (the Banana Nanas), etc. — the Bananas had a long waitlist for tickets.
Cole built on that success by launching a pro team that plays “Banana Ball.” It features a two-hour time limit, no walks, no bunting, batters can steal first base and outs being counted when a fan catches a ball in the stands.