Ladd-Peebles Stadium – Mobile’s Sports Centerpiece for Over 65 Years – Features A Unique History Filled With Football Legends
|Pro Football Hall of Famers||Alabama Record at Ladd||Auburn Record at Ladd|
The Bear, Bo, the Snake and Joe Willie, 62 Pro Football Hall of Famers, college football’s highest scoring bowl game in history, Classic excitement, Friday Night heroes, Elvis, Donald Trump and much, much more. They’ve all been a part of the storied history of Ladd-Peebles Stadium – Mobile’s centerpiece for sports for 67 years.
Since its inaugural event on October 2, 1948, when the University of Alabama battled Vanderbilt to a 14-14 tie, Ladd-Peebles Stadium can claim host to one of the most unique histories of any sports facility in the nation. Originally known and dedicated as Ernest F. Ladd Memorial Stadium, in honor of the former president of Merchants National Bank in Mobile, the stadium was officially renamed Ladd-Peebles Stadium in 1997 to also honor longtime Mobile business and community leader and Senior Bowl chairman E.B. Peebles, Jr.
Since that Alabama-Vanderbilt game 67 years ago, Ladd-Peebles Stadium has been home to many of Mobile’s major outdoor events. National celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Jimmy Buffet and Ed Sullivan have held shows there, future U.S. President Donald Trump held a major campaign rally at the stadium in 2015, and the facility has also hosted various festivals, concerts, high school graduations, boxing matches and numerous other sporting and non-sports events over the years.
But the one constant at Ladd-Peebles Stadium has been football. Following that Alabama-Vanderbilt contest in 1948, the Crimson Tide would go on to play 18 more games at the stadium over the next 20 years posting an 10-7-2 mark. Most notable among the Tide’s games in Mobile was the 1958 season-opener against LSU, a contest that holds the distinction of being the first game that legendary head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant ever coached at Alabama. While LSU pulled away late on a touchdown run by Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, the night was made even more unforgettable for the sellout crowd in attendance when a section of the stadium’s end zone stands collapsed during the game. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.
Alabama was certainly not alone among major college teams who made appearances at Ladd Stadium over the years. The Auburn Tigers played eight games at Ladd from 1948-55, playing marquee opponents such as Clemson, Florida and Ole Miss. The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles have played 19 times at the stadium beginning in 1950 and, most recently, when they defeated Ohio University in the 2007 GMAC Bowl.
Professional football has also been a part of the stadium’s history, as eight AFL and NFL exhibition games were held there from 1955-67, allowing fans to see legendary future Hall of Fame greats such as George Blanda, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Doak Walker and Don Maynard, just to name a few.
Three years after its construction, the stadium hosted its first-ever Senior Bowl game in 1951. Over the past 66 years, the bowl has grown into the stadium’s marquee event and the nation’s most prestigious all-star game. Fans attending Senior Bowl games at Ladd have been able to witness the exploits of 42 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, legendary stars such as Terry Bradshaw, Joe Namath, Frank Gifford, Mean Joe Greene and Ozzie Newsome, as well as modern day heroes such as Bo Jackson and Brett Favre.
In 1999, college football’s newest bowl game joined the stadium lineup. Currently called the Dollar Genearl Bowl, and formerly the GoDaddy Bowl, Mobile Alabama Bowl and GMAC Bowl, this event has consistently provided fans with exciting, high-scoring contests featuring some of football’s biggest stars including LaDainian Tomlinson and Ben Roethlesberger. The GMAC Bowl also made college football history in 2001 when it featured the highest-scoring bowl game ever as Marshall University fought back from a 38-8 halftime deficit to score a miraculous 64-61 double overtime victory over East Carolina. A pair of Classics has also helped form the stadium’s unique history. In 1974, Alabama State University hosted Florida A&M in the first-ever Gulf Coast Classic at the stadium, an annual HBCU event held at the stadium for 35 years.
In 1988, one of the nation’s premier high school events was born when the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, featuring the best senior high school players and top college prospects from both states, held its first game at the stadium, a 24-21 triple-overtime thriller won by Alabama. The contest went on to feature future first-round NFL Draft picks such as Cadillac Williams, Steve McNair and Rolando McClain, and many of the top college players produced by the two states over that time.
The stadium has also been host to hundreds of high school football games over the years, and continues to serve as the home facility for four Mobile high schools — Murphy, Williamson, Davidson and LeFlore. The number of “Friday Night Legends” who have displayed their talents during games at Ladd over the years include home grown products such as Ken “The Snake” Stabler, Paul Crane, Robert Brazile, Scott Hunter, Richard Todd, Willie Anderson, Julio Jones and Nick Fairley.
In 2009, the University of South Alabama added a new chapter to the stadium’s historical legacy, as it played its inaugural football season at the facility. The first-ever Jaguar football game, held on September 5, 2009, against Hargrave Military, started a new era giving the stadium its first-ever “season-long” college football tenant. USA would go on to win its first 20 games at Ladd-Peebles, and currently boasts a 36-15 all-time record at the stadium. In 2016, the Jaguars completed its fourth year as a full-fledged member of the Sun Belt Conference, and also qualified for its second-ever bowl game.
Today, the debt-free stadium is one of the City of Mobile’s most valuable assets. With a seating capacity of 40,600, it is the fourth-largest stadium in the state of Alabama and the largest outdoor facility on the Gulf Coast from Tallahassee, Fla., to New Orleans, La.
Mobile’s sports centerpiece for 67 years, Ladd-Peebles Stadium has truly been Mobile’s own “Field of Legends.”