Chain Of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida

March 1st, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Chain Of Lakes Park (also known as Chain O’ Lakes Park) is located at 500 Cletus Allen Drive in Winter Haven, Florida. The ballpark opened in 1966 as the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Red Sox previously had trained in Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, from 1933 until 1958, with the exception of the war years from 1943 to 1945. From 1959 until their move to Winter Haven in 1966, they trained in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Chain O' Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida - Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

Chain O’ Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida – Poscard (Curteichcolor Natural Color Reproduction, Ridge Distribution)

After the 1992 season, the Red Sox departed Winter Haven and relocated their spring training headquarters to Fort Myers, Florida, and City of Palms Park. All told, the Red Sox trained at Winter Haven for 26 seasons, the longest they ever had, or ever have, trained at one location.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 t0 2011

In 1993, the Cleveland Indians moved their spring training home Chain of Lakes Park.

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Welcome Sign, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Since 1947, the Indians had trained at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona.

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The Cleveland Indians continued to train at Chain of Lakes Park until the end of the 2008 spring season, returning in 2009 to Arizona, and Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View From Third Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Minor league baseball was played Chain of Lakes Park every year that a major league team trained there as well, beginning with the Florida State League Winter Haven Sun Sox in 1966, the Winter Haven Mets in 1967, the Winter Haven Red Sox from 1969 to 1992, and the Gulf Coast League Indians from 1993 to 2008.

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from the Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Winter Haven had a covered grandstand from first base around the third base, providing fans plenty of shade from the Florida sun.

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View from First Base Grand Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although the ballpark was renovated prior to the Indians’ arrival in 1993, Chain of Lake Park retained much of its 1960s “charm.”

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

First Base Grandstand Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

It was a wonderful place to watch a ballgame, whether from the grandstand or on the outfield berm behind left field.

Indian's Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Indian’s Center Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Although not quite like Wrigley Field and Waveland Avenue in Chicago, a condominium development beyond right field provided owners  of the units who back up to the ballpark an excellent view of the action on the field.

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Scoreboard, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The same can be send for view provided the pitchers in the bullpen just beyond the right field corner.

Cleveland Indians Logos  on Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Cleveland Indians Pitcher Watches the Action for from the Bullpen Just Beyond the Right Field Wall, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The third base grandstand and bleachers were set into the side of a small hill which provided a nice touch of unencumbered green space.

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

View of Left Field Grandstand and Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

One downside of the ballpark’s design was most of the concessions and souvenir stands were located down the third base line, making the area quite jammed during the game.

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Concourse, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Dairy Queen Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

During the Indian’s time at Winter Haven, one of the true pleasures of attending a game there was the chance to meet and talk with Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who was a fixture at Indians spring training. For a modest charge of $10 he would autograph any item you brought with you, or for an additional $5 sign one of the pictures he had on hand.

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Hall of Famer Bob Feller Signing Autographs at Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

When grandstand seating for games sold out, it was still possible to buy a ticket and sit on the outfield berm. Sometimes it felt as if there were just as many fans sitting past the left field fence as there fans in the grandstand.

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Berm Seating, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Overflow Seating, Center Field Berm, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Once the Indians announced their intentions to depart Chain of Lakes Park after the 2008 season, you could sense the disappointment of those who worked at the ballpark that professional baseball no longer would be played in Winter Haven.

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Center Field Camera Stand, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

For several years after the Indians departure, it looked as if Chain of Lakes Park might become yet another lost ballpark, as plans were floated for demolishing the site and constructing a shopping center and condominiums.

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

Third Base Box Seats, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

The good news is that, at least for the foreseeable future, baseball will continue to be played at Chain of Lakes Park. Winter Haven has turned the former spring training site into a first class amateur baseball venue with events held by such organizations as The World Amateur Baseball Association and college invitational tournaments, including the RussMatt Central Florida Collegiate Baseball Invitational.

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City of Palms Park – The Red Sox First Spring Training Home In Fort Myers

February 27th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

City of Palms Park is located at 2201 Edison Avenue in Fort Myers, Florida. Constructed in 1992, it is the newest Grapefruit League venue already abandoned as a major league spring training home. Only Tucson Electric Park in Tucson, Arizona, built in 1998 and abandoned by major league baseball in 2010, is newer.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park was the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox from 1993 through 2011. The Gulf Coast League Red Sox also played at City of Palms Park during those same years.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The Red Sox relocated to Fort Myers from Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven Florida, where they had trained since 1966.

Lee County Sports Authority Sign, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Lee County Sports Authority Sign, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

As a spring training facility, City of Palms Park was a great place to watch a ballgame. It’s one major drawback, which helped lead to the Red Sox’s departure, was its lack of sufficient training fields located adjacent to the stadium to handle all of the Red Sox major league and minor league players. As such, the Red Sox played their exhibition games at City of Palms Park, but trained (both major and minor league players) two and a half miles away at the Lee County Player Development Complex.

Entrance to City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Because of its relatively young age, the stadium featured many of the more modern upgrades teams and fans have come to expect at spring training venues.

Starting Lineup , City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Starting Lineup , City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The stadium entrance was sufficiently wide to allow fans easy entry.

Front Entrance Gates, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Front Entrance Gates, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Still, the uncovered concourse around the stadium could get fairly packed during sold out Red Sox games.

Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to the Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Entrance to the Concourse, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The ballpark included plenty of options and places to purchase food and souvenirs.

Souvenir Stand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Souvenir Stand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Souvenirs, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Souvenirs, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

One of the ballpark’s best features was its wide, expansive roof over the grandstand, providing plenty of shade to fans sitting underneath.

View of Grandstand from Left Field Line, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand from Left Field Line, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Press Box and Suites, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Press Box and Suites, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Down the right field line was a covered eating area featuring Red Sox retired jersey numbers.

Red Sox Retired Player Numbers Honored at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Red Sox Retired Player Numbers Honored at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Near the right field corner was berm seating.

Right Field Berm, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Berm, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The right field porch included a bench table seating area, similar to seating at Fenway Park above the Green Monster in left field.

View of Grandstand From Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand From Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Porch,  City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field Porch, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The bullpens were located beyond the outfield fence.

DSCN1597 copy

John Lackey Warming Up In Outfield at  City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

John Lackey Warming Up In Outfield at City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The scoreboard at City of Palms Park was old school, although not as old school as Fenway Park’s manually operated scoreboard.

Scoreboard, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Scoreboard, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Right Field, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park was  picturesque, a wonderful place to watch a ball game. After the Red Sox announced they would be leaving ,Cit of Palms Park it seemed a shame that professional baseball no longer would be played there.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 2012, the Red Sox relocated 14 miles southeast of City of Palms Park to brand new Jet Blue Stadium.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Unlike City of Palms Park, which is located near the heart of downtown Fort Myers, Jet Blue Stadium is located far from downtown, on land next to the Southwest Florida International Airport (which is appropriate given the name of the ballpark).

Jet Blue Stadium Construction Site, Circa 2011, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium Construction Site, Circa 2011, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

The Boston Red Sox are long-time spring training residents of Florida’s Grapefruit League. The ballparks they have called home have reflected the ever changing style of stadium construction:

"Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla." (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

Payne Park, “Baseball Spring Training Boston Red Sox in Action, Sarasota, Fla.” (Postcard M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

from Payne Park in Sarasota in the 1940s and 1950s, to Chain of Lake Parks in Winter Haven in the 1960s,

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter  Haven, Florida

Chain Of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Florida

to City of Palms Park,

View From the First Base Grandstand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View From the First Base Grandstand, City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

to Jet Blue Stadium.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

After the Red Sox departed City of Palms Park, Lee County attempted to convince the Washington Nationals to train at the stadium. After those efforts proved unsuccessful, City of Palms Park and practice field was reconfigured as a college softball and baseball park. Currently, the ballpark is home to the Florida SouthWestern State College Buccaneers baseball and softball teams. The good news is it does not appear that City of Palms Park will any time soon become a lost ballpark. And with a college team now resident there, it is still possible to see a game at City of Palms Park.

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Henley Field – A Walk Back In Time

February 26th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Henley Field is located at 1125 North Florida Avenue in Lakeland Florida. In 1923, the ballpark was known as Adair Field, built  on land purchased from Dr. Pike Adair by the City of Lakeland.

Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

At the urging of Clare Henley, President of the Lakeland Baseball Club, the Cleveland Indians began training at Adair Field in 1923. In 1925, the City of Lakeland completed construction of a Mission Revival grandstand and the ballpark was christened Athletic Park. The Cleveland Indains trained at Athetlic Park through the 1927 spring season.

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The first professional baseball team to play at the site was the International League Louisville Colonels who trained at Adair field in 1915 after having spent the previous spring training at Terry Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

Front Entrance Gate, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Front Entrance Gate, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

From 1919 to 1926, the Florida State League Lakeland Highlanders (owned by Henley) played their home games at Adair Field and Athletic Park.

Ticket Windows, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Ticket Windows, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

In 1934, also at the urging of Henley, the Detroit Tigers moved their spring training home to Athletic Field.

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida, Parallel to First Base Foul Line

Exterior, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida, Parallel to First Base Foul Line

In 1952 the ballpark was renamed Clare “Doc” Henley Ball Park.

Dedication Plaque, Clare Henley, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Dedication Plaque, Clare Henley, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The concrete block wall that surrounds the stadium dates back to the late 1920s.

FIrst Base-Right Field Wall, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

FIrst Base-Right Field Wall, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

From 1940 until 1985, a press box stat atop the grandstand.

View of Grandstand from Center Field, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

View of Grandstand from Center Field, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Grandstand Netting, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Grandstand Netting, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The original dugouts were part of the grandstand. The current dugouts were erected long after the Tigers ceased playing at Henley Field.

View of Dugout and Grandstand from Left Field Line, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

View of Dugout and Grandstand from Left Field Line, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

First Base Dugout, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

First Base Dugout, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

In 2002, Henley Field had one final fling with professional baseball when the Florida State League Lakeland Tigers played one season at the ballpark during the renovation of Joker Merchant Stadium. In preparation for that season, the original wood seats in the grandstand were replaced with aluminum seating

Grandstand Seating, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Grandstand Seating, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The first few rows behind home plate in the grandstand now include seating for the press.

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

As part of the renovation, a new scoreboard was installed as well.

Scoreboard, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Scoreboard, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

However, Henley Field retains much of its 1920s baseball charm.

Administrative Office, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Administrative Office, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Inside Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Inside Front Entrance, Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

The Tigers continued to train at Henley Field until 1965, with the exception of 1943 to 1945 when they trained at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana, because of war time travel restrictions. In 1966, the Tigers moved to brand new Joker Merchant Stadium

Joker Merchant Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Detroit TIgers, Lakeland Florida

Joker Merchant Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Detroit TIgers, Lakeland Florida

The Tigers and Lakeland have the longest relationship in Major League Baseball between a team and its spring training city.

Tiger Villa Motel Postcard, Lakeland, Florida (Curteichcolor 3-D Natural Color).

Tiger Villa Motel Postcard, Lakeland, Florida (Curteichcolor 3-D Natural Color).

Henley Field currently is the home of the Florida Southern University Moccasins baseball team.

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Henley Field, Lakeland, Florida

Henley Field is located only one and a half miles south of Joker Merchant Stadium, so there really is no excuse not to visit the ballpark if you are in Lakeland attending Tigers spring training. Even with its renovation, Henley Field is like walking back in time to see spring training as it was in the 1920s and 1930s.

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Jack Russell Stadium – The Phillies’ Second Clearwater Home

February 25th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Jack Russell Stadium is located at 800 Phillies Drive in Clearwater, Florida. For almost 50 years it was the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Constructed in 1954, the ballpark opened in 1955 when the Phillies moved their spring training home two blocks west from Clearwater Athletic Field.

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Ball Field

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida, 2015

The Phillies had held their spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field since 1947.

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater and Jack Russell Stadium, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field in Background and Jack Russell Stadium in Foreground, Clearwater, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

Jack Russell Stadium was also home to the Florida State League Clearwater Phillies from 1985 to 2003.

Clearwater Stadium Postcard (Tichnor Quality Views, Tichnor Bros., Inc.)

Clearwater Stadium Postcard (Tichnor Quality Views, Tichnor Bros., Inc.)

The ballpark was named after Jack Russell, a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals, who settled in Clearwater, Florida, after his 16 major league career ended  in 1940. Russell helped spearhead the construction of a new ballpark in Clearwater to replace the outdated Clearwater Athletic Park.

Russell Field - Major League Baseball, Clearwater, Florida - Postcard (Curteichcolor Art  Creation)

Russell Field – Major League Baseball, Clearwater, Florida – Postcard (Curteichcolor Art Creation)

Jack Russell Stadium’s grandstand was built in the same mold as other Florida spring training ballparks of that era such as Al Lopez Stadium in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

Exterior, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Exterior, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The grandstand was single deck, covered from first base around to third base.

First Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

First Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The press box was located behind home plate under the overhang.

Press Box, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Press Box, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The grandstand included aluminum seats in the lower seating bowl and aluminum bleachers under the grandstand roof.

Aluminum Seating, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Aluminum Seating, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

In 2004, the Phillies left Jack Russell Stadium and relocated four miles east to brand new Bright House Stadium.

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

In 2007, the grandstand and the ticket office was demolished.

Front Entrance, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Front Entrance and Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida

Metal bleachers along the first base line that had been installed at Jack Russell Stadium sometime after its original construction were preserved and still remain at the ballpark.

First Base Grandstand and Player Clubhouse, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

First Base Grandstand and Player Clubhouse, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

The dugouts were preserved and remain at the ballpark as well.

First Base Dugout, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

First Base Dugout, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Metal bleachers located along the third base line were also preserved.

Home Plate, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Home Plate, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

The scoreboard and batters eye remain at the site.

Outfield Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Outfield Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Back of Batter's Eye and Scoreboard, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Back of Batter’s Eye and Scoreboard, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

The original concrete block wall still surrounds the stadium exterior.

Original Stadium Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Original Stadium Wall, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Several administrative buildings also remain on site.

Administrative Building, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Administrative Building, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Third Base Grandstand and Concession Stand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Third Base Grandstand and Concession Stand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2013

Ticket Booth, Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Ticket Booth, Third Base Grandstand, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Looking Toward Third Base Bleachers From Beyond Left Field Corner, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Looking Toward Third Base Bleachers From Beyond Left Field Corner, Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater Florida, 2015

Although the grandstand constructed in 1954 is now gone, much of the rest of the ballpark remains intact, allowing visitors the opportunity to appreciate Florida Spring Training from the 1950s and 1960s.

Extra Innings Youth Foundation currently leases and maintains the ballpark. Extra Innings has “developed programs which include the introduction of baseball activities while simultaneously fostering academic improvement, spiritual guidance, and assisting young adults to become self sufficient in making life choices.” (See Extra Innings Website).

Any Phillies fans who are interested in the history of their team and the game itself should take the four mile drive from Bright House Field west on Drew Street to the former site of Clearwater Athletic Field and the current site of Jack Russell Stadium. Over 55 seasons of Phillies spring training history occurred at those two locations and they certainly are worth a visit.

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Clearwater Athletic Field – The Phillies First Clearwater Home

February 25th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Clearwater Athletic Field was located near the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street in Clearwater, Florida. It hosted major league spring training for over 30 years, from 1923 to 1954.

Clearwater Athletic Field, (Photo Courtesy Via  Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clearwater_Athletic_Field.png#mediaviewer/File:Clearwater_Athletic_Field.png) (Fair Use)

Clearwater Athletic Field, (Photo Courtesy Via Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clearwater_Athletic_Field. png#mediaviewer/File:Clearwater_Athletic_Field.png) (Fair Use)

The Brooklyn Dodgers first occupied the ballpark from 1923 to 1932, having previously trained at J.P. Smalls Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida. The Dodgers departed Clearwater for the 1933 season and trained from 1934 to 1935 at Tinker Field in Orlando, Florida.  The Dodgers returned to Clearwater Athletic Field from 1936 to 1941. The International League Newark Bears held their spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field from 1933 to 1935 and the Cleveland Indians held their spring training at Clearwater in 1942 and 1946. The Philadelphia Phillies held their spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field from 1947 to 1954. Clearwater Athletic Field was also home to the Florida State League Clearwater Pelicans in 1924 and the Florida State Negro Baseball League Clearwater Black Sox in 1952. The ballpark was later renamed Ray Green Field  after the former mayor of Clearwater.

Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.) (image is portion of larger photo)

Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.) (image is portion of larger photo)

Home plate was located near Pennsylvania Avenue, about half a block up from Seminole Street. A street that is no longer there paralleled Seminole Street. The first base foul line paralleled that street.

Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Near Northeast Corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street, Clearwater, Florida

Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Near Northeast Corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seminole Street, Clearwater, Florida

North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex now stands on the site.

North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

The southwest portion of the recreation center sits in the approximate location of home plate and the first base grand stand.

DSCN0329 copy

A street once paralleled Seminole Street, running along the first base grand stand. That street is now part of the park surrounding the recreation center.

Grove of Trees Just South of North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Grove of Trees Just South of North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Center Field was located at the southwest corner of Palmetto Street and Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd.

Center Field Corner, Looking Toward North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Center Field Corner, Looking Toward North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Right Field paralleled Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard (formerly Greenwood Avenue).

Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. Looking South From Clearwater Atheltic Field's Former Center Field Corner to Right  Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex,  Clearwater Florida

Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. Looking South From Clearwater Atheltic Field’s Former Center Field Corner to Right Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Clearwater Florida

Left Field paralleled Palmetto Street.

Palmetto Street Looking West From Clearwater Atheltic Field's Former Center Field Corner to Left Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex,  Clearwater Florida

Palmetto Street Looking West From Clearwater Atheltic Field’s Former Center Field Corner to Left Field Corner, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Clearwater Florida

The front entrance to the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex sits in what was once right field.

Front Entrance, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Front Entrance, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

The aquatic center sits in what was once center field.

Pool and Waterpark Where Once There Was Right Field, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

Pool and Waterpark Where Once There Was Right Field, North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, Former Site of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater Florida

In 1954, the City of Clearwater constructed a new spring training stadium, Jack Russell Stadium just two blocks east of Clearwater Athletic Park, which the Phillies moved into in 1955.

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater and Jack Russell Stadium, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

Aerial Photo of Clearwater Athletic Field, Clearwater and Jack Russell Stadium, Florida (Photo St. Petersburg Times Photo Dept.)

The Phillies continued to use Clearwater Athletic Field as a practice facility even after the grandstand burned down in 1956.

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida, 2004

Sandwiched between Clearwater Athletic Field and Jack Russell Stadium is Walter C. Campbell Park, which was once practice fields and parking for Jack Russell Stadium.

Walter C. Campbell Park, Former Parking Lot and Training Fields for Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida

Walter C. Campbell Park, Former Parking Lot and Training Fields for Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater, Florida

The light stanchions of Jack Russell Stadium are visible from the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex, two blocks away.

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Ball Field

View of Jack Russell Field From Former Site of Clearwater Ball Field

In 2003, the Phillies relocated four miles east to yet another new ballpark in Clearwater, Bright House Field.

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Bright House Field, Clearwater, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Any Phillies fans who are interested in the history of their team and the game itself should take the four mile drive from Bright House Field west on Drew Street to the former site of Clearwater Athletic Field and the current site of Jack Russell Stadium (although the grandstand and seating bowl are long gone). Over 55 seasons of Phillies spring training history occurred at those two locations and they certainly are worth a visit.

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Fort Myer’s Terry Park – Over 100 Years of Baseball History

February 24th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Terry Park is located at 3410 Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers, Florida. The ballpark hosted major league spring training for over 50 years, from the early 1920s to the late 1980s. The earliest professional baseball activity at the site was in 1914 when the American Association Louisville Colonels held spring training on the grounds of the Fort Myers Yacht and Country Club, owned by Dr. Marshall Terry and his wife Tootie MacGregor Terry. The Colonels also played exhibition games against the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Browns that year (although the baseball field used by the Colonels was not the same field that would become Terry Park).

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 1918, Lee County began holding its annual fair on the country club property and, in 1921, Dr Terry donated to the county the land on which the country club was built. That same year the county officially named the property “Terry Park.” See Terry Park 100 Year Anniversary Book, Lee County Parks for a detailed history of the property and Terry Park. In 1923, Lee County convinced Connie Mack to bring his Philadelphia Athletics to Fort Myers for spring training. The county utilized plans provided by Mack in designing the ballpark and field, which opened in 1925. The Athletics departed Terry Park after the 1936 season. The Cleveland Indians subsequently trained at Terry Park in 1941 and 1942.

Ty Cobb, Thomas Edison, and Connie Mack at Terry Park (Photo From Collection of Edison and Ford Winter Estates)

Ty Cobb, Thomas Edison, and Connie Mack at Terry Park (Photo From the Edison and Ford Winter Estates Collection)

A fire started during an amateur baseball game destroyed Terry Park’s grandstand in 1943. In hopes of bringing Major league spring training back to Terry Park, the county and the City of Fort Myers in 1954 constructed a new 2,500 concrete and steel grandstand. In 1955 the Pittsburgh, Pirates moved their spring training to Terry Park. The Pirates departed after 1968, and the following year the Kansas City Royals made Terry Park their home. The Royals trained at Terry Park until 1987. In March 1990, the Minnesota Twins used Terry Park as the spring training grounds for its minor league players while Lee County Stadium was being built.

Terry Park Postcard "Pittsburgh Pirates WInter Home" (Lustercrome, Tichnor Bros. Boston)

Terry Park Postcard “Pittsburgh Pirates Winter Home” (Lustercrome, Tichnor Bros. Boston)

Although the baseball complex is still known today as Terry Park, the stadium itself was renamed Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium in 1972, after a local baseball enthusiast and government administrator.

Terry Park Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

During his long career of service to the City of Fort Myers, Pigott was Director of both City of Fort Myers Parks and Recreation and Lee County Parks and Recreation, as well as the Superintendent of Terry Park.

Park T. Pigott Historical Plaque, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Park T. Pigott Historical Plaque, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Pigott also was instrumental in bringing both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals to Terry Park for spring training.

Park T. Pigott Historical Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Park T. Pigott Historical Sign, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park also was home to the Florida State League Fort Myers Palms from 1926 to 1927, and the Fort Myers Royals from 1978 to 1987. In 1989 and 1990 it was the home to the Fort Myers Sun Sox of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Terry Park includes three practice fields named after Hall of Famers who played at Terry Park for three of the teams that trained there: Connie Mack, Roberto Clemente, and George Brett.

Connie Mack Field at Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Connie Mack Field at Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Practice Field Bleachers Behind Main Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Practice Field Bleachers Behind Main Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Once professional baseball departed, Terry Park was used primarily for youth, American Legion, and high school baseball.

Outfield Wall, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Concrete Block Outfield Wall, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In 1965, Terry Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, in 2004 the grandstand was demolished after Hurricane Charley damaged the structure.

Left Field Line Looking Toward Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Left Field Line Looking Toward Grandstand, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Although some of the girders installed in 1955 remain, the structure bears little resemblance to the historic grandstand it replaced.

Grandstand Interior, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Grandstand Interior, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

During the 2004 renovation, the dugouts also were replaced, as well as some, if not all, of the outfield wall.

View of Grandstand from Behind First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

View of Grandstand from Behind First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

The good news is that baseball is still played at Terry Park. The stadium is used year round for amateur and college baseball.

Sign Welcoming Players to Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Sign Welcoming Players to Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

In February and March each year, over 100 teams travel to Terry Park for the The Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic.

First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

First Base Dugout, Terry Park, Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers boasts a proud history of major league spring training. Three other facilities nearby once held or currently hold spring training in Fort Myers. From 1993 to 2011, the Boston Red Sox held their spring training at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers.

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida

City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida, Former Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox

Since 2012, the Red Sox have trained at Jet Blue Stadium, located in Fort Myers 14 miles southeast from City of Palms Park.

Jet Blue Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

Jet Blue Stadium, Current Spring Training Home of the Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, Florida

The Minnesota Twins also train in Fort Myers, at Hammons Stadium, located just seven miles west of Jet Blue Stadium.

Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Minnesota Twins

Hammons Stadium, Fort Myers, Florida, Spring Training Home of the Minnesota Twins

If you are attending spring training at either of these stadiums in Fort Myers, take a moment to visit Terry Park as well. It is a beautiful park full of baseball history. And chances are you might catch an amateur or college game while you are there. For additional photos of Terry Park (including many vintage photos), see naplesnews.com.

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Tinker Field – 100 Years of Baseball in Orlando, Florida

February 22nd, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Tinker Field is located at 1610 West Church Street in Orlando, Florida. The actual playing field dates back to 1914, when it was constructed by the City of Orlando. The original grandstand was constructed in 1923.

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

The  stadium is named in honor of Hall of Famer Joe Tinker, the former Chicago Cubs shortstop made famous in the 1910 baseball poem by Franklin Pierce Adams, “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

Joe Tinker,  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Joe Tinker, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Tinker relocated to Orlando after retiring from Major League Baseball in 1920, and became owner and manager of Orlando’s Florida State League team for one season in 1921.

Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

Tinker remained in Orlando, leaving baseball to concentrate on his new career as a real estate broker and developer in Orlando. A building he constructed in 1925 that housed his real estate business still stands in downtown Orlando at 16 and 18 West Pine Street, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plaque Honoring Joe Tinker, Placed at Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

Plaque Honoring Joe Tinker, Placed at Tinker Building, Orlando, Florida

In 1923, at the urging of Tinker, the Cincinnati Reds (Tinker had played and managed for the Reds) began holding spring training at Tinker Field, a place where they continued to train through the 1930 season. In 1931, the Reds moved their spring training home to Plant Field in Tampa, Florida.

Exterior, First Base Side, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Exterior, First Base Side, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, 2015

In 1934, the Brooklyn Dodgers relocated their spring training from Clearwater Athletic Field to Tinker Field, where they trained for two seasons before moving back to Clearwater in 1935.

Exterior, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Exterior, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

In 1936, the Washington Senators began a several-decades long affiliation with Tinker Field. The Senators held spring training there from 1936 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1960. After the Senators franchise relocated to Minnesota as the Twins in 1961, the Twins continued to train at Tinker Field through the 1990 season. A monument and plaque honoring former Senator’s owner Clark C. Griffith was placed at the entrance to Tinker Field. Although the granite monument remains, the plaque has since been removed.

Memorial and Plaque Honoring Clark C. Griffith at Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

Memorial and Plaque Honoring Clark C. Griffith at Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

Tinker Field underwent a major renovation in 1963, although apparently parts of the original grandstand structure remain hidden beneath the reconstructed grandstand.

Front Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Front Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

When Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., was demolished in 1963, 1,000 wooden chairs from Griffin Stadium were sent to Orlando for installation in Tinker Field. Those stadium chairs remain at Tinker Field today.

Wooden Seats from Washington D.C.'s former Ballpark Griffith Stadium, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Wooden Seats from Washington D.C.’s former Ballpark Griffith Stadium, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

A litany of ever-changing Florida State League teams called Tinker Field home, including the Orlando Caps (1919-1920), the Orlando Tigers (1921), Orlando Bulldogs (1922-1924), Orlando Colts (1926-1928), Orlando Gulls (1937), Orlando Senators (1938-1941, 1946-1953), Orlando Seratomas (1956), Orlando Flyers (1957-1958), Orlando Dodgers (1959-1961), Orlando Twins (1963-1989), Orlando Sun Rays (1990-1992), Orlando Cubs (1993-1996), and Orlando Rays (1997-2003).

Main Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Main Entrance, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, 2004, with Orlando Rays Logo Above the Entrance

Although the 1923 grandstand lasted 40 years before it was renovated in 1963, the current grandstand already has outlasted the original grandstand by over 10 years.

Ticket Window, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Ticket Window, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

In 2004, Tinker Field was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Concourse Behind Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Concourse Behind Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Unfortunately, receiving that designation does not mean that the stadium cannot be demolished.

Concession Stands, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Concession Stands, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Most recently, Tinker Field has been the home of several college teams. The city likewise uses the venue for concerts and other public gatherings.

Entrance to Boxes and Reserved Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Entrance to Boxes and Reserved Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

During much of its existence, Tinker Field has been dwarfed by its neighbor just to the east.

Tinker Field Infield, With Citrus Bowl Looming Large Over the Outfield Wall, Orlando, Florida

Tinker Field Infield, With Florida Citrus Bowl Looming Large Over the Outfield Wall, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

In 1935, the City of Orlando constructed Orlando Stadium just beyond Tinker Field’s center field and right field fence.

Infield, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Infield, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, 2015, Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium in Background

Primarily used for football, the stadium has had a variety of names over the years, including the Tangerine Bowl from 1947 to 1975, the Citrus Bowl in 1976, Orlando Stadium from 1936 to 1946, and from 1977 to 1982, Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium from 1983 to 2013, and currently the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium.

Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

Renovations to the Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium in 2014 and 2015 resulted in a significant loss of land at Tinker Field in center and right field.

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field With Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium Taking Up Part of Right Field, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field With Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium Taking Up Part of Right Field, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Although professional baseball has not been played at Tinker Field for almost 25 years, any hope of professional baseball returning to the ballpark was permanently dashed once the right field line was shortened to its current length of 245 feet.

View of Grandstand From Near Right Field Corner, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

View of Grandstand From Near Right Field Corner, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

As part of the renovation and expansion of Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium, much of what once sat along the first base foul line past the dugout was removed as well.

View of First Base Grandstand From Third Base Foul Line, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

View of First Base Grandstand From Third Base Foul Line, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

The metal bleachers that sat beyond first base are gone, as are the wooden bleachers that once sat along the third base foul line.

Wooden Bleachers, Third Base Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Wooden Bleachers, Third Base Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, Circa 2004

What remains of the ballpark is the grandstand, the concourse, the dugouts, and the players clubhouses.

First Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

First Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

In 2014, the mayor of Orlando and City Council announced that Tinker Field would be raised because of its age and because it no longer could serve the purpose for which it was built.

Grandstand As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand As Seen From Third Base Dugout, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Public backlash temporarily halted the city’s plans to demolish Tinker Field.

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

It is expected that a decision on the future of Tinker Field will be made soon. Some argue that there is still value in preserving the historic ballpark, even if it no longer can be used for professional games.

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand Seating, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

The city has estimated that it will cost $10 million to renovate the grandstand and the rest of the still-standing stadium structures.

Grandstand Section 19 Signage, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand Section 19 Signage, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Historic preservationists note that, in addition to its rich baseball history, Tinker Field has been a public gathering place for the community for over 100 years.

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

Grandstand, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida

One of the most notable historic events at the stadium occurred on March 6, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech from the pitcher’s mound to people gathered in the grandstand. It was his sole public appearance in that city.

Pitcher's Mound, Tinker Field, Orlando, Forida, Spot From Which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Spoke in 1964

Pitcher’s Mound, Tinker Field, Orlando, Forida, Spot From Which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spoke in 1964

Although it remains to be seen whether the city will preserve what is left of Tinker Field, one proposal, should the field not be preserved, would renovate Tinker Field’s former practice field, currently known as McCracken Field, which sits just south of the ballpark, and create a smaller version of the Tinker Field grandstand at that field.

McCracken Field, Practice Field Next to Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

McCracken Field, Practice Field Next to Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida,

If you live in the area of Orlando, Florida, or will be visiting there any time soon, and have a love for history and old ballparks, be sure to stop by Tinker Field because its appears its days may be numbered.

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Entrance to Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

And if you have a moment, take a trip just three miles east of Tinker Field to the final resting place of the ballpark’s namesake.

Joe Tinker's Original Grave Marker, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Joe Tinker’s Original Grave Marker, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Tinker died in Orlando on his birthday – July 27th – in 1948 and is interred at Greenwood Cemetery along side his first wife Rudy Tinker, who died in 1923. Tinker’s grave site includes a monument with a reproduction of his Hall of Fame plaque.

Joe Tinker Grave Marker and Monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Joe Tinker Grave Marker and Monument, Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando, Florida

Hopefully the City of Orlando will realize that the history of Tinker Field justifies keeping Tinker Field in place, perhaps configured for use by high school or local little league teams. The ballpark’s site is one of the oldest professional baseball parks in Florida and Tinker Field’s grandstand, even as renovated in 1963, is one of the oldest still-standing baseball grandstands in the state. Only the grandstands at Henley Field Ballpark (1925) in Lakeland, Florida, J.P. Smalls Memorial Park (1935) in Jacksonville, Florida, Holman Stadium (1953) in Vero Beach, Florida, Fort Lauderdale Stadium (1962) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jackie Robinson Park (1962) in Daytona Beach, Florida, are older.

And once it is gone, it can’t be brought back.

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Plant Field and the Roots of Spring Training in Tampa, Florida

February 21st, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Plant Field was located near the northeast intersection of North Boulevard and West North B Street in Tampa, Florida. Constructed in the 1890s, the athletic facility was on the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel and included a variety of athletic fields, including horse racing, for guests of the hotel. Plant Field was named after Henry Plant, the owner of the hotel. After his death in 1899, the hotel and accompanying grounds, including Plant Field, were purchased by the City of Tampa. In 1933, the city leased the Tampa Bay Hotel to what is now the University of Tampa. The University also was allowed to use Plant Field for school athletic events.

Florida State Fair in Full Swing at Tampa, Florida - Postcard (Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone)

Florida State Fair in Full Swing at Tampa, Florida – Postcard (Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone)

Plant Field was one of the first sites to host Spring Training in Florida (Jacksonville, Florida, lays claim to the first major league spring training site in Florida, first in 1888 and then in 1903, while St. Augustine  hosted spring training in 1890 at Flagler Grounds). In 1913, Tampa Mayor D.B. McKay convinced the Chicago Cubs to train at Plant Field by actually paying the team to play in Tampa. The following season, St. Petersburg businessman Al Lang likewise convinced the St. Louis Browns to train nearby at Sunshine Park (also known as Coffee Pot Park), and the Grapefruit League was born. The Cubs trained at Plant Field through the 1916 season.

In 1919 the Boston Red Sox trained for one season at Plant Field. That spring season was memorable if for no other reason thanon April 4, 1919, then-Boston Red Sox player Babe Ruth hit what is considered to be his longest home run – a 587 feet blast (albeit in an exhibition game).

Tampa Historical Society Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth's 587 Foot Home Run on April 4, 1919

Tampa Historical Society Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth’s 587 Foot Home Run on April 4, 1919

The ball cleared Plant Field and came to rest in an open space near what is now the John Skyes College of Business, which formerly was the City of Tampa Municipal  Auditorium, constructed six years after Babe Ruth hit his mammoth shot. A historic plaque on the University of Tampa campus marks the approximate spot where the ball was found.

John Skyes College of Business (Formerly the City of Tampa Municipal Auditorium Erected in 1925)

John Skyes College of Business (Formerly the City of Tampa Municipal Auditorium Erected in 1925)

According to local newspaper accounts, the ball rolled a considerable distance once it landed. New York Giants Manager John McGraw (his team was playing the Red Sox) is said to have chased down the ball, calling the home run the longest he had ever seen. McGraw presented the ball to the Reverend Billy Sunday, a former ballplayer who was in town for a Christian revival and had thrown out the first pitch that afternoon.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections, With Direction of Babe Ruth's 587 Foot Home Run

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections, With Direction of Babe Ruth’s 587 Foot Home Run

From 1920 to 1929, the Washington Senators trained at Plant Field. The Detroit Tigers trained at Plant Field for one season, in 1930, and the Cincinnati Reds trained at Plant Field from 1931 to 1942 and 1946 to 1954. Beginning in 1955, the Reds continued to train at Plant Field, but played home exhibition games at Al Lopez Field.  The Chicago White Sox also trained at Plant Field for just one season in 1954, before relocating their spring training four miles northeast to Al Lopez Field in 1955. The Reds took over sole occupancy of Al Lopez Field in 1960 when the White Sox moved to a refurbished Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida.

Tampa Florida From The Air Overlooking Hillsborough River and Florida State Fair Grounds, Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.) (Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections

“Tampa Florida From The Air Overlooking Hillsborough River and Florida State Fair Grounds,” Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.) (Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections

For much of its existence, Plant Field was co-located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, surrounded by a horse and automobile race track. Plant Field encompassed a significant portion of the southern half of the fairgrounds.

The Florida State League Tampa Smokers played their home games at Plant Field from 1919-1927. In 1928, the Smokers changed their name to the Tampa Krewes, still playing their home games at Plant Field. The Smokers changed their league affiliation to the Southeastern League in 1929, and played at Plant Field until the end of the 1930 season. In 1946, the Smokers returned to Plant Field as an affiliate of the Florida International League, playing their home games at Plant Field through the 1954 season.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Sandy Gandy Photographer)

Aerial Photo of Plant Field and the Tampa Bay Hotel, Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Sandy Gandy Photographer)

By 1960, professional baseball had departed Plant Field. Over the years Plant Field was reconfigured for soccer and baseball for use by the University of Tampa. In 1971, the University of Tampa acquired ownership of Plant Field and the facility was renamed Pepin/Rood Stadium. In 2002 the grandstand constructed in the early 1920s was raised.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

A new grandstand was installed in approximately the same spot as the original grandstand (the new grandstand is not as close to North Boulevard and is centered a few yards south of the original grandstand). Straz Hall, a residence hall for the University, is located on the site of the uncovered bleachers which were once attached just to the north of the covered grandstand.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium and Straz Hall, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

The actual infield may be long gone, but the field is still used for athletic events.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Home plate was located just a few feet east of the current running track that parallels the grandstand. The current running track also cuts through center field on the opposite end of the track. A row of one-story buildings remain at the site today. The deepest part of center field once edged close to those buildings, separated by the original fair grounds race track.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Home Plate and Infield

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Home Plate, Infield, and Center Field

The first and third base foul lines ran at 45 degree angles away from home plate, as seen in the photograph below.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Tampa News Bureau Photo)

Aerial Photo of Plant Field and Downtown Tampa, Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Tampa News Bureau Photo)

Today the left and right field lines are part of the soccer field. Out beyond the former site of left field is Frank and Carol Morsani Hall

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Third Base Foul Line

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Third Base Foul Line, with Morsani Hall in Background

Sykes Chapel sits beyond the former site of right field.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field First Base Foul Line

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field First Base Foul Line, with Sykes Chapel in Background

A Hillsborough County historical plaque marks the former location of Plant Field.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field with Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant FIeld

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field with Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant FIeld

The plaque summarizes the many athletic events that took place at Plant Field, including football and auto racing.

It states, in part: “The area encompassing the University of Tampa’s baseball, track, and soccer facilities was known as Plant Field from early in the 20th century until the mid-1970s. Plant Field, named for railroad and hotel magnate Henry B. Plant, served as the site for significant sporting events and other community activies. The one-half mile horse racing track that Plant built in the late 1890s was altered to accommodate dirt-track auto racing. From February 1921 until the mid-1970s, races were held each year during the South Florida Fair, later designated as the Florida State Fair. Along with talented local racers, the country’s most famous drivers, including Jimmy Wilburn, Emory Collins, Gus Schrader, Ted Horn, Frank Luptow, Tommy Hinnershitz, and Bobby Grimm raced here during the winter months. Pete Folse, a local driver, became a national champion. Their cars were powered by engines made by Miller, Offenhauser, and Riley, among others. Tampa became known as “The winter auto racing capital of the nation.” Sadly, several drivers lost their lives at Plant Field. Plant Field was also the site for football games. On New Year’s Day 1926, the Chicago Bears, starring Red Grange, defeated a team featuring Jim Thorpe. The University of Tampa played its home games on Plant Field from 1933 to 1936. Tampa high school teams also competed on Plant Field. Plant Field served as the home for several major league baseball teams during spring training. The Chicago Cubs arrived in 1913 and returned each year through 1916. The Boston Red Sox played their home games at Plant Field in 1919, and Babe Ruth, playing for teh Red Sox, hit the longest home run of his career during a game on this field. Plant Field was home for the Washington Senators during the 1920s, for the Detroit Tigers in 1930 and for the Chicago White Sox in 1954. The Cincinnati Reds played here for most seasons starting in the 1930s through 1954. In November 1950, an African American all-star team, led by Jackie Robinson, played an exhibition game against the Tampa Rockets, a semi-professional African-American team. In the minor leagues. the Tampa Smokers played their home games at Plant Field.”

Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Hillsborough County Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Hillsborough County Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

The front entrance to Pepin Stadium is accessible from North Boulevard, just south of Straz Hall on the University of Tampa campus.

Front Entrance, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Front Entrance, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium includes a modest concession stand built where once sat team administrative offices.

Concession Stand, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Concession Stand, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Spartans Logo, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Spartans Logo, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

A curious remnant of Plant Field remains inside Pepin Stadium, namely two antiquated turnstiles, one stored under a stairway and one near the grandstand entrance, although it does not appear that either are currently in use.

Plant Field Turnstile at  Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Plant Field Turnstile at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Just north of Pepin Stadium and the former site of Plant Field, is the University of Tampa Baseball Field, also known as Sam Bailey Field.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

The light stanchions of Pepin Stadium are visible from the university’s baseball field.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida, Looking Toward Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida, Looking Toward Former Site of Plant Field

The baseball field sits within the northern end of the old Florida Fair Grounds. Just north of the baseball field, across West Cass Street, is the former location of Phillips Field (now the site of Tampa Preparatory School). Phillips Field was the long-time home of the University of Tampa football team, as well as the location for several NFL preseason games.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

It is fitting that baseball is still played on a portion of the old Florida Fair Grounds, in close proximity to the former site of Plant Field. The University of Tampa has an excellent baseball program, having won the NCAA Division II championship six times in the past 25 years.

University of Tampa Baseball Field Championships Banner

University of Tampa Baseball Field Championships Banner

Former University of Tampa standout (and former New York Yankee, Tampa Bay Ray, and St. Louis Cardinal) Tino Martinez is honored with a retired number plaque located above the grandstand.

Tino Martinez Retired Number Plaque at University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

Tino Martinez Retired Number Plaque at University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

Although Plant Field is now a lost ballpark, the field where major league baseball spring training  in Tampa was born, and was held for over 40 years, remains an athletic field. With the  placement of the current grandstand at Pepin Stadium on the University of Tampa campus, it is not hard to imagine how Plant Field must have looked during its heyday. For more information about the history of Plant Field (including vintage photographs) see Tampapix.com. If you find yourself in Tampa for spring training, take a detour to the University of Tampa (located just five miles southeast of George Steinbrenner Field) and see for yourself where spring training was first played in Tampa.

Many thanks to the University of Tampa, Special Collections, for their assistance in sharing the history and photographs of Plant Field.

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Ft. Lauderdale Stadium – The Ghost of Spring Trainings Past

February 12th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is located at 1401 NW 55th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just east of the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and north of Lockhart Stadium. Although the City of Fort Lauderdale operates the ballpark, the land it is on is part of the 64 acres that make up the airport.

Exterior, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Exterior, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

For almost 50 seasons, major league baseball teams trained at this palm tree lined outpost located just blocks from interstate 95. From 1962 until 1995, Fort Lauderdale Stadium was the spring training home of the New York Yankees. The Yankees previously had played at their spring training games in St. Petersburg, Florida at Al Lang Field and Crescent Lake Park/Huggins-Stengel Field.

N.Y. Yankees at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - Postcard (M14, 13108)

N.Y. Yankees at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – Postcard (M14, 13108)

In 1996 the Baltimore Orioles moved their spring training home to Fort Lauderdale Stadium, departing St. Petersburg’s Al Lang Field, where they had trained from 1992 to 1995. From 1959 to 1990 the Orioles trained at Miami Stadium. In 1991 they trained at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida.

Palm Trees, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Palm Trees, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

In addition to spring training games, Fort Lauderdale Stadium also hosted minor league baseball.  The Florida State League Fort Lauderdale Yankees played at the stadium from 1962 through 1992, and the Fort Lauderdale Red Sox played at the stadium in 1993.

Exit Gates, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Turnstiles and Entrance Gates for the Reserved Grandstand, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

During the time in which Baltimore trained at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the Orioles did not field any minor league team at the stadium.

Ticket Office, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Ticket Office, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Through the years, Fort Lauderdale Stadium remained relatively unchanged from the time when the Yankees began play there in the early 1960s.

Food Court, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Food Court, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The front entrance, with its quaint marquee sign welcomed fans to baseball spring training 1960s style.

Front Entrance, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Front Entrance, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The ballpark had separate entrances for the reserved seat grandstand and the general admission bleacher sections.

Grandstand, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Grandstand, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The grandstand was had only a single deck, built long before the advent of sky boxes and luxury suites. The press box sat atop the grandstand.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Even after the Orioles moved into Fort Lauderdale Stadium the lower seating bowl sported plastic Yankee-blue seats.

Yankee Blue Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Yankee Blue Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The wooden seats in the grandstand however were repainted Camden-Yards green.

Oriole Park Green Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oriole Park Green Seats, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

There was no seating area beyond left field, nor any picnic areas or grass berm seating, something unheard of in modern day spring training venues.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A section of bleachers with seat backs sat beyond right field. During Orioles spring training games this was a good place to sit if you wanted to be left alone. Few fans sat in the section because of its location, cut off from the rest of the ballpark amenities.

The View from Box 20, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The View from Box 20, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Out beyond left field were two practice fields. Because of limited space, the Orioles minor league teams trained some two hundred miles away at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota, Florida.

Scoreboard, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Scoreboard, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A fenced off walkway between the bleachers and the grandstand provided players access the club house to the field.

Visiting Team Walkway, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Visiting Team Walkway, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The grandstand seats – even those closest to the field – were considerably high from the ground than today’s spring training venues, making it difficult for fans to interact with the players.

Oriole Right Fielder Nick Markakis Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oriole Right Fielder Nick Markakis Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Autographs seekers congregated near the player walkway between grandstand and the bleachers.

Oriole WS MVP Rick Dempsey Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oriole WS MVP Rick Dempsey Signing Autographs, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The long dugouts on either side of the grandstand also acted as a barrier for fan/player interaction.

Fans Waiting for a Souvenir, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fans Hoping for a Souvenir, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

At least during the Orioles’ years at the stadium, the home team dugout was on the right side of the ballpark.

Baltimore Orioles Pre-Game Stretch, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Baltimore Orioles Pre-Game Stretch, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The bullpens for both teams were on the field, with pitchers sitting on open air benches next to the dugout.

Home Team Bullpen, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Home Team Bullpen, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

If you were a baseball purist, interested only in the game and not modern day amenities, Fort Lauderdale Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The grandstand provided ample shaded seating for those not interested in sitting in the sun.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

And if you were a fan of old ballparks, Fort Lauderdale certainly had earned the distinction of being one of the oldest still in use in the Grapefruit League.

Oriole Kevin Millar Practicing For His Next Career in Broadcasting

Oriole Kevin Millar Practicing For His Next Career in TV Broadcasting

Alas, the 2009 season was the Orioles’ and major league baseball’s last year at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

Miguel Tejada Warming Up, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Miguel Tejada Warming Up, Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

In 2010 the Orioles returned to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, where they had trained for one season in 1991. After the 2010 season the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark. The results are nothing less than spectacular. The Orioles now play in one of the nicest ballparks in the Grapefruit League and hold a 30 year lease on the stadium, finally ending their once nomadic spring training existence. The move to Sarasota also brought the Orioles just ten miles from their minor league facility in Twin Lakes Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

After the Orioles departed, Fort Lauderdale Stadium has been used for a smattering of local events, but no long term tenants.In 2013 the city removed the light stanchions. For several years, the city has been in protracted discussions with Schlitterbahn Water Resorts for the construction of a water park on the site. Because the land upon which the stadium sits is controlled by the Federal Aviation Commission, the FAA must approve any reuse of the property. The latest proposal being considered would have the city purchase the land from the FAA, thus removing the primary impediment for progress.

It is unfortunate that there seems to be no interest in keeping Fort Lauderdale Stadium and finding a use in keeping with its original purpose, for it is one of the baseball structures standing in Florida today. Only the grandstands at Henley Field Ballpark (1925) in Lakeland Florida, J.P. Smalls Memorial Park (1935) in Jacksonville, Florida, Holman Stadium (1953) in Vero Beach, Florida, and Jackie Robinson Park (1962) in Daytona Beach, Florida, as old or older.

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Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium Redux

February 9th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, is not a lost ballpark. However, the stadium as it existed in when it first opened in 1989 is long gone, replaced with a strikingly different ballpark that calls out for a deadballbaseball then and now comparison.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium as it exists today is modern, yet seemingly from an era much earlier than the ballpark it replaced. The transformation of the stadium is a reflection of the changes that professional baseball parks have undergone since the opening of Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. It seems fitting that the Baltimore Orioles – the organization that helped usher in the era of retro MLB ballparks –  likewise has brought new life to Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2011

Ed Smith Stadium is located at 2700 12th Street in Sarasota, Florida. The ballpark was constructed in 1988-1989 as the spring training home for Chicago White Sox, who moved into brand new Ed Smith Stadium after having trained the previous 28 years at Payne Park, some two miles southwest of Ed Smith Stadium. The White Sox lasted nine seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing Florida for the Cactus League and Tucson Electric Park in 1998.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In 1998 the Cincinnati Reds arrived at Ed Smith Stadium after having played the previous ten seasons at Plant City Stadium (and the 28 seasons prior to that at Tampa’s Al Lopez Field). The Reds played 12 seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing for  Goodyear, Arizona, and the Cactus League after the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles arrived the following year (in 1991 the Orioles shared Ed Smith Stadium with the White Sox for one season).

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Orioles played their 2010 spring games in old Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

At the end of the 2010 spring season, the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Although Ed Smith Stadium was constructed in the late 1980s, its design seemed firmly grounded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Concrete was the stadium’s dominant architectural feature.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

The front entrance of old Ed Smith Stadium looked more like a motel than a ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

With the 2010 renovation, the boxy front entrance was replaced with a curved front and rotunda, built considerably closer to the intersection of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. The 2010 renovation brought to the ballpark a retro-vibe, drawing upon a variety of classic ballpark styles, including Brooklyn, New York’s former Ebbets Field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium’s plain exterior concrete walls and pillars were replaced with stucco, and stadium roof covered with Spanish roofing tiles.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The left field entrance to the ballpark, which provides access to the stadium from the main parking area, was significantly upgraded as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

A ornate, gated entrance was added, along with a wrought iron fence that runs the length of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue next to the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The entrance from the concourse behind home plate was nothing more than a concrete wall with section numbers directing fans to their seats.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

With the renovation, the concrete front entrance was replaced with a large rotunda and stairways leading to a second floor landing.

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The second floor likewise includes a rotunda with championship pennants encircled with several dozen Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Fittingly, the ballpark remains named after Ed Smith, a Sarasota resident and long time President of the Sarasota Sports Committee.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The March 1989 dedication plaque remains on display on the concourse, alongside a plaque honoring the 2010-2011 renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Another major change to the ballpark was the enclosure of the stadium concourse.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Concourse,  Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The playing field likewise underwent a makeover.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In addition to obvious changes like replacing logos and painting over the Cincinnati red with Orioles orange, the Orioles also installed a new drainage system and warning track.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The grandstand roof was expanded to provide more shade, running along both the first and third base lines.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The red plastic seating was replaced with green plastic seats from Camden Yards, removed during the 2010 renovation to the lower seating bowl of Oriole Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

One distinctive feature that remains somewhat unchanged is the exterior of the press box, although the Orioles did replace and expand the press box windows.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The old school digital clock scoreboard was replaced with a Jumbotron.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Ed Smith Stadium complex includes three regulation size practice fields. Those fields likewise underwent renovation.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Field, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ironically, one of the Cincinnati practice fields was named after former Oriole player and skipper Frank Robinson.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Frank Robinson Practice Field at Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The renovated practice fields are named only after numbers, not players.

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The practice fields remain a wonderful place to watch baseball for free.

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter, Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter at Practice Field no. 3, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

They also are a place where fans congregate hoping for an autograph or two.

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

When not used for spring training, Ed Smith Stadium hosts minor league baseball. Prior to the Orioles arrival, Ed Smith Stadium was the home stadium for the Florida State League Sarasota White Sox (1989-1993), the Sarasota Red Sox (1994-2004), and the Sarasota Reds (2004-2009). The ballpark also was home to the Gulf Coast League Reds from 2004 to 2009.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Gulf Coast League team plays some games at Ed Smith Stadium, although a good number are played on the practice fields behind the stadium.

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Old Ed Smith Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game. At the end what really matters is the game on the field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

However, there can be no doubt that the upgrades to the ballpark improved tremendously the fan experience at Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2012

The Orioles currently hold a 30 year lease for Ed Smith Stadium from the City of Sarasota. Should the Orioles remain to the end of that lease term, baseball will have been played for half a century at the southeast corner of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. It already is well on its way to being a classic, or even a historic ballpark.

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A Drive Around Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium

February 3rd, 2015
by Byron Bennett

In February 2001, the City of Baltimore began demolition of Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. A fight over what to do with the 10 story memorial wall dedicated to the memory of those “who so valiantly fought and served in the World Wars” delayed completion of the task until the Spring of 2002.

The Barren Fields of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

The Barren Fields of Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Circa May 2000

In January 2000, a year before demolition began, and several months before the stadium was stripped of its seating and signage, I took a drive around the ballpark, capturing on video the Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street.

The first half of the video is a drive around the outer perimeter, heading west on East 33rd Street, north on Ellerslie Avenue, east on East 33rd Street, and south on Ednor Road. The second half of the video is a drive around the ballpark in the same direction, but from inside the parking lot.

The former site of Memorial Stadium’s playing field is now a youth ball field, thanks to the efforts of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and other charitable groups and donors. A portion of the the lettering from the memorial wall has been placed near the south entrance to Camden Yards: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” I hope you enjoy the drive.

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The Rockpile – Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium

January 30th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

War Memorial Stadium was a multi-use sports facility located at 285 Dodge Street in Buffalo, New York. The name of the venue changed over time, from Roesch Memorial Stadium (named after former Buffalo Mayor Charles Roesch) in 1937, to Grover Cleveland Stadium (in honor of the former President, Chief Justice, and Buffalo Mayor) from 1937-38, to Civic Stadium from 1938 to 1960, and finally to War Memorial Stadium from 1960 to 1987. Although it was a stadium of many names, Buffalo residents often referred to the ballpark as “The Old Rockpile.”

Buffalo Civic Stadium (Photocrome postcard, Metrocraft, Everett MA)

Buffalo Civic Stadium (Photocrome postcard, Metrocraft, Everett MA)

The derivation of the nickname Rockpile is not readily ascertained (believe me, I looked), but  perhaps it is a reference either to the condition of the stadium in its later years or the impressive wall constructed of large stones that once surrounded portions of the stadium as well as Masten Park (located directly west of the stadium). The stone wall was once part of the boundary for Prospect Reservoir. The stadium was built on top of the former reservoir site.

Stone Wall along Masten Avenue, western boundary of Masten Park, Buffalo, New York

Stone Wall along Masten Avenue, western boundary of Masten Park, Buffalo, New York. A Similar Wall Once Surrounded Portions of War Memorial Stadium

Although the stadium was completed as a Works Project Administration initiative in 1937, it did not have a professional sports tenant until 1940 with the arrival of the American Football League Indians, who played at Civic Stadium through the 1941 season. Football returned to the stadium in 1946 with the arrival of the Buffalo Bills of the All-American Football Conference, who played at Civic Stadium through the 1949 season. The Bills returned to War Memorial Stadium in 1960 as an American Football League franchise, after the stadium underwent a major renovation. In 1970 the Bills switched to the National Football League and played through the 1972 season at War Memorial.

War Memorial Stadium (Linen Postcard, Photo by Fitzgerald)

Civic Stadium, Buffalo, New York (Linen Postcard, Photo by Fitzgerald)

Professional baseball arrived at War Memorial Stadium about the same time professional football returned to venue at the beginning of the 1960s. With the closing and demolition of Offermann Stadium after the in 1960 season, the International League Buffalo Bisons moved to War Memorial Stadium the following year. The Bisons departed War Memorial during the 1970 season when the franchise was transferred to Winnipeg. The Bisons returned to War Memorial in 1979 as an AA Eastern League franchise. In 1985, the Bisons returned to AAA status as an American Association franchise, playing three full seasons at War Memorial Stadium before departing for a new ballpark, Pilot Field, after the end of the 1987 season.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1983 baseball Hollywood style arrived at War Memorial Stadium. The ballpark used as a primary location for filming of the movie The Natural.

Movie Lobby Card Depicting Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photo copyright Tri-Star Pictures)

Movie Lobby Card Depicting Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photo copyright Tri-Star Pictures)

War Memorial Stadium’s distinctive vintage features provided an almost eerie back drop for the movie.

War Memorial Stadium (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

War Memorial Stadium (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

For additional information about the filming of The Natural at War Memorial Stadium, and at other locations in and around Buffalo, New York, see forgottenbuffalo.com.

Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photographer unknown)

Robert Redford at War Memorial Stadium (photographer unknown)

War Memorial was demolished in 1988 and the City of Buffalo constructed in its place a youth sports complex. In 1997 the site was renamed the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion in honor of a former Buffalo resident.

Football Scoreboard at Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

Football Scoreboard at Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

Although the stadium structure is long gone, fortunately for fans of the game, the City of Buffalo preserved two of the four distinctive entrance gates, both located on the eastern side of the former ballpark site.

Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The entrance at the northwest corner of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue was considered War Memorial Stadium’s main gate. During the years that the stadium was configured for baseball, the Best and Jefferson entrance was located just beyond center field.

Steel Gates, Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Steel Gates at the Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium, Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

A similar entrance at the southwest corner of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue also remains at the site. The gate was located behind what was once the left field corner. The left field grandstand was located just to the right of the entrance.

Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

An entrance gate (now demolished) behind the right field corner of War Memorial Memorial was located near the intersection of Best Street and Peach Street.

War Memorial Stadium Exterior Best Street Near Peach Street (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

War Memorial Stadium Exterior, Best Street Near Peach Street (photo courtesy of Buffalo Baseball Museum)

The City of Buffalo constructed on Best Street a new gated entrance with ticket windows near the location of the original gate.

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion at  Best Street Near Peach Street

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion at Best Street Near Peach Street

A new gated entrance on Dodge Street sits behind what would have been War Memorial Stadium’s home plate.

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion (looking Toward Dodge Street).

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion (looking Toward Dodge Street).

Home plate itself was located in what is now the turf football field, at approximately the 15 yard line on the field’s north end. It is unfortunate that the city did not place a marker where home plate once sat, or where the original goal posts once sat, for that matter.

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward Left Field

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Left Field

Much of the former infield is now part of the running track that surrounds the northeast end of the turf football field.

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward  Home Plate

War Memorial Stadium Former Infield, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Home Plate

Metal bleachers placed along side the football field sit near what was once the western most portion of the stadium structure.

Bleachers, Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Former Site of First Base Grand Stand

Bleachers, Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Former Site of First Base Grand Stand

Concession stands and storage facilities sit in the approximate location of a facilities building that sat just to the west of War Memorial Stadium.

Concession Stands and Storage Areas, Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

Concession Stands and Storage Areas, Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, Buffalo, New York

The right field foul line ran parallel to what is now the running track.

War Memorial Stadium Former Right Field Foul Line Corner, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward Right Field Corner (New York' State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Armory in Background).

War Memorial Stadium Former Right Field Foul Line Corner, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Right Field Corner (New York’ State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Armory in Background).

The youth baseball infield  at the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion sits in what was once War Memorial Stadium’s right field.

Baseball Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Former War Memorial Stadium Outfield

Baseball Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Former War Memorial Stadium Outfield

The current left field of the youth baseball diamond was once War Memorial Stadium’s left field.

War Memorial Stadium Former Center Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavillion, Looking Toward Home Plate

War Memorial Stadium Former Left/Center Field, Johnnie B. Wiley Pavilion, Looking Toward Home Plate

The two preserved entrances to War Memorial Stadium loom large over the current youth baseball outfield.

Backside of Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Backside of Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Best Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Backside of Former Entrance  to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Backside of Former Entrance to War Memorial Stadium at the Intersection of Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Directly to the west of the former site of War Memorial Stadium is Masten Park. The park, like the stadium, was built on top of Prospect Reservoir.

Masten Park, Buffalo, New York

Masten Park, Buffalo, New York

A swimming pool dating to the time of War Memorial Stadium sits just beyond the eastern boundary of Masten Park.

Masten Park Swimming Pool, Buffalo, New York

Masten Park Swimming Pool, Buffalo, New York

The stone wall that once surrounded Prospect Reservoir terminates just prior to the Dodge Street entrance near the turf football field.

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion From Dodge Street

Entrance to Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion From Dodge Street

In addition to the stone wall, Masten park boasts several distinctive concrete stairways into the park which date back to the time of War Memorial Stadium.

Masten Park, Steps to Dodge Street, Buffalo, New York

Masten Park, Steps to Dodge Street, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Buffalo Bisons moved to a new downtown ballpark on Washington Street, built just two miles southwest of War Memorial Stadium.

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bisons

Coca-Cola Field (originally known as Pilot Field) includes a wonderful museum with many displays dedicated to the history of War Memorial Stadium.

War Memorial Stadium Display at the Buffalo Baseball Museum

War Memorial Stadium Display at the Buffalo Baseball Museum, Coca-Cola Field

The museum’s curator, John Boutet, has spent the last 25 plus years acquiring mementos and pieces of War Memorial Stadium, as well as Offermann Stadium, to help educate fans about Buffalo’s rich baseball history.

Buffalo Baseball Historian John Boutet With War Memorial Stadium Sign at Buffalo Baseball Museum

Buffalo Baseball Historian John Boutet With War Memorial Stadium Sign at Buffalo Baseball Museum

The museum includes a wooden stadium chair from War Memorial Stadium, painted grey, which resembles the seats once used at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

War Memorial Stadium Seat on Display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

War Memorial Stadium Seat on Display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

An authentic War Memorial Stadium turnstile sits at the entrance to the museum.

War Memorial Stadium Turnstile on display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

War Memorial Stadium Turnstile on display at Buffalo Baseball Museum

The museum includes memorabilia of famous Buffalo Bisons, including the uniform once worn by Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.

Johnny Bench's Buffalo Bison Locker at Buffalo Baseball Museum

Johnny Bench’s Buffalo Bisons Locker at Buffalo Baseball Museum

The City of Buffalo has done an admirable job paying homage to memory of historic War Memorial Stadium. A visit to the former site is worth the trip if only to stand in front and take a pictures of the once-grand War Memorial Stadium entrances preserved by the city. For an excellent site devoted to the memory of War Memorial Stadium, with many vintage photographs of the ballpark, visit Rockpile Buffalo. And if you haven’t already, be sure to visit the Buffalo Baseball Museum on the concourse at Coca-Cola Field.

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Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium

January 28th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Professional baseball was played at the corner of East Ferry and Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York, for 72 years beginning in 1889, through the end of the 1960 season.

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Postcard, Buffalo Base Ball Park, Buffalo, New York (David Ellis Publisher)

Originally known as new Olympic Park (old Olympic Park housed Buffalo baseball teams from 1884 to 1888 at the intersection of Richmond Avenue and Summer Street), in 1907 the ballpark was renamed Buffalo Base Ball Park. The original wooden ballpark structure was raised in 1924 and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, and renamed Bison Stadium. In 1935 the ballpark was renamed Offermann Stadium, in honor of Frank J. Offermann, the recently-deceased former owner of the Buffalo Bison.

Entrance to Offerman Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

Entrance to Offermann Stadium (photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sports Museum)

The site’s primary tenant was the International League Buffalo Bison, who played there from 1889 to 1960. According to Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals, Major league baseball also was played at this site for one year in 1890 when the Buffalo Bison of the Players League played their home games at new Olympic Park. The Negro National League New York Black Yankees played games at Offermann Park as a neutral site in the 1940s. The Negro American League Indianapolis Clowns played some games at Offermann (neutral site) from 1951 to 1955. Professional football also was played at the site, including National Football League Buffalo franchises (the All-Americans from 1920 to 1923, the Buffalo Bisons from 1924 to 1925, and 1927 to 1929, and the Buffalo Rangers in 1926).

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Bethel AME Church, intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark was located directly behind what is now the Bethel AME Church (formerly Covenant Presbyterian Church), with home plate near the back of the church at the intersection of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue, Buffalo, New York

The ballpark faced Southeast towards the intersection of Masten Avenue and Woodlawn Avenue. Center field was located on the northwest corner of that intersection. After the ballpark was demolished in 1962, Woodlawn Junior High School was constructed on the site. To see an aerial photograph of Offermann Stadium from 1956 click here (fixbuffalo.blogspot.com).

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

Corner Stone for Woodlawn Jr. High, Buffalo, New York

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts now occupies the site.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offerman Stadium.

The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Located on the Former Site of Offermann Stadium.

In 2012, John Boutet of the Buffalo Sports Museum spearheaded a drive to place a historical plaque at the site. The plaque notes that Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron all played baseball at Offermann Stadium.

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offerman Stadium

Historical Plaque at the Former Site of Offermann Stadium

The former site of right field was located at the northeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue.

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Michigan Avenue, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Right Field

The former site of left field was located at the southwest corner of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street.

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York

Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York, Former Site of Offermann Stadium’s Left Field

The area behind what was once the ballpark’s home plate is now a parking lot for the school.

Former Site of Offerman Stadium Infield

Former Site of Offermann Stadium Infield

In addition to Bethel AME Church, many other structures surrounding the ballpark date to the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium. The houses in the photograph below sat just beyond the ballpark’s center field fence.

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the Intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Masten Avenue, Buffalo, New York

Houses at the intersection Masten Avenue and Ferry Street sat beyond the ballpark’s left field corner.

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

Houses at the Intersection of Masten Avenue and Ferry Street

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Building at 78 East Ferry Street ran parallel to third base.

Brick Building Located on Ferry Street, Near Former Site of Third Base Line

NFTA Metro Building Located on Ferry Street, Sat Parallel to Former Site of Third Base Line

In 1961, the Buffalo Bison moved ten blocks south from Offermann Stadium to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

Aerial View, Buffalo War Memorial, Buffalo, New York

Aerial View, War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York

In 1988, the Bison (American Association) moved two miles southwest to Pilot Stadium, later renamed Coca-Cola Field

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York, Home of the Buffalo Bison

Coca-Cola Field includes a wonderful museum – The Buffalo Sports Museum – featuring memorabilia from and information about Offermann Stadium, as well as Buffalo’s other ballparks. It certainly is worth a visit if you haven’t been there already.

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offerman Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

Buffalo Sports Museum Display Featuring Offermann Stadium, as well as Former Buffalo Bison Luke Easter

The City of Buffalo boasts a rich baseball history, much of it taking place years ago at the intersection of  East Ferry and Michigan Avenue. Although the ballpark is long gone, enough of the neighborhood that existed at the time of Buffalo Base Ball Park and Offermann Stadium remains to give anyone with an interest in the National Pastime with a sense of where the ballpark once stood. The former ballpark site is located just three miles north of Coca-Cola Field and for fans of the game it certainly is worth the trip.

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Baseballs and Superbowls – Tampa’s Al Lopez Field

January 24th, 2015
by Byron Bennett

Al Lopez Field was located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue in Tampa, Florida. From 1955 to 1959 it was the Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox relocated to Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, in 1960.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard  (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

From 1960 until 1987 Al Lopez Field was the Spring Training home of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds relocated their spring training home to Plant City, Florida, in 1988. The minor league Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League called Al Lopez Field home from 1957 to 1988. In 1966, the City of Tampa constructed Tampa Stadium just north of Al Lopez Field on West Ohio Avenue. Tampa Stadium was primarily a soccer and football venue, with notable tenants including the North American Soccer League Tampa Bay Rowdies  and the National Football League Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Stadium hosted Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984 (Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9), and Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991 (New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19).

Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Tampa Stadium and Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Al Lopez Field was demolished in 1989. In 1996 the City of Tampa began construction of Raymond James Stadium on the former site of Al Lopez Field. Al Lopez Field was located in what is now the Northeast quadrant Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

In the aerial photograph of Raymond James Stadium below (facing West), the site of Al Lopez Field is located in the bottom right quadrant of the stadium. The former site of Tampa Stadium, which was demolished in 1999, appears in the photograph below as the open grass field just to the right of Raymond James Stadium.

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida (photo is facing West)

The right field corner of Al Lopez Field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue. Raymond James Stadium East Gate now marks the spot.

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at  W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

The former site of right field is now a parking area that parallels North Himes Avenue and Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Center field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Ohio Avenue.

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

A significant portion of the former site of center field is now an asphalt parking area just north of Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

A patch of grass that sits in the shadow of the Raymond James Stadium sign at the northern end of the stadium marks the former site of left field.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

The former site of Al Lopez Field’s home plate sits in the north east corner of Raymond James Stadiums’ northern most end zone (the end zone near the pirate ship replica). Two Superbowls have been played at the former site of Al Lopez Field, Super Bowl XXXV on January 28, 2001 (Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7), and Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 (Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23).

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate - Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate – Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Spring Training baseball, as well as minor league baseball, is still played just a long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field. George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the New York Yankees, is located just one block to the northwest of the former ballpark site.

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

The Florida State League Tampa Yankees play their home games at Steinbrenner Field.

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

In 1992, the City of Tampa honored Tampa resident Al Lopez with a statute located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, just a very long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field.

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

A plaque at the base of the statue notes that Al Lopez was born in nearby Ybor City on August 20, 1908, and provides an overview of his accomplishments in baseball: “Distinguished himself as a professional baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, and Pittsburgh Pirates as a catcher, setting the original all-time record for most games caught in the Major Leagues. He further distinguished himself in Major League history as manager of the pennant-wining Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. For his admirable accomplishments in the Major Leagues as a player and Manager, he was Tampa’s first inductee into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977.”

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

The statute of Al Lopez is appropriately positioned, with the long-time catcher facing toward the former site of the ballpark named in his honor.

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

The statute is located in the southwest corner of Al Lopez Park, also dedicated to the memory of the Tampa native.

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

The sign at the park entrance (4810 North Himes Avenue) recognizes Al Lopez as “one of Tampa’s favorite sons.”

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Al Lopez Park includes a lake, picnic areas, walking trails, and a certified 5K running course.

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez lived much of his life in Tampa and nearby Ybor City. His former house in Ybor City was moved in 2013 from its original location at 1210 E 12th Avenue to 2003 N. 19th Street in Ybor City.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Located across the street from the Ybor City State Museum, Al Lopez’s former home now houses the Tampa Baseball Museum.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Tampa, Florida boast a rich baseball history. Should you find yourself in Tampa during Spring Training, be sure to take a moment to visit Al Lopez Park, with its statutory tribute to Al Lopez, as well as the Tampa Baseball Museum. And should you happen to find yourself attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game or a baseball game at nearby Steinbrenner Field, take a moment to appreciate the baseball history that once took place in the northern most end zone of Raymond James Stadium.

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A Tiger Stadium Drive Around

October 15th, 2014
by Byron Bennett

Five years ago the last vestiges of Tiger Stadium met the wrecking ball.  The decade-long march toward that moment, beginning with the final game on September 27, 1999, culminated with the demolition and removal of the last standing section of the stadium on September 21, 2009.

Tiger Stadium, Saturday August 28, 1999

Tiger Stadium, Saturday August 28, 1999

The following video was taken in December 2002, over three years after the American League Tigers abandoned the stadium, but several years before Detroit city officials began their assault on the historic structure. The four minute video is a drive around Tiger Stadium, starting east on Michigan Avenue and turning left on Cochrane Street, right on Fisher Drive, right on Trumbull Avenue, and right again on Michigan.

In the five years since the stadium’s demolition, the Navins Field Grounds Crew has kept alive the actual field and, in the process, perhaps helped fend off attempts to pave paradise.

Tiger Stadium, December 2002

Tiger Stadium, December 2002

It is hoped that the efforts of the NFGC will help convince city officials that the playing field (and the center field flag pole) is worth preserving for future generations of baseball fans who travel to the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

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A Pre-Renovation Wrigley Field Walk Around

October 4th, 2014
by Byron Bennett

Knowing that the Chicago Cubs are embarking on  a $575 million renovation of historic Wrigley Field, I visited the ballpark on September 19, 2014, for a day game against the Dodgers. My purpose was to photograph and video Wrigley Field as it exists prior to its renovation.

Wrigley Field Left and Center Field September 19, 2014

Wrigley Field Left and Center Field September 19, 2014

Although perhaps not quite as drastic as the Yankees 1970s renovation of their former ballpark, the Cubs plans for Wrigley Field certainly will alter forever the appearance of the ballpark, both inside and out. In the years to come, fans very well may preface discussion about their visits to that ballpark in terms of old Wrigley and new Wrigley, just as fans used to talk about old Yankee Stadium  - pre 1970s renovation – and new Yankee Stadium – post 1970s renovation (not to be confused with the team’s new, current Yankee Stadium).

Wrigley Field  From Left Field Grandstand September 19, 2014

Wrigley Field From Left Field Grandstand September 19, 2014

Say what you will about the Cub’s decision to renovate the ballpark, at least they are keeping the ballpark where it is, with the same field and historic facade. It has been my opinion that the Yankees should have taken the same approach rather than demolish their historic ballpark and build a new one across the street.

Panoramic Photo Wrigley Field September 19, 2014

Panoramic Photo Wrigley Field September 19, 2014

Wrigley Field’s renovation will take several years, conducted mostly during the off season. Work already has begun on the bleachers to the left and right of the historic scoreboard. Those bleachers will be demolished and the seating capacity extended out over Waveland Avenue and Sheffield Avenue. Other planned renovation includes demolition and replacement of the wood roof that covers the grandstand from the left field corner around to the right field corner, demolition and replacement of the lower seating bowl, including the dugouts, demolition and expansion of the concourse behind the lower seating bowl, additional concessions for the upper deck, an upper deck patio above Seminary Avenue, and the construction of shops, a parking garage, and a hotel at Waveland Avenue, Seminary Avenue, and Clark Street.

For posterity, I have shared here six videos of how those areas looked (as well as the rest of the stadium) before the renovation.

The tour starts with a ride north on the “L” red line, stopping at Addison Street.

This next video is a walk around the outside of Wrigley Field, starting at the intersection of Addison Street and Clark Street, and continuing to Waveland Avenue, Sheffield Avenue, and back to Addison Street. The Cubs renovation plans include construction of an office building, hotel, and plaza which will straddle both sides Clark Street along the left field foul line, and expanded bleacher seating that will overhang Waveland Avenue and Sheffield Avenue. With these renovations, the cityscape  of the area surrounding Wrigley Field will be forever altered.

The next video is a walk through of the concourse area behind the lower seating bowl. The Cubs plan to bring this area into the 21st century by expanding the concourse area and revamping the concessions options and restroom areas. As it currently exists, this walk through the concourse is a charming, yet cramped experience. Most patrons who frequent the ballpark undoubtedly will appreciate the upgrades. Some will miss the charm, but few will miss the cramped quarters.

The next video is a walk around the lower seating bowl. With changes to the signage along the outfield walls, the addition of a new scoreboard, and replacement of the lower bowl seats and concrete risers, this view of Wrigley Field also will be forever altered.

The next video (which clocks in at about 20 minutes) is a walk along the ramps, walkways, and concourse areas of the upper deck, starting at the up ramp near the Waveland Avenue entrance and continuing up through the backside of the ballpark to the upper levels. How much of this view changes depends on structural work planned for replacing the wooden roof and the addition and expansion of concession areas on the upper concourse.

The final video is a view of Wrigley Field from the current roof top deck. Renovation of Wrigley Field includes an expansion of this area and the addition of other roof top concessions and eating areas.

Although with its renovation Wrigley Field is will lose some of its century-old charm, hopefully the renovation of Wrigley Field will help insure the ballpark’s existence for at least another 100 years. Fans in Boston and Chicago are fortunate that their ballparks remain a baseball destination where the game is still played. Most Yankee fans I have talked to since the demolition of their historic ballpark in 2010 wish the same could be said for Yankee Stadium. It is better that Wrigley Field be a renovated ballpark, as opposed to just another lost ballpark.

And for the record, the Dodgers defeated the Cubs 14-5, with Clayton Kershaw getting the win and the Dodgers clinching a 2014 playoff spot.

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There Once Was A Ballpark – Rochester’s Silver Stadium/Red Wing Stadium

September 24th, 2014
by Byron Bennett

Silver Stadium was located at 500 Norton Street in Rochester, New York. The ballpark opened in 1929 as Red Wing Stadium, and was home to the International League Rochester Red Wings. The Red Wings were then an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, who also constructed and owned the ballpark.

Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Postcard by Rochester News Co., Curteich Chicago C.T. Art Colortone)

Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Postcard by Rochester News Co., Curteich Chicago C.T. Art Colortone)

The ballpark is notable also as the home field for the Negro National League New York Black Yankees in 1948, and the American Football League Rochester Braves in 1936, and the American League Rochester Tigers in 1936 and 1937.

The main entrance to the stadium was through a gate behind the first base grand stand. Next to that gate was a two story house that served as both a ticket booth and administrative offices for the team. The two-story building is somewhat reminiscent of similar buildings at League Park in Cleveland and Braves Field in Boston.

Entrance to Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (George Tinker Postcard), Now 500 Norton Street

Entrance to Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (George Tinker Postcard), at 500 Norton Street

The house at 500 Norton Street remains at the site today and now is occupied by one of the city’s four Neighborhood Service Centers.

500 Norton Street, Former Ticket and Administrative Offices, Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

500 Norton Street, Former Ticket and Administrative Offices, Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

Behind the building at 500 Norton Street is a one story structure that was added to the site after the ballpark’s demolition.

Back Side of 500 Norton Street, Former Ticket And Administrative Offices for Silver Stadium

Back Side of 500 Norton Street, Former Ticket And Administrative Offices for Silver Stadium

On the eastern side of the building at 500 Norton Street are three plaques honoring the history of the ballpark.

Historical Plaques Located at Site of Silver Stadium's Former Ticket And Administrative Offices

Historical Plaques Located at Site of Silver Stadium’s Former Ticket And Administrative Offices

The first plaque details what the land there was used for prior to construction of the ballpark, as well as significant milestones in the ballpark’s history.

Plaque Honoring History of Silver Stadium

Plaque Honoring History of the Site That Was Once Silver Stadium

In 1956, local Rochester businessman Morrie Silver helped purchase the team and it’s stadium from the St. Louis Cardinals, thus ensuring that the Red Wings would remain in Rochester should the Cardinals decide to relocate to another town. It is for this reason that Mr. Silver is credited with saving professional baseball for the City of Rochester.

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Former Site of Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Former Site of Silver Stadium, Rochester NY

In 1960 the St. Louis Cardinals departed Rochester and the Baltimore Orioles became affiliated with the International League Red Wings. In 1968 Red Wing Stadium was renamed Silver Stadium in honor of the team’s owner. After Mr. Silver’s death in 1974, his widow Anna Silver remained with the team as a Member of the Board of Directors from 1975 to 1990, and as Chairperson of Board from 1981-1990. The Silver’s daughter Naomi Silver currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Red Wings.

Silver Stadium Historic Plaque, Rochester NY

Silver Stadium Historic Plaque, Rochester NY

Silver Stadium’s home plate was located directly north of the two story house that served as the ballpark’s main entrance.

Aerial View of Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center)

Aerial View of Red Wing Stadium, Rochester NY (Albert R. Stone Negative Collection, Rochester Museum & Science Center)

What appears to be the outline of Silver Stadium’s first and third base foul lines still can be seen in the Google Maps Satellite View of the former Silver Stadium Site (you will need to zoom in on the site).

A Piece of Silver Stadium Rises Like a Phoenix Near Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand

A chunk of Silver Stadium Nestled in the Grass Near the Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand

The ballpark faced east, with the first base foul line running diagonally toward Norton Street.

Looking Toward Former Location of First Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of First Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Silver Stadium was a single-deck ballpark with a roof covering the grandstand from first base around to third base. Uncovered bleachers extended along the foul lines toward right field with a smaller uncovered section near left field.

Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (Chrome Postcard)

Silver Stadium, Rochester NY (Chrome Postcard)

The third base foul line ran diagonally toward Bastion Street.

Looking Toward Former Location of Third Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Third Base From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Silver Stadium closed after the 1996 season and the following year the ballpark was demolished. In its place the city constructed 14621 Industrial Park (the reference to 14621 is the area’s zip code).

Entrance at Intersection of Excel Drive and Norton Street to 14621 Industrial Park

Entrance at Intersection of Excel Drive and Norton Street to 14621 Industrial Park

Center field was located due east of home plate. Two single story warehouse buildings now sit just beyond what used to be the center field fence. The entire area that once encompassed center field remains an open field.

Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

After the ballpark’s demolition, the city added a new street, Excel Drive, which runs north and south through the center of the former ballpark site.

Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Intersecting Silver Stadium Infield

Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Intersecting Silver Stadium Infield

Where once sat the third base grandstand is now a one-story industrial building at 85 Excel Drive, currently housing SPEX Precision Machine Technologies.

85 Excel Drive, SPEX Precision Machine Technologies

85 Excel Drive, SPEX Precision Machine Technologies

In what was once the right field corner and the right field bleachers sits a large warehouse at 10 Excel Drive. Just beyond the warehouse, across Norton Street, is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, whose steeple was readily visible beyond the right field bleachers back during the time of Silver Stadium.

Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium, with Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Steeple Still Visible

The building at 10 Excel Drive currently houses Premier Sign Systems. Its parking lot sits atop the right field corner.

10 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Premier Sign Systems

10 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Premier Sign Systems

In what was once left field also sits a large one-story industrial building and parking lot.

Looking Toward Former Location of Left Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Left Field From Home Plate, Silver Stadium

That building, located at 80 Excel Drive, currently houses Macauto USA Corp.

80 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Macauto USA Corp.

80 Excel Drive, Rochester NY, Macauto USA Corp.

Second base and beginning of the outfield is marked by Excel Drive.

Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate, Silver Stadium

Many of the houses that sat along the perimeter of Silver Stadium remain to this day.

Houses Fronting Norton Street Located Beyond Former Site of Silver Stadium Right Field

Houses Fronting Norton Street Located Beyond Former Site of Silver Stadium Right Field

In addition, several of the industrial buildings that sat beyond the home plate grandstand remain at the site.

Looking Toward Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand (From Home Plate), Silver Stadium

Looking Toward Former Location of Home Plate Grand Stand (From Home Plate), Silver Stadium

The former school building at 1550 N Clinton Street, which sat behind the first base grandstand, remains as well, and now houses a ministry.

1550 N Clinton Avenue, Rochester NY, New Born Fellowship Ministries

1550 N Clinton Avenue, Rochester NY, New Born Fellowship Ministries

In 1997, the Red Wings moved three miles south of Silver Stadium to a new state-of-the-art minor league facility located at 333 N. Plymouth Avenue.

Exterior of Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Exterior of Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Frontier Field remains one of the finest ballparks in minor league baseball. When comparing Silver Stadium to Frontier Field it is easy to appreciate the team’s decision to construct a new ballpark in the heart of downtown Rochester.

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field pays homage to Morrie Silver with a statue outside the ballpark’s front gates.

Statue of Morrie Silver, Frontier Field, Rochester NY

Statue of Morrie Silver, Frontier Field, Rochester NY

The plaque at Mr. Silver’s feet states, in part: “The man who saved baseball for Rochester in 1957. Spearheading a stock drive, he and 8,221 others bought shares in the team in order to purchase the franchise and the stadium from the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Frontier Field

Plaque Honoring Morrie Silver at Frontier Field

Although Silver Stadium is now a lost ballpark, much of the outfield and many of the buildings surrounding the stadium site remain as they were were back when baseball was played at 500 Norton Avenue.

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

Frontier Field, Home of the Rochester Red Wings

If you live in Rochester and attend Red Wing games, a pilgrimage just three miles south of Frontier Field to the former site of Silver Stadium is a must. The City of Rochester should place a marker indicating where home plate once sat. Given the information above, it should not be difficult to locate the exact spot.

Many great ballplayers and managers made the ballpark their home, including Rochester Hall of Famers and Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Jr., Red Schoendienst, Earl Weaver, and Johnny Mize. Who knows? Given how much of the field remains unencumbered, a baseball game very well could break out on that field at any time, helping to bring back to that area a game that was played there for over 60 years.

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Hartford’s Bulkeley Stadium – Now A Nursing Home With A Home Plate

September 11th, 2014
by Byron Bennett

Morgan M. Bulkeley Stadium was located on the southeast corner of Hanmer Street and George Street in Hartford, Connecticut.

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

The ballpark originated in 1921 as Clarkin Field, named in honor of its builder, Jim Clarkin, the owner of the Eastern League Hartford Senators. After a fire in 1927,  the ballpark was rebuilt. Clarkin sold the team the following year and the ballpark was renamed Bulkeley Stadium in honor of Baseball Hall of Famer Morgan G. Bulkeley, the first president of the National League as well as a former president of Aetna Insurance Company, and a former politician (Connecticut Governor, U.S. Senator, and Hartford Mayor). Bulkeley had lived in Hartford and died  in 1922.

Buckeley Stadium Historical Marker at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Bulkeley Stadium Historical Marker at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

The site today is occupied primarily by Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Hartford native Norm Hausmann spearheaded a drive to get a historic marker placed at the former site of Bulkeley Stadium. The marker sits at the entrance to Ellis Manor on George Street in what was once left field.

Ellis Manor Marker Honoring Buckeley Stadium

Ellis Manor Marker Honoring Bulkeley Stadium

Clarkin Field/Bulkeley Stadium was home to the Eastern League Hartford Senators from 1921 to 1932 (in 1934 the Senators returned for one season to Bulkeley Stadium as part of the Northeastern League). Bulkeley Stadium also was home to the Eastern League Hartford Bees from 1939 to 1945 (also known as the Laurels), and the Eastern League Hartford Chiefs from 1946 to 1952. The Bees, Laurels, and Chiefs all were affiliated with the National League Boston Braves. The integrated semi-pro Savitt Gems (named after long time Hartford jeweler Bill Savitt) also played at Bulkeley Stadium. One of the stars of Savitt Gems was Johnny “Schoolboy” Taylor, a high school phenomenon who pitched for Bulkeley High School and later for the Negro National League Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Negro National League New York Cubans. In 1949, Taylor pitched for the Hartford Chiefs at Bulkeley Stadium.

Buckeley Stadium Home Plate Marker

Bulkeley Stadium Home Plate Marker

Clarkin Field also was home to the Hartford Blues football team in 1925 (the following season the Blues played their one professional season in the National Football League).

Buckeley Stadium Home Plate Marker, Looking Toward Pitcher's Mound

Bulkeley Stadium Home Plate Marker, Looking Toward Pitcher’s Mound

The location of home plate is marked with a granite plaque near the northeast corner of Ellis Manor, to the left of the front entrance. To better appreciate the former site of Bulkeley Stadium, click here: Courant.com for a vintage aerial photo of Bulkeley Stadium.

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

The grandstand directly behind home plate was located where Hanmer Street terminates just northeast of Ellis Manor.

Hanmer Street Terminating at Former Location of Grandstand  Buckeley Stadium Behind Home Plate

Hanmer Street Terminating at Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Home Plate Grandstand

Although the ballpark was demolished in 1960, a chain link fence that ran alongside the third base grandstand dating back to Bulkeley Stadium remains on the site. The fence is clearly visible in the vintage photograph of Bulkeley Stadium that appears at the beginning of this blog. Although not quite as historically significant as the John T. Brush Memorial Stairway located near the former site of the Polo Grounds, the fence certainly is worth noting given its connection to Bulkeley Stadium.

Chain Link Fence Remaining from Buckeley Stadium Behind Former Location of Third Base Grandstand

Chain Link Fence Remaining from Bulkeley Stadium Behind Former Location of Third Base Grandstand

The third base grandstand paralleled a driveway that now runs north and south along the eastern side of the Ellis Manor.

Ellis Manor Driveway Running Parallel to Former Location of Third Base Grandstand

Ellis Manor Driveway Running Parallel to Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Third Base Grandstand

Bulkeley Stadium was a basic, no frills ballpark. A single deck, covered grandstand ran from third base to the left field corner. Uncovered wood bleachers continued from third base to the right field corner.

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Bulkeley Stadium (photo courtesy of Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

First base was located in front of what is now a covered driveway near the front door entrance to Ellis Manor.

Former Location of First Base at Buckeley Stadium Looking Toward Home Plate

Former Location of First Base at Bulkeley Stadium Looking Toward Home Plate

The driveway from George Street into Ellis Manor was once left field.

Former Location of Buckeley Stadium Left Field Looking Toward Home Plate

Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Left Field Looking Toward Home Plate

Some residences that ring the parameter of the ballpark site date to the time of Bulkeley Stadium. A few “new” houses actually sit on the former stadium site. One such house, at 204 George Street, sits in what was once the left field grandstand.

House at 204 George Street  Which Sits in Former Location of  Buckeley Stadium Left Field Grand Stand

House at 204 George Street Which Sits in Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Left Field Grandstand

The open side yard at 204 George Street was once the left field corner.

Former Location of Buckeley Stadium Left Field Corner

Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Left Field Corner

Right Field to Center field ran north to south along George Street.

Looking South Down George Street Which Ran Parallel to RIght Field Toward Center Field

Looking South Down George Street Which Ran Parallel to Bulkeley Stadium’s Right Field (Toward Center Field)

The center field was located across from the intersection of George Street and Goodrich Street where a grove of trees now sits.

Former Location of Buckeley Stadium Center Field Corner at Intersection of Goodrich Street and George Street

Former Location of Bulkeley Stadium Center Field Corner at Intersection of Goodrich Street and George Street

Inside the front entrance to Ellis Manor, across from the reception desk, is a wall of fame honoring the memory of Bulkeley Stadium. Many future Baseball Hall of Famers played for Hartford at Bulkeley Stadium, including Lou Gehrig, Leo Durocher, Hank Greenberg, Johnny Sain, and Warren Spahn. The wonderful staff at the nursing home and rehabilitation center are proud of their facility’s connection to professional baseball and are very helpful answering questions about the ballpark.

Buckeley Stadium Wall of Fame Display at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Bulkeley Stadium Wall of Fame Display at Ellis Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Hartford City officials currently are working to bring professional baseball back to Hartford. The city hopes to move the Eastern League Rock Cats from their current home in New Britain Stadium, which is located just 13 miles southwest of Hartford.

New Britain Stadium, Home of the Eastern League Rock Cats

New Britain Stadium, Home of the Eastern League Rock Cats

The City recently secured property in downtown Hartford at the intersection of Main Street and Trumbell Street, approximately three miles north of Bulkeley Stadium. Although professional baseball will never return to the site of Bulkeley Stadium, it is still possible to play catch in the left field corner of the old ballpark site – that is, as long as the folks who own the side yard at 204 George Street don’t mind you doing so.

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Paterson New Jersey’s Hinchliffe Stadium – A Diamond In The Rough

September 10th, 2014
by Byron Bennett

Hinchliffe Stadium is located at the intersection of Liberty Street and Maple Street in Paterson, New Jersey.

Entrance to Hinchiffe Stadium at Intersection of  Liberty and Maple Street

Entrance to Hinchliffe Stadium at Intersection of Liberty and Maple Street

The ballpark is set directly behind Paterson Public School No. 5, located at 430 Totowa Avenue, just three blocks northeast of the entrance on Maple Street to Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.

Paterson Public School No. 5, Paterson, NJ

Side View of Paterson Public School No. 5, Paterson, NJ

Hinchliffe Stadium is named after Paterson’s former Mayor John V. Hinchliffe (although the mayor himself once claimed that the stadium was named after his Uncle John, also once the mayor of Paterson).

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Northwest  Along Maple Street

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Northwest Along Maple Street

Constructed in 1931 and 1932, the ballpark was financed by the City of Paterson at a cost of approximately $250,000.

Panoramic Photo of Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Facing Maple Street

Panoramic Photo of Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Facing Maple Street

The ballpark was designed by Fanning & Shaw, a local architectural firm, in the Art Deco style.

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

The stadium’s exterior walls are constructed of poured concrete.

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Fronting Liberty Street

Exterior of Hinchliffe Stadium Fronting Liberty Street

The exterior walls include many architectural flourishes such as clay tile roofing and plaster inlay plaques created by Paterson native Gaetano Federici.

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Exterior Fronting Liberty Street

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Exterior Fronting Liberty Street

Ownership of the ballpark was transferred from the city to the Paterson School District in 1963. In 1997 the school district closed Hinchliffe Stadium, unable to pay for its continued upkeep.

Entrance Gates to Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Entrance Gates to Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

In the last 20 years, the stadium’s structure has continued to deteriorate from neglect. Were this just another aging high school athletic stadium, Hinchliffe might already have been lost to time.

Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Windows Facing Jasper Street

Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Windows Facing Jasper Street

However, Hinchliffe’s rich history is what may just save it from demolition and ultimately what might ensure its restoration for future generations to appreciate.

Detail of Ticket Window Facing Jasper Street, Hinchliffe Stadium

Detail of Ticket Window Facing Jasper Street, Hinchliffe Stadium

Most notably, Hinchliffe is recognized as one of the last surviving ballparks where a significant number of Negro League games were played.

Inside Ticket Booth, Hinchliffe Stadium

Inside Ticket Booth, Hinchliffe Stadium

Starting in 1933, the Negro National League New York Black Yankees called Hinchliffe their home, continuing for 12 seasons until they departed at the end of 1945 (the Black Yankees played their home games at Triborough Stadium in 1937). Many Negro League greats played at Hinchliffe, including one 1934 contest between the Black Yankees and the Pittsburgh Crawfords featuring future Hall of Famers James “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, and Judy Johnson. Other Hall of Famers who played at Hinchliffe Stadium include Martín Dihigo, Monte Irwin, Buck Leonard, and Satchel Paige (note: it is unclear whether Paige actually played in a game at Hinchliffe). Hinchliffe also was home to the Negro National League New York Cubans in the mid 1930s.

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Booth From Inside Stadium

Detail of Hinchliffe Stadium Ticket Booth

Future Hall of Famer and Paterson native Larry Doby grew up playing at Hinchliffe Stadium, first as a star at Eastside High School playing both football and baseball, and later as a member of the Negro National League Newark Eagles, beginning in 1942.

Entrance of Hinchliffe Stadium Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

Entrance of Hinchliffe Stadium (Interior) Near Corner of Liberty and Jasper Streets

In addition to Negro League baseball, Hinchliffe stadium hosted professional soccer (the New Jersey Stallions and New Jersey Eagles) and football (Paterson Giants, the Silk City Bears, the Paterson Panthers and the Paterson Nighthawks), as well as boxing and auto racing. Notable athletes who played at Hinchliffe include future football Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi playing for the Brooklyn Eagles in a game against the Panthers, Earl Clark playing for the Portsmouth Spartans in a game against the Giants, and Bill Dudley playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game against the Panthers. For more information about Hinchliffe’s rich history, see Hinchliffe’s Stadium’s application filed with National Trust For Historic Preservation Application which provided much of the history outlined above and Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand With Paterson Public School No. 5 in Background

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand With Paterson Public School No. 5 in Background

Thankfully, many historians and fans of the game have stepped in to help protect Hinchliffe including Brian LoPinto, founder of Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium, View of First Base Grandstand From Home Plate Grandstand

Hinchliffe Stadium, View of First Base Grandstand From Home Plate Grandstand

In 2004, Hinchliffe Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.

Scoreboard, Hinchliffe Stadium

Scoreboard, Hinchliffe Stadium

In 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. On July 22, 2014, the Hinchliffe Stadium Heritage Act sponsored by Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr., passed the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill would expand Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park – which sits just south of the ballpark – to include Hinchliffe Stadium.

Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Toward Former Center Field With Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in Background

Hinchliffe Stadium Looking Toward Former Center Field With Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in Background

Even with all that has been done to help ensure Hinchliffe Stadium’s future, the current condition of the ballpark, and the passage of time, continue to  work against it.

Third Base Grandstand, Hinchliffe Stadium

Third Base Grandstand, Hinchliffe Stadium

The poured concrete structure that helped sustain the ballpark since it’s construction in the early 1930′s is crumbling, which will require extensive repair or replacement of the actual concrete.

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand Staircase

Hinchliffe Stadium Grandstand Staircase

An assessment of the stadium conducted by the City of Paterson concluded that although much of the concrete is salvageable, the cost of restoration and modernization could be as high as $44 million. The City of Greensboro, North Carolina, is facing a similar challenge as it grapples with how best to restore historic War Memorial Stadium which, like Hinchliffe, is constructed mainly of poured concrete.

Hinchliffe Stadium Bathroom

Hinchliffe Stadium Bathroom

Although the continued existence of Hinchliffe Stadium is not yet a certainty, the good news on many fronts suggests that the ballpark might just stand the test of time.

Houses Fronting Totowa Avenue, Paterson, NJ

Houses Fronting Totowa Avenue Near Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson, NJ

Restoration of the ballpark would be good news not only for the citizens of Paterson, New Jersey, but for baseball fans and historians far and wide. However, to paraphrase Nelson Wilbury, “it’s gonna take a whole lot of spending money to do it right.” If you are interested in helping preserve Hinchliffe Stadium, contact Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium. And while you are at it, be sure to thank them as well.

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The Stars No Longer Shine At Huntsville’s Joe W. Davis Stadium

August 30th, 2014
by Byron Bennett

Joe W. Davis Municipal Stadium is located at 3125 Leeman Ferry Road in Huntsville, Alabama.

Joe W. Davis Stadium Marquee at Memorial Parkway and Don Mincher Drive

The ballpark is named after a former Mayor of Huntsville who spearheaded the effort to bring professional baseball to Huntsville.

Entrance to Joe W. Davis Stadium, Huntsville, Alabama

Constructed in 1985, it has been the home of the Southern League Huntsville Stars for the team’s entire existence.

Entrance to Joe W. Davis Stadium Circa 2003

The team’s name and logo is a nod to the city’s connection to space exploration. Both NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command at the Redstone Arsenal are located in the Huntsville area.

View of Joe W. Davis Stadium From Behind Outfield Wall

The ballpark was designed and built prior to the rebirth movement that swept professional baseball parks with the introduction of Camden Yards in 1992.

View of Joe W. Davis Field From Behind Outfield Wall Circa 2003

Thus, both the exterior and interior of Joe Davis Stadium are plain and functional, with little in the way of architectural flourishes.

Turnstiles at Front Entrance to Joe W. Davis

Because the ballpark lacks any real je ne sais quoi, it truly harkens back to an earlier era when only the game on the field mattered.

Beer Stand and Beer Man, Joe W. Davis Stadium

The stadium’s dated structure also helps explain why the Stars wanted to relocate to a new facility.

Joe W. Davis Stadium Concourse Behind Third Base

Given the ballpark’s location in Rocket City, there certainly was ample inspiration for a space-themed baseball ballpark. Unfortunately, other than the Stars logo and Jet’s Pizza, there is very little in the way of space-themed concourse or ballpark offerings.

Jet’s Pizza – Gotta Love the Pun

When the stadium opened in 1985, the Stars were an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.

Day’s Lineup Posted on Stadium Concourse

In 1999, their affiliation switched to the Milwaukee Brewers, who have remained with the Stars ever since.

Entrance to First Base Seating Bowl, Joe W. Davis Stadium

The ballpark faces northeast, providing an inspiring view of Monte Sano State Park.

The View Behind Home Plate, Joe W. Davis Stadium, Huntsville, Alabama
Joe W. Davis Stadium with Monte Sano State Park Visible Beyond Outfield

Although intended primarily for baseball, the City of Huntsville designed Joe Davis stadium as a multi-purpose venue.

Joe W. Davis Left Field Seating Bowl

This accounts for the exceptionally long grandstand that runs along the third base foul line and wraps around to left field, while the first base grandstand stops opposite first base.

View of Joe W. Davis from Behind Outfield Fence

The ballpark can hold over 10,000 spectators, a size much larger than necessary for those who come to watch the Stars come out.

Entrance to Section 201 Joe W. Davis Stadium

Built to include 15 sky suites long before such luxury boxes were the norm for minor league baseball, even that portion of the structure looks very much outdated.

Who On Earth Designed this Entrance to the Joe W. Davis Luxury Boxes?

The majority of the seats are uncovered, with shade provided only for those sitting in the grandstand running along first base.

Huntsville Stars Warm Up Pregame

Perhaps it is Joe Davis Stadium’s dated feel that makes me lament the departure of the Stars.

Wahoos Manager Delino DeShields and Stars Manager Carlos Subero Exchange Lineup Cards

It remains a good place to watch baseball, with plenty of room to spread out.

Huntsville Stars take on the Pensacola Blue Wahoos

For several years now the Stars have been looking for another venue in which to shine.

Scoreboard, Joe W. Davis Stadium, Huntsville

Perhaps knowing that the end was near, the City did not invest much in the stadium in the way of extras. Even the stadium scoreboard is perfunctory at best.

Joe W. Davis Entrance to Team Store

In January 2014, the Stars announced they were moving to a brand new ballpark being constructed in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Slim Pickings in the Huntsville Team Store’s Final Season

Alas, 2014 was to be the last season of the Stars in Huntsville. However, construction shortfalls at the Biloxi site have delayed the team’s move to that ballpark  for the start of the 2015 season.

Huntsville’s Parting Banner, Joe W. Davis Stadium

It is unclear where the team will play to start the season, but apparently it will not be in Huntsville.

Huntsville Stars Logo

There are no current plans to demolish Joe Davis Stadium. Presumably the City could still use the facility for high school football games and the occasional monster truck rally. There is also talk of perhaps a new Southern League franchise locating to Huntsville in the next few years, should the city agree to construct a new, downtown ballpark. What does seem certain, however, is that come September 1, 2014, the days of professional baseball at Joe Davis Stadium will come to an end. And after that, it will be just a matter of time before the stadium becomes yet another lost ballpark.

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