Tinker Field – 100 Years of Baseball in Orlando, Florida

Tinker Field – 100 Years of Baseball in Orlando, Florida

Tinker Field is located at 1610 West Church Street in Orlando, Florida.

Grandstand, Tinker Field, 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.

Postcard, Cincinnati Reds Training On Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida (Published by Asheville Post Card Co., Asheville, N.C., Beautiful Florida Series)

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

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 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

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, 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, Circa 2004

In 1936, the Washington Senators began a several-decades long affiliation with Tinker Field.

Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, March 22, 1947

The Senators held spring training there from 1936 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1960.

Tinker Field, Orlando Florida “The City Beautiful” (Postcard Park Press, Inc., Waite Park, MN photo by Bob Watson)

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

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,

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

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, 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

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

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

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

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

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, 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,

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

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

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, 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, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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,

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

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

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

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. Small 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.

Byron Bennett