Archive for the ‘Tennessee ballparks’ Category

Knoxville’s Lost Ballparks – Caswell Field, Smithson Stadium, Bill Meyer Stadium

May 6th, 2015

Since at least 1917, baseball has been played at a ball field located at 633 Jessamine Street near the intersection of East 5th Street and Jessamine Street in Knoxville Tennessee. In 1916, William Caswell, a former confederate soldier, donated land to the city in East Knoxville for construction of a public park, including a ball field, which became known as Caswell Park. Caswell was one of the original longtime fans of the game, having participated in what may have been the first game of baseball played in Tennessee – an 1865 contest between the Holstons, Caswell’s team, composed of former Confederate soldiers, and the Knoxvilles, composed of former Union soldiers.

Home Plate, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Ball Field at 633 Jessamine Street, Formerly Caswell Field, Smithson Stadium, and Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Professional baseball was first played at 633 Jessamine Street in 1921, when the Appalachian League Knoxville Pioneers called Caswell Field home. In 1925, Knoxville changed leagues and names, joining the South Atlantic League as the Knoxville Smokies, in honor of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. Knoxville did not field a team in 1930, and shared a Southern Association team with Mobile in 1931 (playing their games in Mobile, Alabama).

Former Site of Caswell Field, Smithson Field, and Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Former Site of Caswell Field, Smithson Stadium, and Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

In 1932, Caswell Field was replaced with a new ballpark, Smithson Stadium, named in honor of the Knoxville City Councilman W.N. Smithson who spearheaded a drive to bring professional baseball back to the city.  The Southern Association Knoxville Smokies returned that same year, playing their home games at Smithson Park. In 1946, the Smokies joined the Tri State League and in 1953 played in the Mountain States League.

Memorial Garden, Former Site of Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Memorial Garden, Former Site of Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

In 1953 Smithson Stadium was demolished by a fire and the city constructed a new ballpark, Municipal Stadium, on the site. In 1954 the Smokies rejoined the Tri-State League for one season, playing at new Municipal Stadium. Knoxville did not have a professional team in 1955, but half way through the 1956 season the South Atlantic League Montgomery Rebels moved to Knoxville.

Bill Meyer Stadium Postcard

Bill Meyer Stadium Postcard

In 1957, Municipal Stadium was renamed Bill Meyer Stadium in honor of Knoxville native and former major league player and manager William Adam Meyer. In 1964, the Smokies joined the Southern League, where they have played ever since. In 1972 the team changed its name to the Knoxville Sox and in 1980, the Knoxville Blue Jays. In 1993, the team changed its name back to the Knoxville Smokies.

Plaque Honoring Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Plaque Honoring Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Professional baseball departed Bill Meyer Stadium after the 1999 season. In 2003 the stadium was demolished and in 2008 the ball field was renamed “Ridley-Helton Ballfield.” Neal Ridley was a former owner of the Knoxville Smokies and was largely responsible for keeping minor league baseball in Knoxville in the 1950s. Todd Helton is a Knoxville native and former Major League player who provided funds to renovate the ball field.

Plaque Honoring RIdley/Helton Ballfield at Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Plaque Honoring Neal Ridley and Todd Helton at Former Site of Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Although the Bill Meyer Stadium structure is long gone, the field remains, as well as modest bleachers and covered dugouts.

Fence Surrounding Infield, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

First Base Foul Line and Dugout, Ridley-Helton Field, Knoxville, Tennessee

The stadium grandstand behind home plate once sat in what is now an extension of Jessamine Street, which runs behind home plate and a memorial park.

Former Location of Third Base Grandstand, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Former Location of Third Base Grandstand, Bill Meyer Stadium, Now Ridley-Helton Field, Knoxville, Tennessee

A metal storage shed remains on the site from the time of Bill Meyer Stadium, still painted Knoxville Smokies blue.

Storage Shed Remaining At Site Next to Former Terminus of Third Base Grandstand

Storage Shed Remaining At Site Next to Former Terminus of Third Base Grandstand

Out beyond left field is the former Standard Knitting Mills Building. The building has loomed large over the outfield wall since its construction in the mid 1940’s.

Standard Knitting Mills Building Out Beyond Left Field, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Standard Knitting Mills Building Out Beyond Left Field at Ridley-Helton Field, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Detail of Standard Knitting Mills Building, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Detail of Standard Knitting Mills Building, Knoxville, Tennessee

Several light stanchions original to Bill Meyer Stadium remain at the site as well.

Light Stanchion, Memorial Garden, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Light Stanchion, Ridley-Helton Field, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Today Ridley-Helton Field continues to host youth and high school baseball, helping insure that baseball will continue to be played into the field’s second century.

RIght Field Line, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Right Field Line, Ridley-Helton Field, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

In 2000, the Knoxville Smokies moved 20 miles east to a new ballpark, Smokies Park, located in Kodak, Tennessee. Having departed Knoxville, the team changed its name to the Tennessee Smokies.

Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee, Home of the Tennessee Smokies

Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee, Home of the Tennessee Smokies

Smokies Park also serves as a visitor center for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smokies Park and Smoky Mountain Visitors Center, Kodak, Tennessee

Smokies Park and Smoky Mountain Visitors Center, Kodak, Tennessee

Out beyond right field are four wood stadium seats from Bill Meyer Stadium, painted Knoxville Smokies blue.

Seats from Bill Meyer Stadium, Located Beyond Left Field Wall, Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

Seats from Bill Meyer Stadium, Located Beyond Left Field Wall, Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

Smokies Park is a fine minor league facility and a great place to watch a game of baseball. However, it has another 85 years before it can match the nearly 100 years of baseball that has been played at the Smokies former home in Knoxville.

Chicago Cubs Prospect Kris Bryant at Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

Chicago Cubs Prospect Kris Bryant at Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

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Posted in Bill Meyer Stadium/Ridely-Helton Field, Tennessee ballparks | Comments (0)

Railroads and Lookouts – Chattanooga’s Historic Engel Stadium

April 29th, 2015

Engel Stadium is located at 1130 East Third Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ballpark is the former home of the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Historic Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Historic Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Engel Stadium was built on the site of the Lookout’s prior home, Andrew Field. In 1910, the franchise moved from Little Rock Arkansas to Chattanooga and in 1911 began playing their home games at Andrews Field.

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In 1929, Clark Griffith purchased the Lookouts and Andrews Field from Sammy Strang, a former major league player and Chattanooga native. Griffith hired former major league pitcher and scout Joe Engel to run the franchise and oversee construction of the new ballpark.

Engel Stadium Home of the "Lookouits" Chattanooga, Tennessee

Engel Stadium Postcard, Home of the “Lookouts” Chattanooga, Tennessee

When the ballpark opened in 1930 it was named Engel Stadium in recognition of Engel’s efforts. As a player with the Washington Senators, Engel roomed with teammate Walter Johnson and as a scout was responsible for discovering future Hall of Famers Goose Goslin, Joe Cronin, and Bucky Harris. Engel remained with the Lookouts until the early 1960s, becoming in the process one of the most successful and colorful promoters in the game.

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

When Engel Stadium opened in 1930, it was considered one of the finest minor league ballparks in the country.

Left Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Left Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The ballpark is situated next to Southern Railway’s Citico Yard (now known as Norfolk Southern Railway Debutts Yard).

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee, View from Train Tracks Looking Toward Lookout Mountain

View of Norfolk Southern Railway’s Debutts Yard, Engel Stadium (right), and Lookout Mountain (left), Chattanooga, Tennessee

View of Grandstand Roof From Highway

View of Grandstand Roof From East 3rd Street Bridge Over Norfolk Southern Railway Yard

Engel Stadium also is located adjacent to the University of Tennessee College of Medicine’s Erlanger Hospital and Chattanooga’s historic Fort Hood neighborhood.

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee, View From Street

Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee, View From Erlanger Hospital at Central Avenue

Engel Stadium’s all brick construction is reminiscent of Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. Like Bosse Field, Engel Stadium was used as the backdrop for a major motion pictures. In 2012, the movie 42 was filmed at Engel Field. In 1991, A League Of Their Own was filed at Bosse Field.

Exterior, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Chattanooga Lookouts played their home games at Engel Field from 1930 through 1961 as member of the Southern Association. Chattanooga did not field a team in 1962, but the Lookouts returned in 1963 and played one season in the South Atlantic (“Sally”) League.

Exterior, Third Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior, Third Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

From 1964 to 1965 the Lookouts were members of the Southern League. The team departed after the 1965 season and from 1966 to 1975 Chattanooga did not field a team. The Lookouts returned to Engel Stadium in 1976, once again as a member of the Southern League and continued to play at Engel Stadium through the 1999 season.

Exterior, First Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior, First Base Grandstand, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In the 1940s the minor league Negro Southern Association Chattanooga Choo-Choos played their home games at Engel Stadium. A young Willie Mays, still in high school, reportedly played for the Choo-Choos in 1945 and 1946 as an unsigned player. In 1947, he officially started his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barrons who played their home games at Rickwood Field. In 1926 and 1927, when the ballpark was still known as Andrews Field, the Negro Southern League Chattanooga White Sox played their home games at Andrews Field. Satchel Paige made his professional minor league Negro League debut at Andrews Field in April 1926. In 1927 Paige’s contract was sold to the Black Barrons.

Gated Entrance Along Third Base, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Gated Entrance Along Third Base, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The following Major League teams were affiliated with the Lookouts during the time that Engel Stadium fielded a professional, affiliated team: the Washington Senators from 1932 to 1959, the Philadelphia Phillies from 1960 to 1961, and 1963 to 1965, the Oakland Athletics from 1976 to 1977, the Cleveland Indians from 1978 to 1982, the Seattle Mariners from 1983 to 1986, and the Cincinnati Reds from 1987 to 1999.

Scoreboard, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Scoreboard, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In 2000, the Chattanooga Lookouts moved to brand new AT&T Field located at 201 Power Alley in Chattanooga, just one and one half mile northwest of Engel Stadium.

AT&T Ballpark, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Ballpark, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

AT&T Field, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Home of the Chattanooga Lookouts

In 2009 Engel Stadium was added to the National Register of Historic Places. That same year, the Engel Stadium Foundation was established to help renovate and restore Engel Stadium. If you are interested in making a donation to the Foundation, contact them here.

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Right Field Looking Toward Center Field, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Although the stadium received some repairs in 2012 as part of its role in the movie 42, there is still much that needs to be done to restore Engel Stadium and help preserve it for future generations of baseball fans to use and appreciate.

View of Grandstand From Left Field Corner, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

View of Grandstand From Left Field Corner, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

In April 2015 the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and the Engel Stadium Foundation, announced a partnership wherein Engel stadium will be renovated and converted to an Intramural Complex for students at the University. The details of the proposed renovation have yet to be determined.

Light Stanchion, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Light Stanchion, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Although the ballpark will undergo some changes to accommodate its new purpose, the good news is that Engel Stadium will not become just another lost ballpark.

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

If you have never visited Engel Stadium and are interested in seeing the ballpark before its transformation, now is the time to do so.

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Exterior of Right Field Fence, Engel Stadium, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Old ballparks such as Engel Stadium have a certain, worn charm that often times is wiped away when the ballpark is renovated or repurposed. Although I could not gain access to the ballpark in 2014 when I took these pictures, there was plenty to see just walking around the exterior of Engel Stadium. It is definitely worth the trip for any true fan of the game and is only a mile and a half from the Lookouts current home.

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The Nashville Sounds of Silence At Greer Stadium

August 5th, 2014

Hershel Greer Stadium, home of the Nashville Sounds, currently is located at 534 Chestnut Street, in Nashville, Tennessee, just two miles south of downtown Nashville.

Hershel Greer Stadium, Home of the Nashville Sounds

Greer Stadium was constructed by the City of Nashville in 1978 on land that was once part of Fort Negley, a Civil War fortification once occupied by Union Troops. Fort Negley holds the distinction of being largest civil war fortification created during the war, but not built near water.

View of Hershel Greer Stadium From Left Field Parking Lot

The area around Greer Stadium and Fort Negley, located just southeast of the intersection of I-40 and I-65, is largely industrial. The result being that neighborhood does not offer baseball fans much to do before or after games other than come and go.

Access to Greer Stadium from Chestnut Street Bridge Over Railroad Tracks

Stone columns at the entrance to right field are designed to mimic the stone fence surrounding what is left of Fort Negley.

Greer Stadium Entrance Gate Near Right Field

A plaque at the entrance honors the opening of Greer Stadium in 1978.

Plaque Honoring Construction of Greer Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Plaque Honoring Construction of Greer Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

The ballpark’s overall design is markedly old-school, somewhat reminiscent of Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Fan Relations, Exterior of Greer Stadium

Much of the ballpark exterior is painted Army grey, perhaps also a nod to the site’s former use as a Fort.

Entrance to Right Field, Greer Stadium

Greer Stadium’s covered concourse runs behind behind a portion of the first and third base stands.

Greer Stadium Concourse

The extended concourses behind the bleachers located along the first and third base foul lines near left field and right field are uncovered.

Greer Stadium Standings Scoreboard

The view from home plate looking out toward center field faces southeast. Although the area is largely industrial, the view is almost pastoral, as all that is visible is a line of trees.

Greer Stadium, View Behind Home Plate

The view looking toward right field is downright bucolic, with the hills of Radnor Lake south of Nashville visible in the distance.

Greer Stadium Looking South Towards Hills of Nearby Radnor Lake

Without question, the most distinctive and recognizable part of Greer stadium is the guitar-shaped scoreboard that sits out beyond the left field fence.

Greer Stadium’s Iconic Guitar-Shaped Scoreboard, Nashville, Tennessee

The ballpark’s seating bowl is composed mainly of plastic blue seats that ring the playing field down the first and third base fould lines.

VIew of Greer Stadium Grandstand From Right Field Line

The visiting team dugout is located along first base.

Visitors Dugout, Greer Stadium, Nashville

The Nashville Sounds have been the primary tenant of Greer Stadium throughout its existence. From 1978 through 1984 the Sounds were members of the Double A Southern League. Beginning in 1985, they began play in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. In 1993 and 1994 Greer Stadium also served as the home field for the Nashville Express of the Double-A Southern League and a Minnesota Twins affiliate.

St. Louis Cardinals Prospect Oscar Traveras, Pre-Game Warmups, Greer Stadium

When Greer Stadium opened in 1978, the Sounds were an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1980, the Sounds became an affiliate of the New York Yankees, through the 1984 season. 

Greer Stadium Visiting Team Bullpen

The Sounds affiliation with MLB continued to change over the years. The Detroit Tigers (1985-1986), the Cincinnati Reds a second time (1987 – 1992), the Chicago White Sox (1993-1997), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1998-2004) were all at one time affiliated with the Sounds.

Full Moon Rises Over Sounds Bullpen at Greer Stadium

Since 2005, the Sounds have been an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Slugger’s Sports Bar and Grill, Greer Stadium

Above the press box, atop Greer Stadium, is the Slugger’s Sports Bar and Grill, which provides a fine view of the field and a place to come in from the cold when the game time temperatures dips into the 30’s in mid April.

View of the Field from Greer Stadium from Slugger’s Sports Bar and Grill

Greer Stadium is nothing if not quirky and, unfortunately, a dying breed in the annals of minor league ballparks.

A Zig-Zag of Seats Behind Home Plate, Greer Stadium

The seating seems to have been designed and accounted for only after the dimensions of the stadium structure were put into place.

Section QQ, Greer Stadium

Additions to the ballpark over the years only added to Greer’s stadium’s funky layout.

No View Right Field Concession Stand, Greer Stadium

But the quirks of Greer Stadium are part of what makes it still a charming place to watch baseball.

The Right Field Family Leisure Party Deck, Greer Stadium

For the past several seasons, the Sounds have been lobbying for a new ballpark.

A View of the Seats, Greer Stadium, Nashville

As the debate over if, where, and when to build a new ballpark continued, the condition of Greer Stadium suffered, with little interest from the city in spending money on significant upkeep or improvements.

Sun-Bleached and Weathered Bleachers at Greer Stadium

Greer Stadium’s days are now numbered. A new home for the Nashville Sounds is being built three miles north of Greer Stadium, less than a mile north of downtown Nashville.

Signs Advertising New Nashville Sounds Ballpark

Alas, 2014 will be the last season as First Tennessee Park is scheduled on Jackson Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues,  is scheduled to open time for the 2015 season.

Location of Future Nashville Sounds Ballpark on Jackson Street between 4th and 5th Streets

Home Plate will sit just South of Jackson Street, with the ballpark facing towards downtown Nashville.

Sign Showing Design of New Nashville Sounds Ballpark

A portion of the land where the new ballpark is under construction was once the former site of Sulphur Dell, where baseball was played in Nashville from 1870 until 1963. From 1901 to 1963, Sulphur Dell was the home of the Nashville Vols and famous Vols players such as the eccentric Boots Poffenberger.

Sign Advertising New Nashville Ballpark At Sulphur Dell

Although the city of Nashville is still considering its options for repurposing the land upon which Greer Stadium sits, one thing does seem certain – that the ballpark itself will not remain and in the near future will become just another lost ballpark. When the 2014 season ends, baseball will have been played at Greer Stadium a total of 37 years, one year less than the number seasons that the American League Baltimore Orioles called Memorial Stadium home. Hopefully the City of Nashville will find some way to commemorate the former ballpark site. Perhaps the city should leave intact the guitar-shaped scoreboard since it seems there is little interest in moving the iconic structure to First Tennessee Park. The scoreboard is a part of Nashville history and would provide an excellent marker and reminder for where professional baseball was once played in the city.

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Posted in Hershel Greer Stadium, Tennessee ballparks | Comments (2)