Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Cubs’

Ocala’s Gerig Field – A Former Spring Training Minor League Gem

November 29th, 2015

Gerig Field was located in what is now the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Complex, located at 1510 NW 4th Street in Ocala, Florida. The ballpark was constructed  in 1936 at a cost of approximately $100,000 with funds from the Works Progress Administration. Gerig Field was named in honor of John Jacob Gerig, the then-mayor of Ocala who was instrumental in gaining the funding needed to construct the ballpark.

Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

At the time of its construction, Gerig Field was part of a sports complex known as Recreation Park, which also included softball and football fields. Recreation Park was built on the former site of the Ocala Fairgrounds. The land where Gerig Field was constructed had been a transient camp established on the fairgrounds during the Great Depression.

Infield, Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Infield, Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

In July 1993, the grandstand was demolished. However, the field remains at the site to this day.

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

The American Association Milwaukee Brewers were the first professional baseball team to make Gerig Field their spring training home, training there from 1939 to 1941. The Texas League Tulsa Oilers (a Chicago Cubs affiliate) trained there also in 1940 and 1941. Both teams ceased operations in Ocala once the country entered World War II. In 1940 and 1941, the Ocala Yearlings of the Florida State League played their home games at Gerig Field.

Entrance to Baseball Fiels at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, Former Site of Gerig Field

Entrance to Baseball Fiels at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Recreation Center, Former Site of Gerig Field

After World War II, baseball returned to Gerig Field in 1948 with the arrival of the Southern Association Birmingham Barons. At that time the Barons were an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Thus began a 23 year affiliation between the Red Sox and Ocala, Florida. As an example, in 1958, the Red Sox brought the following minor league affiliates to train at Gerig: the Southern Association Memphis Chicks (short for Chickasaws), the Eastern League Allentown Red Sox, the Carolina League Raleigh Capitals, the Midwest League Waterloo Hawks, and the New York- Pennsylvania League Corning Red Sox. In 1953, the Barons became an affiliate of the New York Yankees and in 1957 an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. At the request of the Red Sox, the Barons ceased training at Gerig Field after the 1959 spring season.

Detail of Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

Detail of Recreation Park, Ocala, Florida (Postcard Hartman Litho Sales Company, Largo, Florida)

During the time that the minor league Red Sox were training in Ocala, the major league team trained at Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida (through 1958), Scottsdale, Arizona (1959 to 1965), and Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Florida (beginning in 1966). The Red Sox’s minor league clubs continued to train in Ocala until 1971, when the organization moved its entire minor league operation to Chain of Lakes Park. Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who played for the Raleigh Capitals in 1958, was one of the many Red Sox farm hands to train at Gerig Field.

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Former Site of Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

An adjoining practice field – known now as Pinkney Woodbury Field – remains at the site. Pinkney Woodbury was a Ocala resident and community activist who encouraged the construction of youth playgrounds and athletic fields in the western section of Ocala.

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Former Spring Training Practice Field Adjacent to Gerig Field

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Former Spring Training Practice Field Adjacent to Gerig Field

Surrounding Pinkney Woodbury Field along the first and third base lines is a white painted fence built of Ocala limerock that is original to the spring training site.

Ocala Limerock Fence Located along the Third Base Side of Pinkney Woodbury Field in Ocala, Florida

Ocala Limerock Fence Located along the Third Base Side of Pinkney Woodbury Field in Ocala, Florida

The limerock fence that parallels the first base side of Pinkney Woodbury Field is a remnant of Gerig Field, as it a portion of the fence that ran along the ballpark’s left field foul line.

Gerig Field's Right Field Foul Line Fence Constructed of Ocala Limerock

Gerig Field’s Limerock That Ran Along the Left Field Foul Line

When first constructed, limestone fence once encircled perimeters of both Gerig Field and the adjacent practice field (Pinkney Woodbury Field). The portion of the fence that remains at the site terminates just beyond Pinkney Woodbury Field’s  first base and third base grandstands.

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone  Fence, Third Base Grandstand,  Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone Fence, Third Base Grandstand, Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone  Fence, Third Base Grandstand,  Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Terminus of Original Ocala Limestone Fence, First Base Grandstand, Pickney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field, like Gerig Field, is a throwback to early Florida ballpark construction.

Main Entrance Gate, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Main Entrance Gate, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

The first base and third base grandstands at Pinkney Woodbury Field match the limerock fence that surrounds the field.

Third Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Third Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

First Base Grandstand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field also includes a distinctive concrete concession stand located behind home plate.

Concession Stand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Concession Stand, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Covered, concrete block dugouts sit just beyond the first and third base grandstands.

Third Base Dugout, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Third Base Dugout, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field is used for local school teams, as well as youth baseball leagues.

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Scoreboard, Ocala, Florida

Pinkney Woodbury Scoreboard, Ocala, Florida

The building that once housed the Gerig Field’s player clubhouse also remains at the site.

Building That  Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Building That Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

The clubhouse was located in the left field corner of Gerig Field. The limestone fence once intersected the northern most side of clubhouse.

Building That  Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

Building That Was Once Player Clubhouse, Gerig Field, Ocala, Florida

In 2010, the former clubhouse was renovated and is now used as a Senior Activity Center.

Plaque Dedicating Former Gerig Field Player Clubhouse as the Barbara Gaskin Washington Senior Advisory Center.

Plaque Dedicating Former Gerig Field Player Clubhouse as the Barbara Gaskin Washington Senior Activity Center.

Although Gerig Field is long gone, the site is still very much worth a visit for fans of the history of the game. The ball field where many former major league and minor league players once trained remains at the site. Likewise, Pinkney Woodbury Field is a wonderful gem that harkens back to early days of Florida spring training.

Center Field Fence Looking Toward Infield, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

Center Field Fence Looking Toward Infield, Pinkney Woodbury Field, Ocala, Florida

For more information about the history of Gerig Field and baseball in Ocala, Florida, be sure to read the excellent article by Carlos Medina on ocala.com, from which much of the factual information for this blog was obtained.

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Knights Stadium – Charlotte, North Carolina’s Former South Carolina Home

April 14th, 2015

Knights Stadium was located at 2280 Deerfield Drive in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The ballpark was the home of the Southern League Charlotte Knights from 1990 to 1992, and the International League Charlotte Knights from 1993 to 2013. During those years, the Knights were an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs (1990 to 1992), the Cleveland Indians (1993 to 1994), the Florida Marlins (1995 to 1998), and the Chicago White Sox (1999 to 2013).

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina, Former Home of the Charlotte Knights

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina, Former Home of the Charlotte Knights

Just as the NFL Washington Redskins play their home games in Maryland and the NFL New York Giants play their home games in New Jersey, the Charlotte Knights played their home games not in North Carolina, but across the state line in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Entrance to Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Entrance to Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Originally known as Knights Castle, the ballpark was constructed in 1989 by then-Charlotte Knights owner George Shinn. Shinn at that time also was owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans).

Exterior of First Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Exterior of First Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

At the time the ballpark opened, Shinn, and others, had hopes of luring a Major League Baseball franchise to Charlotte. As such, the stadium was designed to MLB specifications. Although the ballpark held only 10,000 when it first opened, the plan was to expand seating to 40,000 should Charlotte land a major league team.

Ticket Windows, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Ticket Windows, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The need for an adequate area in which to expand is one reason the ballpark was located along I-77 in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The ballpark opened just two years before the advent of the retro ballpark boom ushered in by Orioles Park at Camden Yards in 1992. The ballpark’s exterior reflected this fact, with a rather uninspired facade constructed largely of gray concrete bricks.

Gate B, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Gate B, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Welcome Sign, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Welcome Sign, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Because the ballpark was constructed in hopes of expanding to 40,000 seats, the stadium concourse was considerably larger than typical minor league ballparks of that era.

Concourse Signage, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Concourse Signage, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Concourse, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Concourse, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The concourse along the left field line included a large picnic pavilion which could be converted to additional grandstand seating in the event Charlotte was awarded a major league team.

View of Grandstand from Left Field Party Deck, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

View of Grandstand from Left Field Party Deck, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The grandstand seating along first and third base included rows of multi colored plastic seats, perhaps a nod to the textile mills that once were a large part of the local economy.

Third Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Third Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The press box behind home plate included the Home Run Cafe on the second level.

View from Right Field Corner, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

View from Right Field Corner, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Because of the ballpark’s location along I-77, and the hopes of expansion, Knights Stadium was surrounded by open fields and an overabundance of parking.

Outfield Wall, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Outfield Wall, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Storage Shed Located Beyond Outfield Fence, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Storage Shed Located Beyond Outfield Fence, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

After many years of debate, and once it became clear that Major League Baseball was not moving to Charlotte, a decision was made to construct a new ballpark in Charlotte Center City (sometimes referred to as Uptown Charlotte).

Scoreboard, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Scoreboard, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The Knights played their last game at Knight Stadium in 2013, and in 2014 moved to brand new BB&T Ballpark, located 15 miles northeast of their former home.

Knight Stadium Offices Have Moved, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knight Stadium Offices Have Moved, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The contrast between Knights Stadium and BB&T Ballpark is remarkable, both in design and location.

Entrance to BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

Entrance to BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

There can be little debate that BB&T Ballpark, located in the heart of Charlotte, is one of the finest minor league ballparks in the country. In 2014, the team averaged 9,000 fans a game.

BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

In 2014, York County, which owned the ballpark, sold Knights Stadium and the 32 acres that made up the stadium property, to a Charlotte-based Cato Corporation.  In 2015, Knight Stadium was demolished. Although it is unknown whether Cato Corporation’s planned distribution center will include any tribute to the lost ballpark, one reminder of Knights Stadium still stands. Along I-77, near the exit to Knights Stadium’s former site, is a water tower in the shape of a baseball.

Water Tower Near Former Site of Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Water Tower Near Former Site of Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

After only 24 seasons in existence, Knights stadium is now just another lost ballpark.

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

February 21st, 2015

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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Chicago’s South Side Park And The Neighborhood Of Lost Ballparks

March 21st, 2013

South Side Park, located at the intersection of W Pershing Road and S Princeton Street in Chicago, Illinois, was the home of the Chicago White Sox from their inception in the American League in 1901 until mid way through the 1910 season.

Cubs vs. White Sox, City Championship series, Chicago, Oct. 9, '09, South Side Park (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

Starting in 1911, the ballpark was home to Rube Foster’s Chicago American Giants. The Giants started as an independent Negro League team and later played in the Negro National League and the Negro Southern League. The ballpark was renamed Schorling’s Park after Foster’s business partner, John C. Schorling, who leased the grounds and was a son-in-law of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey.

South Side Park 1907 (Wikimedia Commons)

South Side Park was located only four blocks south of the White Sox’s current home, U.S. Cellular Field and the Former Site of old Comiskey Park. Parking Lot L, which is just southwest of U.S. Cellular Field on S Princeton Avenue is directly across the street from the former site of South Side Park. Two other ballparks in Chicago known as South Side Park were once nearby. From 1891-1893, the Chicago Cubs played at a ballpark known as South Side Park located at the southeast corner of W 35th Street and S Wentworth Avenue. That site is now consumed mostly by Interstate 94 just to the east of U.S. Cellular Field. In 1884 a Chicago franchise of the Union Association played at a ballpark known as South Side Park located five blocks to the east at the intersection of W Pershing and S Wabash Avenue. All told, there were five major league ballparks (with one still standing) within a one mile radius.

View of U.S. Cellular Field Just Four Blocks North of South Side Park's Former Site

South Side Park’s home plate was located near the northeast corner of S Princeton Avenue and W Pershing Road (formerly W 39 Street).

Former Site of South Side Park at Intersection of S Princeton and W Pershing

The third base side of South Side Park ran along S Princeton. The first base side of South Side Park ran along W Pershing.

Former Site of South Side Park's Third Base Side on the Right, With Cellular One Field's Parking Lot L on the Left.

The former site of South Side Park is now entirely consumed by Wentworth Gardens.

Entrance Off W Pershing Road to Wentworth Gardens Looking North Toward Approximate Location of South Side Park''s Home Plate

Wentworth Gardens was constructed in 1945 and originally was built to house workers during World War II. The apartments currently are owned and operated as subsidized housing by the City of Chicago.

Wentworth Gardens - Former Site of South Side Park

South Side Park’s former right field corner was located near the northwest corner of W Pershing Road and S Wentworth Avenue. Interstate 94 sits just to the east of S. Wentworth Avenue.

Express Food and Liquor Mart At Intersection of W Pershing Road and S Wentworth Across Street From South Side Park's Former Right Field Corner

In the former location of center field, just off Wentworth Avenue, is a small baseball field next to a large, brick smoke stack. Although the infield faces in the opposite direction of the way South Side Park’s infield faced, it is still possible to play baseball at South Side Park.

Entrance to Wentworth Housing Project from Wentworth Avenue with Youth Ballfield in Background

As it is with many lost ballparks, nothing of South Side Park remains on site, although baseball still can be played on a portion of the former site. No plaque commemorates ballpark, even though it is only a long fly ball from the White Sox’s current home. It seems a fair guess that the vast majority of White Sox fans who deposit their vehicles in U.S. Cellular Field’s Parking Lot L have no idea they are parked just across the street from the former site of their team’s first home ballpark, as well as the former home of the Chicago American Giants.

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Chicago’s West Side Grounds – Where The Cubs Last Won the World Series

March 20th, 2013

West Side Grounds (also called West Side Park) at the intersection of S Wolcott Avenue and W Polk Street was the home of the Chicago Cubs from 1893 until 1915. It was the second ballpark in Chicago known by that name, the first being located a mile to the northeast at the intersection of South Loomis and West Harrison Streets, which was home to the Cubs from 1885 until 1891. From  1891-1893, the Cubs played at South Side Park II, which was located at the southeast corner of W 35th Street and S Wentworth Avenue and is now consumed by Interstate 94 just to the east of Cellular One Field.

West Side Grounds Postcard (Facing Toward Polk Street and Old Cook County Hospital Behind Grandstand)

While resident at the second West Side Park, the Cubs won four National League pennants from 1906 to 1910 and two World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. The 1906 World Series, which the Cubs lost to the cross-town Chicago White Sox, was the only match up in series history between those two clubs. In the time since the Cubs abandoned West Side Grounds for the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the team has never won a world series.

West Side Grounds (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.) Facing Toward Taylor Street

The former site of West Side Grounds is now the University of Illinois Medical Center.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Looking Toward Southeast Corner of Wolcott Avenue and Polk

The grandstand from home plate to left field ran parallel to S Polk Street, although it did not abut the road. Rather, it was set back from S Polk Street behind row houses that lined the street.

Former Site of West Side Grounds at Wolcott Avenue - Former Location of First Base Grandstand

The first base grandstand ran parallel to  W Wolcott Street. At the time of West Side Ground, Wolcott street was known as Lincoln Street. It was renamed in 1939 in honor of Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr., who was the first physician in Chicago.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Now Occupied By the University of Illinois Medical Center

Although nothing of West Side Grounds remains on site, much of the outfield area remains a park in the middle of the University’s medical complex.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Standing In Former Location of Center Field Looking Toward Home Plate

The park can be accessed from an entrance near the corner of W Taylor Street and S Wood Street behind the University’s Biologic Resources Laboratory.

Former Site of West Side Grounds Standing in Former Location of Left Field Looking Toward Second Base

The infield and much of the grandstand area are now consumed by the Illinois College of Medicine.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Standing In Former Location of Second Base Looking Toward Right Field

Second base was once located in the northwest corner of the medical center park on what is now a concrete patio.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Standing in Approximate Location of Second Base Looking Toward Home Plate Somewhere Through That Door

Center field was once located in the southeast corner of the medical center park. The building housing the Medical Center Administration (the old Nurses’ Home) resides in what was once deep center field.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Standing In Approximate Location of Second Base Lookiing Out Toward Center Field

The right field corner was once located behind the building at 835 South Wolcott, which houses the university health services and other departments.

Former Site of West Side Grounds - Standing in Right/Center Field Looking Toward Former Location of Right Field Pavilion

A plaque commemorating the West End Grounds was placed in front of the  University of Illinois Chicago Neuro Psychiatric Institute at 912 S Wood St.

West Side Grounds Plaque (Illinois State Historical Society - www.historyillinois.org)

The plaque dedication in 2009 was attended by none other than Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks.

Former Site of West Side Grounds Looking South Down Wood Street Toward Location of Historical Plaque

West Side Grounds is one of the original lost ballparks, having been home to the Cubs almost 100 years ago. It’s location is less than file miles northwest of U.S. Cellular Field (old Comiskey Park), home of the Chicago White Sox and is certainly worth a visit, especially for Cubs fans wondering where it was that their team last won the World Series.

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