Posts Tagged ‘Fort Lauderdale Stadium’

Ft. Lauderdale Stadium – The Ghost of Spring Trainings Past

February 12th, 2015

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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Crescent Lake Park/Huggins-Stengel Field in St. Petersburg, Florida

January 12th, 2014

Crecent Lake Park is located at 1320 5th Street N in St. Petersburg, Florida. In the southern most part of the park, tucked away in a residential neighborhood, is an important and relatively unspoiled historical baseball site.

Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beginning in 1925, the ball field at Crescent Lake Park was the spring training home of the American League New York Yankees.

Postcard Crescent Lake Field, St. Petersburg, Florida (Curteich-Chicago, published by Sun News Co., St. Petersburg

The park is dominated by a large, crescent-shaped lake (hence the name) located in the center of the park.

The Lake at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The former training grounds appear much as they did when the Yankees made the field their spring training home.

“Babe Ruth, King of Swat, at St. Petersburg, Florida” Stereo Card, Published by Keystone View Company, Meadville PA (Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

Such greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the rest of the 1927 World Champion Yankees played on this unassuming ball field.

Baseball Practice Field at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The Yankees trained at Crescent Lake Park until 1942.

Babe Ruth Training At Crescent Lake Park, Late 1920s

In 1943, when World War II restricted travel for things such as spring training, the Yankees stayed closer to home, training in Atlantic City and Asbury Park, New Jersey. The Yankees returned to Crescent Lake Park in 1946.

Baseball Backstop, Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 1947, the Yankees moved their spring training home games less than two miles south to Al Lang Field, now known as Progress Energy Park.

Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Joe DiMaggio At Crecsent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

They continued to hold practice sessions at Crescent Lake Park.

Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Beginning in 1947, the Yankees shared Al Lang Field with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The Yankees continued to use Crescent Lake Park as a spring practice field until 1961, with the exception of 1951 when they trained in Phoenix, Arizona (the Yankees and the New York Giants swapped spring training sites for one season, with the Yankees training that year in Arizona). In 1962 the Yankees departed St. Petersburg and the west coast of Florida for a new stadium built for them on the east coast in Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium, Former Spring Training Home of the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles

In 1962 the New York Mets took over the spring training at Crescent Lake Park. The Mets trained there through the 1987 season and played their home games at Al Lang Field (renamed Al Lang Stadium in 1977). From 1992 to 1995, the Baltimore Orioles trained at Crescent Lake Park, with their home games being played at Al Lang Stadium.

Practice Field, Crescent Lake Park Baseball Complex, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 1931, Crescent Lake Park was renamed Miller Huggins Field, after the manager of the Yankees who had died in 1929. In 1962, Casey Stengel returned to Crescent Lake as Manager of the New York Mets and, in 1963, the facility was renamed Huggins-Stengel Field. Today it is known as Huggins-Stengel Baseball Complex.

Huggins-Stengel Baseball Complex Sign, St. Petersburg, Florida

The grandstand at Huggins-Stengel Field was never particularly large, holding only a few thousand fans. Today, seating at the stadium consists only of a few rows of metal bleachers.

Bleachers at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

A water tower that dominates the skyline at the southern end of the park remains from the time when the field was used for major league spring training.

Water Tower at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The base of that same water tower is is clearly visible in this postcard photograph of Huggins Field.

Postcard “Huggins Field, On Crescent Lake , Spring Training Camp Of Major League Baseball, St. Petersburg, Florida, ‘The Sunshine City.'” Natural Color Reproduction – Cureichcolor Art Creation, Sun News Co.. St. Petersburg

Several other structures dating back to the Yankees’ days at Crescent Lake remain as well.

Practice Field with Original Club House in Backgrouind, Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Most notably, one of the original clubhouses remains. Inside the building is one wooden locker purportedly dating back to the time when the Yankees trained there.

Club House, Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Outside the former club house (Building #4) are two plaques commemorating Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel.

Plaques Honoring Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel, St. Petersburg, Florida

The plaque honoring Miller J. Huggins states: “As a memorial and tribute to an outstanding sportsman and splendid character, who as Manager of the New York Yankees and resident of this city contributed to its fame and the betterment of baseball, the citizens of St. Petersburg dedicate this ground, which forever shall be known as Miller Huggins Field.”

Plaque Honoring Miller Huggins at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The plaque honoring Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel states: “One of baseball’s most popular and widely known figures who as Manager of the New York Yankees won ten American League Pennants in 12 years helping to make the Sunshine City the spring training capital of the world and who now has returned as Manager of the New York Mets this plaque is gratefully and affectionately dedicated.”

Plaque Honoring Casey Stengel at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The original flag pole remain as well.

Flag Pole at Crescent Lake Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

The neighborhood surrounding the park appears much the way it did when the Yankees and Mets practiced at the facility.

Houses Located on 5th Street, Across from Crescent Lake Park’s Baseball Complex

On the facade of Progress Energy Park in downtown St. Petersburg are a series of  plaques, some of which mention the history of Crescent Lake Park and Huggins-Stengel Field. Previously, those plaques had been part of the “Jim Healey and Jack Lake Baseball Boulevard,” which included 85 brass home plate plaques that told the story of Major League baseball St. Petersburg. The Boulevard plaques originally were located from First Street S in front of Al Lang Stadium to Central Avenue south along the sidewalk, to 13th Street west, stopping at Tropicana Field.

Progress Energy Park, With Historic Plaques Lining the Facade, St. Petersburg, Florida

One of the plaques commemorates the Yankees’s first year at Crescent Lake Park.

Progress Energy Field Plaque Honoring 1925 Arrival of the Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida

Another plaque commemorates the renaming of Crescent Lake Park Miller Huggins Field in 1931.

Plaque at Progress Energy Field Honoring Former Yankees Manager Miller Huggins

A similar plaque honors the return of Casey Stengel to Crescent Lake in 1962 as manager of the New York Mets.

Progress Energy Stadium Plaque Honoring Former New York Yankee and Mets Manger Casey Stengel

Another plaque commemorates the renaming of the practice field Huggins-Stengel Field in 1963.

Progress Energy Stadium Plaque Commemorating Renaming of Huggins-Stengel Field

Huggins-Stengel Baseball Complex is used today by high school and college teams for both practice and games. The City of St. Petersburg recognizes the historical significance of the park and seems intent on maintaining it as a baseball facility. This is good news for fans of the game who want to appreciate first hand the national pastime’s rich history.

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Posted in Crescent Lake Park/Huggins-Stengel Field, Florida ballparks | Comments (5)