Posts Tagged ‘John McGraw’

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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Posted in Florida ballparks, Plant Field | Comments (1)

Payne Park – Spring Training In Sarasota From John McGraw to Tony LaRussa

January 23rd, 2014

Payne Park was located at the southeast corner of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, Florida. The stadium was part of a 60 acre park named in honor of Calvin Payne, a Sarasota winter resident  who donated the land to the city in 1923. From 1924 to 1988, the ballpark was the spring training home of four major league teams.

Payne Park, Sarasota, Florida (Sarasota County Government, scgov.net/History/Pages/PaynePark.aspx

John McGraw’s New York Giants were the first team to train at Payne Park. John Ringling (of Ringling Brothers Circus), who was a friend of McGraw’s and a Sarasota resident, convinced McGraw to bring his team to Florida.

Payne Park Postcard (M.E. Russell, Sarasota FL, Photo by Burnell. Cureich-Chicago C.T. Art-Colortone

McGraw was so enamored with Sarasota that he invested in local real estate with the hopes of constructing  a housing development  known as Pennant Park on Sarasota Bay. When the Florida real estate bubble burst in 1927, McGraw left Sarasota and the following season his Giants trained in Augusta, Georgia.

Sarasota's "Payne Park" Home of the Chicago White Sox (West Coast Card Distributors, Sarasota FL, Mirror-Chrome Card, H.S. Crocker, Inc.)

From 1929 to 1932, the American Association Indianapolis Indians held spring training at Payne Park. In 1933 the Boston Red Sox moved their spring training operations from Savannah, Georgia, to Sarasota. The Red Sox trained at Payne Park for the next 25 years, until 1958, with the exception of the war years, 1943 to 1945.

Aerial View of Payne Park Circa 1960s (Photo Courtesy of Payne Park Tennis Center)

Once the Red Sox departed, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a few spring training games at Payne Park during the 1959 season, although they also continued to train at their facility in Vero Beach. The Chicago White Sox arrived at Payne Park in 1960, training there until 1988. In 1979, Tony LaRussa began his first of eight seasons training at Payne Park as manager of the Chicago White Sox. LaRussa eventually would win 2,728 games as manager, third on the all time list and just behind fellow former Payne Park resident John McGraw (2,763).

Payne Park, Sarasota County, Florida

Sarasota constructed a new ballpark two miles northeast of Payne Park to replace what was considered, after 65 season, to be an antiquated facility. Ed Smith Stadium, located at 2700 12th Street, opened in 1989 as the new spring training home for the White Sox, where they trained until 1997. Both the Cincinnati Reds (1998-2009) and the Baltimore Orioles (1991) trained there as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, Pre-Renovation (Circa 2004)

After the Reds departed Sarasota in 2009, the Orioles returned, moving into a completely refurbished ballpark in 2010.

Ed Smith Stadium, Spring Training Home of the Baltimore Orioles, Post-Renovation 2013

Payne Park was demolished in 1990. Sarasota constructed a tennis center on a portion of the former ballpark site.

Payne Park Tennis Center, Located on Former Site of Payne Park

Although the ballpark itself is gone, the player’s clubhouse, located at the intersection of Adams Lane and South Washington Boulevard, was preserved and is used today as offices and a clubhouse for the tennis center.

City of Sarasota Employee Health Center Located in a Portion of the Former Payne Park Clubhouse

In 2011, the City of Sarasota Employee Health Center was opened in a section of the building.

Payne Park Tennis Center Offices and Clubhouse

The tennis center  includes a memorial wall inside the clubhouse that tells the history of the site.

Interior of Payne Park Tennis Center

Included in the display are pictures of the ballpark and the players who called it their home.

Payne Park Tennis Center Wall of Fame Honoring Former Ball Field

Also included is a blueprint for the redevelopment of Payne Park, which shows the former location of the ballpark, and the tennis center that replaced it.

Blue Prints for Construction of Payne Park Tennis Center

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, seen to the left in the postcard below, once dominated the Sarasota skyline surrounding the ballpark .

"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

Built in 1925 by John Ringling, the landmark, along with the old Sarasota County Courthouse tower (both seen in the postcard above), once dominated the skyline.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn

The hotel was purchased in 1962 by Arthur Allyn, Jr., co-owner of the Chicago White Sox, to house the team during spring training.

The former Sarasota Terrace Inn, Now a County Administrative Building

The former hotel (seen behind the larger office building to the right in the picture below) is useful in determining where the ballpark once sat.

Former Site of Payne Park, Approximate Location of Third Base Foul Territory, With former Terrace Park Hotel in Background

In 1972, Sarasota County purchased the building. It currently is used as a Sarasota County administration building.

Plaque Commemorating the Sarasota Terrace Hotel (Now the Sarasota County Administration Center)

Payne Park’s former infield, and a portion of the outfield, is covered by 12 regulation-size tennis courts (there are four rows of three courts each).

Former Site of Payne Park, Looking Toward Approximate Location of Home Plate

The former site of home plate is located in what is now the second row of tennis courts closer to Adams Lane.

Former Site of Payne Park, Infield between First and Second Base

The former outfield is encircled by two roads that date back to the time of Payne Park.

Parking Lot Adjacent to Payne Parkway that was Once On-site Parking for Payne Park

The first is Payne Parkway, which straddles the right field corner.

Payne Parkway, Looking South, From Right Field Corner

The second is Laurel Street, which intersects Payne Parkway and runs behind what was once center field, terminating at the former left field corner.

Termination of Laurel Street at Payne Park's Former Left Field Corner

A grass field occupies what was once the deepest part of center field.

Payne Park - Former Site of Center Field

Just to the east of Payne Park was once a mobile home park which opened in the 1920s.

"General View of Sarasota Trailer Park Alongside Baseball Park, Sarasota, Florida" (Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

Although the trailer park is now gone, one vestige remains – the Payne Park Auditorium, formerly known as the Sarasota Mobile Home Park Auditorium. Constructed in 1962, it  is located just beyond what was once center field at 2062 Laurel Street. The auditorium was built as a meeting place for mobile home park residents.

Payne Park Mobile Park and Auditorium

At the intersection of Adams Lane and East Avenue is a historic maker for Payne Park.

Sarasota County Historical Commission Plaque Honoring Payne Park

Behind the historical marker is a small outline of a ball field set in pavers.

Baseball Diamond at Payne Park

The sign is located in what was once a parking lot behind third base. Although Payne Park is long gone, it is still possible to play ball where some of baseball’s greatest stars once trained. You just need racket, not a bat and glove, in order to play.

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Baltimore’s First American League Park – Original Home of the Future New York Yankees

August 23rd, 2012

The southwest corner of East 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, is the site of two former major league baseball fields.

Intersection of Greenmount Avenue and East 29th Street, Baltimore, Maryland

From 1890-1891, the site held Oriole Park (II) (the second Oriole Park according to Phillip Lowry and his excellent book Green Cathedrals) and was home to the American Association Baltimore Orioles.

Southwest Corner of East 29th Street and Barclay Street in Baltimore, Former Site of Two Former Major League Ballparks

A second ballpark – American League Park – was constructed on that site (also known as Oriole Park IV) (the fourth, according to Mr. Lowry) and was home to the American League Baltimore Orioles for the 1901 and 1902 seasons.

American League Park (Photo - Babe Ruth Museum) Entrance on Greenmount Avenue (Near 29th Street)

American League Park should not be confused with Terrapin Park, which was located across 29th Street from American League Park at the northwest corner of East 29th Street and Greenmount. Terrapin Park was home to the Federal League Baltimore Terrapins in 1914 and 1915, the International League Orioles from 1916 to 1944, and the Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants from 1938 to 1944 (see Terrapin Park/Oriole Park). The 1914 map below (with thanks to Bernard McKenna) shows the locations of both parks.

Atlas of the City of Baltimore, Maryland Topographical Survey Commission 1914 (mdhistory.net)

In 1903, Baltimore’s American League franchise was sold to New York interests and became the New York Highlanders, and later the New York Yankees. The Eastern League Baltimore Orioles (the league was renamed the International League in 1911) took over American League Park for the 1903 season.

Opening Day April 26, 1909, at Oriole Park (Library of Congress Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C.)

The ballpark was also where Babe Ruth, playing for the International League Orioles in 1914, played for Baltimore during his one year of professional minor league baseball.

A Sanborn Insurance Map shows the location of much of the ballpark in 1901.

1901 Sanborn Insurance Map of Baltimore Showing Location of American League Park

A McDonald’s now stands at the site, its restaurant and drive through covering the left field corner and the parking lot behind it covering much of the infield.

Former Site of American League Park, Baltimore - Note the building on the corner is the same building in the above vintage picture of American League Park

Home plate was once located in the southeast corner of East 29th Street and Barclay. No, that is not a young Babe Ruth standing in the approximate location of home plate, it is actually SABR Bob Davids Chapter President Bruce Brown.

Former Site of American League Park's Home Plate

The first-base line ran parallel to Barclay.

American League Park's First Base Line Ran Parallel to Barclay Street (Seen Here Looking South)

The third-base line ran parallel to East 29th Street.

Former Site of American League Park Baltimore, Looking Across Left Field Toward Home Plate/First Base

Two-story row houses fronting both sides of Llchester Road, constructed after the demise of American League Park, cover the remaining portion of the ballpark site.

Back Side Of Houses Facing Llchester Road Located In Former Center Field

The perimeter of the park ran from East 29th Street to the north, to Greenmount Avenue to the east, to East 28th Street to the South and to Barclay Street to the west.

Greenmount Avenue Looking South From Former Left Field Corner Toward Center Field

Six blocks south of the former ballpark site is St. Ann’s Catholic Church (at the corner of Greenmount Avenue and East 22nd Street) which is where former Orioles John McGraw married his second wife, the former Blanche Sindall. The church’s Gothic spiral is visible down Greenmount.

The Steeple Of St. Ann's Church Visible Down Greenmount Avenue (just beyond red traffic light)

The areas surrounding the Harwood section of Baltimore includes several former ballpark sites. To the northwest is the former site of Memorial Stadium, home of the American League Baltimore Orioles from 1954 to 1991. It is located less than a mile from old American League Park – four blocks north on Greenmount and five blocks east on 33rd Street. Four blocks to the south is the former site of Union Park (East 25th and Barclay), home of the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s (see Union Park). If you consider yourself a true fan of Baltimore baseball, be sure to make the effort and visit these former sites. You can even stop for a hamburger and fries and consume them while siting in a booth located in American League Park’s former left field.

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