Posts Tagged ‘Willie Mays’

Sanford Field, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, and Sanford Museum

May 17th, 2020

Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium is located at 1201 S. Mellonville Avenue in Sanford, Florida.

Entrance Sign, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

One block south of Sanford Memorial Stadium, at the northeast corner of South Mellonville Avenue and Celery Avenue, is the former site of Sanford Field.

Former Site of Sanford Field, Intersection of South Mellonville, Sanford, Florida (photo taken in 2017; a black painted metal fence now surrounds the site)

The two ballparks coexisted briefly.

Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium and Sanford Field (courtesy of the Sanford Museum)

Sanford Field was constructed in 1926.  It included a simple, wooden grandstand and bleacher seating along third base.

Sanford Field, Sanford, Florida (courtesy of Sanford Museum)

The ballpark was demolished during the early 1950s and replaced, for a time, with dormitories to house players during spring training.

Sanford Minor League Baseball Compound, Sanford, Florida (courtesy of Sanford Museum)

Today, the former site of Sanford Field is an open grass field.

Former Site of Sanford Field, Sanford, Florida, Looking from Center Field Toward Home Plate

Former Site of Sanford Field, Sanford, Florida, Looking from Home Plate Down Left Field Line

Former Site of Sanford Field, Sanford, Florida, Looking from Home Plate Down Right Field Line

According to baseballreference.com, minor league baseball was played in Sanford as far back as 1919, beginning with the Sanford Celeryfeds of the Florida State League.

Sanford Celeryfeds, Sanford Field, Sanford, Florida, with Uniforms Depicting Celery Stalks  (courtesy of the Sanford Museum)

The Celeryfeds, so named because celery was a major crop grown there, played in Sanford from 1919 to 1920, from 1925 to 1928, and again in 1946.

Florida State League Sanford Giants (courtesy of the Sanford Museum)

Other Sanford team names included the Lookouts, from 1936 to 1939, the Seminoles, from 1940 to 1941, and again in 1947, the Giants, from 1948 to 1951, the Seminole Blues in 1952, the Cardinals in 1953 and 1955, and the Greyhounds, from 1959 to 1960.  Major league teams affiliated with Sanford Florida State League teams, include the Washington Senators, from 1936 to 1939, and in 1959, the New York Giants, from 1948 to 1951, the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1953 and 1955, and the Kansas City Athletics in 1959.

The Washington Senators’ affiliate, the Sanford Lookouts, in 1937, included future Hall of Famer Early Wynn.

Sanford Museum Display Honoring Local Hero and Hall of Famer Early Wynn

According to a Washington Post article, “[b]ecause his Aunt Sophie happened to live in Sanford, Fla., where the Chattanooga club was holding a baseball school, and because he happened to be visiting her at the time, Earl Wynn is now a bright young pitching prospect of the Nats.”  “Nats Rookie Parade at Orlando Camp,” Washington Post, February 22, 1940: 20.  Another notable team, the 1939  Sanford Lookouts, posted a record of 98-35, and were ranked by Minor League Baseball the 68th greatest team in minor league history.

Exhibition games and spring training have played an important part of Sanford’s baseball history.  In the 1930s, the Chattanooga Lookouts held spring training at Sanford Field, including games against its parent club, the Washington Senators.  “Exhibition Baseball,” Washington Post, April 2, 1937:19.  Washington also held four-week baseball schools for hopeful rookies at Sanford Field.  “Nats Open Baseball School,” Washington Post, March 1, 1937: 11.  In May 1936, the Ethiopian Clowns played a game at Sanford Field, beating the Sanford team 14-1. “Watching the Scoreboard,” Chicago Defender, May 30, 1936: 14.

In 1942, for one season, the Boston Braves moved their spring training camp from Texas to Sanford Field, with Casey Stengel at the helm for the Braves.  “Training Plans Set By Major Leagues,” Washington Post, January 25, 1942: 55; “Lombardi Slugs Hard, Hitting 19 Over Fence,” Washington Post, March 4, 1942: 18.  That one season, Stengel brought his unique personality to Sanford.  A newspaper account for March 13, 1942, reports “[r]ather than bucking the Friday-the-Thirteenth jinx, Manager Casey Stengel today called off his Boston Braves’ inter-squad game and limited his players to light batting and field drills.”  “Fearing Jinx, Stengel Cuts Out Braves’ Game,” Washington Post, March 14, 1942:15.

In 1946, Jackie Robinson played for the International League Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm club.  The Dodgers held spring training that year at City Island Park in Daytona Beach Florida, with some of the Dodger’s minor league clubs training 40 miles southwest at Sanford Field.  Alicia Clarke, the now recently-retired Curator of the Sanford Museum, related to me the story of Robinson’s time in Sanford.

Sanford Field, Brooklyn Dodgers Spring Training, February 1946, Sanford, Florida

Robinson arrived in Sanford along with his wife, Rachel Robinson, in early March 1946.  Robinson spent March 4, 1946, his first day of training, at Sanford Field, along with teammate Johnny Wright.  Robinson and Wright stayed in a private residence in a neighborhood located less than a mile west of Sanford Field.

Intersection of East 6th Street and South Sanford Avenue, Sanford, Florida

The house where they stayed, located at 612 S. Sanford Avenue, was owned by David C. Brock, and today remains a private residence.

612 S. Sanford Avenue, Sanford, Florida, Where Robinson and Wright Stayed During Their Brief Time in Sanford, Florida

Front Entrance, 612 S. Sanford Avenue, Sanford, Florida, Where Jackie and Rachel Robinson Stayed During Their Brief Time in Sanford, Florida

After the second day of practice, Branch Rickey ordered Robinson and Wright to leave Sanford and travel to Daytona Beach, after Rickey was informed of racial threats made against Robinson and Wright while staying at at the Brock home.

Newspaper Clipping and Photo of Jackie Robinson with Montreal Teammates Bob Fontaine, Johnny Wright, and Hank Behrman (clipping believed to be from Brooklyn Daily Eagle – accompanying article written by Eagle Sportswriter Harold Burr)

Twelve days later, Robinson would make history at City Island Park in Daytona Beach, on March 17, 1946, when he played for the Royals in his first minor league game.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark at City Island Park, Daytona Beach, Florida

The Royals returned to Sanford on April 7, 1946, to play a game against Dodgers’ affiliate, the American Association St. Paul Saints.

Sanford Field, Brooklyn Dodgers Spring Training, February 1946, Sanford, Florida, Much How it would Appear on April 7, 1946, when Robinson Took the Field

Robinson played in the first and perhaps second inning of the game, but departed after being ordered off the field by the Sanford police chief.  The incident was covered in the press, not by the local Sanford paper, but by the Montreal Gazette.

April 8, 1946, Montreal Gazette Article About Jackie Robinson’s One Inning of Baseball in Sanford, Florida (courtesy Sanford Museum)

The ballpark in Daytona Beach is named in Robinson’s honor, and its current resident, the Daytona Tortugas, are in the process of renovating the former site of Kelly Field, located at George Engram Boulevard and Keech Street, in Daytona Beach, Florida, where the Royals practiced after departing Sanford.  On the occasion of 50th anniversary of Robinson’s first major league game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Mayor of Sanford, on April 15, 1997, issued a proclamation apologizing for the way in which Robinson was treated in Sanford in 1946.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Daytona Beach, Florida

In December 1947, the Giants signed a five-year lease of the former Naval Air Station in Sanford.  “Giants Lease Sanford Air Base Five Years As Florida Spring Camp For 15 Farm Clubs,” New York Times, December 28, 1947: S1.  Naval Air Station Sanford, which played an important role during World War II training carrier-based Navy pilots, was decommissioned in 1946, and the New York Giants leased a portion of the former airfield to the west of the runways for its minor league baseball operations.

Sanford Museum Display of Aerial Photo, New York Giants Farm System Training Site, Sanford, Florida (courtesy of the Sanford Museum)

The Giants constructed eight full size ballfields on what is now the northwest corner of East Airport Boulevard and Carrier Avenue.

New York Giants Farm Clubs Training Site at Former Naval Air Station, Sanford, Florida (courtesy of the Sanford Museum)

Six of the ballfields were clustered just south of 30th Street.  The two additional fields were located north of the six practice fields, one near the southwest corner of 29th Street and Carrier Avenue, and the other near the southwest corner of 28th Street and Carrier Avenue.

Aerial Photo of New York Giants Farm System Training Site at Former Naval Air Station, Sanford, Florida. The road running the bottom of the Photo, Angling to the Right, is Carrier Avenue (courtesy of the Sanford Museum)

Beginning in 1948, 15 of the Giants’ 20 clubs conducted spring training at the former air station.  The Giants took over use of the administrative buildings and dormitories as well.  The Giants also utilized Sanford Field.

Carl Hubbell and Congressman Eugene McCarthy at Sanford Field, 1950 (courtesy of Sanford Museum)

Former Giants great and Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell was put in charge of the Giant’s Sanford operations.

Sanford Museum Display Honoring Mel Ott

On March 17, 1948, Babe Ruth visited Sanford as part of a promotional tour for Ford Motor Company.

Babe Ruth with Babe Ruth Day, March 17, 1948, Sanford, Florida (courtesy Sanford Museum)

The Sanford Museum includes displays highlighting Babe Ruth Day in Sanford, including pictures of Ruth at the local newspaper office and sitting in the grandstand at Sanford Field. Ruth would pass away just three months later, on August 16, 1948.

Babe Ruth at Sanford Field, Sanford, Florida, on Babe Ruth Day, March 17, 1948 (courtesy Sanford Museum)

The American Association Minneapolis Millers wee one of the Giants affiliates who moved their spring training to Sanford.  “Training Sites Are Selected,” Baltimore Sun, January 8, 1949: 13.  In 1948, Giants owner Horace Stoneham purchased the Mayfair Hotel to house players, as well as the Mayfair Country Club, to provide recreation for his players and to increase tourism in the area.

Mayfair Hotel, Sanford, Florida

Stoneham renovated the hotel, renaming it the Mayfair Inn.

Sanford Museum Display of Mayfair Inn Dining Service and Accoutrements

With the onset of the Korean War in 1951, the Navy reclaimed the air station, thereby requiring that the Giants vacate the expansive minor league training camp.  The Giants moved operations just a couple miles north to land adjacent to Sanford Field, and in 1951 constructed a new ballpark, Sanford Memorial Stadium.

Sanford Memorial Stadium Grandstand, Sanford, Florida (courtesy Sanford Museum)

Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Virginia

The stadium was “Dedicated To The Memory Of The Men And Women Of Seminole County Who Served Their County In All Wars.”

Sanford Memorial Stadium Dedication Plaque, Sanford, Florida

The Giants also constructed additional practice fields near the stadium.  Willie Mays was one of many former Giants who trained as minor leaguers at Sanford Memorial Stadium.

Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

Three of the practice fields were constructed to the east of the stadium, and a fourth field was constructed just southeast of the stadium.

Sanford Memorial Stadium and Practice Fields, Sanford, Florida

The Giants conducted minor league spring training at Sanford throughout the 1950s.  With the major league Giants’ move to San Francisco in 1958, however, the Giants soon wound down their operations in Sanford.

Today, Hamilton Elementary School sits on the former site of three of the Giants’ practice fields.

Hamilton Elementary School, Sanford, Florida

Located behind Stanford Memorial Stadium is Zinn Beck “Field of Legends” – adjacent to what was once the Giants’ western-most minor league practice field.

Zinn Beck Field Located Behind Historic Stanford Memorial Stadium

Chase Park, located next to the stadium site at 1300 Celery Avenue, includes additional youth baseball fields.

Entrance to Chase Park, Sanford, Florida

The Herbert H. Whitey Eckstein Youth Sports Complex is named in honor of the father of David and Rick Eckstein, a high school teacher and coach in Sanford.

The Herbert H. Whitey Eckstein Youth Sports Complex, Sanford, Florida

Baseball Complex, Part of the Herbert H. Whitey Eckstein Youth Sports Complex

One of the four baseball fields that make up the Eckstein sports complex – Field Four – is located on the former site of one of the Giants’ minor league practice fields.

Eckstein Complex “Field Four” Located on Former Site of Giants’ Minor League Practice Field, Sanford Florida

In 2001, the City of Sanford renovated Sanford Memorial Stadium, renaming it Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium.

Dedication P:laque Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Renovated 2001, Sanford, Florida

The stadium, however, retains much of its 1950s charm.

Grandstand, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

Press Box, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

A Concrete Block Wall Dating to 1951 Surrounds Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

In 2009, the Seminole County Naturals of Florida Winter Baseball League played their home games at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium home.  They were the last professional team to call the stadium their home.

Scoreboard, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

Currently, the Florida Collegiate Summer League Sanford River Bats play their home contests at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium home.

Grandstand, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

Light Stanchion, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

Entrance to Grandstand, Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, Sanford, Florida

The Sanford Museum is located at 520 East 1st Street, along the shores of the St. John’s River.

Sanford Museum, Sanford, Florida

In addition to the many displays and photographs noted above, the museum includes memorabilia and photographs of notable Sanford residents who played professional baseball, such as Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.

Sanford Museum Display Honoring Sanford Native Andre Dawson

The Eckstein Brothers, David and Rick, grew up in Sanford, and the museum includes a display celebrating David Eckstein’s 2006 World Series exploits.

Sanford Museum Display Honoring 2006 World Series MVP David Eckstein

Sports announcer Walter Lanier “Red” Barber lived in Sanford, beginning at the age of 10.  Barber as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1930s and 1940s, suggested to team executives that the Dodgers hold spring training in Sanford.

Sanford Museum Display for Hall of Fame Sports Announcer Red Barber

If you visit Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium, or find yourself in or around Orlando or Daytona Beach, be sure to stop by the Sanford Museum. It is wonderful place to spend an afternoon, lost in baseball history.

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Posted in Florida ballparks, Sanford Field/Sanford Memorial | Comments (0)

The West Coast Wrigley Field

April 5th, 2020

Wrigley Field was located at 425 East 42nd Place, in Los Angeles, California, on the northwest corner of East 42nd Place and S. Avalon Boulevard.

Fan Photo Front Entrance of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

William Wrigley, owner of the National League Chicago Cubs, became principle owner of the Pacific Coast League California Angels in 1921.  Wrigley set about constructing a ballpark based upon the design of Cubs Park, the home of his National League team.  Wrigley hired architect Zachary Taylor Davis, who had designed Cubs Park, as well as Cominskey Park on the south side of Chicago.  See James Gordon, Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field: “The Finest Edifice in the United States, https://sabr.org/research/los-angeles-wrigley-field-finest-edifice-united-states.

Postcard of “Los Angeles Baseball Park, ‘Wrigley Field.’ Newest And Finest In The United States.” Western Publishing & Novelty Co., Los Angeles, California.

Cubs Park began its existence in 1914 as Weeghman Park, a Federal League ballpark for the Chicago Chifeds (known as the Chicago Whales in 1915). After the Federal League folded at the end of the 1915 season, Charlie Weeghman, owner of the Federal club, purchased a majority ownership of the National League Chicago Cubs and move the team to Weeghman Park.  See James Gordon, Wrigley Field (Los Angeles), https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/3912a666, and Scott Ferkovich, Wrigley Field (Chicago), https://sabr.org/bioproj/park/wrigley-field-chicago.

Postcard “National League ‘Cubs’ Ball Park Chicago” copyright © 1914 Max Rigot,,Published By Max Rogot Selling Company Chicago

Three years later, Wrigley took a controlling ownership of the team and in 1923 expanded the grandstand down both foul lines, according to Davis’s design. Wrigley Field in Los Angeles opened in September 1925, as the first ballpark by that name. The ballpark seated approximately 20,000 fans, several thousand more than Cubs Park in Chicago did at the time.

In 1927, the ballpark was renamed Wrigley Field and an upper deck was added.  See Raymond D. Kush, The Building of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, https://sabr.org/research/building-chicagos-wrigley-field.

Postcard “Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois,” Aero Distributing Co., Inc., Chicago, Genuine Curteich-Chicago C. T. Art-Colortone Postcard

While Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, was modeled after Cubs Park, the California ballpark included an upper deck three seasons before the Chicago ballpark.  With the addition of the upper deck in Chicago, the Cub’s Wrigley Field more closely resembled Wrigley Field Los Angeles.

Postcard “Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calif.” Silver Lake Studios, Los Angeles, California, Tichnor Quality Views

Postcard “Wrigley Field,” Published by Cameo Greeting Cards, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers, Inc., Boston, Mass., Color by Egon Berka, Chicago

One distinctive difference between the two parks was the entrance to Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, which included a nine story clock tower, dedicated by Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis in January 1926.

Fan Photo of Wrigley Field (Los Angeles) 150 Foot Tall Clock Tower

Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, was home to the Pacific Coast League  (PCL) Los Angeles Angels from 1925 to 1957, and the PCL Hollywood Stars from 1926 to 1935, and again in 1938.  The Chicago Cubs also played some Spring Training games Wrigley Field, Los Angeles.

Fan Photo of Spring Training, Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calfornia, March 19, 1938, Tony Lazzeri at Bat

Fan Photo of Pre-Game Ceremony Honoring Connie Mack, Chicago Cubs/Philadelphia Athletics Exhibition Game at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, April 17, 1940.

Given Wrigley Field’s proximity to Hollywood, as many as 14 movies were filmed there, beginning with the silent film Babe Comes Home, in 1927 (starring Babe Ruth as himself) and ending with Damn Yankees.  See Gordon, Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field: “The Finest Edifice in the United States.”   Just as Wrigley Field is a lost ballpark, Babe Comes Home is a lost movie, as there are no known copies in existence.

In December 1959, the TV show Home Run Derby was filmed at Wrigley Field, featuring many of baseball’s greatest stars of the day.  The show aired in 1960.  The episode in the YouTube video linked below features Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

In 1961, a Major League Baseball tenant, the Los Angeles Angels, called Wrigley Field home, but for just that season.  In 1962, the Angels relocated to Chavez Revine and shared the stadium there with the Los Angeles Dodgers, before moving in 1966 to their own stadium, Anaheim Stadium, now Angels Stadium.

Fan Photo, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

The ballpark site is utilized by both public and private organizations, including a hospital and two community centers.  On land adjacent to the former ballpark, including a portion of what was once the parking lot out beyond the third base grandstand, is the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, named after a former city councilman.

Wrigley Little League Field, Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

The recreation center includes a youth baseball field,  appropriately named, “Wrigley Little League Field,” on the southeast corner of E. 41st Place and San Pedro Street.

Wrigley Little League Field, Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

To the south and east of Wrigley Little League Field are two soccer fields.  The soccer field to the east of the little league field is located adjacent to what was once a portion of Wrigley Field’s parking lot.

Soccer Field, Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

In the middle of the block on E. 42nd Place are basketball courts and an indoor recreation center, located near what was once the main entrance to Wrigley Field (behind home plate).

Basketball Court and Indoor Rec Center, Part of the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, Los Angeles, California

Wrigley Field’s 150 foot tall clock tower sat just to the east of the front entrance to Wrigley Field, on E. 42nd Place.

Fan Photo Front Entrance of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

The former site of that clock tower is just east of the basketball court fronting E. 42nd Place. Several tall trees now mark the spot.

Trees Mark Approximate Location of Wrigley Field Clock Tower, Los Angeles, California

The Watts Labor Community Action Center (WLCAC), Theresa Lindsay Center, named after the wife of Councilman Lindsay, is located on the former site of the first base grandstand.

WLCAC Theresa Lindsay Center, Los Angeles, California

Just north of the Theresa Lindsay Center on S. Avalon Boulevard and E. 41st Place, is the Kedren Community Health Center.

Theresa Lindsay Center and the Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

The building housing the Kedren Community Health Center is constructed on what was once Wrigley Field’s infield.

Entrance to Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

First Base Grandstand, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

The right side of the infield was located in what is now the Kedren Community Health Center front lobby.

Lobby, Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

A courtyard with a bust honoring Dr. J.Alfred Cannon, Founder of the Central City Community Mental Health Center (1962), sits in the approximate location of right field.

Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, Calfiornia

A grass field with large trees marks the the former site of center field, and the center field bleachers.

Former Site of Center Field, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, Looking From Center Field Toward Infield

Former Site of Center Field Bleachers, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California, Looking South Down Right Field Line

The center field bleachers and scoreboard can be seen in this fan photo of Wrigley Field, looking across left field.

Fan Photo, Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Left Field Corner Looking East toward Center Field

The former site of left field is now a parking lot for the community health center.

Former Site of Left Field, Wrigley, Field, Los Angeles, Now The Kedren Community Health Center, Los Angeles, California

Several houses that date to the time of Wrigley Field remain on E. 41st Place, across from the former left field and center field wall.

Houses On E. 41st Place (looking west), Across From The Former Left Field to Center Field Wall of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

Houses On E. 41st Place (looking east), Across From The Former Left Field to Center Field Wall of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California

These houses are visible in the photograph of Wrigley Field below.

Fan Photo, Wrigley Field , Los Angeles, California, With Houses On E., 41st Place Visible Beyond Outfield Wall

Of particular note is the distinctive two-story bungalow that is visible in the above photo just beyond the left field wall.  Presumably, the residents could watch games from the second story of that house, a la the rooftop bars along W. Waveland and N. Sheffield Avenues, across from Wrigley Field in Chicago.

House on E.41st Place, Los Angeles, California, Located Just Beyond What Was Once the Left Field Fence of Wrigley Field.

Many of the buildings that line S. Avalon Boulevard also date to the time of Wrigley Field.

Building Located on northeast intersection of S. Avalon Boulevard and E. 42nd Street, Los Angeles, California

Intersection of  E. 41st Place and S. Avalon Boulevard, Los Angeles, California

The former site of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, is located 13 miles southwest of Dodger Stadium and 37 miles northwest of Angels Stadium of Anaheim. Although Wrigley Field obtained its lost ballpark status almost sixty years ago, there still are several buildings in the area surrounding the former site which helped mark where the ballpark once sat.  Baseball is still played close by to the former ballpark site, at Wrigley Little League Field.  There also is plenty of open green space at the former site of center field, enough perhaps to imagine what it once looked like when baseball was played at LA’s Wrigley Field.

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Posted in California ballparks, Wrigley Field | 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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Westport Stadium – Baltimore’s Last Negro League Ballpark

October 28th, 2013

Westport Stadium was Baltimore’s last Negro League ballpark. Located in Westport, a Baltimore neighborhood just south of the intersection of I-95 and I-295, the ballpark was the home field of the 1950 Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants. Previously, the Elite Giants had played their home games primarily at Bugle Field located in East Baltimore at the intersection of Federal Street and Edison Highway. Westport Stadium is not to be confused with Westport Park, where the Negro League Baltimore Black Sox played their home games from 1917-1920 and which was located two miles north at 1701 Russell Street (now a Holiday Inn Express).

Entrance to Westport Stadium on Annapolis Road (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

After the Elite Giants departed Westport Stadium in 1951, the field was used primarily for NASCAR events, although Negro League All Star Teams still occasionally played at Westport into the mid 1950’s and the Indianapolis Clowns played yearly exhibition games there until the early 1960s. Also, in May 1953, Willie Mays (then in the Army stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia) played in a double header at Westport Stadium for the Newport News Royals, who faced the Yokely Baltimore Stars. Laymon Yokely was a former Baltimore Black Sox and Elite Giant who barnstormed with his own semi-pro team.

For more information about Westport Stadium’s connection to NASCAR racing, see thevintageracer.com (and many thanks to Larry Jendras, Jr., for sharing his knowledge of Westport Stadium).

Westport Stadium (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

The stadium was located on a triangular shaped piece of property north of the intersection of Patapsco Avenue and Annapolis Road and just south of the Baltimore Washington Parkway (I-295).

USGS Image Of Westport Stadium (Road to Left of Home Plate is Annapolis Road)

The entrance to Westport Stadium was located on Annapolis Road, just north of what is now the Patapsco Arena. The actual ball field was located below grade level, at the base of approximately 25 to 30 rows of seats.

Patapsco Arena, Located Just South of Westport Stadium's Former Site

The entrance to Westport Stadium, like much if not all of the former ballpark, is buried under tons of landfill.

Former Location of Entrance to Westport Stadium

Westport Stadium’s NASCAR operations ceased in 1963 and the stadium eventually was filled in with sludge and debris from excavation from the Baltimore Harbor and the construction of Camden Yards.

Former Location of Left Field Corner Just Beyond Top of Earthen Berm

Westport Stadium was primarily an earthen stadium, much like Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium (also known as Baltimore Stadium, Venable Stadium, and Babe Ruth Stadium), which eventually became the site of Memorial Stadium. A portion of Westport’s earthen berm is still evident around the back side of Westport Stadium’s former site, near what was once the right field corner.

Pathway To Former Right Field Corner, Westport Stadium

The entire infield and outfield is now covered with asphalt placed on top of the landfill.

Looking North From Former Right Field Corner Toward Third Base

Railroad tracks are located behind the backside of the former ballpark, beyond what was once center field. A gravel parking lot for the ballpark was once located alongside those railroad tracks.

Looking Northwest Toward Former Location of Westport Stadium's Center Field

A two lane asphalt ramp now runs parallel to what was once the area behind left field.

Looking North Toward Westport Stadium's Former Left Field Corner

Home plate was located behind Westport Stadium’s main entrance on Annapolis Road.

Looking East From Annapolis Road Toward Former Location of Home Plate and Infield

Somewhere underneath the asphalt and landfill material is a lost ballpark, historic not only for its connection to Negro League baseball, but also for its connection to NASCAR’s early years.

The Remains of Westport Stadium Waiting To Be Excavated

The former ballpark remains buried, awaiting perhaps some future excavation or archaeological dig.  Until that time, it is still possible to gain an appreciation for Westport Stadium by simply walking around the site and seeing the earthen berm that sat just beyond the stadium’s right field corner.

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Nicollet Park – Home Of the Minneapolis Millers

October 16th, 2013

Nicollet Park was a minor league ballpark in Minneapolis, Minnesota, located approximately two and one half  miles south of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Entrance to Nicollet Park (Hennepin County Library – The Minneapolis Collection)

The distinctive Tutor building that was the main entrance to Nicollet Park (shown in the photograph above) was located behind the former right field corner at the intersection of 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue.

Wells Fargo Bank at the Intersection of Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street, Looking Toward Former Right Field Corner

Home plate was located at the corner of Blaisdell Avenue and 31st Street. The ballpark faced northeast.

Aerial View of Nicollet Park (Courtesy of Baseball Bugs)

A Wells Fargo Bank is located in the area that was once right and center field. The former infield is now the bank’s parking lot.

Wells Fargo Nicollet-Lake Office, 3030 Nicollet Avenue, Former Location of Infield Looking Toward Right Field Corner

Located near the former infield is a Minnesota Historical Marker celebrating the 60 years, from 1896 to 1955, that baseball was played at the site.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

The historical marker notes that Nicolett Park enjoyed one of the longest running ground leases for a sports venue, running from 1896 until 1951, when the property was purchased by Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis. The bank building that now occupies the site was originally constructed in 1957.

Historical Marker, Nicollet Park

Beyond the left field fence that ran parallel to Lake Street were several one story brick commercial buildings, since demolished and replaced by a four story apartment building constructed in 1981.

Blaisdell Avenue and West Lake Street Looking Toward Former Left Field Corner

Nicolett Park was home to the Minneapolis Millers of the Western League (1896 -1899), the American League (1900 – in 1900 the American League was a minor league), and the American Association (1902 – 1955). The American Association Millers won nine pennants, including one in its last season of play in 1955. From 1908 to 1911, Nicollet Park was also home to the Minneapolis Keystones, an independent, barnstorming black ball club. The Keystones were not a formal negro league team, having played over a decade before the formation of the Negro National League.

Nicollet Avenue and West Lake Street, Looking Toward Former Location of Center Field

Notable Minneapolis Millers who played at Nicollet Park include future Hall of Famers Ray Dandridge, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. Dandridge, a standout Negro League  player for the Newark Eagles, played for the Millers at the end of his career, from 1949 to 1952. Mays played for the Millers at the beginning of his career, in 1951, for only 35 games (in which he batted .477, hit height home runs, scored 38 runs, and drove in 30). Williams played for Minneapolis as a 19 year old in 1938. That season he led the American Association in home runs, batting average, and RBI. Other future Hall  of Famers who played for the Millers include Roger Bresnahan (1898-1899), Jimmy Collins (1909), Rube Waddell (1911-1913), Orlando Cepeda (1957), and Carl Yastrzemski (1959-1960). Babe Ruth played in at least two exhibition games (1924 and 1935) at Nicollet Park as well.

Minneapolis Miller Ted Williams in 1938

According to Lawrence Ritter’s Lost Ballparks, it was at Nicolett Park that General Mills (a Minneapolis company) first used the slogan “Breakfast of Champions” in a sign on the outfield fence. The advertising billboard was installed at the park in 1933 following the Miller’s pennant winning season of 1932. Nicollet Park is also the setting for what is perhaps just baseball folklore, when Minneapolis Miller Andy Oyler (a former Baltimore Oriole) purportedly hit the shortest home run in professional baseball. The story goes that a ball off the bat of Oyler got stuck in the mud in front of home plate and before the opposing team could retrieve the ball, Oyler had scored on an inside  the park home run.

Across from the former left field corner, at the intersection of Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue, is Champions Bar and Grill which dates back to the last few years of Nicollet Park’s existence.

Champions Bar and Grill Dates to the 1950’s And the Time of Nicollet Park

Champions appears to be the only building located next to the ballpark site that remains from the time of Nicollet Park. The historical marker placed in the Wells Fargo parking lot is the only clue that there once was a ballpark located in this nondescript city block south of downtown Minneapolis.

Postscript: Thanks to Rubin Latz for sharing his picture of  a foul ball caught by his father at Nicollet Park on April 28, 1946. The baseball was manufactured by Wilson and is stamped “Affiliate of the American Association.”

Foul Ball Caught at Nicollet Field on April 28, 1946

On that April day, the Minneapolis Millers played a double header against their cross town rivals, the St. Paul Saints. According to Stew Thornley’s  “Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History,” a record crowd of 15,761 fans attended the game, with some 5000 fans standing on the field. Twenty-four doubles were hit during those two games, with the Saints victorious in both games.

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Rickwood Field – Baseball’s Time Capsule

September 19th, 2013

Rickwood Field, located at 1137 2nd St W, in Birmingham, Alabama, is a century-old time capsule of America’s National Pastime. It is recognized by the Historic American Building Survey as the country’s oldest surviving baseball park.

Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama

Constructed by Birmingham Barons owner Rick Woodward (hence the name), the first professional game  played there was a contest between the Barons and the Montgomery Climbers on August 18, 1910. This was approximately two years before the opening of Fenway Park, major league baseball’s oldest surviving ballpark.

Ridkwood Field, As Seen From 11th Street

Rickwood was the first concrete and steel minor league ballpark constructed in the United States. The stadium’s facade is truly remarkable for its unspoiled, vintage appearance, and would be worthy of a photo essay all its own.

Rickwood Field Third Base Side Grandstand

The first base side grandstand runs the length of the ballfield and wraps around behind right field.

Rickwood Field First Base Side Grandstand

Two historic plaques honor the history of Rickwood Field. The first plaque, erected by the Alabama Historical Commission in 1996, recognizes Rickwood Field’s placement on the National Register for Historic Places.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker

The second plaque, erected by the Alabama Tourism Department in 2010, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field Historic Marker Noting Opening Day 1910

The distinctive Mission style front entrance to Rickwood Field was added in 1928.

Mission Style Front Entrance to Rickwood Field

On the first base side of the ballpark, past the front entrance, is a sign welcoming visitors to a guided tour of the ballpark. Free pamphlets are available there for visitors to take along on their tour.

Rickwood Field's Self Guided Tour

The main entrance way to the ballpark appears much as it did in 1940.

Rickwood Field Front Entrance Turnstiles

A chalkboard listing the players for the day’s contest sits just to the right beyond the turnstiles.

Lineup From 2013 Rickwood Classic

Rickwood was home to the Southern Association (later Southern League) Birmingham Barons from 1910 until 1987.

Field of Dreams, Alabama Style

It also was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1920 until 1963. The Black Barons played in various leagues over the years including the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League, and the Negro American League.

Rickwood Field Tower

Notable players who called Rickwood Field their home included Hall of Famers Willie Mays (a native of Birmingham), Sachel Paige, Willie Wells, George Suttles, Bill Foster, Pie Traynor, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, and Burleigh Grimes.

Rickwood Field Third Base Dugout

During the design phase of Rickwood Field, Philadelphia Athletics Manager Connie Mack served as a consultant. The field and stadium were patterned after Forbes Field and Shibe Park. Both the Philadelphia Phillies (1911, 1920) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1919) held their spring training at Rickwood Field.

Rickwood Field View From the First Base Dugout

The distinctive cantilevered light stanchions date to 1936, when Rickwood became one of the first minor league facilities to host night baseball.

Louvered Windows at Rickwood Field

The steel and wood roof is a visual masterpiece. The supports for that roof, placed one per section, provide vintage obstructed views of the field.

Right Field Seating Rickwood Field

Rickwood Field currently has a seating capacity of 10,800. All of the original seating has long since been replaced.

Obstructed View At Rickwood Field Is Part of the Charm

The first base side grandstand, which wraps around to right field, was designed after Forbes Field, which had a similar wrap around, right field grandstand.

View From the Right Field Grandstand

The concrete outfield fence dating to 1928 sits behind the “newer” wooden fence. In 1948 Walt Dropo famously hit a home run over the wooden fence that hit the concrete fence on the fly.

Original Outfield Wall at Rickwood Field

Although long since replaced, at one time Rickwood Field could boast having wooden box seats and wooden row seats from the Polo Grounds, with wrought iron “NY” emblems at the end of each row. In the 1970s the seats were replaced and, for a time, could be purchased at nearby Legion Field in Birmingham.

Gambling Not Permitted at Rickwood Field

Because Rickwood Field offers so much to see, including the colorful outfield wall signage  and the recreated scoreboard, as well as so many great angles from which to photograph the ballpark, I have included a four minute video meant to capture the feel of the ballpark.

If you would like to see more photographs of Rickwood Field taken by a professional photographer, please visit Lou Dina at dinagraphics.com. As you can see from the picture below, Lou has an amazing eye for detail.

Today the Birmingham Barons play their home games at Regions Field. From 1988 until 2012, they played at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Once a year, since 1996, however, the Barons return to Rickwood Field to take part in the Rickwood Classic. Held typically on a Wednesday around the last week of May, the game is an official Southern League contest that helps insure professional baseball is still a part of Rickwood’s present and future.

Regions Field, Home of the Birmingham Barons

Friends of Rickwood has been the caretaker of Rickwood Field since 1992. If you are interested in reading more about their organization or how you can help insure the preservation of the ballpark, visit them at rickwood.com. Baseball fans owe that organization a debt of gratitude helping insure that Rickwood Field never becomes just another lost ballpark.

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