Posts Tagged ‘Cincinnati Reds’

Jacksonville’s Wolfson Park Now the NFL Jaguars’ Practice Field

December 12th, 2016

Jacksonville Baseball Park was located at 1201 East Duval Street in Jacksonville, Florida, just northwest of the former Gator Bowl.

Gator Bowl Sports Complex, Jacksonville, Florida (Postcard Curteichcolor, Seminole Souvenirs, Inc.)

Constructed in 1954, the ballpark opened in March 1955, hosting a spring training game between the Washington Senators and the Cincinnati Reds. That same month, the ballpark hosted another spring training game between the soon-to-be World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves.

Aerial view of Baseball Park, Gator Bowl, Matthews Bridge on the St. John’s River (Postcard Plastichrome by Colourpicture Publishers Boston MA, Charles Smith Studio, Jacksonville, Florida)

Jacksonville Baseball Park replaced Durkee Field (later renamed J. P. Small Memorial Park) which had hosted baseball in Jacksonville since 1911. J.P. Smalls Memorial Park remains to this day, located just 3.5 miles northwest of the former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park.

J.P. Smalls Park Memorial Park, Jacksonville, Florida, Where Baseball Has Been Played Since 1911

In April 1955, the Jacksonville Braves moved to Jacksonville Baseball Park. The owner of the team at the time was Samuel W. Wolfson. Wolfson sold the team in 1958 to Hall of Famer Bill Terry and became President of the South Atlantic League. After Wolfson died unexpectedly in 1963, the ballpark was renamed Samuel W. Wolfson Baseball Park in his honor.

Postcard of Wolfson Park, Jacksonville, Florida (Photo By Chris Nichol)

Wolfson Park was the home ballpark of the single-A South Atlantic League Jacksonville Braves from 1955 to 1960, and the Jacksonville Jets in 1961. In 1962 the triple-A International League Jacksonville Suns took up residence at Wolfson Park, playing there through the 1968 season. In 1970, the double-A Southern League Jacksonville Suns took up residence for one year, followed by the double-A Dixie Association Jacksonville Suns in 1971. In 1972, the Southern League Jacksonville Suns returned to Wolfson Park. In 1984, Suns’ owner Lou Eliopulos sold the team to Peter Bragan. Eliopulos purchased a South Atlantic League affiliate and moved it to Hagerstown, Maryland, keeping the Suns as the team name. Jacksonville changed its name to the Expos beginning in 1985, which it remained through the 1990 season. In 1991, Jacksonville changed its name back to the Suns, which is why there currently are two minor league teams, both with the name Suns.

Intersection Of Duval and Franklin Streets, Former Site Of Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Jacksonville Suns played their last home game at Wolfson Park in September 2002. Wolfson Park was demolished that same year, soon after the Suns departed.

Duval Street, Looking East Toward Former Site Of First Base Grandstand, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Franklin Streets Looking North, Former Site Of Third Base Grandstand, Jacksonville Baseball Park, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

In 2003, the Suns moved into a brand new stadium known now as Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, located at 301 A. Philip Randolph Boulevard, just two blocks southwest of Wolfson Park.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former site of Wolfson Park is now occupied by practice fields for the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars.

Entrance to Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Baseball Park

The naming rights for the practice fields is owned by Florida Blue, a health insurance company.

Former Location of Home Plate, Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

The practice fields are adjacent to EverBank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. EverBank Field sits in the former location of the Gator Bowl.

EverBank Field, Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville, Florida

Wolfson Park’s grandstand is long gone, but the playing field remains, although covered now with plastic grass and hash marks.

Former First Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Over the years, Wolfson Park was affiliated with 10 different major league organizations: the Milwaukee Braves (1955 – 1960), the Houston Colf 45’s (1961), the Cleveland Indians (1962 -1963, 1971), the St. Louis Cardinals (1964 – 1965), the New York Mets (1966 – 1968), the Kansas City Royals (1972 – 1983), the Montreal Expos (1984 – 1990), the Seattle Mariners (1991 – 1994), the Detroit Tigers (1995 – 2001), and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2002). In 1970, the Suns were unaffiliated with any major league organization.

Former Third Base Line Of Jacksonville Baseball Stadium, Now Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars)

One aspect of Wolfson Park remains at the site – several of its light stanchions ring the practice fields, providing night time illumination for the Jaguars.

Light Stanchion, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

Out past the former site of center field are bleachers, which were added after the demolition of Wolfson Park.

Beachers, Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium, Located Beyond What Was Once Center Field

The Sun’s current home is visible from the practice field bleachers.

Looking Southwest Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars) toward Jacksonville Baseball Grounds

And by the same token, the former site of Wolfson Park is visible beyond the current center field fence, just to the left of EverBank Field.

Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

The former light stanchions of Wolfson Park also are readily visible, especially from the walkway behind center field, looking in the direction of EverBank Field.

Looking Northeast From Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Toward Former Site of Jacksonville Stadium

Outside the south end zone of EverBank Field, the Jaguars are constructing Daily’s Place, a new amphitheater and indoor flex field, which is scheduled to open in May 2017. It is uncertain what impact the opening of Daily’s Place will have on the Jaguar’s current practice facility. However, paving the field and turning it into a parking lot, is a good guess.

Florida Blue Practice Field (Jacksonville Jaguars), Former site of Jacksonville Stadium

For now, however, there is still a playing field located on the former site of Wolfson Park, albeit for professional football. Time will tell whether professional sports or sports of any kind will continue to be played at that site.

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Posted in Florida ballparks, Wolfson Park/Jacksonville Baseball Park | Comments (0)

Plant City Stadium – Nine Years Of Spring Training And A 30 Year Construction Loan

March 3rd, 2015

Plant City Stadium is located at 1900 S Park Road in Plant City, Florida. Constructed in 1987, the ballpark was the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds from 1988 to 1996.

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium hosted no other professional baseball other than the Reds spring training. Other tenants have included the United States Australian Football League Tampa Bay Starfish and the United Soccer League (USL Pro) VSI Tampa Bay FC.

Front Gate Ticket Booth, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Front Gate Ticket Booth, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

The imprint of the Cincinnati Reds remains throughout the stadium.

Third Base Dugout, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Third Base Dugout, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Such as the red metal grandstand seating.

Rows of Seats, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Rows of Seats, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

And Marge Schott’s owner’s box and kitchen.

Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Kitchen With Cincinnati Reds Colors,Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Kitchen With Cincinnati Reds Colors,Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Walking through the ballpark, it would appear that the city could have the venue ready as a spring training home once again, with little effort.

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida (configured for Softball)

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida (configured for Softball)

Currently, both Plant City Stadium and its practice fields are configured for softball. The former baseball practice fields have been renamed the Randy L. Larson Softball FourPlex.

Original Warning Track and Outfield Fence Polls, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Original Warning Track and Outfield Fence Polls, Practce Fields, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

The buildings that once housed team administrative offices as well as the players clubhouse are located beyond Plant City Stadium’s right field fence.

Administrative Building, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Administrative Building, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

One of the buildings currently houses the headquarters of The International Softball Federation, a member of the World Baseball Softball Confederation.

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium is a cautionary tale about the fickle world of Major League Spring Training. When the Cincinnati Reds departed Plant City Stadium after the 1996 spring season, they relocated  their spring training headquarters to Ed Smith Stadium, a ballpark that was built in 1988, the same year the Reds opened Plant City Stadium.

Dedication Plaque, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Dedication Plaque, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium and complex was constructed by the City of Plant City at a cost of approximately $6 million, with a 30 year construction loan that will not be repaid until 2018.

Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Each year the city pays over $30o,000 on the construction loan.

Entrance to Seating Bowl from Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Entrance to Seating Bowl from Concourse, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Although the stadium has been used over the past few years for professional and amateur softball, and professional soccer, the amount of revenue generated by the stadium falls short of meeting the yearly loan costs.

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

In addition, the city incurs a $300,000 plus yearly expense for maintaining the facility, although the city should be given credit for having done a good job of maintaining the facility and not letting it fall into disrepair.

The Sprinklers Still Work, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

The Sprinklers Still Work, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

It appears that even as the construction loan payments are about to end (in the next three years), the city has given up on the idea of finding a professional sports team tenant and instead may be selling the property for redevelopment.

View of Infield From Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

View of Infield From Owners Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Press Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Press Box, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Thus, in the next few years, it seems likely that Plant City Stadium will become yet another lost ballpark. However, given the relatively meager professional baseball history of the ballpark (nine spring seasons), it is unlikely anyone will raise much of an objection to its demolition from the standpoint of baseball history.

Third Base Dugout Tunnel, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

Third Base Dugout Tunnel, Plant City Stadium, Plant City Florida

For the time being, however, Plant City Stadium still stands a prime example of a late 1980s Florida spring training venue, relatively untouched from the time the Cincinnati Reds departed for Sarasota in 1997.  If you find yourself traveling I-4 to or from Tampa to Orlando, the stadium is located just three miles south off Exit 45. Take a detour and see for yourself a very small slice of baseball history, as well as, the ending to this cautionary tale.

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

February 21st, 2015

Plant Field was located near the northeast intersection of North Boulevard and West North B Street in Tampa, Florida. Constructed in the 1890s, the athletic facility was on the grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel and included a variety of athletic fields, including horse racing, for guests of the hotel. Plant Field was named after Henry Plant, the owner of the hotel. After his death in 1899, the hotel and accompanying grounds, including Plant Field, were purchased by the City of Tampa. In 1933, the city leased the Tampa Bay Hotel to what is now the University of Tampa. The University also was allowed to use Plant Field for school athletic events.

Florida State Fair in Full Swing at Tampa, Florida - Postcard (Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone)

Florida State Fair in Full Swing at Tampa, Florida – Postcard (Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone)

Plant Field was one of the first sites to host Spring Training in Florida (Jacksonville, Florida, lays claim to the first major league spring training site in Florida, first in 1888 and then in 1903, while St. Augustine  hosted spring training in 1890 at Flagler Grounds). In 1913, Tampa Mayor D.B. McKay convinced the Chicago Cubs to train at Plant Field by actually paying the team to play in Tampa. The following season, St. Petersburg businessman Al Lang likewise convinced the St. Louis Browns to train nearby at Sunshine Park (also known as Coffee Pot Park), and the Grapefruit League was born. The Cubs trained at Plant Field through the 1916 season.

In 1919 the Boston Red Sox trained for one season at Plant Field. That spring season was memorable if for no other reason thanon April 4, 1919, then-Boston Red Sox player Babe Ruth hit what is considered to be his longest home run – a 587 feet blast (albeit in an exhibition game).

Tampa Historical Society Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth's 587 Foot Home Run on April 4, 1919

Tampa Historical Society Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth’s 587 Foot Home Run on April 4, 1919

The ball cleared Plant Field and came to rest in an open space near what is now the John Skyes College of Business, which formerly was the City of Tampa Municipal  Auditorium, constructed six years after Babe Ruth hit his mammoth shot. A historic plaque on the University of Tampa campus marks the approximate spot where the ball was found.

John Skyes College of Business (Formerly the City of Tampa Municipal Auditorium Erected in 1925)

John Skyes College of Business (Formerly the City of Tampa Municipal Auditorium Erected in 1925)

According to local newspaper accounts, the ball rolled a considerable distance once it landed. New York Giants Manager John McGraw (his team was playing the Red Sox) is said to have chased down the ball, calling the home run the longest he had ever seen. McGraw presented the ball to the Reverend Billy Sunday, a former ballplayer who was in town for a Christian revival and had thrown out the first pitch that afternoon.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections, With Direction of Babe Ruth's 587 Foot Home Run

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections, With Direction of Babe Ruth’s 587 Foot Home Run

From 1920 to 1929, the Washington Senators trained at Plant Field. The Detroit Tigers trained at Plant Field for one season, in 1930, and the Cincinnati Reds trained at Plant Field from 1931 to 1942 and 1946 to 1954. Beginning in 1955, the Reds continued to train at Plant Field, but played home exhibition games at Al Lopez Field.  The Chicago White Sox also trained at Plant Field for just one season in 1954, before relocating their spring training four miles northeast to Al Lopez Field in 1955. The Reds took over sole occupancy of Al Lopez Field in 1960 when the White Sox moved to a refurbished Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida.

Tampa Florida From The Air Overlooking Hillsborough River and Florida State Fair Grounds, Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.) (Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections

“Tampa Florida From The Air Overlooking Hillsborough River and Florida State Fair Grounds,” Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.) (Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections

For much of its existence, Plant Field was co-located on the Florida State Fairgrounds, surrounded by a horse and automobile race track. Plant Field encompassed a significant portion of the southern half of the fairgrounds.

The Florida State League Tampa Smokers played their home games at Plant Field from 1919-1927. In 1928, the Smokers changed their name to the Tampa Krewes, still playing their home games at Plant Field. The Smokers changed their league affiliation to the Southeastern League in 1929, and played at Plant Field until the end of the 1930 season. In 1946, the Smokers returned to Plant Field as an affiliate of the Florida International League, playing their home games at Plant Field through the 1954 season.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Sandy Gandy Photographer)

Aerial Photo of Plant Field and the Tampa Bay Hotel, Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Sandy Gandy Photographer)

By 1960, professional baseball had departed Plant Field. Over the years Plant Field was reconfigured for soccer and baseball for use by the University of Tampa. In 1971, the University of Tampa acquired ownership of Plant Field and the facility was renamed Pepin/Rood Stadium. In 2002 the grandstand constructed in the early 1920s was raised.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

A new grandstand was installed in approximately the same spot as the original grandstand (the new grandstand is not as close to North Boulevard and is centered a few yards south of the original grandstand). Straz Hall, a residence hall for the University, is located on the site of the uncovered bleachers which were once attached just to the north of the covered grandstand.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium and Straz Hall, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

The actual infield may be long gone, but the field is still used for athletic events.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Home plate was located just a few feet east of the current running track that parallels the grandstand. The current running track also cuts through center field on the opposite end of the track. A row of one-story buildings remain at the site today. The deepest part of center field once edged close to those buildings, separated by the original fair grounds race track.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Home Plate and Infield

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Home Plate, Infield, and Center Field

The first and third base foul lines ran at 45 degree angles away from home plate, as seen in the photograph below.

Aerial Photo Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Tampa News Bureau Photo)

Aerial Photo of Plant Field and Downtown Tampa, Courtesy of University of Tampa, Special Collections (Tampa News Bureau Photo)

Today the left and right field lines are part of the soccer field. Out beyond the former site of left field is Frank and Carol Morsani Hall

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Third Base Foul Line

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field Third Base Foul Line, with Morsani Hall in Background

Sykes Chapel sits beyond the former site of right field.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field First Base Foul Line

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field First Base Foul Line, with Sykes Chapel in Background

A Hillsborough County historical plaque marks the former location of Plant Field.

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field with Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant FIeld

Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field with Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant FIeld

The plaque summarizes the many athletic events that took place at Plant Field, including football and auto racing.

It states, in part: “The area encompassing the University of Tampa’s baseball, track, and soccer facilities was known as Plant Field from early in the 20th century until the mid-1970s. Plant Field, named for railroad and hotel magnate Henry B. Plant, served as the site for significant sporting events and other community activies. The one-half mile horse racing track that Plant built in the late 1890s was altered to accommodate dirt-track auto racing. From February 1921 until the mid-1970s, races were held each year during the South Florida Fair, later designated as the Florida State Fair. Along with talented local racers, the country’s most famous drivers, including Jimmy Wilburn, Emory Collins, Gus Schrader, Ted Horn, Frank Luptow, Tommy Hinnershitz, and Bobby Grimm raced here during the winter months. Pete Folse, a local driver, became a national champion. Their cars were powered by engines made by Miller, Offenhauser, and Riley, among others. Tampa became known as “The winter auto racing capital of the nation.” Sadly, several drivers lost their lives at Plant Field. Plant Field was also the site for football games. On New Year’s Day 1926, the Chicago Bears, starring Red Grange, defeated a team featuring Jim Thorpe. The University of Tampa played its home games on Plant Field from 1933 to 1936. Tampa high school teams also competed on Plant Field. Plant Field served as the home for several major league baseball teams during spring training. The Chicago Cubs arrived in 1913 and returned each year through 1916. The Boston Red Sox played their home games at Plant Field in 1919, and Babe Ruth, playing for teh Red Sox, hit the longest home run of his career during a game on this field. Plant Field was home for the Washington Senators during the 1920s, for the Detroit Tigers in 1930 and for the Chicago White Sox in 1954. The Cincinnati Reds played here for most seasons starting in the 1930s through 1954. In November 1950, an African American all-star team, led by Jackie Robinson, played an exhibition game against the Tampa Rockets, a semi-professional African-American team. In the minor leagues. the Tampa Smokers played their home games at Plant Field.”

Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Hillsborough County Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Tampa Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

Hillsborough County Historical Marker Honoring Plant Field, University of Tampa

The front entrance to Pepin Stadium is accessible from North Boulevard, just south of Straz Hall on the University of Tampa campus.

Front Entrance, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Front Entrance, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Pepin Stadium includes a modest concession stand built where once sat team administrative offices.

Concession Stand, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Concession Stand, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Spartans Logo, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Spartans Logo, Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

A curious remnant of Plant Field remains inside Pepin Stadium, namely two antiquated turnstiles, one stored under a stairway and one near the grandstand entrance, although it does not appear that either are currently in use.

Plant Field Turnstile at  Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Plant Field Turnstile at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa , Tampa Florida, Former Site of Plant Field

Just north of Pepin Stadium and the former site of Plant Field, is the University of Tampa Baseball Field, also known as Sam Bailey Field.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

The light stanchions of Pepin Stadium are visible from the university’s baseball field.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida, Looking Toward Former Site of Plant Field

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida, Looking Toward Former Site of Plant Field

The baseball field sits within the northern end of the old Florida Fair Grounds. Just north of the baseball field, across West Cass Street, is the former location of Phillips Field (now the site of Tampa Preparatory School). Phillips Field was the long-time home of the University of Tampa football team, as well as the location for several NFL preseason games.

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

It is fitting that baseball is still played on a portion of the old Florida Fair Grounds, in close proximity to the former site of Plant Field. The University of Tampa has an excellent baseball program, having won the NCAA Division II championship six times in the past 25 years.

University of Tampa Baseball Field Championships Banner

University of Tampa Baseball Field Championships Banner

Former University of Tampa standout (and former New York Yankee, Tampa Bay Ray, and St. Louis Cardinal) Tino Martinez is honored with a retired number plaque located above the grandstand.

Tino Martinez Retired Number Plaque at University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

Tino Martinez Retired Number Plaque at University of Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa, Florida

Although Plant Field is now a lost ballpark, the field where major league baseball spring training  in Tampa was born, and was held for over 40 years, remains an athletic field. With the  placement of the current grandstand at Pepin Stadium on the University of Tampa campus, it is not hard to imagine how Plant Field must have looked during its heyday. For more information about the history of Plant Field (including vintage photographs) see Tampapix.com. If you find yourself in Tampa for spring training, take a detour to the University of Tampa (located just five miles southeast of George Steinbrenner Field) and see for yourself where spring training was first played in Tampa.

Many thanks to the University of Tampa, Special Collections, for their assistance in sharing the history and photographs of Plant Field.

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

Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium Redux

February 9th, 2015

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, is not a lost ballpark. However, the stadium as it existed in when it first opened in 1989 is long gone, replaced with a strikingly different ballpark that calls out for a deadballbaseball then and now comparison.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium as it exists today is modern, yet seemingly from an era much earlier than the ballpark it replaced. The transformation of the stadium is a reflection of the changes that professional baseball parks have undergone since the opening of Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992. It seems fitting that the Baltimore Orioles – the organization that helped usher in the era of retro MLB ballparks –  likewise has brought new life to Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2011

Ed Smith Stadium is located at 2700 12th Street in Sarasota, Florida. The ballpark was constructed in 1988-1989 as the spring training home for Chicago White Sox, who moved into brand new Ed Smith Stadium after having trained the previous 28 years at Payne Park, some two miles southwest of Ed Smith Stadium. The White Sox lasted nine seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing Florida for the Cactus League and Tucson Electric Park in 1998.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In 1998 the Cincinnati Reds arrived at Ed Smith Stadium after having played the previous ten seasons at Plant City Stadium (and the 28 seasons prior to that at Tampa’s Al Lopez Field). The Reds played 12 seasons at Ed Smith Stadium before departing for  Goodyear, Arizona, and the Cactus League after the 2009 season. The Baltimore Orioles arrived the following year (in 1991 the Orioles shared Ed Smith Stadium with the White Sox for one season).

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Orioles played their 2010 spring games in old Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

At the end of the 2010 spring season, the Orioles and the City of Sarasota undertook a $32 million renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Although Ed Smith Stadium was constructed in the late 1980s, its design seemed firmly grounded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Concrete was the stadium’s dominant architectural feature.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

The front entrance of old Ed Smith Stadium looked more like a motel than a ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2004

With the 2010 renovation, the boxy front entrance was replaced with a curved front and rotunda, built considerably closer to the intersection of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. The 2010 renovation brought to the ballpark a retro-vibe, drawing upon a variety of classic ballpark styles, including Brooklyn, New York’s former Ebbets Field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium’s plain exterior concrete walls and pillars were replaced with stucco, and stadium roof covered with Spanish roofing tiles.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The left field entrance to the ballpark, which provides access to the stadium from the main parking area, was significantly upgraded as well.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

A ornate, gated entrance was added, along with a wrought iron fence that runs the length of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue next to the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The entrance from the concourse behind home plate was nothing more than a concrete wall with section numbers directing fans to their seats.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

With the renovation, the concrete front entrance was replaced with a large rotunda and stairways leading to a second floor landing.

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Main Entrance Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Front Concourse Sign, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The second floor likewise includes a rotunda with championship pennants encircled with several dozen Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Second Floor Rotunda, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Fittingly, the ballpark remains named after Ed Smith, a Sarasota resident and long time President of the Sarasota Sports Committee.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The March 1989 dedication plaque remains on display on the concourse, alongside a plaque honoring the 2010-2011 renovation of the ballpark.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Another major change to the ballpark was the enclosure of the stadium concourse.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Concourse,  Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Concourse, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The playing field likewise underwent a makeover.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

In addition to obvious changes like replacing logos and painting over the Cincinnati red with Orioles orange, the Orioles also installed a new drainage system and warning track.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The grandstand roof was expanded to provide more shade, running along both the first and third base lines.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The red plastic seating was replaced with green plastic seats from Camden Yards, removed during the 2010 renovation to the lower seating bowl of Oriole Park.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

One distinctive feature that remains somewhat unchanged is the exterior of the press box, although the Orioles did replace and expand the press box windows.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The old school digital clock scoreboard was replaced with a Jumbotron.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Scoreboard, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The Ed Smith Stadium complex includes three regulation size practice fields. Those fields likewise underwent renovation.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Practice Field, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ironically, one of the Cincinnati practice fields was named after former Oriole player and skipper Frank Robinson.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Frank Robinson Practice Field at Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The renovated practice fields are named only after numbers, not players.

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Practice Field No. 1, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

The practice fields remain a wonderful place to watch baseball for free.

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter, Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Matt Wieters and Buck Showalter at Practice Field no. 3, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

They also are a place where fans congregate hoping for an autograph or two.

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Oriole Great Jim Palmer Signing Autographs at Practice Fields, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

When not used for spring training, Ed Smith Stadium hosts minor league baseball. Prior to the Orioles arrival, Ed Smith Stadium was the home stadium for the Florida State League Sarasota White Sox (1989-1993), the Sarasota Red Sox (1994-2004), and the Sarasota Reds (2004-2009). The ballpark also was home to the Gulf Coast League Reds from 2004 to 2009.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

The Baltimore Orioles Gulf Coast League team plays some games at Ed Smith Stadium, although a good number are played on the practice fields behind the stadium.

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Gulf Coast League Orioles in Action, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Old Ed Smith Stadium was not a bad place to watch a game. At the end what really matters is the game on the field.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2009

However, there can be no doubt that the upgrades to the ballpark improved tremendously the fan experience at Ed Smith Stadium.

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida, 2012

The Orioles currently hold a 30 year lease for Ed Smith Stadium from the City of Sarasota. Should the Orioles remain to the end of that lease term, baseball will have been played for half a century at the southeast corner of 12th Street and N. Euclid Avenue. It already is well on its way to being a classic, or even a historic ballpark.

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Baseballs and Superbowls – Tampa’s Al Lopez Field

January 24th, 2015

Al Lopez Field was located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue in Tampa, Florida.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida, Circa 1975

From 1955 to 1959 it was the Spring Training home of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox relocated to Payne Park in Sarasota, Florida, in 1960.

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL Postcard (Curtechcolor Art Creation, Hillsboro News Co.)

From 1960 until 1987 Al Lopez Field was the Spring Training home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Ron Oester, Al Lopez Field, July 1985, Tampa, Florida

The Reds relocated their spring training home to Plant City, Florida, in 1988.

Jose Pegan, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida

The minor league Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League called Al Lopez Field home from 1957 to 1988.

Bob Robertson, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida

In 1966, the City of Tampa constructed Tampa Stadium just north of Al Lopez Field on West Ohio Avenue.

Pre-Game Cerermony, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1975, Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida, With Tampa Stadium Visible In Background

Tampa Stadium was primarily a soccer and football venue, with notable tenants including the North American Soccer League Tampa Bay Rowdies  and the National Football League Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Stadium hosted Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984 (Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9), and Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991 (New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19).

Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Tampa Stadium and Al Lopez Field Postcard (T-10-C Ward Beckett & Co., Clearwater FL)

Al Lopez Field was demolished in 1989. In 1996 the City of Tampa began construction of Raymond James Stadium on the former site of Al Lopez Field. Al Lopez Field was located in what is now the Northeast quadrant Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez FIeld, Tampa, Florida

In the aerial photograph of Raymond James Stadium below (facing West), the site of Al Lopez Field is located in the bottom right quadrant of the stadium. The former site of Tampa Stadium, which was demolished in 1999, appears in the photograph below as the open grass field just to the right of Raymond James Stadium.

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa FL

Aerial View of Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Field, Tampa, Florida (photo is facing West)

The right field corner of Al Lopez Field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Woodlawn Avenue. Raymond James Stadium East Gate now marks the spot.

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

Al Lopez Field, Former Right Field Corner at W Woodlawn Avenue and N Himes Avenue

The former site of right field is now a parking area that parallels North Himes Avenue and Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field Looking Toward Right Field

Center field was located near the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Ohio Avenue.

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

Intersection of Himes Avenue and Ohio Avenue, Former Entrance to Al Lopez Field (Near Center Field)

A significant portion of the former site of center field is now an asphalt parking area just north of Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Center Field

A patch of grass that sits in the shadow of the Raymond James Stadium sign at the northern end of the stadium marks the former site of left field.

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

Raymond James Stadium, Former Site of Al Lopez Stadium Left Field Corner

The former site of Al Lopez Field’s home plate sits in the north east corner of Raymond James Stadiums’ northern most end zone (the end zone near the pirate ship replica). Two Superbowls have been played at the former site of Al Lopez Field, Super Bowl XXXV on January 28, 2001 (Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7), and Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 (Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23).

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate - Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Former Site of Al Lopez Field Home Plate – Northern End Zone of Raymond James Stadium (Looking South)

Spring Training baseball, as well as minor league baseball, is still played just a long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field. George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the New York Yankees, is located just one block to the northwest of the former ballpark site.

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

George Steinbrenner Field, Spring Training Home of the N.Y. Yankees, Located One Block Northwest of Site of Al Lopez Field

The Florida State League Tampa Yankees play their home games at Steinbrenner Field.

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

View of Raymond James Stadium from Steinbrenner Field, Home of the Tampa Yankees

In 1992, the City of Tampa honored Tampa resident Al Lopez with a statute located at the intersection of North Himes Avenue and West Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd, just a very long fly ball from the former site of Al Lopez Field.

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

Al Lopez Statue, Al Lopez Park

A plaque at the base of the statue notes that Al Lopez was born in nearby Ybor City on August 20, 1908, and provides an overview of his accomplishments in baseball: “Distinguished himself as a professional baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, and Pittsburgh Pirates as a catcher, setting the original all-time record for most games caught in the Major Leagues. He further distinguished himself in Major League history as manager of the pennant-wining Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. For his admirable accomplishments in the Major Leagues as a player and Manager, he was Tampa’s first inductee into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977.”

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

Plaque Honoring Former Tampa Resident Al Lopez

The statute of Al Lopez is appropriately positioned, with the long-time catcher facing toward the former site of the ballpark named in his honor.

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez Statue Looking South Toward Raymond James Stadium and Former Site of Al Lopez Field

The statute is located in the southwest corner of Al Lopez Park, also dedicated to the memory of the Tampa native.

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

Entrance to Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

The sign at the park entrance (4810 North Himes Avenue) recognizes Al Lopez as “one of Tampa’s favorite sons.”

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Detail of Al Lopez Park Sign

Al Lopez Park includes a lake, picnic areas, walking trails, and a certified 5K running course.

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

East Gate, Raymond James Stadium at Woodlawn Avenue and Himes Avenue looking toward Former Right Field Corner of Al Lopez Field

Al Lopez lived much of his life in Tampa and nearby Ybor City. His former house in Ybor City was moved in 2013 from its original location at 1210 E 12th Avenue to 2003 N. 19th Street in Ybor City.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Located across the street from the Ybor City State Museum, Al Lopez’s former home now houses the Tampa Baseball Museum.

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Al Lopez House, Ybor City, Florida

Tampa, Florida boast a rich baseball history. Should you find yourself in Tampa during Spring Training, be sure to take a moment to visit Al Lopez Park, with its statutory tribute to Al Lopez, as well as the Tampa Baseball Museum. And should you happen to find yourself attending a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game or a baseball game at nearby Steinbrenner Field, take a moment to appreciate the baseball history that once took place in the northern most end zone of Raymond James Stadium.

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The Nashville Sounds of Silence At Greer Stadium

August 5th, 2014

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

Hershel Greer Stadium, Home of the Nashville Sounds

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

View of Hershel Greer Stadium From Left Field Parking Lot

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

Access to Greer Stadium from Chestnut Street Bridge Over Railroad Tracks

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

Greer Stadium Entrance Gate Near Right Field

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

Plaque Honoring Construction of Greer Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

Plaque Honoring Construction of Greer Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee

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

Fan Relations, Exterior of Greer Stadium

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

Entrance to Right Field, Greer Stadium

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

Greer Stadium Concourse

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

Greer Stadium Standings Scoreboard

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

Greer Stadium, View Behind Home Plate

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

Greer Stadium Looking South Towards Hills of Nearby Radnor Lake

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

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

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

VIew of Greer Stadium Grandstand From Right Field Line

The visiting team dugout is located along first base.

Visitors Dugout, Greer Stadium, Nashville

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

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

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

Greer Stadium Visiting Team Bullpen

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

Full Moon Rises Over Sounds Bullpen at Greer Stadium

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

Slugger’s Sports Bar and Grill, Greer Stadium

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

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

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

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

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

Section QQ, Greer Stadium

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

No View Right Field Concession Stand, Greer Stadium

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

The Right Field Family Leisure Party Deck, Greer Stadium

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

A View of the Seats, Greer Stadium, Nashville

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

Sun-Bleached and Weathered Bleachers at Greer Stadium

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

Signs Advertising New Nashville Sounds Ballpark

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

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

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

Sign Showing Design of New Nashville Sounds Ballpark

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

Sign Advertising New Nashville Ballpark At Sulphur Dell

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

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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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Crosley Field and the Corner of Findlay and Western

May 9th, 2010

The corner of Findlay Street and Western Avenue hosted professional baseball from 1884 until June 1970.  Home of the Cincinnati Reds, the earliest ballpark incarnation at that corner, League Park, lasted until 1900, when the grandstand was destroyed by fire.  Portions of League Park undamaged by the fire, mainly seating in right field (the former League Park grandstand before the field was repositioned), were incorporated into a second ballpark, known as the Palace of the Fans, which lasted until 1911.   The following three photographs show the demolition of the Palace of the Fans in preparation for construction of a new ballpark.

Wrecking the Palace of the Fans (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

In this second photograph, the building in the background is the Oliver Schlemmer Co. Plumbing, Heating & Power Work building.  The concrete pillars in the foreground are what is left of the old League Park grandstand, which was also used as Palace of the Fan’s right field pavilion.

Palace of the Fans Grandstand Comes Down (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

If only you could go back in time and grab some pieces of the old ballpark before they were discarded.

Palace of the Fans Demolition (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

The third ballpark constructed at the corner of Findlay and Western was Redland Field, later known as Crosley Field, in honor of the Reds’ owner Powel Crosley, Jr.

Crosley Field "Home of the Cincinnati Reds" (J. Louis Motz News Co.)

The right field bleachers and grandstand of Crosley Field were located at the corner of Findlay and Western.

Crosley Field First Base Grandstand and right field bleachers (Fasfoto, Inc.)

Western Avenue ran parallel to left and center field while Findlay Street ran along the first base line.  Only a few of the buildings shown in this aerial view of Crosley Field remain now at the former site.

Aerial View of Crosley Field (Bell Block News & Novelty Co.)

The buildings fronting Western Avenue are now long gone, having been demolished for construction of I-75.  The same is true for much of the buildings surrounding the grandstand.  They were demolished to make room for parking at Crosley Field.  One notable exception, however, is the building shown at the bottom left corner of the postcard.

Building Located Just Behind Third Base/Left Field Grandstand

The building, with its distinctive tall, brick smoke stack, is located just behind what was the third base/left field grandstand and remains from the time of Crosely Field.

Front of Building Facing York Street

A brick wall that ran from the front of the building east along York Street toward the corner of the left field grandstand remains as well.

Brick Wall that Attached to Grandstand

Dalton Avenue now intersects the site, running from left/center field, through right field, to the former first base grandstand.  Several buildings constructed on the site pay homage to Crosley Field.  Phillips Supply Company, located on Findlay Street, has an address of One Crosley Field Lane.

Phillips Supply Company- One Crosley Field Lane

In front of the building used to be six red-painted wooden seats which have since been replaced by plastic seats from Riverfront Stadium.

Crosley Field Seats in Front of Phillips Supply

Also on the former site is Hills Floral Products, located at 1130 Findlay, near where that street intersects with Western.

Hills Floral Supply Co. with Crosley Field Plaque

In front of the building, where the right field grandstand once stood, is a plaque honoring Crosley Field.  Inside the front lobby of the building are pictures and artifacts discussing Crosley’s history at the site.

Crosley Field Plaque

If you take the time to visit the Crosley Field site, be sure to stop at the playground located where the left field grandstand once stood.  They may not play professional baseball there anymore, but at least you can sit on a park bench (or ride a swing) in the same location where fans of the Cincinnati Reds once sat to watch the game of baseball being played.

Park Benches Where Grandstand Once Stood

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