Posts Tagged ‘Dixie Association’

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)

Savannah’s Historic Grayson Stadium and the Extermination of the Sand Gnats

July 29th, 2015

Grayson Stadium is located at 1401 East Victory Drive in Savannah, Georgia. Opened in 1926, the ballpark originally was known as Municipal Stadium.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Located in Daffin Park, Grayson Stadium is part of the Daffin Park-Parkside historic district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

The ballpark is one of the most picturesque in the country. Sadly, it appears professional baseball will be departing Savannah at the end of the 2015 season.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

The Savannah Indians of the South Atlantic League played at Municipal Stadium beginning in 1926, through the 1928 season, and returned in 1936.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

On August 11, 1940, a  Category 2 hurricane struck Savannah, destroying a substantial portion of the ballpark. Only two sections of concrete bleachers were left standing.

Exteterior of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Exterior of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

One of those sections, which once sat beyond left field, was demolished during a renovation of the ballpark in 1995.

Blue Prints Detailing Original Municipal Stadium Layout (armstrongdigitalhistory.org)

Blue Prints Detailing Original Municipal Stadium Layout (armstrongdigitalhistory.org)

The other concrete bleachers section remaining from the original 1926 ballpark sits along the first base line.

Exterior of Original Concrte Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Exterior of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

View from Grandstand of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

View from Grandstand of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Interior View of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Interior View of Original Concrete Bleachers, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

After the hurricane, Municipal Stadium was rebuilt in 1940-1941, under the leadership of Spanish-American War veteran General William L. Grayson, and with funds from the Work Progress Administration.

1941 Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

1941 Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Wood and Steel Grandstand Ceiling, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Wood and Steel Grandstand Ceiling, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

To see additional blueprints of the 1940 renovation, visit armstrongdigitalhistory.org – Grayson Stadium Project.

Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

View from Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

With the ballpark substantially complete in 1941, construction was a halted during World War II.

First Base Side Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

First Base Side Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

A portion of the third base grandstand remained uncompleted for seven decades, and was finished only recently.

Third Base Grandstand With Brick Work Completed Some 70 Seasons Later

Third Base Grandstand With Brick Work Completed Some 70 Seasons Later

In 1941, the City of Savannah renamed the ballpark in honor of General Grayson, who died that same year.

Plaque Honoring 1941 Renovation of Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Plaque Honoring William H. Grayson and 1941 Renovation of Grayson Stadium Grandstand, Savannah, Georgia

In 1943, the South Atlantic League suspended operations because of the war and the Indians departed Grayson Stadium. The Indians returned in 1946, playing at Grayson Stadium through the 1953 season.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Concession Stand Underneath First Base Grandstand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

In 1954, Savannah’s South Atlantic League team became an affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics. The team switched its name to the Savannah A’s in 1954. Savannah’s South Atlantic League team switched affiliates several more times, beginning in 1956 with Cincinnati Reds (through 1959), Pittsburgh Pirates (1960, also from 1936 to 1938), and the Chicago White Sox (1962).

Grayson Stadium Grandstand, Circa 1941, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium Grandstand, Circa 1941, Savannah, Georgia

Savannah did not field a team in 1961, and from 1963 to 1967. In 1968 Savannah joined the Southern League as an affiliate of the Washington Senators. The team remained in the Southern League through 1983, with the exception of 1971, when Savannah played in the Dixie Association. In 1969 the Senators and the Houston Astros shared the Savannah affiliate, and, in 1970, Savannah became an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. From 1971 to 1983, Savannah was an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.

Ticket Booth, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Ticket Booth, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

In 1984, Savannah rejoined the South Atlantic League, as an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom they remained affiliated through the 1994 season. The team changed its name to the Sand Gnats in 1995, and was an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1995 to 1997, the Texas Rangers from 1998 to 2002, the Montreal Expos from 2003 to 2005, the Washington Nationals from 2005 to 2006, and the New York Mets from 2007 to 2015.

Tonight's South Alantic League Standings and Lineup, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Tonight’s South Alantic League Standings and Lineup, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

In addition to the Indians and the Sand Gnats, since 1926, Savannah’s minor league team has been known as the A’s, the Redlegs, the Reds, the Pirates, the White Sox, the Senators, the Braves, and the Cardinals.

Plaque Honoring John Henry Moss, President SAL, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Plaque Honoring John Henry Moss, President SAL, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

According to Armstrong State University History Department, no Negro League baseball ever was played at Municipal or Grayson Stadium.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

As for Babe Ruth, he appeared at least two times at Municipal Stadium: first, in 1927, during a spring exhibition game between the 1926 World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals and the American League champions New York Yankees, which the Cardinals won 20-10; and second in 1935, as a member of the Boston Braves when his team played an exhibition game against South Georgia Teacher’s College, which is now Georgia Southern University. The Braves won that contest 15 – 1, during which Ruth hit a third-inning home run over the fence in right field.

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

A 1995 renovation to Grayson Stadium was renovated, brought the addition of a press box above the grandstand roof and the demolition of the left field bleachers.

Press Box Above Home Plate and Third Base, Home Team Dugout, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Press Box Above Home Plate and Third Base, Home Team Dugout, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

In 2007, another renovation added a new scoreboard in center field.

"New" Scoreboard, Installed 2007, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

“New” Scoreboard, Installed 2007, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Original Hand Operated  Scoreboard, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Original Hand Operated
Scoreboard, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

For the past several seasons, Savannah’s current minor league affiliate has encouraged the city to construct a new ballpark.

Concession Stand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Concession Stand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Concession Stand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Concession Stand, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Apparently, the older the ballpark, the louder the drum beat is to replace it. Unfortunately, what fans find quaint about old ballparks, the teams actually playing there find challenging at best.

Years of Paint and Changing Colors, Reflected in Bench Seating at Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Years of Paint and Changing Colors, Reflected in Bench Seating at Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

In 2015, the Sand Gnats announced they would be departing Grayson Stadium at the end of the season and relocating to a new ballpark being constructed in Columbia, South Carolina.

Main Concourse, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Main Concourse, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

The departure of the Sand Gnats most likely spells the end of professional baseball at Grayson Stadium.

Entrance to Grandstand from Concourse, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Entrance to Grandstand from Concourse, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

The good news is it appears that a collegiate wooden bat team will be playing at Grayson Stadium beginning in 2016.

Bullpen, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Bullpen, Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

If you want to catch a professional game at Grayson Stadium, the Sand Gnat’s season runs through September 2, 2015.

Carolina Pines Left Field at Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

Carolina Pines Left Field at Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Georgia

The ballpark most definitely is worth a visit. If you are anywhere near Savannah, and are a fan of the game (which presumably you are or you would not be reading this) be sure to take in a game at Historic Grayson Stadium before professional baseball departs its friendly confines.

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Posted in Georgia ballparks, Grayson Stadium | Comments (2)