Posts Tagged ‘South Atlantic League’

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)

Knoxville’s Lost Ballparks – Caswell Field, Smithson Stadium, Bill Meyer Stadium

May 6th, 2015

Since at least 1917, baseball has been played at a ball field located at 633 Jessamine Street near the intersection of East 5th Street and Jessamine Street in Knoxville Tennessee. In 1916, William Caswell, a former confederate soldier, donated land to the city in East Knoxville for construction of a public park, including a ball field, which became known as Caswell Park. Caswell was one of the original longtime fans of the game, having participated in what may have been the first game of baseball played in Tennessee – an 1865 contest between the Holstons, Caswell’s team, composed of former Confederate soldiers, and the Knoxvilles, composed of former Union soldiers.

Home Plate, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Ball Field at 633 Jessamine Street, Formerly Caswell Field, Smithson Stadium, and Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Professional baseball was first played at 633 Jessamine Street in 1921, when the Appalachian League Knoxville Pioneers called Caswell Field home. In 1925, Knoxville changed leagues and names, joining the South Atlantic League as the Knoxville Smokies, in honor of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. Knoxville did not field a team in 1930, and shared a Southern Association team with Mobile in 1931 (playing their games in Mobile, Alabama).

Former Site of Caswell Field, Smithson Field, and Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Former Site of Caswell Field, Smithson Stadium, and Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

In 1932, Caswell Field was replaced with a new ballpark, Smithson Stadium, named in honor of the Knoxville City Councilman W.N. Smithson who spearheaded a drive to bring professional baseball back to the city.  The Southern Association Knoxville Smokies returned that same year, playing their home games at Smithson Park. In 1946, the Smokies joined the Tri State League and in 1953 played in the Mountain States League.

Memorial Garden, Former Site of Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Memorial Garden, Former Site of Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

In 1953 Smithson Stadium was demolished by a fire and the city constructed a new ballpark, Municipal Stadium, on the site. In 1954 the Smokies rejoined the Tri-State League for one season, playing at new Municipal Stadium. Knoxville did not have a professional team in 1955, but half way through the 1956 season the South Atlantic League Montgomery Rebels moved to Knoxville.

Bill Meyer Stadium Postcard

Bill Meyer Stadium Postcard

In 1957, Municipal Stadium was renamed Bill Meyer Stadium in honor of Knoxville native and former major league player and manager William Adam Meyer. In 1964, the Smokies joined the Southern League, where they have played ever since. In 1972 the team changed its name to the Knoxville Sox and in 1980, the Knoxville Blue Jays. In 1993, the team changed its name back to the Knoxville Smokies.

Plaque Honoring Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Plaque Honoring Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Professional baseball departed Bill Meyer Stadium after the 1999 season. In 2003 the stadium was demolished and in 2008 the ball field was renamed “Ridley-Helton Ballfield.” Neal Ridley was a former owner of the Knoxville Smokies and was largely responsible for keeping minor league baseball in Knoxville in the 1950s. Todd Helton is a Knoxville native and former Major League player who provided funds to renovate the ball field.

Plaque Honoring RIdley/Helton Ballfield at Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Plaque Honoring Neal Ridley and Todd Helton at Former Site of Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Although the Bill Meyer Stadium structure is long gone, the field remains, as well as modest bleachers and covered dugouts.

Fence Surrounding Infield, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

First Base Foul Line and Dugout, Ridley-Helton Field, Knoxville, Tennessee

The stadium grandstand behind home plate once sat in what is now an extension of Jessamine Street, which runs behind home plate and a memorial park.

Former Location of Third Base Grandstand, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Former Location of Third Base Grandstand, Bill Meyer Stadium, Now Ridley-Helton Field, Knoxville, Tennessee

A metal storage shed remains on the site from the time of Bill Meyer Stadium, still painted Knoxville Smokies blue.

Storage Shed Remaining At Site Next to Former Terminus of Third Base Grandstand

Storage Shed Remaining At Site Next to Former Terminus of Third Base Grandstand

Out beyond left field is the former Standard Knitting Mills Building. The building has loomed large over the outfield wall since its construction in the mid 1940’s.

Standard Knitting Mills Building Out Beyond Left Field, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Standard Knitting Mills Building Out Beyond Left Field at Ridley-Helton Field, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Detail of Standard Knitting Mills Building, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Detail of Standard Knitting Mills Building, Knoxville, Tennessee

Several light stanchions original to Bill Meyer Stadium remain at the site as well.

Light Stanchion, Memorial Garden, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Light Stanchion, Ridley-Helton Field, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Today Ridley-Helton Field continues to host youth and high school baseball, helping insure that baseball will continue to be played into the field’s second century.

RIght Field Line, Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Right Field Line, Ridley-Helton Field, Formerly Bill Meyer Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

In 2000, the Knoxville Smokies moved 20 miles east to a new ballpark, Smokies Park, located in Kodak, Tennessee. Having departed Knoxville, the team changed its name to the Tennessee Smokies.

Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee, Home of the Tennessee Smokies

Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee, Home of the Tennessee Smokies

Smokies Park also serves as a visitor center for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smokies Park and Smoky Mountain Visitors Center, Kodak, Tennessee

Smokies Park and Smoky Mountain Visitors Center, Kodak, Tennessee

Out beyond right field are four wood stadium seats from Bill Meyer Stadium, painted Knoxville Smokies blue.

Seats from Bill Meyer Stadium, Located Beyond Left Field Wall, Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

Seats from Bill Meyer Stadium, Located Beyond Left Field Wall, Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

Smokies Park is a fine minor league facility and a great place to watch a game of baseball. However, it has another 85 years before it can match the nearly 100 years of baseball that has been played at the Smokies former home in Knoxville.

Chicago Cubs Prospect Kris Bryant at Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

Chicago Cubs Prospect Kris Bryant at Smokies Stadium, Kodak, Tennessee

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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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J.P. Small Memorial Park – Jacksonville’s Oldest Ballfield

September 13th, 2013

Baseball has been played at 1701 Myrtle Avenue in Jacksonville, Florida, since 1912. Currently known as J.P. Small Memorial Park, the ball field has been the site of major league spring training, minor league games, Negro League games, and countless high school and college contests, as well as high school and college football.

J.P. Small Park, Jacksonville, Florida

From 1912 until 1926 it was known as Barrs Field, named in honor of local businessman Amander Barrs who spearheaded construction of the field. The first professional game played on that field was held on April 18, 1912, with the Jacksonville Tarpons defeating the Savannah Indians 4-1. To put that in perspective, the RMS Titanic sank just three days earlier on April 14-15 1912, and the Boston Redsox played their first professional game at Fenway Park just five days later, defeating the New York Highlanders 7-6 on April 20, 1912.

J.P. Small Park – Baseball Has Been Played On This Field Since 1911

In 1915 and 1916 it was the spring training home for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The Pittsburgh Pirates trained at Barrs Field in 1918 and the Brooklyn Dodgers trained there in 1919, 1920, and 1922.

Philadelphia Athletics Train at Barrs Field in 1916 (J.P. Smalls Park Negro League Museum)

In 1926 the field came under the ownership of the City of Jacksonville and the name of the ballpark was changed to Joseph H. Durkee Athletic Field.The original grandstand was constructed of wood, which was destroyed by a fire in 1934.

Grandstand at J.P. Smalls Parkk

The current grandstand was constructed in 1935. An exhibition celebrating the remodeled stadium was played in March 1935 between the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Giants.

J.P. Small Park Grandstand Constructed in 1935

In 1937 the city added an additional section to the grandstand along the third base side.

1937 Addition to Grandstand at J.P. Small Park

The minor league Jacksonville Tarpons played at Barrs Field, from the ballpark’s inaugural game in April 1912, through the 1917 season. The Jacksonville Scouts (later called the Indians) of the Florida State League played at Barrs Field in the early 1920s. Football also was played at Barrs Field, which for a time hosted University of Florida football games, including the very first game ever between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, on November 6, 1915.

Original 1935 Grandstand As Seen From 7th Street

In 1926 the Southern League Jacksonville Tars began play at newly renamed Durkee Field with future Hall of Famer Rube Marquard as their manager. The 1927 New York Yankees, featuring rs Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig also played at Durkee Field. On April 1st of that year the Yankees played a spring exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals, in which Ruth hit a ball into the overflow crowd in right field, for a ground rule double.

Field Entrance to 1937 Grandstand Addition

The Southern Negro League Jacksonville Red Caps (owned by the Jacksonville Terminal Station, hence the name) also played their home games at Barr Field, later Durkee Field. In 1938 the Red Caps attained major league status joining Negro American League and played at Durkee Field for one season before relocating to Cleveland. The Red Caps returned to Jacksonville for the 1941 and 1942 seasons.

Historic 1937 Dugout With Entrance to Clubhouse

In 1938 the Jacksonville Tars were a farm team for the New York Giants. In 1952 they became a farm team for the Milwaukee Braves, changing their name to the Jacksonville Braves.

Entrance to the Third Base Side Dugout (now boarded up)

In 1953 the Braves added Hank Aaron to their roster, becoming one of two teams to break the color line in the South Atlantic League.

Stairway From Third Base Dugout To Locker Room

The last year of professional play at Durkee Field was 1954. In 1955, the Jacksonville Braves moved to a newly constructed ballpark later renamed in honor of their owner Samuel Wolfson. Jacksonville’s minor league team played at Wolfson Park through the 2002 season. In 2003 they moved to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, constructed on the former site of Wolfson Park.

Bragan Field, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville

In 1980 the City of Jacksonville renovated the ballpark and renamed it in honor of James P. Small, a longtime baseball coach at Stanton High School in Jacksonville.

Ticket Booths With Plaque Commemorating J.P. Small Memorial Park

J.P. Small Park also includes a Negro League Museum with information about the ballpark and the teams that played there.

Negro League Museum Display, J.P. Small Park

The museum also honors J.P. Small and his many years working with the youth of Jacksonville.

Museum Display Honoring J.P. Small

Installed in 2006, outside the ballpark is a statue of Buck O’Neil, honoring the historical significance of J.P. Small Park to the history of Negro League baseball.

Buck O’Neil Statute Outside J.P. Small Park

J.P. Small Park is currently the home of the Stanton College Preparatory School baseball team. The caretaker of the park, a wonderful man named Russell, was kind enough to give us a tour of the entire ballpark on our visit.

Locker Room, J.P. Small Park, With Russell, the Caretaker Of The Ballpark

J.P. Small Park is a baseball time capsule. Its rich history and its beautiful preservation make it a must-see for anyone who appreciates old ballparks. For more information about the history of the park be sure to read the National Register of Historic Places Application issued by the National Park Service, placing J.P. Smalls Stadium on the Historic Register.

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