Ban Johnson Park

Ban Johnson Park was a baseball stadium located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, within the Whittington Park Historic District, a "tree-shaded greenway" that is located along Whittington Creek, which runs down the center island of Whittington Avenue.[4][5] The location of the ballpark was across from the still active Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo (built 1902).[6]

Originally known as Whittington Park, the field served as a training site for many Major League Baseball teams, by hosting spring training games and serving as home for minor league teams. In 1918, Babe Ruth hit a 573-foot home run at the park, while a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. The park was also home to the ever first Umpire School. In 1935, Ray Doan, the operator of a youth instructional camp at Whittington Park, renamed the park after Hall of Fame baseball pioneer Ban Johnson, founder of the American League.[7][8]

Ban Johnson Park
Whittington Park, "McKee Park" (1921-23)[1]
Ban Johnson HOF plaque
Ban Johnson HOF plaque
Former namesWhittington Park (1894–1935)
Location870 Whittington Ave
Hot Springs, Arkansas
United States
Coordinates34°0.952′N 93°04.458′W / 34.015867°N 93.074300°WCoordinates: 34°0.952′N 93°04.458′W / 34.015867°N 93.074300°W[2]
OwnerWeyerhauser Company (current)
Capacity1,400 (1913), 2,000 (1939)
Field size260 RF; 400 CF; 340 LF
SurfaceGrass
Construction
Broke ground1894
Opened1894
Renovated1910, 1930, 1936, 1938
Expanded1910, 1930, 1938
Closed1947
Demolishedc. 1947
Tenants
Spring training
Cleveland Spiders (NL) (1896,1898–1899)
Chicago Cubs (NL) (1896)
St. Louis Cardinals (NL) (1900)
Pittsburgh Pirates (NL) (1896, 1901–1916, 1926)
Detroit Tigers (AL) (1908)
New York Yankees (AL) (1908)
Brooklyn Dodgers (NL) (1910-12, 1917–1918)
Boston Red Sox (AL) (1920–1923)
Minor League Baseball
Hot Springs Vapors (1906)
Hot Springs Vaporites (1908-09)
Hot Springs Bathers (CSL) (1938-41)
'Baseball Schools
Ray Doan Baseball School (1933–1938)
George Barr Umpire School (1935–1938)
[3]

History

Early baseball in Hot Springs

Beginning with the spring of 1886, when the Chicago White Stockings' (today's Chicago Cubs) President Albert Spalding, the founder of A.G Spalding, and player/manager Cap Anson brought their players to Hot Springs, Arkansas. The concept was for the players to have training and fitness before the start of the regular season. This move gave credit to Hot Springs being called the "birthplace of spring training baseball". Both Spalding and Anson, liked the city and the natural springs for their players. They first played in an area behind what is now the Garland County Courthouse on Ouachita Avenue and was called the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds. Many other teams followed and began training in Hot Springs Springs[9]

In 1894 Whittington Park opened as a replacement for the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds. Along with Majestic Park, built in 1909, and nearby Fogel Field, built in 1912, Hot Springs developed training venues to meet the demand for Major League teams.[10][11] Later, another venue, Sam Guinn Field was built in 1933 at 497 Crescent Avenue to host Negro League spring training.[12][13]

The original playing field was estimated to be between 500–600 feet to center field. In 1910, the original grandstand was demolished and home plate moved, giving the field shorter dimensions. In 1938, the right field fence was heightened by 15-feet because right field distance was only 260 feet.[6]

Over 130 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame players, including Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial and Satchel Paige were involved in training or spring training games at Whittington Park.[14] The park was also utilized by the House of David teams, and for baseball schools. The bearded House of David traveling baseball team used Whittington Field and Hot Springs for their training site.[15][16][17] Major League teams training at Whittington Park between 1896 and 1926 were the Cleveland Spiders, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.[8]

Babe Ruth's Historic Alligator Farm Home Run

Picturesque Hot Springs Alligator Farm 1924
Hot Springs Alligator Farm, 1924

St. Patrick's Day, 1918, is nicknamed the "Day that changed Baseball Forever".[11] On that day, Babe Ruth hit a long Home Run into the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo. The story goes that on March 17, 1918, Babe Ruth, then an accomplished 23-year-old Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher, altered the course of baseball history. Red Sox first baseman Dick Hoblitzel was unable to play in the opening exhibition game against Brooklyn at Whittington Park. Ruth (coming off a 24-13 season) was a last minute replacement at first base, his first time at a position other than pitcher.

Ruth would hit two long home runs that day while playing the field for the first time. His first home run was a long blast that landed in a wood pile. However, his second Home run is legendary in its record setting length and eventual effect on Ruth. It was a grand slam, a shot that traveled an astonishing estimated 573 feet,[18][19] sailing out of the park, across the entire span of Whittington Avenue, landing in a pond the alligator farm across the street. Even the Dodgers stood and cheered. Amazingly, Ruth would prove it was no fluke as he hit another home run into the alligator farm a week later, while pitching for the Red Sox.[20]

On March 15, 2011 an event was held to recognize and celebrate the famous Ruth home run at the site.[20] Bill Jenkinson, a noted baseball historian was part of the event, visited the site and helped to authenticate the 573-foot home run.[21] About the home run distance, Jenkins said, "No one can confirm it with complete certainty, but the data points in that direction. As an historian I must remain objective, and I am simply stating that, either way, what Ruth did that day was literally amazing."[20]

Ruth's performance that day at Whittington Park led to a change in Ruth's career and a major change in baseball history. As a result of his hitting, the Red Sox began rethinking Ruth's dual abilities during and after 1918. To begin, Ruth would alternate in the 1918 season, pitching less and playing the field often. His dual abilities helped lead the Red Sox to the 1918 World Series Championship. Hitting more regularly in 1918, Ruth hit a league leading 11 home runs to go with a 13-7 record (and two wins in the Series).[22] Eventually Ruth stopped pitching and became a hitter, with results of legend that exploded after his 1920 sale to the New York Yankees: Lifetime, .342 average; 714 Home Runs; 2062 RBI'S; 2174 Runs Scored; 1.164 OPS.[14][20][22][23][24]

Wagner donates uniforms

The Pittsburgh Pirates trained for over a decade at Whittington Park. Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner became a fixture in the city. As evidence of this Wagner purchased and donated basketball uniforms and equipment to Hot Springs High School in 1912. The uniforms were in the Pittsburgh Pirates colors of black and gold and subsequently the high school switched permanently to those colors. Wagner also refereed a basketball game for the school that season, something he would later repeat.[25]

Honus Wagner 1911 batting
Honus Wagner 1911 batting

Minor league baseball

Along with hosting eight Major League teams, Whittington Park also was home to the minor league Hot Springs Vapors, Hot Springs Vaporites and Hot Springs Bathers.[26]

Baseball Schools

Babe Ruth Red Sox 1918
Babe Ruth Red Sox, 1918. In spring training 1918 Pitcher Babe Ruth hit a ball 573-feet. The ball landed in the alligator farm across the street from Whittington Park

From 1933–1938, Ray L. Doan operated the "All-Star Baseball School" at the park.[27] The "school" attracted thousands of younger players, with 1938 topping at 450 attendees. Instructors included: Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Red Faber, Dizzy Dean, George Sisler, Bob Feller, Tris Speaker and Burleigh Grimes. Attendees included legendary female athlete Babe Didrickson, who attended in 1934, after already being an Olympic Gold Medalist in the 1932 Summer Olympic Games.[28] Future Major League player Sam Narron also enrolled. In 1936, Doan installed lights at the park to begin night usage and games.[11][29]

Boston Red Sox players in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for Spring Training
Boston Red Sox players in Hot Springs, Arkansas for spring training, left to right: Olaf Hendrikson, Larry Gardner, Buck O'Brien, Heinie Wagner, Steve Yerkes and Hugh Bradley boarding train

To coincide with Doan's "baseball School", Major League Umpire George Barr operated his George Barr Umpire School, which is recognized as the first ever umpire instructional school. Future Major League Umpires Bill McKinley and Scotty Robb were attendees.[30]

In 1939, Hornsby took over for Doan and started the Rogers Hornsby Baseball College. Hornsby's operation was housed at Majestic Field, but utilized Whittington Park and other fields in Hot Springs, including Whittington Park and Fogel Field, which was located behind the Alligator Farm. Hornsby's college operated until 1952. Hornsby's "college" would attract 100-200 prospective professionals, with scouts present, for six week sessions. Hornsby had legendary instructors: Cy Young, Jimmie Foxx, Tris Speaker and Schoolboy Rowe.[8][31]

End of the Ball Field

After World War II halted many baseball leagues, the Bathers were gone and Major League teams had moved to warmer climates for spring training. In 1942, the St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates outlined plans to move their spring training from California to Ban Johnson Park.[32] However those plans never materialized and the future use of Ban Johnson Field was affected. In 1947, with no baseball tenants, the ‘Whittington Park Speedway’ racetrack began operation on the site. To replace Ban Johnson Field, Jaycee Park was built at the Majestic Field site on the corner of Belding Avenue and Carson Street. Later, from 1948–1951, the Chicago White Sox would return Spring training to Hot Springs, utilizing Jaycee Field as their training site.[8][33]

Today

"Baseball Trail Park" at 1201 Whittington Ave. is part of the City of Hot Springs Park System. It is named in tribute to the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail and the ball fields that once existed nearby: Sam Guinn Field, Whittington Park and Fogel Field.[34]

Today, the Ban Johnson Park site is an asphalt parking lot for the Weyerhaeuser Company. There is a home plate marker in the parking lot.[35] A section of cement bleachers remains visible in the adjacent hillside. The cement bleachers on the side of the hill was a fan section called the "Wolves Den". The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo is still across the street with a marker for the landing spot of Ruth's St. Patrick's Day Home Run.[19][36][37] Artifacts related to Ban Johnson Park are on display at the Hot Springs Baseball Museum.

The First Boys of Spring Documentary

Whittington Park and Ruth's home run are featured prominently in the Documentary The First Boys of Spring (2015). Produced by Larry Foley, the documentary on Hot Springs spring training is narrated by actor Billy Bob Thornton, a Hot Springs area native.[38][39][40] The documentary began airing nationally on the MLB Network in February, 2016.[41]

Historic markers

Today, there are four plaques at the site as part of the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail: Whittington Park, Mel Ott, Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth.

The Whittington Park marker reads:

The Mel Ott plaque reads as follows:

The plaque for Honus Wagner states:

The plaque for Babe Ruth says the following:

References

  1. ^ "Dodgers Rise Up to Smite Yankees". The New York Times. March 26, 1921. p. 12.
  2. ^ "Whittington Park Hot Springs, AR". Arkansas Historical Markers. Waymaking.com. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  3. ^ "Spring Training in Hot Springs by Year". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  4. ^ "Whittington Park Historic District". The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  5. ^ "Whittington Park". National Park Service. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Ban Johnson Field". Baseball in Arkansas Project. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  7. ^ "Johnson, Ban – Baseball Hall of Fame". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d "Ban Johnson Field". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  9. ^ "Major League Spring Training in Hot Springs". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  10. ^ "Ban Johnson Park-Whittington Park/Majestic Park/Fogel Field". Digital Ballpark. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c "Untold Stories". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "Sam Guinn Stadium". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  13. ^ "Sam Guinn Field". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail.
  14. ^ a b "Historic Baseball Trail Documenting Hot Springs as Birthplace of Spring Baseball Will Open on March 29; 45 Percent of Hall of Fame, Other Legendary Players Included". Yahoo News. March 26, 2012.
  15. ^ "House of David Baseball Team c. 1930". Flickr. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  16. ^ Doster, Adam (March 19, 2012). "The Beards of Summer". The Classical.
  17. ^ "The House of David Team Research Project". Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  18. ^ "From a Fan: Rare Photos of Babe Ruth in Hot Springs". Babe Ruth Central. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  19. ^ a b Bailey, Budd (October 27, 2014). "Hot Springs, Arkansas: Babe Ruth's Home Run". Road Trips!.
  20. ^ a b c d "Hot Springs Baseball". Bill Jenkins Baseball. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  21. ^ Nelson, Rex (March 12, 2014). "Hot Springs Baseball". Sporting Life Arkansas.
  22. ^ a b "Babe Ruth". Baseball Reference. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  23. ^ Jenkinson, Bill (March 21, 2012). "The Day That Changed Baseball Forever".
  24. ^ "Home Run That Changed Baseball". Roadside America. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  25. ^ "Honus Wagner". Hot Springs Baseball Tour. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  26. ^ "Ban Johnson Park Minor League History". Baseball-Reference.com.
  27. ^ Lent, Cassidy. "School Days in Arkansas". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  28. ^ "Babe Didrikson". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  29. ^ "Ray Doan Baseball School". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  30. ^ "George Barr Umpire School". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  31. ^ "Rogers Hornsby". Hot Springs Baseball Tour. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  32. ^ Farrington, Dick (May 8, 2012). "Browns A Spring Training Favorite". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail.
  33. ^ "Jaycee Park". Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  34. ^ "Baseball Trail Park". City of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  35. ^ "Site of Ban Johnson Field / Whittington Park, Hot Springs, AR". Flickr. November 2014. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  36. ^ "Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo". Hot Springs, Arkansas. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  37. ^ "Home Page". Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  38. ^ "Boys of Spring". Arkansas Life. October 2015.
  39. ^ "Home Page". First Boys of Spring. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  40. ^ Nelson, Rex (March 28, 2014). "Rex Nelson: Larry Foley Digs into 'First Boys of Spring'". Sporting Life Arkansas.
  41. ^ Newman, Mark (February 12, 2016). "7 reasons to watch 'First Boys of Spring'". MLB Network.
  42. ^ "Whittington Park". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  43. ^ "Mel Ott". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  44. ^ "Honus Wagner". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  45. ^ "Babe Ruth". Hot Springs Arkansas Baseball Trail. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. The team plays its home games at Wrigley Field, located on the city's North Side. The Cubs are one of two major league teams in Chicago; the other, the Chicago White Sox, is a member of the American League (AL) Central division. The Cubs, first known as the White Stockings, were a founding member of the NL in 1876, becoming the Chicago Cubs in 1903.The Cubs have appeared in a total of eleven World Series. The 1906 Cubs won 116 games, finishing 116–36 and posting a modern-era record winning percentage of .763, before losing the World Series to the Chicago White Sox ("The Hitless Wonders") by four games to two. The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first major league team to play in three consecutive World Series, and the first to win it twice. Most recently, the Cubs won the 2016 National League Championship Series and 2016 World Series, which ended a 71-year National League pennant drought and a 108-year World Series championship drought, both of which are record droughts in Major League Baseball. The 108-year drought was also the longest such occurrence in all major North American sports. Since the start of divisional play in 1969, the Cubs have appeared in the postseason ten times through the 2018 season.The Cubs are known as "the North Siders", a reference to the location of Wrigley Field within the city of Chicago, and in contrast to the White Sox, whose home field (Guaranteed Rate Field) is located on the South Side.

The Cubs have multiple rivalries. There is a divisional rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals, a newer rivalry with the Milwaukee Brewers and an interleague rivalry with the Chicago White Sox.

Fogel Field

Fogel Field was a baseball stadium, located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The site was also known as Fordyce Field and Holder Field. Fogel Field was built in 1912 as a spring training site for Major League Baseball teams. The field was named for Horace Fogel, President of the Philadelphia Phillies. Fogel Field hosted the Phillies (1912) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1921–1923, 1926). The Kansas City Monarchs (1928), Homestead Grays (1930–1931) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-1935) of Negro League Baseball also used Fogel Field as their spring training.

Several minor league teams from the American Association used Fogel Field as well: Indianapolis Indians (1926–1927), Milwaukee Brewers (1927–1931) and St. Paul Saints (1934–1935) . The Montreal Royals of the International League (1932) trained at Fogel Field.

Hot Springs Bathers

The Hot Springs Bathers were a Cotton States League baseball team based in Hot Springs, Arkansas, United States, that played from 1938 to 1941 and from 1947 to 1955. In 1938, they were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. In 1939 and 1940, they were affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. From 1948 to 1951, they were affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. They were affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 and the Kansas City Athletics in 1955. From 1938 to 1941, they played at Whittington Park/Ban Johnson Park, and from 1947 to 1955 they played at Bathers Field/Jaycee Park/Majestic Park.

In 1953, the Cotton States League attempted to evict the Bathers from the league because they signed and planned to play two African-American baseball players, brothers Jim and Leander Tugerson. The eviction was not permanent, however the brothers were never able to play in any regular season games for the team.

The franchise made a misguided return to the spotlight in the One Nation Under Balboni League. This revival has been highlighted by an almost mathematically impossible 1-17 record vs the Asheville Moonshiners over an 8 year period.

List of Major League Baseball spring training ballparks

The following is a list of current and former Major League Baseball spring training ballparks.

Majestic Park

Majestic Park (1908–18) was one of the first Major League Baseball spring training facilities and was located at the corner of Belding Street and Carson Street in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Today the site is still in use by Champion Christian College.

First built by the Detroit Tigers as a practice field in 1908, Majestic Park was the spring training site of the Boston Red Sox and their star pitcher Babe Ruth (1909–10, 1912–18), Cincinnati Reds (1910–11), Brooklyn Dodgers (1910) and St. Louis Browns (1911). The location later became the site of Dean Field (1935–47)/Jaycee Park (1947–present). Dean Field also served as home to the Rogers Hornsby Baseball College.

The Hot Springs Bathers minor league team and the Chicago White Sox (1948–51) minor league Spring Training were held at Jaycee Park. Jaycee Park hosted the 1952 Negro League World Series and a 1953 exhibition game featuring Jackie Robinson. The site can claim games featuring both All-time Home Run record holders, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron as among those who have played at the site. In 1914, Babe Ruth was just beginning his career (as a dominant left-handed pitcher) for the Red Sox, while a young Aaron played in the 1952 Negro League World Series.Today, the site has four historical plaques, as part of the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail. Majestic Field, Rogers Hornsby, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron each have historical plaques on the site.

Along with Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, others who performed at the site include Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Jimmie Foxx, Gil Hodges, Harry Hooper, Cy Young, Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Herb Pennock, Tris Speaker, and Walter Johnson. The Sporting News (1998) ranking of the greatest players ever listed: Babe Ruth (1), Ty Cobb (3), Walter Johnson (4), Hank Aaron (5) and Rogers Hornsby (9).

Rogers Hornsby

Rogers Hornsby, Sr. (April 27, 1896 – January 5, 1963), nicknamed "The Rajah", was an American baseball infielder, manager, and coach who played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1915–1926, 1933), New York Giants (1927), Boston Braves (1928), Chicago Cubs (1929–1932), and St. Louis Browns (1933–1937). He was named the National League (NL)'s Most Valuable Player (MVP) twice, and was a member of one World Series championship team.

Born and raised in Winters, Texas, Hornsby played for several semi-professional and minor league teams. In 1915, he began his major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals and remained with the team for 12 seasons. During this period, Hornsby won his first MVP Award and the Cardinals won the 1926 World Series. After that season, he spent one season with the New York Giants and another with the Boston Braves before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He played with the Cubs for four years and won his second MVP Award before the team released him in 1932. Hornsby re-signed with the Cardinals in 1933, but was released partway through the season and was picked up by the St. Louis Browns. He remained there until his final season in 1937. From 1925 to 1937, Hornsby was intermittently his own manager. After retiring as a player, he managed the Browns in 1952 and the Cincinnati Reds from 1952 to 1953.

Hornsby is regarded as one of the best hitters of all time. He had 2,930 hits and 301 home runs in his career; his career batting average of .358 is second only to Ty Cobb, at .367, in MLB history. He also won two Triple Crowns and batted .400 or more three times during his career. He is the only player to hit 40 home runs and bat .400 in the same year (1922). His batting average for the 1924 season was .424, a mark that no player has matched since. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942 and the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.

Hornsby married three times, in 1918, 1924, and 1957, and had two children.

Known as someone who was difficult to get along with, he was not well liked by his fellow players. He never smoked, drank, or went to the movies, but frequently gambled on horse races during his career.

Spring training

In Major League Baseball (MLB), spring training is a series of practices and exhibition games preceding the start of the regular season. Spring training allows new players to try out for roster and position spots, and gives established players practice time prior to competitive play. Spring training has always attracted fan attention, drawing crowds who travel to the warm climates of Arizona and Florida to enjoy the weather and watch their favorite teams play, and spring training usually coincides with spring break for many US college students.

Spring training typically starts in mid-February and continues until just before Opening Day of the regular season, which falls in the last week of March. In some years, teams not scheduled to play on Opening Day will play spring training games that day. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training first because pitchers benefit from a longer training period. A few days later, position players arrive and team practice begins. Exhibition games usually begin in late February.

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