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Sonny,

I have heard some talk about the baseball and softball diamonds that were at the Fairgrounds in the 50's and 60's and I thought I would put in my two cents worth.

As I recall, there several diamonds there over the years and they were numbered in the order that they were built. This could lead to some confusion later as diamonds were added and they were not renumbered. The smaller fields were used as baseball fields for Junior League baseball and for softball games at night under the lights while the two bigger parks were used for High School and American Legion games as well as Senior league play.

One of the better diamonds was named sunken gardens as it was on the site of a lake where boat rides were made during Fairs and Expositions long before I ever went there. In the far reaches of the left field area, there were 4 or 5 concrete long stretches of steps where I was told the boats were launched. This was in the area just North of the Women's Building. I played baseball there in the mid 50's and softball in a men's league in the mid 60's under the lights.

There were 2 other diamonds in that same general area and 3 more close together farther East on the back side of the Shelby County Building. In the Winter, we would play some basketball on the cement floors in the Shelby County Building in the 60's.

One diamond was next to the old stables that housed the Palomino horses ridden by the Shriners in parades. My wife's Grandfather managed that stable in the 50's, but I had not yet met Carol. Eventually, they tore down the stables and built the stadium for the Memphis Blues on that land and some of the other baseball diamonds nearby.

Farther East was a football field at one time and that is where I was seated next to Russ Vollmer's Dad when he passed away while Russ was playing a game for Fairview against Bellevue. Russ sat out a few minutes in the second quarter after he was told of the tragedy and then led Fairview back to a win in the second half. There were also a couple of softball fields in that general area. After the Coliseum and Liberty Bowl were built, the football field was rebuilt as a nice High School stadium , but all of the baseball and softball diamonds were lost to buildings, parking lots and for a while Libertyland. 

In the 50's, the Park Commission was the overseer of all of the baseball fields all over town that hosted various Church Leagues and assorted service club Leagues. At the end of the Summer, the Champion of each league would come to the Fairgrounds and play in a winner take all tournament to decide a City Champion. Modestly, I will tell you that I was lucky enough to play on teams that won that crown when I was 12, came in second when I was 13 and won it all again when I was 15. ( We stunk when I was 14 ).

My Father was a longtime employee of the Frisco Railroad and they donated the engine and coal car that stood at the entrance of the Fairgrounds for many years. Thomas Boggs' Dad worked for the IC Railroad during that same time. The IC owned the tracks that ran East and West close to Central Avenue and they allowed the Frisco to run that engine to an area about where the Spanish American War Memorial is now on Central almost to Parkway. Then they laid tracks in front and eased the engine and coal car up the street and took up the track and leapfrogged it onto the fairgrounds over a day or so. It was BIG deal in the day.

I also played a lot of basketball during our high school days in the old Casino Building near where the Fire Station is now. I never saw the old horse track that people talk about at the Fairgrounds, but I can still remember as a small child hearing the noise of what I was told was midget car racing in the area where the old horse track had been.

 

Those were the DAYS !!!!

MOUSE

 


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Tom Prestigiacomo on SUNNY 103 @prestotom