Russwood Park Lore
Thursday night, July 23 is AutoZone Park’s final Nostalgia Night of the season, honoring Russwood Park. The first 1,500 fans will receive a Russwood Park miniature replica. Gates will open at 6:00 P.M. for Nostalgia Night #3, sponsored by Campbell Clinic.
Located at 914 Madison Avenue, Russwood Park was a famous landmark to Memphis natives from 1901-1960. The park was built from 1898-99 and had an original capacity of about 2,800. After several additions the park eventually saw 10,000+ crowds. The park changed its name from Red Elm Park to Russwood in 1915 to honor new owner Russell E. Gardner.
In 1901, Memphis became a charter member in the Southern Association, bringing professional baseball back to Memphis after a brief five year hiatus. Russwood Park hosted its first game on May 5, 1901, where the Memphis Leaguers lost to the Little Rock Travelers.
A new and modern Russwood Park brought a league record 254,725 fans through the gates in 1921 to watch their Chicks go on to win the city’s first title since 1904. The Chicks brought five more titles to Memphis and Russwood Park in 1924, 1930, 1952 (above), 1953 and 1955 before the Southern Association disbanded in 1961.
On Easter Sunday, Russwood Park hosted its final game, a major league exhibition between between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland won the game before a crowd of 7,269 (above).
Later that night, the park was destroyed by fire believed to have started under the left field grandstand. In 2005, the Memphis Flyer’s Tom Walsh wrote a memorial piece on Russwood, where he recalled the wild events from the fire and the aftermath, saying the night became ‘the stuff of legend’. The Chicks practiced on the field the following day, but the park was never rebuilt.
Nostalgia Night #3 will also honor Memphis’ Southern Association team, the Memphis Turtles, by wearing retro ball caps. The Turtles were Memphis’ team from 1903-1914 and won back-to-back league championships in 1903-4. Hall of Fame first baseman Max Carey was a Turtle from 1907-09. The Turtles team named was dropped prior to the 1915 season, when Memphis adopted the Memphis Chickasaws moniker.
Related links: Elvis Performs at Russwood.