Back by popular demand from Memphis historians and collectors everywhere, is another one of AutoZone Park’s Nostalgia Nights. The first 1,500 fans to arrive at AZP for Wednesday June 24th’s Redbirds game against the Omaha Royals will receive a Martin Stadium miniature replica.
Martin Stadium was the home of the Memphis Red Sox, Memphis’ Negro League team from 1920 to the late 1950s. The stadium was built in the mid-’30s and was named after the owner and real estate investor, Dr. W.S. Martin, who purchased the club in 1932. Located on Wellington and Crump, what is now Danny Thomas and Crump, Martin Stadium had an original capacity of 3,000. Renovations to the stadium eventually allowed it to seat 7,000.
Most Negro League teams played in white teams parks when the white teams were on the road, however Martin Stadium was one of the few parks owned primarily for a Negro League team. With segregation still very prominent, Martin Stadium was one place the black community could comfortably gather and socialize without racial restrictions. The stadium had dormitories for their players that were located under the left field seats.
In their near 40-year existence, the Memphis Red Sox captured one championship in 1938. Of the many men that came through Memphis’ Negro League team, four of them went on to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The most recognizable pair are pitcher Satchel Paige and outfielder James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell. The other two are Willie Wells and Turkey Stearns.
The Negro Leagues began to diminish after Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Most of the teams’ better players found jobs with Major League clubs. All of the Negro Leagues soon disbanded; Memphis’ Red Sox lasted until the late 1950s.
Former Red Sox players Bill Little, Joe B. Scott and Lonnie Harris will be in attendance Wednesday and will be signing autographs in the Entry Plaza before the game. Gates open at 6:00 P.M.