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.
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.
Exciting news for those of you who have a certain fascination with Memphis history and collectibles. The first 2,500 fans to May 29th’s Memphis Redbirds game against the Iowa Cubs will receive a Tim McCarver Stadium replica.
Erected in the early 1950s, Tim McCarver Stadium was originally built as a part of a multi-field complex on the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The park was unique with its grass outfield, turf infield and high-school-like fencing behind home plate. The small field gradually grew, adding a covered grandstand and press boxes, readying itself to be called the home of Memphis’ first professional baseball team since 1960. The Memphis Blues won their debut game at Tim McCarver Stadium on April 16, 1968 in front of a capacity crowd of 5,447.
Over the years, the park had been known as Fairgrounds #3, Blues Stadium and Chicks Park before donning the name of Memphis’ own baseball ambassador, Tim McCarver, in 1978.
McCarver’s baseball history stretches back to when he used to work the concession stands during Memphis Chicks baseball games. He played college ball for Christian Brothers University and later played for the Chicks in 1960, where he hit .347, a year after debuting in the majors for the Cardinals. At the conclusion of his 21-year major league career, McCarver took up broadcasting, which he still enjoys today alongside Joe Buck with FOX’s coverage of the MLB.
Tim McCarver Stadium was dismantled in the spring of 2005 and currently is a vacant grass lot. Though the stadium is gone, Memphis will always have the memories of the Blues winning the Texas League championship in 1969 and 1973, the Chicks winning the Southern League championship in 1990 and hosting the inaugural season of the Memphis Redbirds.
One of the most nationally-remembered moments in Chicks history can be found here. Go straight to page 48 for the full story. Interesting how AutoShack (AutoZone’s old moniker) is mentioned.