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Hot Springs Baseball Grounds

Hot Springs Baseball Grounds was a baseball park in Hot Springs, AR and was the home field of the Hot Springs Base Ball Association and the Hot Springs Blues. In addition, it was used as a major league spring training site from 1886-1893.

History

"Hot Springs Baseball Grounds" is the title given to the location that hosted baseball games in Hot Springs prior to the erection of Whittington Park in 1894. The title was given by modern historians and was not original to the grounds, which had no known specific designation.

Present-day grounds of the Garland County Courthouse.
Present-day grounds of the Garland County Courthouse.
Evidence suggests that the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds were located at the approximate current day site of the Garland County Courthouse on Ouachita Avenue in Hot Springs. In his book The American Spa, author Dee Brown notes that during the early years of baseball spring training in Hot Springs, "a makeshift field stood near where the Garland County Court House stands today."1 This location is supported by an ad that appeared in the Hot Springs Daily News on June 24th, 1891, mentioning that I.B. Albaugh's business residence, located near the site of the present courthouse, was "Beyond Base Ball Park."2 Furthermore, a piece appearing in the Arkansas Gazette on a February 2, 1905 discussed the site of the then-proposed courthouse as a location formerly used as a spring training baseball park.3

It's not clear when the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds were built. Hot Springs was first used as a spring training camp by the Chicago White Stockings in the spring of 1886, and though the location of the team's original training grounds is not entirely certain, it is assumed that they used the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds. In June of that same year, the Hot Springs Base Ball Association erected an enclosed baseball park, complete with a grandstand and dressing room, on the site of the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds.45 The following spring, Chicago utilized the baseball association's new ballpark when the team returned to prepare for the 1887 season.6 With no known mention of a new baseball park built in Hot Springs until Whittington Park in 1894, it is assumed that the grounds of the baseball association were the primary grounds used for spring training during the next several years.

Spring Training Camps

The following is a list of spring training camps believed to be held at the Hot Springs Baseball Grounds.



Excerpts

"The court house will be erected on Ouachita Avenue on the old baseball park site."7

"We learn that the work of fencing and improving the [Hot Springs] base-ball grounds will be commenced this week, and will be pushed to rapid completion."8

"The [Hot Springs Base Ball Association] committee on grounds reported work on fencing and grading will be commenced Monday."9

"The preparing and grading of the grounds of the Base Ball association was finished Friday, and the fence will be up in a few days. The fence is on a new and novel principle, requiring no nails or iron in its construction, and can be taken down and packed away in a very short time. The fence will be ten feet high, enclosing grounds 350 feet wide and 500 feet long. Inside the inclosure [sic] will be erected a grand stand capable of seating 500 persons, with dressing and exercise rooms underneath for the members and their friends, and store-rooms with different outfits of the teams. In fact, the whole arrangements, when consummated, will compare favorable with any in the southern country . . . The fence around the ball grounds will be completed next Thursday, so we are informed by Mr. S. Schultice, who has the contract."4

"The fence around the [Hot Springs] base-ball grounds is now completed. A heavy roller will be run over the grounds and everything done to put the grounds in the best possible condition for Monday's game. The grand stand, however, will not be completed but plenty of chairs, seats and benches will be provided for all present."10

"During the absence of our home nine [Hot Springs] the ball park will be enlarged and a grand stand erected . . . "11

"Col. Fordyce, president of the street railroad, while in the city gave orders for the extension of the line on Ouachita Avenue to a point opposite the base ball park. The line will also be further extended on Malvern avenue. Work will be commenced at once."5

"The street railroad will be extended to the ball park . . . Your correspondent took a run to the baseball park this afternoon to see the local and visiting players practice. The directors of the club have enlarged the grounds and are putting in a new diamond. The fence around the ballpark is well put up and there is a large force cleaning the grounds of small stones and rubbish. The Superintendent of the grounds consulted Dave Foutz of the Browns today as to his opinion of the grounds. Dave gave him his opinion . . ."6

"Garland county will have perhaps the handsomest court house at Hot Springs in the state within the next two years, according to information received here. The cost of the building, together with a new jail, is not to exceed $140,000. It will be paid for at the rate of $10,000 per year, the contractor agreeing not to put the scrip on the market. The site, on Ouachita avenue is historic from the fact that there, nearly twenty years ago, the original "Tip" O'Neill batted one of Clarkson's curves into the tall timber south of the place, which was then a ball park. "Tip" was a member of the famous St. Louis Browns and was one of the coterie of ballplayers antsseasoning [sic] at the Springs. "Pop" Anson, Mark Baldwin, Bobby Caruthers, Dave Foutz and others of the old time stars were there, and they were wont to "choose sides" and indulge in practice games. The day on which O'Neill, the in the heydey of his prowess as a willow-wielder, lost the ball there was a good sized assemblage of the youth of Hot Springs. They are now, most of them, grow-up citizens of the Vapor City, and the ball-losing incident occurred about twenty years ago. Yet there isn't one of them, according to the opinion of a man from Hot Springs, who was talking in Gleason's lobby yesterday, that could not today walk to the old ball park and enter into an elaborate explanation of how the ball came in contact with O'Neill's bat and took its flight into the then wilderness. "Where Tip O'Neill knocked a home run in 1887" was the inscription upon a board at the home plate years ago, but it has long since disappeared. In a year or two from now the spot will be hidden by a marble court house, said the Hot Springs man yesterday, but even then a person can stand in an upper story window and, peering far into space with the aid of field glasses, mark out approximately the vicinity of the place where the ball from O'Neill's bat fell."3

" . . . a makeshift field stood near where the Garland County Court House stands today."1