Tag Archives: Astrodome

Triple B Flashback: Orlando’s Historic Tinker Field Felled by Progress

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 5 on our countdown is a column from May 6, 2015.

After receiving a one year stay of execution, the appeals process for a historic ballpark in Orlando, FL. ran out last week and the grandstands of Tinker Field began to crumble in the name of progress.

Think of almost any baseball player from the 20th Century and odds are pretty good that they stepped foot on the infield grass of Tinker Field at one time or another.

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field. Photo R. Anderson

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field.
Photo R. Anderson

From Spring Training for Major League Baseball, to full seasons of Minor League Baseball, the quaint little ballpark in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl was a unique venue where a who’s who of baseball players played from 1923 to 1999.

The last professional affiliated baseball at Tinker Field occurred in 1999 with the Orlando Rays who were the Double-A farm team for the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Orlando Rays were the last of the Southern League teams to call Tinker Field home, they certainly weren’t the only ones.

The Orlando Twins, Orlando Cubs and Orlando Sun Rays were among the many teams to call Tinker Field home.

The Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) even spent a season playing on the hallowed field in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl.

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout. Photo R. Anderson

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout.
Photo R. Anderson

Eventually it was the shadowy neighbor looming over right field that signed Tinker Field’s death warrant.

While time and neglect certainly played a role in the demise of the nearly century old facility, it was a massive expansion of the Citrus Bowl that hastened the demise of Tinker Field.

The expansion of concourses crept into right field to the point that Tinker Field could no longer function as a professional baseball field due to an outfield depth that would make a Little Leaguer feel like Barry Bonds sending everything he hits over the fence.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.  Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

So, despite being declared a national historic site, the demolition of Tinker Field is in full swing with the goal of removing every trace of grandstand, bleacher and dugout before a June Rolling Stones concert takes place at the Citrus Bowl.

Of course, while I can’t get no satisfaction in the fact that the stands where I spent summer nights of my youth will soon be reduced to dust, I can take some solace in the fact that the actual playing field will be saved as a small nod to the history that occurred there.

There is also some solace in the fact that many of the seats from Tinker Field were removed and will be sold to fans for use in their dens and Florida rooms.

Still despite saving some seats and the clay and grass part of Tinker Field, it will not really be Tinker Field anymore without the stands which once echoed with the sounds of the crack of the bats, cheering fans, and the Caribbean accented shouts of a peanut vendor who looked an awful lot like O.J. Simpson.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida. Of the three lost Ballparks the loss of Tinker Field hits the hardest as it is the one where I made the most baseball memories.

Tinker Field was where I first was able to see a live Spring Training baseball game on my birthday which is a tradition I still try to maintain each year.

Tinker Field was where I met and spoke with the late Earl Weaver on the third base line.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field was also where I saw the Clown Prince of Baseball himself, Max Patkin, perform his shtick on a sunny Florida day.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.

During our trips to Tinker Field my mom and I were often joined for a few innings by team president, Pat Williams, who was also the General Manager of the Orlando Magic at the time, and I used to think how cool it would be to be a team executive getting paid to watch baseball.

I have yet to fully realize that dream of spending all of my summer nights as a Minor League Baseball employee but I may yet before all is said and done and when I do it will be because of those nights at Tinker Field.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World and it was easier to sell everything at a discount instead of moving it to the new facility.

I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap. To this day I am amazed that the employee correctly guessed my hat size just by looking at me. I am also amazed that in the years since my head has grown to the point where I can no longer comfortably wear the fitted wool cap.

I don’t know what happened to that vendor but I like to think he lived out his remaining years comfortably after his days at the ballpark were over randomly telling people on the street how big their heads were.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World.  I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day. Photo R. Anderson

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World. I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orlando Rays’ time at Walt Disney World was short lived and the team moved to Montgomery, Alabama and became known as the Biscuits.

To this day there are still no Minor League Baseball teams in Orlando making the decision to tear down Tinker Field an easier pill to swallow for some.

Others point to the peeling paint and overworked plumbing as reasons that it is best to raze the ballpark instead of spending money to preserve it and bring it up to current code.

In Houston people are dealing with a similar potential loss of a treasured sports fixture as the pending demolition of the Astrodome seems all but certain.

Recently fans were allowed inside the Astrodome as part of its 50th birthday celebration. The long term fate of the so called “eighth wonder of the world” is unknown. Like Tinker Field the Astrodome last hosted professional baseball in 1999.

With each year that passes it seems more and more likely that the Astrodome will also fall victim to a wrecking ball despite its historical significance.

The loss of the physical building, while difficult, does not take away the memories that occurred in those facilities.

Just as I am sure that there are people with fond memories of whichever Ballpark they grew up with, I can close my eyes and still picture Tinker Field the way I remember it right down to the tennis ball throwing peanut vendor, and the sounds of the rattling ceiling fans that tried their best to cool fans on those humid Florida nights.

I prefer to think of Tinker Field like it was, and not like the neglected facility it became.

The wheel of progress is always turning and sometimes it brings a bulldozer with it to raze the buildings of our youth.

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down. Photo R. Anderson

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories, are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess the morale of the story is to treasure your brick and mortar Ballparks while you can while building up memories that can last long after the Ballparks are gone.

Or as Simon and Garfunkel would say, “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Ballpark memories to preserve.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Orlando’s Tinker Field Felled by Progress

After receiving a one year stay of execution, the appeals process for a historic ballpark in Orlando, FL. ran out last week and the grandstands of Tinker Field began to crumble in the name of progress.

Think of almost any baseball player from the 20th Century and odds are pretty good that they stepped foot on the infield grass of Tinker Field at one time or another.

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field. Photo R. Anderson

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field.
Photo R. Anderson

From Spring Training for Major League Baseball, to full seasons of Minor League Baseball, the quaint little ballpark in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl was a unique venue where a who’s who of baseball players played from 1923 to 1999.

The last professional affiliated baseball at Tinker Field occurred in 1999 with the Orlando Rays who were the Double-A farm team for the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Orlando Rays were the last of the Southern League teams to call Tinker Field home, they certainly weren’t the only ones.

The Orlando Twins, Orlando Cubs and Orlando Sun Rays were among the many teams to call Tinker Field home.

The Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) even spent a season playing on the hallowed field in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl.

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout. Photo R. Anderson

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout.
Photo R. Anderson

Eventually it was the shadowy neighbor looming over right field that signed Tinker Field’s death warrant.

While time and neglect certainly played a role in the demise of the nearly century old facility, it was a massive expansion of the Citrus Bowl that hastened the demise of Tinker Field.

The expansion of concourses crept into right field to the point that Tinker Field could no longer function as a professional baseball field due to an outfield depth that would make a Little Leaguer feel like Barry Bonds sending everything he hits over the fence.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.  Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

So, despite being declared a national historic site, the demolition of Tinker Field is in full swing with the goal of removing every trace of grandstand, bleacher and dugout before a June Rolling Stones concert takes place at the Citrus Bowl.

Of course, while I can’t get no satisfaction in the fact that the stands where I spent summer nights of my youth will soon be reduced to dust, I can take some solace in the fact that the actual playing field will be saved as a small nod to the history that occurred there.

There is also some solace in the fact that many of the seats from Tinker Field were removed and will be sold to fans for use in their dens and Florida rooms.

Still despite saving some seats and the clay and grass part of Tinker Field, it will not really be Tinker Field anymore without the stands which once echoed with the sounds of the crack of the bats, cheering fans, and the Caribbean accented shouts of a peanut vendor who looked an awful lot like O.J. Simpson.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida. Of the three lost Ballparks the loss of Tinker Field hits the hardest as it is the one where I made the most baseball memories.

Tinker Field was where I first was able to see a live Spring Training baseball game on my birthday which is a tradition I still try to maintain each year.

Tinker Field was where I met and spoke with the late Earl Weaver on the third base line.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field was also where I saw the Clown Prince of Baseball himself, Max Patkin, perform his shtick on a sunny Florida day.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.

During our trips to Tinker Field my mom and I were often joined for a few innings by team president, Pat Williams, who was also the General Manager of the Orlando Magic at the time, and I used to think how cool it would be to be a team executive getting paid to watch baseball.

I have yet to fully realize that dream of spending all of my summer nights as a Minor League Baseball employee but I may yet before all is said and done and when I do it will be because of those nights at Tinker Field.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World and it was easier to sell everything at a discount instead of moving it to the new facility.

I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap. To this day I am amazed that the employee correctly guessed my hat size just by looking at me. I am also amazed that in the years since my head has grown to the point where I can no longer comfortably wear the fitted wool cap.

I don’t know what happened to that vendor but I like to think he lived out his remaining years comfortably after his days at the ballpark were over randomly telling people on the street how big their heads were.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World.  I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day. Photo R. Anderson

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World. I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orlando Rays’ time at Walt Disney World was short lived and the team moved to Montgomery, Alabama and became known as the Biscuits.

To this day there are still no Minor League Baseball teams in Orlando making the decision to tear down Tinker Field an easier pill to swallow for some.

Others point to the peeling paint and overworked plumbing as reasons that it is best to raze the ballpark instead of spending money to preserve it and bring it up to current code.

In Houston people are dealing with a similar potential loss of a treasured sports fixture as the pending demolition of the Astrodome seems all but certain.

Recently fans were allowed inside the Astrodome as part of its 50th birthday celebration. The long term fate of the so called “eighth wonder of the world” is unknown. Like Tinker Field the Astrodome last hosted professional baseball in 1999.

With each year that passes it seems more and more likely that the Astrodome will also fall victim to a wrecking ball despite its historical significance.

The loss of the physical building, while difficult, does not take away the memories that occurred in those facilities.

Just as I am sure that there are people with fond memories of whichever Ballpark they grew up with, I can close my eyes and still picture Tinker Field the way I remember it right down to the tennis ball throwing peanut vendor, and the sounds of the rattling ceiling fans that tried their best to cool fans on those humid Florida nights.

I prefer to think of Tinker Field like it was, and not like the neglected facility it became.

The wheel of progress is always turning and sometimes it brings a bulldozer with it to raze the buildings of our youth.

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down. Photo R. Anderson

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories, are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess the morale of the story is to treasure your brick and mortar Ballparks while you can while building up memories that can last long after the Ballparks are gone.

Or as Simon and Garfunkel would say, “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Ballpark memories to preserve.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Dome Likely Doomed to Scrap Heap by Voters

Yesterday voters in Harris County Texas were asked a simple question on their ballot, do they or do they not want to spend $217 million in bonds to turn the world’s first multipurpose domed stadium into a giant convention and exhibition space.

Early returns show that 53 percent of voters do not want to see the so-called “Eighth Wonder of the World” turned into convention space which likely means the Astrodome will go the way of many stadiums before it and become nothing more than a pile of rubble while living on in the memories of those who see the Dome for what it was and not what it became.

The Astrodome seen during the Grand Prix of Houston may soon exist only in the memories of those who have visited it after voters rejected a $217 million plan to save it. Photo R. Anderson

The Astrodome seen during the Grand Prix of Houston may soon exist only in the memories of those who have visited it after voters rejected a $217 million plan to save it.
Photo R. Anderson

By the time I moved to Texas the Astrodome was already on the decline of its lifecycle having lost the Astros to Minute Maid Park and the Texans to the Reliant Stadium which was built right next door to the Astrodome.

Without a “professional” tenant, and with other venues to maintain, the Astrodome was left to host the occasional high school football game and other event that was a far cry from the days when tens of thousands of screaming fans would pack the place and cheer their teams to victory.

Even the rodeo moved next door to Reliant Stadium.  In many ways the Astrodome was a venue hanging on by a thread for years.

That thread broke when the Astrodome was deemed unfit for occupation due to neglect and structural issues which made it impossible to hold any events inside it.

So the Astrodome sat vacant and slowly deteriorated from the inside out. Those bright rainbow colored seats gathered dust while elected officials and citizens alike tried to determine what to do with the building that meant so much to so many people.

I never saw the Astrodome in its prime but I am able to say that I covered a high school playoff game inside the Astrodome about a decade ago. I can’t remember if it was a sectional game or a regional game. I could not even say with certainty which teams were involved.

I do remember thinking as I was approaching the building that I was entering a historic place since the Astrodome was the first stadium where football and baseball were played in climate controlled comfort.

Reliant Stadium was built next to the Astrodome and became the go to facility for football and rodeo events while the Astrodome fell into disrepair and neglect. Photo R. Anderson

Reliant Stadium was built next to the Astrodome and became the go to facility for football and rodeo events while the Astrodome fell into disrepair and neglect.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course when I entered the stadium I could tell that the years of use and the decrease in maintenance budget was taking its toll on the facility.

Instead of looking like a polished jewel the Astrodome looked exactly like the 40 plus year old facility that it was.

That is in no way a condemnation on the people who were charged with maintaining the facility. The fact remains as buildings age they require more resources to turn back the clock and stay fresh.

The same thing will happen to those shiny new facilities that replaced the Astrodome. Every building at some point is going to start showing its age and one either needs to pump more money into it or let it go.

So that is what the election was about at its core. It was up to the people to put their money where their mouth was and decide if it was worth spending their tax dollars to convert the Astrodome into a multipurpose facility or if it was time to say goodbye to it and let the wrecking ball finish what time and neglect had started.

Of course there is a price tag associated with demolishing the Astrodome as well. It is estimated that between $20 and $80 million will be required to tear down the Astrodome. Once the Astrodome is gone the place where it rose from the ground will likely be turned into a parking garage for the facilities left standing.

There are those that say that it is a travesty for the Astrodome to be torn down for parking while there are others who say that more parking will enhance their experience at the Stadium, Arena and other venues in Reliant Park just in time for the return of the Super Bowl.

I have no emotional attachment to the Astrodome but I understand those who do.

Fans across the country are used to saying goodbye to once popular venues once replacements have been built. Yankee Stadium was replaced. Tiger Stadium was replaced. Cowboy Stadium was replaced. The list goes on and on of sports facilities that have met the wrecking ball.

Two Ballparks where I watched games, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, have been torn down.  One Ballpark from my past, Tinker Field, in Orlando, still is defying the odds though.

Growing up I went to many baseball games there for both Spring Training and Minor League games. From having the General Manager of Orlando Magic and Orlando Sun Rays, Pat Williams, come and sit with me and my mother and talk baseball to having a front row seat to watch Max Patkin the Clown Prince of Baseball perform there are many memories inside Tinker Field. Tinker Field was also where I met Earl Weaver at home plate.

Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida was once home to the Kansas City Royals for Spring Training. Today the stadium is gone and has been replaced by an outlet mall showing that stadiums have a shelf life and if the Astrodome is demolished it will not be the first facility to meet that fate. Photo R. Anderson

Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida was once home to the Kansas City Royals for Spring Training. Today the stadium is gone and has been replaced by an outlet mall showing that stadiums have a shelf life and if the Astrodome is demolished it will not be the first facility to meet that fate.
Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field is located right up against the Citrus Bowl Stadium and every so often there are calls to tear down Tinker Field to make more parking for games at the Citrus Bowl since Tinker Field is currently without a major tenant since the Orlando Rays left for the Ballpark at Walt Disney World before leaving town altogether for Alabama.

I know that someday the wrecking ball will come and wipe away that little ballpark but what it can’t wipe away are all of the memories that I have from sitting in the ballpark. Just like the fact that Memorial Stadium being torn down does not change the fact that I saw my first Major League Baseball game there.

Likewise, there are people who have memories of the Astrodome. There are people who remember attending a game with a family member who may no longer be with them.

There is the memory of the excitement of just seeing their first football or baseball game and all of the sights and sounds related to that.

For some the memory might be playing in a high school football game inside the Astrodome and feeling that thrill of victory.

Soon the skyline around Reliant Park may be missing one large Astrodome sized piece. Photo R. Anderson

Soon the skyline around Reliant Park may be missing one large Astrodome sized piece.
Photo R. Anderson

Whatever the memory someone has of the Astrodome the actual physical presence of the building will not take away those memories.

And it is likely that after an initial “garage sale” this past weekend where fans were able to purchase pieces of the Astrodome from seats to Astroturf, more tangible parts of the building will be sold off to fans as keepsakes.

And while the demolition order has not been signed for the Astrodome the writing on the wall is getting clearer that the eighth wonder of the world will soon be just a memory like so many of those ballparks and stadiums before it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some old pictures from Tinker Field to look at.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson