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Plant Field

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Plant Field

Plant Field
Former names Pepin-Rood Stadium (1971-2002)
Location Tampa, Florida, United States
Owner Tampa Bay Hotel
(1899-1900)
City of Tampa
(1900-1971)
University of Tampa
(1971-2002)
Surface Grass
Construction
Opened 1899
Demolished 2002
Tenants
Spring Training
Chicago Cubs (1913-16)
Boston Red Sox (1919)
Washington Senators (1920s)
Detroit Tigers (1930s)
Cincinnati Reds (1930-54)
Chicago White Sox (1954)
Minor leagues
Tampa Smokers (1919-1930; 1946-1954)
College Sports
University of Tampa (1933-36)

Plant Field was the first major athletic venue in Tampa, Florida. It was built in 1899 by Henry B. Plant, owner of the Tampa Bay Hotel, as an area to provide various activities for his guests. Plant Field drew Tampa residents and visitors to see horse racing, car racing, baseball games, entertainers, and politicians.The stadium also hosted the first professional football and first spring training games in Tampa and was the long-time home of the Florida State Fair.

In the early 1970s, the field was acquired by the University of Tampa, which changed its name to Pepin-Rood Stadium and eventually replaced it with newer facilities.

History

Racing

Henry Plant built a horse track on the grounds east of North Boulevard and south of Cass Street, now the site of the University of Tampa athletic fields. During the 1898-99 tourist season, races were sponsored by the Tampa Agricultural Racing and Fair Association. When car races were added to the South Florida Fair, a race track debuted at the field on February 3, 1921. The track was a 1/2 mile dirt oval that operated until 1980. Plant Field was also a venue for dirt-track races sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association until the mid-1970s

Baseball

Baseball began at Plant Field around 1899 when local teams played at what was then called the Tampa Bay Race Track Diamond. With the lure of travel incentives offered by the city government, it became one of the first facilities used by Major League Baseball for spring training when the Chicago Cubs came to train before the 1913 season. The Cubs conducted spring training in Tampa until 1916. On March 26, 1914, Plant Field hosted the first major league baseball spring training game in the Tampa Bay area when the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Browns 3-2.

After the Cubs departed, the Boston Red Sox used the facility next. On April 4, 1919. Babe Ruth, playing in what would be his last season with the Red Sox, hit a home run 587 feet against the New York Giants during an exhibition game. A plaque remains to commemorate Ruth's achievement as it was considered the longest home run of Ruth's career and one of the longest in baseball history.[1]

Over the years, Plant Field was the spring home to many major league teams, including the Washington Senators in the 1920s, the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s, and the Cincinnati Reds in the 1940s. The Chicago White Sox were Plant Field's last spring training tenant. They last used the facility in 1954 and moved to newly built Al Lopez Field in West Tampa for 1955.

The facility also hosted many minor league, semi-pro, high school, and other baseball games. In November 1950, the Jackie Robinson All-Stars played a local black semi-professional team, the Tampa Rockets, at Plant Field. Robinson's team included major-leaguers Roy Campanella and Larry Doby as well as several Negro League players. Plant Field was the regular home field of the Tampa Smokers of the Florida State League and the Florida International League until the team disbanded after the 1954 season.

Football

On New Year's Day 1926, the Chicago Bears, led by Red Grange, defeated the Tampa Cardinals, a traveling pick-up team featuring Jim Thorpe, 17-3. This game marked the first professional football game played in Tampa.

The University of Tampa played all of its home games at Plant Field from 1933 until 1936 before moving to Phillips Field. Henry B. Plant High School and Hillsborough High School each used Plant Field and played against each other in an annual Thanksgiving game.

Other activities

For decades, Plant Field was the location of the South Florida Fair, the precursor to the Florida State Fair. The fair was almost always scheduled to coincide with Tampa's annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival, and the Gasparilla Parade ended at the Plant Field grandstands from 1905 until 1976.[1]

In 1912, "Buffalo Bill" Cody performed on the field with hundreds of American Indians who traveled with him as part of his show. When Tampa hosted the national reunion of the United Confederate Veterans in 1927, some of the veterans stayed in quarters under the Plant Field grandstands.

Presidential candidate Henry Wallace spoke at Plant Field in February 1948. Wallace insisted that the audience be integrated. This marked the first political speech in Tampa during which blacks and whites could mix. Paul Robeson sang at another integrated Wallace rally at Plant Field later that October.

During the 1952 Presidential Campaign, Dwight D. Eisenhower appeared at Plant Field.

Name change and demolition

Plant Field slowly became obsolete as more specialized sports facilities were built around Tampa. Nearby Phillips Field hosted University of Tampa and the Cigar Bowl football games beginning in the 1930s, and both smaller venues were made obsolete by the construction of Tampa Stadium in 1967. Brand-new Al Lopez Field became the home of the minor league Tampa Tarpons when they began play in 1957. And in 1977, the Florida State Fair moved to a more spacious location at the intersection of Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 301 in unincorporated Hillsborough County.[2]

In 1971, the University of Tampa Board of Trustees approved a transaction that granted the university possession of Plant Field, and the grandstand was renamed Pepin-Rood Stadium after university benefactors.[3]

Since then, the school has built many new facilities on its huge footprint, including a soccer field (Peppin Stadium), softball and baseball fields, dormitories, and other academic and athletic facilities.[4] Though some patches of the original playing surface are still in use as part of newer venues, the last remaining portions of Plant Field's old grandstand were torn down in 2002.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Plant Field Marker
  2. ^ History
  3. ^ a b Brink, Graham (May 1, 2002). "Pepin-Rood grandstands going down -- in history". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  4. ^ Tampa Spartans facilities

External links

  • Tampa's Original Field Of Dreams
  • Plant Field
  • Tampa Bay Football History Network
  • Tampa's Plant Field, April 4, 1919: The spring training home run that changed baseball history...forever!
  • Aerial of Plant Field with baseball layout

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