Tinker Field

From BR Bullpen

Tinker Field
Location Orlando, FL United States
Building chronology
Built 1914
Demolished 2015
Satellite view of the stadium.

Tinker Field in Orlando, FL, was the home of Orlando affiliated baseball from 1923 through 1999. After that, the Orlando Rays of the Southern League moved into an existing ballpark in nearby Kissimmee, and later into a new one in Montgomery, AL.

The site has been home to many of the teams that called Orlando home, including Negro League baseball in at least the 1930s. Tinker also played a role in the first steps toward breaking the color line. On April 7, 1939, the Washington Post published the first call to action for baseball integration by legendary sportswriter Shirley Povich. The previous day, Povich had watched a Negro League game between the Homestead Grays and Newark Eagles at Tinker Field with pitching great Walter Johnson, so the story went into the history books with the dateline of "Orlando-Tinker Field".

Tinker Field joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, but its history goes beyond baseball: Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham both spoke here, the former 191 days after pronouncing his dream in Washington and the latter while holding a 1951 revival. King's March 6, 1964, speech was the only central Florida public appearance of his life.

However, after the 2014 renovation and expansion of the adjacent Orlando Citrus Bowl, Tinker was deemed unusable for professional baseball. The land became an outdoor concert venue at what is now Camping World Stadium Complex.

At the time, Orlando City Council echoed the Register's designation of the baseball diamond and its outfield historic, but a plan to create an appropriate memorial park open to the public that would also pay tribute to its history stalled. In April 2015, the city - which was the owner - tore down the grandstands and removed all other buildings.

Yet the historical attraction did eventually happen. Ground was broken on October 30, 2017, and Tinker Field History Plaza opened May 2, 2018.

Basically new ballparks opened on the site in 1914, 1923 and 1963. Hall of Famer Joe Tinker - as in "Tinker to Evers to Chance" - spent his post-baseball life as an Orlando real estate developer. He built the 1923 stadium, the first to take his name, and managed Orlando's first professional ballclub.

Tinker Field was the spring training home of the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins from 1936 through 1990. It appears in the film Parenthood (1989).

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