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Plant Field
Location Tampa, Florida, United States
Opened 1899
Demolished 2002
Owner Tampa Bay Hotel
(1899-1971)
University of Tampa
(1971-2002)
Operator Tampa Bay Hotel
(1899-1971)
University of Tampa
(1971-2002)
Surface Grass
Tenants
Spring Training
Chicago Cubs (1913-16)
Boston Red Sox (1919)
Washington Senators (1920's)
Detroit Tigers (1930)
Cincinnati Reds (1930-54)
Chicago White Sox (1954)
College Sports
University of Tampa (1933-36)
High School Sports
Hillsborough High School
Henry B. Plant High School

Plant Field was the first major athletic stadium in Tampa, Florida. It was originally built by Henry B. Plant, owner of the Tampa Bay Hotel, in 1899 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 hosted the first professional football and first spring training games in Tampa.

Contents

History

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Racing

Plant Field was the location of the South Florida Fair. 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 February 14, 1942. However it reopened on February, 1946 and operated until 1980, when the fairground was moved east of town. The land was turned over to the University of Tampa and converted to athletic fields. The original grandstands were used by the University until they were torn down and replaced in 2002. Plant Field would become a venue for dirt-track races sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association. Until the mid-1970s, races were held each year during the South Florida Fair, which became the Florida State Fair after it was moved to Tampa from Jacksonville.

Spring Training baseball

Baseball began at Plant Field around 1899 when local teams played at what was then called the Tampa Bay race track diamond. However Major League Baseball teams soon used the field for their spring training activities. The Chicago Cubs called Plant Field their spring training home from 1913 until 1916. On March 26 1914, Plant Field hosted the first major league baseball spring training game in the Tampa Bay area, as the Chicago Cubs defeated the St. Louis Browns 3-2.

Later the Boston Red Sox used the field in 1919. That year 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. Future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Walter Johnson played games at Plant Field. 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 later became the spring destination for the Washington Senators during the 1920s. In 1930 Detroit Tigers took over the field. The Cincinnati Reds played their home spring-training games there from the 1930s until 1954, and the Chicago White Sox became the field's last spring training tenent in 1954.

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

The city's annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival ended at the Plant Field grandstands from 1905 until 1976.

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.

Demolition

In 1971, the University of Tampa Board of Trustees approved a transaction that granted the university possession of Plant Field and the rest of the fairgrounds. The university built new sports facilities in 2002 and Plant field was soon demolished. However a plaque on campus commemorates Ruth's historic home run.

References

External links

Coordinates: 27°56′53″N 82°28′06″W / 27.947952°N 82.468201°W / 27.947952; -82.468201


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