If you go to Jackie Robinson Ballpark on City Island in Daytona Beach, Florida to watch the minor-league Daytona Tortugas play a game, you are experiencing something that is a part of more than just baseball. This historic ballpark played an important role in the Civil Rights history of America.
One of the oldest active professional baseball fields in the country, Daytona City Island Ballpark opened on June 4, 1914, just a few months after Chicago’s Wrigley Field. At that time it had wooden bleachers and offered little shade for those who came to watch the games.
Sometime in the 1920s, a circular road was built around the ballpark so people with automobiles could access it easier. It wasn’t much of a road because there weren’t that many cars around Daytona Beach back in those days. A grandstand with a press box behind home plate was added in the 1950s, along with two more sections of grandstands on the first and third base lines. These were covered to protect visitors from the sun and rain.
History was made here on March 17, 1946, when Jackie Robinson, playing for the Class AAA International League Montreal Royals, took part in an exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was the first integrated game in the history of baseball. Prior to that, authorities in Sanford, Jacksonville, and other Florida cities had stopped any attempt to hold such a game. Even in Daytona Beach, Robinson had to stay at the home of a black family because he was not allowed to sleep in the segregated hotel with the rest of his teammates.
While many people in the South and other parts of the country were enraged to see a black athlete competing against white baseball players, Robinson had the last laugh, being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
In 1989, the park was renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark in honor of that historic game, and today a statue of the famous baseball player and two children stands at the park, which continues to be a popular venue. Displays at the park cover Robinson’s career in professional baseball, and a sign designates a seating section where black people sat to watch the games during the days of Jim Crow.
Yes, the world has changed a lot since Jackie Robinson stepped out onto that ballfield so many years ago. The next time you’re in Daytona Beach, stop by Jackie Robinson Ballpark and experience some of our lesser-known history, even if you’re not a baseball fan.
Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of my friend Suzie O’Connell’s Starlight Magic, from her popular Northwest romance series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section of the bottom of that page (not this one). To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – When one door closes, another one opens. Or, you can open the closed door. That’s how doors work.