I thank the people of Hot Springs, including the Hot Springs public schools, Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club, Optimist Club, Showman's Club, American Legion, and especially the former director of the Hot Springs Boys Club, the late Ira Lollis, for providing me and my friends the opportunity to play baseball, softball and football on good sports fields.
When I was attending Ramble Elementary School, my early football and softball experiences took place on what is now called the Boys & Girls Club fields. During the summer between my seventh and eighth grades, I had more great experiences playing for a baseball team sponsored by Duffy Searcy Grocery, run by the Hot Springs Boys Club located at the Boys Club field. Later, our sponsor, Duffy Searcy, became sheriff of Garland County. The sheriff loved baseball.
At that time, I had no idea the impact those early years would make on my life. A traveling team representing the Hot Springs Boys Club participated in the State Boys Club Baseball Tournament every year when we were youngsters. One year we won the state championship and the next year we were runners-up.
I still remember those fun and meaningful days. As we grew older, we played baseball for the Warren Townsend Post No. 13 of the Hot Springs American Legion. My last year with the American Legion team we finished in second place in the district tournament which was held in Little Rock. A kid named Brooks Robinson was on the winning team, but we all still recall we played against a Hall of Fame player.
In high school, we played semi-pro baseball in the Ouachita Valley League and our games were played on a Boys Club field called Rooster Field and the Hot Springs Bathers field. I recall going to see the Bathers play many times at Jaycee Park. The Bathers were members of the class C, Cotton States League.
While researching Major League Baseball spring training in Hot Springs, I learned that the very property we once played sports on in grade school through high school was used, for several years, by major league baseball teams during their spring training. In 1909, the Boston Americans, (aka Red Sox), sealed the deal to lease the property for conducting their spring training next to Belding Avenue. Boston soon called their new training grounds, "Majestic Park," probably because they stayed at the Majestic Hotel. In 1915, and several years thereafter, pitcher Babe Ruth was on the Boston team that trained at Majestic Park. Many other great players trained at Majestic Park including Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Smoky Joe Wood, Duffy Lewis, Harry Hooper, and Herb Pennock.
In the 1930s, Dizzy Dean assisted Rogers Hornsby at his baseball school at Majestic Park. During the 1950s, several great players participated in exhibition games or trained at Bathers Field (aka Jaycee Park). Outstanding players who played or trained on that historic field included Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Joe Black, Monte Irwin, Don Newcombe, and Larry Doby.
All of us who played "back in the day" have been elated to learn about the baseball greats at Majestic Park. Can you imagine how thrilled and inspired we would have been when we were kids to know that Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Dizzy Dean and so many other of our heroes had stepped up to the plate and on the mound there?
May the children and youth of Hot Springs continue to have memorable experiences as my friends and I had when we were young. I hope that the citizens of Hot Springs will back the baseball complex in Hot Springs and vote for the bond issue that would allow the ad commission to use a portion of the proceeds from the existing 3-cent advertising and promotion tax.
Don Duren, of Plano, Texas, attended public schools in Hot Springs and is a graduate of Hot Springs High School. He is the author of "Boiling Out at the Springs: A History of Major League Baseball Spring Training in Hot Springs, Arkansas;" "Bathers Baseball: A History of Minor League Baseball at the Arkansas Spa;" and "Lon Warneke: The Arkansas Hummingbird." He has contributed articles to the Garland County Historical Society, of which he is a member and to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Additionally, he is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County.Editorial on 07/07/2019
Print Headline: The legacy of Majestic Park