Excellent Adventure Day # 67
Living History in Asheville
History is such an important part of the magic of baseball that it can be a tricky thing getting into it.
The night we were at McCormick Field in Asheville I think we heard that the park was the oldest in Minor League baseball and then translated that to the oldest in professional baseball. That wasn’t true then, or now since both Fenway Park and Wrigley Field opened a decade earlier.
In 1991 Rickwood Field in Birmingham was not in use but it was older than any of them and has been used since for at least one Birmingham Barons game in many of the seasons since. Centennial Field in Burlington, VT (my home state’s only minor league baseball park) also was not in use in 1991 but it first opened in 1906 and can lay claim to being the oldest park still in regular use.
The seating area at McCormick Field was completely replaced in 1992, the year after we were there and for some folks that disqualifies the park from a claim of oldest. Regardless…McCormick Field in Asheville is historic. It was the site of Babe Ruth’s famous Bellyache Heard Round the World when rumours flew that the Babe had died in Asheville coming home from spring training in 1925.
Crash Davis broke the all time minor league home run record at McCormick as a member of the Asheville Tourists in the movie Bull Durham…Take a look at that scene…before or after you watch the video below; the field and grandstand look almost identical to the way they do here.
I wish we had video of McCormick Field from before the game the way we often do but it was a long 400-plus-mile drive from Norfolk and by the time we had set up camp and made it to the park it was almost gametime.
The Tourists won that night 5-1 over Gastonia and there was a nice feature about us in the local paper the next day.
I hope the magic of McCormick Field comes through in our video. There are very few other places outside Fenway that really made me feel history but walking the twisted tunnels under the old wooden grandstand truly made history come alive. It is not hyperbole to say that there was nothing else like it on our Excellent Adventure.
The Asheville Tourists continue to play at McCormick Field. The park looks rather different, frankly better, than it did in 1991. There is a new gate and the seats have been replaced. The outfield fence, which was an impressive feature in 1991 grew even taller in subsequent years. If you get a chance on some future summer evening and you like history or baseball or just Americana…don’t miss a visit to this lovely town and charming ballpark.
Tomorrow on the Low Mileage Tour we will continue south into the Smokies and return to the Southern League where we saw the Knoxville Blue Jays at Bill Meyer Stadium in 1991.