Excellent Adventure Day # 68
The Right Side of the Tracks
I should confess, one of the things I liked least about visiting all the ballparks in one season was being asked which one was the best. It’s a natural question and I don’t blame the many people that asked it, but I believe that its all a matter of perspective and I didn’t set out to anoint one best, I sought to find that which was unique about each.
However, many fans that attended a lot of games at Bill Meyer Stadium in Knoxville, TN probably disliked it (and others of that era) for the same reasons I thought it was cool.
In those days, many old ballparks were in industrial parts of town and there was a noisy Norfolk and Southern train line practically just beyond the third base line. it would go clanking its way through many innings. There was also an old textile factory with windows that had been broken by long baseball shots over the years. That was charming to us, but I’m not sure I would want to look at it every night. Still, while the former home of the Knoxville Blue Jays could hardly be called beautiful, I thought it was pretty cool.
This was another stretch where the schedule was a little absurd. We drove over through the Smoky Mountains from Asheville to Knoxville then turned around the next day and drove all the way back to Durham, NC. If you take a peek at tomorrow’s video, however, you will see why. The Durham Bulls would be leaving town for a week after that Sunday game and the Carolina Mudcats, who we saw the following day, would be just returning from a week-long road trip the night we saw them.
The Jacksonville Suns were still in a race to win the first half in the Southern League’s eastern division and they came out on top that night. Jacksonville scored four runs in the 8th inning, which included a home run from Jim Campanis; he and several other famous relatives got a mention in the video.
You will see that the 1991 version of Bill was kind of obsessed with the trains and factory windows. This was 1991 and it’s interesting to think about what sort of pyrotechnics would be available today but the scoreboard operator somehow made a tank appear when the trains were going by and it would chase an electronic train across the bottom of the scoreboard. Again, this was 1991, I think Asteroids was still high tech.
As mentioned above, Double-A baseball is still alive and well in this part of Tennessee though the team moved out of its downtown ballpark and into a new and much more modern yet bucolic field in the suburb of Kodak, TN in 2000. The team had readopted the historic Knoxville and later Tennessee Smokies nickname in 1993 and they are now affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. Oddly enough. I think we camped that night quite close to the place the Smokies would ultimate move – Smokies Stadium.
Bill Meyer Stadium was torn down three years after the team moved but there is a rec league playing field partially named for native son Todd Helton who helped finance the community field and played high school games there. The Ridley Helton Baseball Field sits in the same spot as the original field and there is a plaque commemorating the history there.
Tomorrow on the Low Mileage Tour we head back east in North Carolina to the iconic home of the Durham Bulls. We saw the Durham Athletic Park, for at least part of a game that was ultimately rained out…June 16th 1991.