By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published July 15, 2007
More than a half-century after it opened as the Philadelphia Phillies new spring training home, Jack Russell Stadium is slowly fading from the Clearwater landscape. This week, crews posted demolition signs, began salvaging aluminum, copper and stainless steel items, and moved cranes in to take out infield poles. The dismantling is expected to take several weeks. ¶ Built in 1955, Jack Russell Stadium played host to Major League Baseball greats and the Clearwater Bombers, a softball team that won 10 National Amateur Softball Association titles from 1950 to 1973. In 2004, the Philadelphia Phillies moved to the new Bright House Networks Field a few miles away.
Jack Russell, The Man
A Major League pitcher from 1926 to 1940 with six clubs. He played with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. The right-hander had 85 wins and 141 losses. Babe Ruth's 47th homer came off Russell. He went to the World Series in 1933 and 1938. Russell moved to Pinellas County after discovering the place during spring baseball with the Cleveland Indians.
Following his baseball career, Russell's allegiance was to another team, the Philadelphia Phillies, who made Clearwater's Athletic Field their spring training home in 1947. As a Clearwater city commissioner from 1951 to 1955, Russell was the leading proponent of building a ballpark for Clearwater. Final city approval came in 1954 with the first game played the next year. Later in 1955, Clearwater Mayor Herbert M. Brown named the new park Jack Russell Stadium in a surprise announcement.
Russell died in 1990 at the age of 85.
"He was just a great guy," said son Jack Russell Jr., 71. "We were more like brothers and I have mixed feelings about the stadium coming down. But the family still has to deal with people asking 'Are you the Jack Russell from (the) stadium?' forever."
They Played Here
Notables players from the last Phillies roster to play at Jack Russell Stadium in 2003:
Cole Hamels, who made the 2007 MLB All-Star team pitching for the National League.
Ryan Howard was the 2005 National League's rookie of the year and he was awarded the 2006 National League's Hank Aaron Award. Also in 2006 he was dubbed the National League's most valuable player and earned the 2006 National League's Silver Slugger Award. The Philadelphia Phillies' first baseman was the 2006 Home Run Derby champion.
March 10, 1955
With Robin Roberts, a Phillies Hall of Famer, on the mound, the Phillies defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4-2. Attendance was 4,209, just shy of the capacity, 4,744.
May 6, 1965
Clearwater police shut down a Rolling Stones concert after just four songs when a portion of the audience, 3,000-strong, started throwing toilet paper. Legend has it that Keith Richards wrote the guitar riff to (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction after the concert while unable to sleep at the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel (now the Fort Harrison).
Michael Stout, 57, of Tarpon Springs, was 16 at the time and recalled paying roughly $3 for the show: "I was disappointed the concert was canceled after four songs."
Aug. 24, 1992
The Clearwater Phillies defeated the Winter Haven Red Sox 1-0 in the first double no-hitter in 40 years. Andy Carter was the Clearwater pitcher; Scott Bakkum pitched for Winter Haven. Two walked batters and two sacrifice bunts in the seventh inning sealed a victory.
Jan. 14, 2000
Before a crowd of 1,500, Michael "Gold" Rush of Tampa claimed the vacant National Boxing Association's cruiserweight belt with a technical knockout of Pedro Riveron at 1 minute, 34 seconds into the seventh round.