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So long, old stadium

Published July 18, 2007


More than half a century after it opened as the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training home, Jack Russell Stadium is slowly fading from the Clearwater landscape. Last week, crews posted demolition signs, began salvaging aluminum, copper and stainless steel, and moved cranes in to take out infield poles. ¶ 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. Left at Jack Russell will be the main baseball field, a smaller practice field and several sets of bleachers.

Jack Russell, the man

He was a Major League pitcher from 1926 to 1940 with six clubs. Played with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and 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.

After 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. 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.

"The family has to deal with people asking, 'Are you the Jack Russell from (the) stadium?' forever."

They played here

Hank Aaron (above)

Richie Allen

Johnny Bench

Lou Brock

Steve Carlton

Roberto Clemente

Don Drysdale

Bob Gibson

Reggie Jackson

Derek Jeter

Sandy Koufax

Mickey Mantle

Willie Mays

Tug McGraw

Robin Roberts

Pete Rose

Nolan Ryan

Curt Schilling

Mike Schmidt

Tom Seaver

Memorable moments

Notable 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 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, opening night:

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.

Aug. 23, 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.

[Last modified July 17, 2007, 21:36:15]

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