Al Lopez Field
|Owner||Tampa Sports Authority|
|Operator||Tampa Sports Authority|
Left - 340 ft.
|Chicago White Sox (MLB) (spring training) (1955-1959)
Tampa Tarpons (FSL) (1957-1988)
Cincinnati Reds (MLB) (spring training) (1960-1987)
It was located east of Dale Mabry Highway (Highway US-92) and north of Tampa Bay Boulevard. It was dedicated to Lopez in 1954 and opened for spring training in March 1955. Its first tenants were the Chicago White Sox, who were managed by Lopez at the time. The White Sox moved to a different site in 1960 and were replaced by the Cincinnati Reds, who would use the park for three decades. The minor league team Tampa Tarpons played their home games at Al Lopez Field.
The grandstand featured a high, curved roof with no obstructing columns, a design similar to, but a little less dramatic than that of Miami Stadium. In 1967, Tampa Stadium was built just beyond the left field wall.
The Reds hosted the New York Yankees at the park on March 17, 1978. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, Reds general manager Dick Wagner had green versions of the Reds' uniforms made. This was the first time a major league team wore green trimmed uniforms on March 17, a practice adopted in subsequent years by multiple major league teams on St. Patrick's Day.
After the spring session of 1987, the Reds abandoned the park for newer facilities in Plant City, Florida. While the Tampa Tarpons reached an affiliation agreement with the Chicago White Sox for the 1988 season, revenue from leasing the ballpark to the Tarpons did not cover expenses and the Tampa Sports Authority would not agree to a lease longer than one-year. This would also allow the TSA to move forward on redevelopment plans for the location. Demolition on the ballpark began in March 1989 and was completed that May.
The land was used for Tampa Stadium parking until 1998, when Raymond James Stadium was constructed on the site of the old ballpark. The northeast quadrant of the stadium occupies the site of Al Lopez Field's first base grandstand, and the rest of the old ballpark site is covered by the approach apron of the big stadium.
Al Lopez died at 97 on October 29, 2005, just three days after his Chicago White Sox had won the World Series. Some obituaries repeated a story he had often told on himself. Early in one Sox spring training session in Tampa, Lopez got into an argument with umpire John Stevens and was ejected from the game. He said, "The umpire threw me out of my own ballpark!"
- John Romano (1989-03-21). "The Legacy Of Al Lopez Endures". St. Petersburg Times. p. 4C.
- Tom Singer (March 17, 2010). "How St. Patrick's became baseball's holiday; Cincy GM Dick Wagner turned the Reds green in '78". MLB.com. Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- John Romano (1988-02-16). "Al Lopez Field Gets Year Reprieve From Sports Authority .". St. Petersburg Times. p. 6C.
- "Lopez was oldest living Hall of Fame member". ESPN.com. 2005-12-12.
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