|Full name||Samuel W. Wolfson Baseball Park|
|Former names||New Jacksonville Baseball Park (planning/construction)
Jacksonville Baseball Park (1955–1964)
|Location||1201 East Duval Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
|Owner||City of Jacksonville|
|Opened||March 16, 1955|
|Closed||September 3, 2002|
|Demolished||September 26, 2002|
(US$3.69 million in 2017 dollars)
|Jacksonville Braves (South Atlantic) (1955-60)
Jacksonville Jets (South Atlantic) (1961)
Jacksonville Suns (Southern) (1962-68; 1970–2002)
Jacksonville Cyclones (USL A-League) (1998-99)
Samuel W. Wolfson Baseball Park (originally Jacksonville Baseball Park) was a baseball park in Jacksonville, Florida. It stood from 1954 until 2002, when it was demolished and replaced by the new Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. During that time it was home to all of Jacksonville's minor league baseball teams, including the Jacksonville Braves (1953–1960), the Jacksonville Jets (1961), and the Jacksonville Suns (1962–1968 and 1970–). It had a seating capacity of 8,200 and was named for local baseball owner Samuel W. Wolfson.
The facility, originally known as Jacksonville Baseball Parka, was built in 1954 at a cost of $400,000 to replace the aging Durkee Field. It was intended to be the new home stadium of Jacksonville's minor league team, the Jacksonville Braves of the South Atlantic League. One of the major proponents of the stadium was Braves owner Samuel W. Wolfson, a local businessman. Wolfson had purchased the struggling Jacksonville Tars franchise and reorganized them as the Braves prior to the 1953 season.
The new park opened on March 16, 1955 with an exhibition game between the Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) and the Cincinnati Redlegs.According to H. B. Richardson, Jacksonville Braves general manager at the time, "When the new park opened, it was the best park in the (Double-A) South Atlantic League and probably better than most (Triple-A) Southern League parks at the time. It was a showcase." Phil Niekro stated, "When I played there, Wolfson Park was one of the finest in the country. It made me feel like I was already in the big leagues." Although used primarily for baseball, the facility hosted other events until the Jacksonville Coliseum was built in 1961. A show in July 1955 featured a young Elvis Presley who hid out in a bathroom, then the ticket office, to avoid being mobbed by female fans.
After selling the team to Bill Terry in 1958, Wolfson became president of the South Atlantic League for a year. In 1962, he was named president of the Jacksonville Suns, a new Triple-A franchise. Wolfson died of bone cancer in 1963 and the Jacksonville Baseball Park was renamed Wolfson Park after him. The park continued to serve as the Suns' home stadium for the next four decades. However, age took its toll, and in 2000 plans were drawn up to replace it. The last exhibition game played at Wolfson Park was in 1998, when the Florida Marlins played the Detroit Tigers.
The park had several features that were unusual among ballparks.
- The infield and base paths outside of the mound, around home plate, and sliding pits around each base were grass, a configuration more commonly associated with artificial turf fields.
- The outfield wall was 25 feet high, all the way around. There were no seats in the outfield.
- The first three rows of seats were in front of the dugouts, permitting fans to look directly into them.
- The scoreboard wasn't inside the stadium—it was across a street from the outfield wall.
- The entire grandstand, including the lower boxes, was covered by a roof.
In late March 1955, 8,209 fans paid to watch the Milwaukee Braves and the Brooklyn Dodgers play an exhibition game that included numerous individuals who were eventually elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Among them: Hank Aaron, Walter Alston, Roy Campanella, Tommy Lasorda, Eddie Mathews, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Warren Spahn.
Over the years, dozens of future stars played in the park before moving up to the majors. Those players include Tommie Aaron, Andrés Galarraga, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martínez, Tug McGraw, Phil Niekro, Dan Quisenberry, Alex Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, Bret Saberhagen, Tom Seaver, Luis Tiant, Bob Uecker and Larry Walker. Michael Jordan, the NBA All-star who left basketball to attempt a pro baseball career with the Birmingham Barons, played in a three-game series in 1994 at Wolfson Park which generated the sale of 30,000 tickets. Attendance in the third game was 12,390 fans, the most since 1962.
The facility was demolished in 2002 and replaced with new practice fields for the Jacksonville Jaguars and a parking lot for Alltel Stadium. The Suns moved two blocks west to the new Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in 2003.
|Sam W. Wolfson Baseball Park|
|Jacksonville Baseball Park
Sam W. Wolfson Baseball Park
Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville
- ^a Local newspaper, The Florida Times-Union shows the original name as "Municipal Stadium", while former operator SMG notates "Municipal Ballpark". However, it appears the name "Jacksonville Baseball Park" was more commonly used in the media from 1954–1960.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
- Foley, Bill (October 22, 1997). "Braves ousted again: It's the Jacksonville jinx". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- Frenrette, Gene (August 25, 2002). "Wolfson Park nears its final innings". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- Ballpark Reviews-Wolfson Park
- Moore, Scotty: "Wolfson Park-Jacksonville, FL"
- "Wolfson Park". Jax Events. Archived from the original on May 20, 2000. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
- Max Marbut (December 3, 2013). "50 years ago this week". Jacksonville Daily Record. Retrieved December 3, 2013 – via Google News Archive.