Friday, May 8, 2009

Al Lopez Field

Coordinates: 27°58′30″N 82°30′09″W / 27.9750738°N 82.5025606°W / 27.9750738; -82.5025606






Al Lopez Field



Al Lopez Field was a spring training and Minor League baseball park in Tampa, Florida. It was named for Tampa native and Baseball Hall of Famer Al Lopez.


It was located east of Dale Mabry Highway (Highway US-92) and north of Tampa Bay Boulevard. It opened in 1957 as the spring home of the Chicago White Sox and also the Cincinnati Reds. Lopez was the Sox manager at the time. The Sox moved elsewhere a few years later, but the Reds stayed for three decades.


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 (later renamed Houlihan's Stadium) was built to the north of it. That stadium became the first home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. The photo shown here was taken from a back row of that stadium.


After the spring session of 1987, the Reds abandoned the park for newer facilities in Plant City, Florida. The park continued to be used as a minor league facility for a couple more years before the ballpark was abandoned for good and was demolished. There was discussion of building a major league baseball facility in its place, but that did not happen.


Instead, Raymond James Stadium, which opened in 1998, was constructed on the site. 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. He said, "The umpire threw me out of my own ballpark!"



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