Why do they call it that? Huggins-Stengel Field: Baseball history still standing in St. Pete with Yankees, Mets, and more

6:55 AM, Mar 7, 2013   |    comments
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There is one special Spring Training spot in St. Petersburg where you can get up close to almost 90 years of baseball history.

Why do they call it Huggins-Stengel Field?

They called old Yankee Stadium "the house that Ruth built." Maybe this is the "vacation cottage that Ruth built."

Custom-designed to lure in baseball's biggest prize for Spring Training -- the New York Yankees -- Crescent Lake Park opened in St. Petersburg in 1925. The ballpark's outfield sits along the edge of shimmering Crescent Lake.

It was a big hit with the guy known for his big hits -- Babe Ruth.

"He is one of only two players to supposedly hit a home run ball that landed in Crescent Lake -- him and Dave Kingman of the New York Mets -- which is over 500 feet from home plate," said Tampa Bay History Center curator Rodney Kite-Powell.

Kite-Powell added that the lake had one strike against it. Actually, it had lots of strikes -- all with lots of teeth.

"The story goes that in the first season at Crescent Lake Park, Babe Ruth was in the outfield and he refused to shag fly balls," Kite-Powell said.

"Because he noticed alligators were actually coming out of Crescent Lake and sunning themselves on the bank, which was really also in the outfield."

The ballpark is still standing in St. Pete, and so is one of the wooden lockers from the original clubhouse.

The locker may have been used by one of baseball's greatest players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, or Joe DiMaggio. Or it may have been used by one of their team's managers.

Miller Huggins was the Yankees' skipper during the team's early years here.

A generation later, Casey Stengel headed up the Yankees and then the Mets, who started training in St. Pete in the 1960's.

Both managers are now in the Hall of Fame. And both now lend their names to this ballpark, which sits in a quiet St. Petersburg neighborhood and manages to nearly hide all of the history it holds.

"The stadium opened in '25, and in 1927, you had 'Murderer's Row,' and really it was one of the best baseball teams that ever played. And they got their start right in St. Petersburg at that same complex," Kite-Powell said.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

The ballfield is still used for some amateur baseball games and tournaments. But beware! Several people have reported that the park is haunted by the ghosts of players from the past.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Thursday on 10 News at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy Award-winning series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.












Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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