percent of the people in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,
N.Y., either played baseball or were in someway associated with baseball training
in Hot Springs.
thirty-four of the 295 members of the Hall of Fame can be associated with
training, playing, visiting or otherwise being in Hot Springs, many from the
late 19th Century. Five respected baseball historians have painstakingly documented
the Hot Springs connection to what became known as the sport’s spring training.
coinciding with MLB spring training, Hot Springs will officially inaugurate The
Historical Baseball Trail that documents Hot Springs: The Birthplace of Spring
began as our curiosity about why there are so many photos of Babe Ruth at
various locations in Hot Springs wound up unearthing a treasure trove of
historic associations between the world’s most famous baseball players and Hot
Springs, Arkansas,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs.
got rolling in the spring of 2011 when we were able to document that Ruth hit
the first 500-foot-plus home run while playing spring baseball at Whittington
Park,” Arrison continued. “Bill Jenkinson, one of the pre-eminent baseball
historians in the world, came to Hot Springs and helped us authenticate Babe’s
legendary 573-foot shot that zoomed over Whittington Park’s fence, across
Whittington Avenue and into the Arkansas Alligator Farm.”
ceremony, Arrison said, Jenkinson collaborated with Tim Reid from Florida, Don
Duren from Dallas, Mark Blaeuer from Hot Springs, and Mike Dugan of Hot Springs
to study spring baseball in Hot Springs. The further they dug, the more they
began to be amazed by the documented accounts of baseball legends who had come
to Hot Springs to play or to relax.
Duren and Blaeuer determined that A. G. Spalding and Cap Anson brought the
Chicago White Stockings (aka Colts; now called the Cubs) to train and play
spring games in Hot Springs in 1886. The field where they played, known as The
Hot Springs Baseball Field and The Hot Springs Baseball Grounds, was located on
Ouachita Avenue behind the current site of the Garland County Courthouse.
famous names from that original group included are Mike “King” Kelly, John
Clarkson and Billy Sunday. Anson’s exploits at this locale on March 28, 1887,
included hitting three home runs playing against a team from Des Moines, Iowa.
turned into a treasure hunt as the historians dug deeper into newspapers across
America that contained dispatches about the increasing popularity of spring
baseball in Hot Springs.
were able to document more than 300 players, managers, owners, journalists and
other famous names associated with baseball in Hot Springs. The city’s
importance with the old Negro League was part of their historical
emerged that we needed to let the people of America know about the people,
places and events that made Hot Springs a key element in the growth of
America’s pastime,” Arrison said.
to do was gather as many names as could be historically authenticated and try
to locate the places where these legends played or relaxed in Hot Springs. We
determined to call it the Historical Baseball Trail of Hot Springs: The
Birthplace of Spring Baseball.
a starting point in Hill Wheatley Plaza that will have plaques documenting Hot
Springs’ role in baseball history and the 300-plus names of those we have been
able to authenticate as having been in Hot Springs.”
will have a brochure plus a digital tour guide that will work on smartphones to
explain other plaques that denote places throughout Hot Springs where the
various legends played or visited.