Remembering Tinker Field

At the site of the Old Tinker Field, you will only find a plaza. Tinker Field was demolished in 2015 to give way for the Old Citrus Bowl expansion next door. Citrus Bowl is now called Camping World Stadium, also used as a concert venue. Expanding the walking plaza around the stadium into rightfield made the ballpark unplayable. This, despite opposition from people trying to save the park and Tinker Field having National Historic Landmark Protections. In Central Florida, history becomes a casualty to tourism. Expansion was part of Orlando Mayor Dyer’s plan of attracting business to the downtown area, a trifecta that also includes the New Amway Arena and the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center.

City of Orlando opened the plaza in 2018 to commemorate the history here. At the least, there’s something to recognize the 101 year history. Orlando Rays of the Southern League were the last tenants, playing here until 1999, then played in Kissimmee for a short time and eventually became the Montgomery Biscuits in Alabama. Since then, the Florida State League Advanced-A (FSL) and Florida Collegiate Summer League (FCSL) also called it home over the years. They kept Tinker Field relevant. In 2012, the Orlando team in the FCSL was renamed the Monarchs, to commemorate the legendary team from Kansas City, the longest running franchise of the Negro Leagues.

Hall of Famer Joe Tinker played on the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs. In 1920, he moved to Orlando and eventually retired there and became an Owner and Manager in the Florida State League. He helped promote Baseball in Central Florida and would lead the way for little league and school programs. He eventually went into Real Estate. But, because of his role in growing the popularity of the game in Central Florida, the park was named in his honor.

Tinker Field hosted MLB Spring Training for 48 years;

  • Cincinnati Reds (1923-1933)
  • Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-1935)
  • Washington Senators (1936-1960)
  • Minnesota Twins (1961)

Here is a shortlist of Legends who played here;

  • Babe Ruth
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Willie Mays
  • Cal Ripken Jr.
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Carlton Fisk
  • Johnny Bench
  • Roy Campanella
  • Sandy Koufax
  • Jim Palmer
  • Bob Feller
  • Hank Aaron
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Lou Brock
  • Ted Williams
  • Willie Stargell
  • Tony Perez
  • Stan Musial

In 1964, Martin Luther King (MLK) stopped here, during the Civil Rights Movement, and spoke from the mound to thousands sitting in the grandstands. It was ironic that Blacks were sitting in the grandstands for the first time, as they were not allowed to sit there during games. MLK told those early pioneers in Baseball, like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron, that their work made it easy for him to carry out his mission. NBA Legend Michael Jordan also played here in his short time with the Birmingham Barons (1994-1995). Not only are there too many memories to count, Tinker Field represents a large contribution to the game of Baseball.

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