Sitting in baseball history

Made my first trip Friday to Chattanooga’s Engel Stadium, the word “historic” seems to have become part of its name although “weathered” might be more appropriate.  With its unusual character and rich history, the facility deserves to be restored to its golden era glory. Hopefully, it will be before it’s lost

It’s a bit like what the new “Disneyland” major league parks aspire too in a updated, fanciful way with great sight lines and unique character. Here are some photos.

Constructed as the country was entering the Great Depression, it opened in 1930 as the home of the minor league club, the Chattanooga Lookouts, who quit playing there in 1999 for more modern digs.

Its most unusual feature as a minor league park was that it had the deepest center field in baseball history, 471 feet. Only Harmon Killebrew, it is said, hit a home run over the center marker. There’s shortening fence now.

It was an April in 1952 in Engel Stadium that blacks and whites first played in the same baseball game in Chattanooga. That game involved Jackie Robinson.

Perhaps the best known tale of the stadium is when a woman struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on an April day in 1931.

The woman was Virnett ‘Jackie’ Mitchell, a remarkable woman whose feat occurred when she was but 17. One newspaper speculated “maybe her curves were too much for them.”  That day and Mitchell are quite a story.

Today the stadium is used for high school baseball games and I’ll be there Sunday for a less historic game.