Baseball at Terry Park – From Edison to Today
March 22, 2019
On January 5, 1921,Dr. Marshall Terry, along with his wife Tootie McGregor-Terry, donated several acres of privately owned land that had in its earliest days been a cow pasture and later the site of the Lee County Fair. Lee county government took formal possession of the land a mile east of the city of Fort Myers with the stipulation that “all property shall be used as a park and public property.”
Using the specifications put forth by Cornelius McGillicuddy, aka “Connie Mack,” manager and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, construction of the original ball field began in 1923 and was officially named Terry Park. After two years of negotiations between Mack and a committee led by Richard Richards Sr., owner of the Fort Myers Royal Palm Pharmacy, the A’s agreed to play their spring training games in Fort Myers starting in 1925.
Terry Park would serve as the official spring training home of the A’s until 1936. They would go on to win the World Series two times during this span, in 1929 & 1930. Over the next five decades, other major league baseball teams would use this ballpark to play their preseason exhibition games:
- Cleveland Indians (40-41)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (55-68)
- Kansas City Royals (69-87)
Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jimmy Foxx, Roberto Clemente, and George Brett are just some of stars that graced the fields at Terry Park, helping bring national exposure to the “City of Palms”.
Thomas Edison, world-famous inventor and businessman, was also a die-hard baseball fan. In a 1927 interview, Edison was quoted as saying “Baseball is the greatest of American games. I don’t believe you can find a more ardent follower of baseball than myself, as a day seldom passes when I do not read sporting pages of the newspaper.” Edison decided to visit Terry Park on a few occasions to watch the A’s play, even seizing one opportunity to participate in the team’s batting practice session.
According to Edison-Ford Registrar Matt Andres, “from what I’ve read, Ty Cobb volunteered to pitch to the 80 year old Edison, who subsequently hit a line drive that knocked Ty Cobb down who was standing half-way between the mound and home plate. As a result, Edison and an army of reporters roared with laughter after humbling one the leagues greatest players. While Cobb was dusting himself off, the inventor quipped, “think you can hit them like that when you’re 80?” A few days later the entire team visited Mr. and Mrs. Edison at the Seminole Lodge where they toured the property and had lunch with the legendary inventor. In honor of Edison’s love for baseball, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates will be hosting our 2nd annual Vintage Baseball Weekend complete with lectures, games, and a whole lot of fun.
The weekend starts with a presentation tonight at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates:
Vintage Base Ball Weekend Kickoff with Historian and Performer Elizabeth Carlson
The fun continues Saturday afternoon with a double feature presentation in the theater of the Edison Ford Museum:
A Visit with Early Inventor, Mary Florence Potts
The Distaff Side of Vintage Base Ball: Then & Now
Finally, the big game takes place Sunday, the bats start swinging at 10:00 am and plan to go all day:
Vintage Base Ball at Terry Park hosted by Edison Ford