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Urban Parks: James P. Small Park

Located at 1701 Myrtle Avenue, the 4.82 acre James P. Small Park is a direct link between today's community and the Negro baseball leagues of the early 20th century.

Published April 1, 2009 in Neighborhoods      17 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

History of J.P. SmallMemorial Park

Originally known as Barrs Field, Durkee Field was bought by the city for $348,000 in 1932. The baseball stadium was built in 1936-1937. Durkee Field was home to the Negro League and minor league baseball teams. Henry Aaron, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Roy Campanella, James “Cool Papa” Bell and William “Judy” Johnson passed through on their way to baseball’s “Hall of Fame”. The name of the park changed from Durkee Field to J. P. Small Memorial Park Stadium in July 1980. James P. Small coached and taught at Stanton High School for 33 years, then coached at Raines High School for one year before retiring. He died in 1975. In 1982, the stadium was slated for demolition; however, a case was made for its renovation. The project was completed in 1985. Renovations included structural repairs, a new roof, press box and dugouts, paving the parking lot, a new playscape and lighted fields. Further renovation in 2006 included a small museum.

http://apps2.coj.net/parksinternet/parkdetails.asp?parkid=215




































Did you know?

New York Giants
New York Yankees
Cincinnati Reds
Brooklyn Dodgers
Philadelphia Athletics
Birmingham Black Barons
Kansas City Monarchs
Indianapolis Clowns
Hank Aaron
Babe Ruth
Satchel Paige
Ty Cobb

all played on this field...




















Photos by Ennis Davis








17 Comments

copperfiend

April 01, 2009, 08:04:22 AM
What percentage of Jacksonville residents would you say even know the ballfield and it's history?

riverside_mail

April 01, 2009, 08:05:20 AM
Nice bit of history. Is the stadium used for anything in particular now?

fsujax

April 01, 2009, 08:13:57 AM
Yes, I have seen Stanton's baseball team practice there.

cracklow

April 01, 2009, 11:40:32 AM
Stanton baseball plays games there as well, I've seen my brother in law and cousin both play there.

Doctor_K

April 01, 2009, 02:26:49 PM
Copperfiend--

Probably something like < 2%, sadly.

Thanks for the photo tour, Ennis - great stuff as always.

thelakelander

April 01, 2009, 03:08:15 PM
This place is a real treasure to have in this city.  Quite frankly, I'm suprised its still standing.

9a is my backyard

April 01, 2009, 05:42:18 PM
Quite frankly, I'm suprised its still standing.
True.  At least we've still got our T-Rex on Beach though, right?  Am I right?

This city can be so frustrating.

thelakelander

April 01, 2009, 06:00:24 PM
Yes, I think the T-Rex is still there.

DONTBELIEVETHEHYPE

April 01, 2009, 08:32:31 PM
The ballpark and a brief narrative of the history of Negro League Baseball was outlined in a small, obscure section of the Jacksonville Suns program a few years ago.  After reading it, I drove to the site, walked around, and took the place in.  If you are a baseball fan, it's worth a trip to see the ballpark.  As a fan of both history and baseball, and baseball history, I think it's a special place, and I am glad to see that it is in reasonably good condition.

I'm not sure, but I think Edward Waters College's baseball team plays their home games at this ballpark.

9a is my backyard

April 01, 2009, 11:42:41 PM
Yes, I think the T-Rex is still there.
Sorry, I was being sarcastic earlier.  Not only is it still there, it was saved and restored because enough people complained.

deathstar

April 02, 2009, 02:05:48 AM
I just got a little smarter reading about this field, and seeing the pictures. I'm speechless at the talent who has played on that field, and I hope to go there, close my eyes, and imagine what it must of been like. Thanks for the education lesson in Baseball history here!

Coolyfett

April 05, 2009, 08:16:19 PM
Quote
What percentage of Jacksonville residents would you say even know the ball field and it's history?

The 5 % that lives in Durkeeville and maybe Ock.

I got like 3 Redcaps tshirts and had a Cooperstown Throwback jersey with the # 38, the year the Redcaps played in Jax.

Do they still play games at this park?

stjr

April 05, 2009, 09:34:15 PM
Jacksonville has an outstanding history of accomplishments by our Black community that have made marks on the entire nation.  Not only in baseball, football (Bob Hayes and many others), basketball (Artis Gilmore and others), but also in the arts and culture, politics, etc.  We could have as a stand-alone attraction, a Black history museum, and it would be a national treasure.  Although, my preference would be to have it incorporated as a substantial part of a Jacksonville HISTORY museum that highlights all our community accomplishments! Such a project would be supported by the entire community and would be a gem for us all.  What are we waiting for?

stjr

April 05, 2009, 11:07:33 PM
Jacksonville has an outstanding history of accomplishments by our Black community that have made marks on the entire nation.  Not only in baseball, football (Bob Hayes and many others), basketball (Artis Gilmore and others), but also in the arts and culture, politics, etc.  We could have as a stand-alone attraction, a Black history museum, and it would be a national treasure.  Although, my preference would be to have it incorporated as a substantial part of a Jacksonville HISTORY museum that highlights all our community accomplishments! Such a project would be supported by the entire community and would be a gem for us all.  What are we waiting for?

I just read the recent MJ article on the La Villa Museum of African American History in N.E. Florida.  Wow.  Looks great.  I am a native and consider myself well informed of Jax goings-on, and I don't recall ever hearing about this place.  My ignorance in making the previous post is proof positive they need to do more to promote it. 

I didn't see a mention of the Negro leagues in the La Villa Museum article.  Is this featured as well?  Do they attempt to cover all of Jax African American history, or just pieces of it?  Do they have a research and archives department?

Just think if we had one unified Jax History museum, the spotlight that we could shine on all of our community's history would be magnified many fold and the collaborative curating and research that could be done to weave a total Jax historical experience.  These mostly unknown-to-the-greater-community museums are never going to pull in the crowds or have the abilities that a centralized facility would with enhanced resources and a more varied audience.

thelakelander

April 05, 2009, 11:21:34 PM
Most of the museum's focus revolves around the LaVilla area.  The largest local Negro leagues exhibit is located in a well hidden space inside the old ballpark.  Jacksonville definitely gets an F for marketing its significant history.

Miss Fixit

October 04, 2011, 02:21:58 PM
When is the museum at J.P. Small open?

thelakelander

October 04, 2011, 02:51:46 PM
There is no set time.  Typically, it's closed.  I got in because I was out taking pictures of the ball park, a maintenance guy noticed me, told me about the museum inside, and unlocked the door so I could check it out.
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