Review by Gary
There are not many ballparks still standing that can say that Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Al Kaline played there, but Lakeland, Florida’s Henley Field sure can. Constructed in 1922, the Cleveland Indians would be the first to make this Lakeland ball field their spring training home for two seasons.
On March 17, 1925 the dedication of this classic Spanish Mediterranean designed “Athletic Park” took place with Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as guest speaker. With its arched doorways, wrought iron gates, terra cotta shingles and light-yellow painted stucco walls, Henley fits right in with the distinctive Floridian motif. Were it not for an uber-aggressive landscaper who asked me to leave the premises, you would have some better photos of the rooved grandstand area.
In 1934, the Tigers began what today is the longest relationship between a major league team and a host spring training city. Henley Field was home to the Detroit Tigers until 1966 when the club moved to Joker Marchant Stadium, a 1½ mile drive away.
Clare “Doc” Henley, president of the Lakeland Baseball Club, was the owner of a series of Lakeland area pharmacies and would sell game tickets at his stores and charged for parking next to the stadium. The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce decided to honor Henley by naming the park in his honor on March 29, 1952. A writer for the Detroit News said of Henley, “He is the man who has done the most for the national sport of baseball in Lakeland.”
In 2002, the Tigers Class-A affiliate in the Florida State League used Henley Field while Joker Marchant Stadium underwent a renovation. The ballpark seats just 1,000 and has been the home to 8 Florida State League teams. The collegiate Florida Southern Mocs have played here since the 1960s. On May 23, 1997, the ballpark was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The Hall of Famers would be proud.