Jack Russell Stadium
Review by Gary
Thanks to a tip from a Phillies fan at the Phils current training complex in Clearwater, I drove the five miles to Jack Russell Stadium, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1955 to 2003. It has been home field to the Clearwater High School and St. Petersburg College baseball teams since 2017. Contrary to popular belief, Jack Russell Stadium is not named after the spunky dog breed but a Major League player who settled in the area and brought baseball to Clearwater after his playing career (1926–1940) ended.
The Phillies played their first game at the stadium on March 10, 1955. Jack Russell Stadium became the home of the Clearwater Phillies of the Florida State League in 1985, having added a new home clubhouse and additional seating to the ballpark. The Clearwater Phils played their last game at the stadium in 2003 as Robin Roberts, who had pitched the first exhibition game in 1955, threw out the first-pitch.
In 2007, the city council elected to partially tear down the stadium, leaving the playing field, dugouts, bleachers, batting cages, and original two-story office in the right field corner. In March 2018, the City of Clearwater and the Phillies, who moved a few miles away to their spiffy new multi-field complex at BayCare Ballpark, dedicated a very attractive memorial park at the ballpark behind the third base bleachers.
Numerous brass plaques are mounted on six-foot stone markers that honor the Phillies Hall of Famers, Jack Russell, visiting greats, and the World Champion 1980 Phillies team who played here. For the player memorials, their jersey number and Phils’ logo at the time are also displayed with their bios. During renovations to nearby Dunedin Stadium in 2019, the Dunedin Blue Jays set up camp at the ballpark, playing many of their scheduled home games at the park. Remnants of the Clearwater Phils and Dunedin Jays were found in the form of on-deck circles long-buried under the batting cage at the left field corner of the ballpark.
Jack Russell Stadium looks nothing like the stadium that the Phillies greats played in (superb photos of the stadium in its heyday can be found at most of Ballpark Brothers’ sister web pages), but the memorial park certainly adds to the history of the team and the players who played on the same diamond.