The development of professional baseball in the Daytona Beach area can be dated back to 1920. City Island Ballpark hosted its first professional baseball team when the Class D Florida State League was established. In 1936, after closing for 8 years, the Florida State League returned. The St. Louis Cardinals placed their farm club here and named them the Daytona Beach Islanders. Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial played for the team in 1940. He was a left-handed pitcher who did it all for the team. In addition to wining 18 games, Musial batted .311 with 70 RBIs in 405 at-bats. Late in the season, he fell in the sandy outfield and injured his throwing shoulder. The incident ended Musial’s pitching career, thus created his amazing hitting journey.
The Islanders had six seasons in Daytona Beach before World War II brought a suspension of play. The team chose to affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers when the ball games resumed. The relationship lasted just one year, as the Islanders decided to operate independently for the next three seasons. In 1950, the City of Daytona Beach signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians. Under Hall-of-Famer Charles “Red” Ruffing’s managing, the team finished second in the league.
Four years later, the Isles decided to go back to its old acquaintance—the St. Louis Cardinals, though the agreement was valid for only a year. In 1955, the club went without any Major League hook-up for the second and the last time. Manager Johnny Vander Meer, the back-to-back no-hitter pitcher, helped Jon Ivory Smith to set a league record with 320 strikeouts. In the same year, first baseman Dan Smith became the only .400 hitter in Florida State League history.
During the following decade, the Islanders switched their affiliation back and forth with the Indians, the Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Athletics, and the Detroit Tigers. In 1964, the franchise set a record—seven different men managed the club in one year. Despite the high frequency of transferring parent organizations, the name of the team remained the same for 32 years. It wasn’t changed until the Dodgers, which had moved to L.A, came back in 1968. The Daytona Beach Dodgers stayed until 1973, much longer than the previous time. From 1970 to 1972, the Daytona Beach Dodgers were managed by Stan Wasiak. He went on to win more games than any other manager in minor league history.
After three dark years, the diamond shined again in 1977 when the Kansas City Royals put their Class A farm club in City Island Ballpark. Though the Royals pulled their team out the next year, the Houston Astros replaced them. They had a Florida State League affiliation here through 1984. When the Astros left in 1985, Daytona Beach remained in the Florida State League with a co-operative team made up of players from the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers organizations. On the roster was Kenny Rogers, who pitched a perfect game in the majors.
The co-op team was bought by the Rangers and moved away in 1987. With the birth of a new team, Daytona Beach still stayed in the Florida State League. The Chicago White Sox built a farm club named the Daytona Beach Admirals here. However, the team moved to Sarasota the next year. Pro baseball was deleted from the local recreation list for the following five years.
There was no minor league team until the Chicago Cubs arrived in 1993. The team established their Advanced Class ‘A’ affiliation with the Daytona Cubs. After the hurricanes of 2004 the ballpark received a new “riverwalk” area for fans to enjoy before and during all games. It also was upgraded with a manual-operated scoreboard and new batting cages. Daytona has set new attendance records in each of the past three seasons including the 2006 record of 147,677 fans at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. In 2007 the Cubs hosted the Florida State League All-Star Game for the first time since 1983. The Cubs also added a new feature, “The Budweiser Bullpen,” to the park in June of 2007. We are looking forward to serving the area for decades to come.