Jackie Robinson Ballpark History
The historic ballpark opened on June 4, 1914 as Daytona City Island Ballpark. Six years later, Daytona Beach obtained its first franchise and became a charter member in the class D Florida State League. During the 1920’s, a road circling the ballpark was built. A grandstand with a press box was built behind home plate to replace the original wood bleachers, and two additional covered sections of grandstands were added along the first base line, along with a segregated viewing area (in order to comply with the Jim Crow seating law). An uncovered bleacher along the third base line completed this ballpark expansion.
In 1946, Jackie Robinson came to town for spring training with the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers Triple-A farm club. He was banned from playing in Jacksonville and Sanford, but not in Daytona. He debuted here on March 17, 1946. His first plate appearance came in an exhibition game against their parent club, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson then became the first African-American player in the Major Leagues.
In the winter of 1951, the ballpark experienced a major facelift with most emphasis being placed on the field, fence, press box and clubhouse. However, in 1960, hurricane Donna blew across the state and did $75,000 worth of damage to the park. Some people suggested tearing down the park, but the city commission voted to restore it. In 1962, present-day grandstands and the current press box were installed, due to a pair of fans that fell through the wooden bleacher area during the singing of the seventh-inning stretch at a game.
Down the current left field line is the home-team clubhouse, which was completed in 1972 to accommodate the Montreal Expos for spring training. The next year, left-field bleachers were erected. A visitor’s clubhouse was built down the right field line in 1993.
In 1999, Mother Nature showed her power again. Hurricane Floyd ripped apart some of the metal roof over the grandstand behind home plate. The ballpark then experienced a two million dollar historic renovation for its right field grandstands.
In memory of the first site hosting a racially integrated game in baseball history, the ballpark was renamed “Jackie Robinson Ballpark” in 1990. Besides Robinson, there are many Hall-of-Famers who have played or managed on the field. Stars like Stan “The Man” Musial, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Rocky Colavito all have been to Daytona’s diamond. In November 1998, Jackie Robinson Ballpark was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its status in the civil rights movement. Efforts are under way to declare the site a National Landmark. The name of the ballpark can be replaced, but the history of it will last forever.