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Payne Park

Markers: Sarasota History

Location: 2000 Block Adams Lane, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Payne Park photo

Payne Park was host to many of Major League Baseball's most renowned figures from 1924, when the reigning champion of New York Giants of the National League opened spring training, until 1988, when the Chicago White Sox of the American League played their last spring game. The stadium was torn down in 1990.

Calvin N. and Martha E. Payne sold the 60-acre tract of land upon which the Payne Park stadium was built to the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County for $18,000 in 1923. Terms of the sale required that it be developed as a fairground and public park. Space was available for a baseball diamond if a major league team agreed to conduct spring training in Sarasota.

The Sarasota County Fair opened the following January, a month before the arrival of the Giants. Circus owner and real estate developer John Ringling and theatrical performer Samuel Gumpertz were instrumental in convincing Giants' manager John McGraw to bring his team to Sarasota, where it played exhibition games from 1924-1927.

As Sarasota's downtown area grew, the fairgrounds were moved east; but professional baseball remained the popular focal point of Payne Park activities.

The Indianapolis Indians of the Midwest League played spring training games at Payne Park from 1929-1932. They were followed by the Boston Red Sox from 1933-1958. With the exception of three years during World War II when spring training was suspended, the Red Sox attracted crowds to Payne Park to watch some of the great names in baseball, including Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson.

After the Red Sox moved their spring games to Arizona, the Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League played a handful of games here in 1959 while the Sarasota Sports Committee sought a commitment from another team.

When the Chicago White Sox began spring training in 1960, they began a relationship with Sarasota that outlasted the Payne Park baseball field. By the mid-1980's both City and County Commissions realized that it was time to phase out baseball activities at Payne Park and build a more modern sports stadium. The Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers played the last major league game at Payne Park on March 30, 1988. The White Sox' sign moved with them to their new spring quarters at Ed Smith Stadium on 12th Street.

Dedicated in 1996 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission

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