HOME OF LONG BEACH STATE BASEBALL
One of America's best amateur baseball
facilities, Blair Field in Long Beach will once again be the home site
for 49er games. Blair Field is by Long Beach State under an extended lease from the City of Long Beach and
is in Recreation Park at the corner of 10th Street and Park Avenue.
Blair Field has been honored by Baseball America
as one of the top 15 collegiate ballparks in the nation.
Long Beach State baseball officially moved to the facility for the 1993
season. A $1.4 million renovation in 1992 and additional improvements
in the past seven years make the stadium a prime spot for all baseball
Recent improvements include 774 new box seats, located in the first five
rows behind the Super Box seats, between the first and third base bags.
In 2008, Long Beach State and the City also combined to build a new scoreboard with a full LCD color video screen and LED score displays.
A new baseball stadium and playing field were approved as a part of
a bond issue in February 1956. Originally given $260,000 funding, the
stadium would grow from just seats and a field to include locker rooms,
concession stands and lighting under the guidance of city engineer Tom
Marchese, a former player in the Milwaukee Braves organization. The
final cost of construction totaled $500,000.
Blair Field is named for Frank Blair, the first and only sports editor
at the Long Beach Press-Telegram from 1921 until his death in 1953. Blair had been
a vocal leader in the drive to build a new ballpark in Long Beach.
Before Blair Field was built, Recreation Park already was a baseball
landmark. Opened in 1924, the 1,000-seat wooden grandstand would see
the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels begin what would be more than
30 years of use. Future major leaguers from Bob Lemon and Jack Graham,
to Ricky Bridges, Joe Amalfitano and Ron Fairly played at old Rec Park.
Connie Mack's Athletics and barn storming teams with Joe DiMaggio,
Bob Feller and Satchel Paige would all play there. In fact, the old
field was so used that the City removed the worn grass field and created
a completely skinned field in 1929.
Blair Field opened on Friday, April 11, 1958 with Poly High School pitcher
Gordon Nelson throwing the first pitch to Huntington Beach High School
shortstop John Daros. Poly would win the game 3-1 before less than 100
fans. Four days later, Long Beach State would defeat Long Beach City
College 14-6 in the first collegiate game. Ironically, the Los Angeles
Dodgers and San Francisco Giants played their first "West Coast
game" that same day.
In 1961, the Dodgers would play an exhibition game at Blair Field versus
the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers before a still-record 6,250 fans. In 1966,
the Chicago Cubs held spring training and played eight exhibition games
at the ballpark. The Angels and Indians would play additional games
in 1967. For 13 years, the Los Angeles Rams used the facility as their
practice site, until their move to Anaheim.
The home of amateur baseball in Southern California, the stadium has
been the home for five Moore League high schools, American Legion and
Connie Mack baseball for 40 years. Hundred's of future professional
players, including future major league all-stars Jeff Burroughs, Bobby
Grich and Tony Gwynn, have played at the ballpark. Local legends like
Ray McKinstry, Harry Brittan, Fred Strobel, Jack Caplinger, Red Meairs
and Jack Graham have given a lifetime of service to the community's
baseball youth over the decades.
In 1992, after years of decay and community outcry, the City invested
$1.4 million in a complete stadium renovation. The three-phase project
would take eight months to complete and included: new metal seats in
place of the original wood benches; a new roof; a new backstop; new
paint; and new Triple-A standard lighting. The most time consuming and
costly work was a complete excavation, instillation of modern drainage
and replacement of the playing field. Today, the Bermuda playing field
at Blair Field is recognized as the finest collegiate field in the country.
Subsequent years have seen the City and Long Beach State cooperatively
continue to upgrade the facility with a new batting cage, picnic area,
improved locker rooms and sound system upgrade. The stadium's
first-ever tarp arrived in time for El Nino in 1998 and last year 800
new box seats and a $300,000 scoreboard - custom designed to asthetically
fit the old ballpark - were added. The City of Long Beach currently
is working on long-term modernization plans to bring the stadium to
21st Century standards.
Thirty-six years after construction, Long Beach State became the stadium's
first full-time baseball tenant in 1993. Starting with 753 fans at that
home opener in 1993, 49er attendance has continued to build to 30,000
per season to rank in the NCAA top-25 total attendance list. The highlight
of the new Blair Field came on April 26-28, 1996, when 8,035 fans attended
the three-game series between the 49ers and Cal State Fullerton, including
a single-game attendance record of 3,107 on Saturday the 27th.
In addition to LBSU and the five area high schools, Blair Field has
been host of six MTV Rock & Jock softball games, four Area Code
Game tournaments and has been the filming location for over 200 film,
TV and commercial productions, including Space Jam, Mr. Baseball and
Odd Couple II.
In 2003, Long Beach State hosted its first-ever
NCAA Regional at the park, drawing over 10,000 people to the four-team,
It is believed that more future major leaguers have played in high school,
Legion, Connie Mack or collegiate games at Blair Field than any other
field in the country.