Edison and Ford Winter Estates Hosts Vintage “Base Ball” Games at Terry Park
FORT MYERS, Fla. (February 2, 2023) — On March 26, Edison and Ford Winter Estates will host its annual Vintage “Base Ball” Tournament at historic Terry Park in Fort Myers. The teams will play several consecutive games throughout the day in a small tournament format. The gates will open at 9:30 a.m. with the first game starting at 10 a.m.
Vintage base ball (baseball in the 1860s, was spelled with two words) is played by 1860s rules, which include using wooden bats, no gloves and lemon peel baseballs. Players will wear vintage uniforms and the umpires will call the shots the way they did during the time period.
The vintage team roster to date includes the Awkwards Vintage Base Ball of Central Florida, Bradenton Shamrocks Vintage Base Ball Club, the Early Riser BBC of Detroit, Vagabonds Base Ball Club (Fort Myers home team), and the Wyandotte Stars BBC (Michigan). Additional teams may be added and visiting players may join a team for the day. Admission to the vintage base ball tournament at Terry Park will be $5 for adults; kids 18 and under will be admitted free.
The game coincides with major league baseball spring training that is now locally played at JetBlue Park, the Lee County Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium; however, Terry Park was once the hub of baseball’s spring training, and where Thomas Edison was a frequent visitor.
History of Terry Park and the Connection to Thomas Edison
In 1921, Dr. Marshall Terry, along with his wife Tootie McGregor-Terry, donated several acres of land that had in its earliest days been a cow pasture and later the site of the Lee County fair. Lee County government took formal possession of the land, which was a mile east of the City of Fort Myers with the stipulation that “all property shall be used as a park and public property.”
Using the specifications put forth by Cornelius McGillicuddy, aka “Connie Mack,” manager and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, construction of the original ball field began in 1923 and was officially named Terry Park. After two years of negotiations between Mack and a committee led by Richard Richards Sr., owner of the Fort Myers Royal Palm Pharmacy, the Athletics agreed to play their spring training games in Fort Myers starting in 1925.
Terry Park served as the official spring training home of the Athletics until 1936. The team won the World Series in both 1929 and 1930. Over the next five decades, other major league baseball teams used the ballpark to play their pre-season exhibition games, including the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Hall of Famers such as George Brett, Roberto Clemente, Ty Cob, Jimmy Foxx, and Babe Ruth are just some of stars that graced the fields at Terry Park, helping bring national exposure to the “City of Palms.”
Thomas Edison, world-famous inventor and businessman, was also a die-hard baseball fan. In a 1927 interview, Edison was quoted as saying “Baseball is the greatest of American games. I don’t believe you can find a more ardent follower of baseball than myself, as a day seldom passes when I do not read sporting pages of the newspaper.” Edison decided to visit Terry Park on a few occasions to watch the Athletics play, even seizing one opportunity to participate in the team’s batting practice session.
“According to historic documents, Ty Cobb volunteered to pitch to the 80-year-old Edison, who subsequently hit a line drive that knocked Ty Cobb down who was standing half-way between the mound and home plate,” said Matt Andres, Curatorial Registrar at Edison and Ford Winter Estates. “As a result, Edison and an army of reporters roared with laughter after humbling one the leagues greatest players. While Cobb was dusting himself off, the inventor quipped, ‘think you can hit them like that when you’re 80′? A few days later the entire team visited Mr. and Mrs. Edison at their Fort Myers’ estate and toured the property and had lunch with the legendary inventor.”
Presentation at Edison and Ford Winter Estates
For spectators wanting to learn more about the history of spring training and the baseball legends that played in Fort Myers, Edison Ford program manager, Holly Shaffer, will give a presentation on March 24 and March 25 at 11 a.m. The presentation is included with general admission to Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
New Exhibit Planned
In partnership with Connie Mack’s family, a new baseball exhibit is planned for the museum at Edison and Ford Winter Estates and is scheduled to open this spring. The exhibit will feature original artifacts and photographs on loan from the Mack family, connecting Thomas Edison, Connie Mack and baseball in Fort Myers. The exhibit will also trace the long history of Fort Myers as a Spring Training site, resulting in World Series pennants for every team that trained here longer than two years. The exhibit is scheduled to be on display for five years. For more information about Edison and Ford Winter Estates, visit EdisonFord.org.