100 Years of Baseball in Spartanburg
Duncan Park, or more affectionally known as “Historic Duncan Park,” is one of the oldest baseball stadiums in the country, is the oldest baseball stadium in South Carolina, and is listed on the National Park’s Services National Register of Historic Places, designed by Spartanburg architect J. Frank Collins, Duncan Park Stadium was built in 1926. The focal point of the stadium is a large wooden grandstand with a roof supported by steel trusses, topped by a press box. The true assets to the park are the original chairs from Shibe Park (later Connie Mack Stadium) in Philadelphia, PA. Not to go into the history of another historic baseball stadium during an already historical write-up, but context must be provided to understand the true scope of just how meaningful Duncan Park is in baseball lore. The original seats were installed in Shibe Park in 1909. Still, when the Philadelphia Phillies (Spartanburg’s Parent Organization at the time) won their last game at the stadium on October 1, 1970, the rowdy crowd took to dismantling the stadium to go home with a souvenir. Fortunately, 587 seats were transferred 600 miles south to the Phillies’ Single-A team in Spartanburg and installed in Duncan Park before the 1971 season. Duncan Park was the only minor league ballpark to receive these pieces of baseball history. It is safe to say, “they don’t make them like this anymore.”
Duncan Park has provided a destination for fans of the game to take in all the incredible sights, sounds, and smells of America’s Pastime for generations. The ballpark has been home to minor league teams, textile teams, and the Spartanburg American Legion Post 28 team. Duncan Park hosted its first game on July 8, 1926; 2,500 fans watched as the Spartanburg Spartans defeated the Macon Peaches. Another significant milestone is when the stadium hosted Game 5 of the 1936 World Series of American Legion Baseball. Nearly 21,000 fans packed the stands, grandstands, concourses, and fences to take in the game. Today, that figure remains the largest crowd to watch a sporting event in Spartanburg, SC. Throughout its history, Duncan Park has hosted some of baseball’s most significant figures. Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Larry Bowa, Ryne Sandberg, Dale Murphy, and Tom Glavine are just some of the names who have dusted off their cleats and showed the residents of Spartanburg, SC, their skills on the diamond.
The Spartanburg Spartans played at Duncan Park from the late 1920s until the late 1930s. The 1940s saw the Spartanburg Peaches, a Class B minor league team affiliated with the St. Louis Browns (1940-1946), then with the Cleveland Indians from 1967-1955. Perhaps Duncan Parks’ best-known team was the Spartanburg Phillies, who played there from 1963-1994. Duncan Park remained relatively vacant until it served as a venue for Wofford College and the University of South Carolina Upstate before the early 2000s. Duncan Park also has been no stranger to collegiate summer league teams, hosting the Spartanburg Crickets and the Spartanburg Stingers in the 2000s.
American Legion Baseball has a long and proud history since its inception in 1925. In 1933, the American Legion Post 28 team played their games at the ballpark and proved to be the stadium’s longest tenant, as they still play their games at the stadium to this day. Legion baseball grew in South Carolina when the Textile Leagues were thriving, and Spartanburg’s Duncan Park Stadium was home to the local minor league teams. Spartanburg Post 28’s team formed in 1933 and has since achieved an impressive record of wins, including a national championship in 1936
One of the essential pieces of Duncan Park’s history is that it served as the home of the Spartanburg Sluggers. As a Negro Textile League Team, the Sluggers proudly played in the city from 1928 to 1952, operating in leagues called the Carolina Colored League and the Spartanburg County Colored League. News articles during the time suggest that Duncan Park Stadium serves as their home field for most, if not all of their games. This team’s historical precedence and history are intertwined with the history of Duncan Park and cannot be overstated. Notable African American players who have graced this park include Bob Branson, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron.
Duncan Park serves as a reminder of how baseball, this community, and the love of the game have stood the test of time. The Spartanburgers look forward to being another chapter in the great history of this stadium and creating memories for years to come.