Blair Field: Named for the man who saw it's potential

October 25, 2017

 4700 Deukmajian Drive, Long Beach, CA 90804

 

The nostalgia surrounding Blair Field is second to none and it’s hard not to get the chills when stepping foot in its hallowed grounds. Although its history is somewhat of a mystery, it’s been one of the most prized baseball facilities in the United States.

Before 1958, youth baseball stars played ball at a practical baseball field at Recreation Park on the corner of Seventh Street and Park Avenue. It was dusty and ordinary, which didn’t suit the talented players that came through Long Beach such as Satchel Paige, Bob Feller and Bob Lemon. Former Long Beach Press-Telegram sports editor Frank T. Blair believed that Long Beach deserved a more modern baseball facility with better grandstands to watch the games.

“It’s an interesting story and one of Long Beach’s great sports mysteries,” former Press-Telegram sports editor Jim McCormack, who retired in 2006, said. “[Blair] thought it was a disgrace that a place such as Long Beach didn’t have first-class facilities for athletes. He was an outspoken advocate for an upgrade.”

Through countless sports columns until his passing in 1953, Blair pushed and motivated enough people to get the ball rolling on the project of a newly constructed ballpark. In 1956, a $260,000 bond issue was passed leading to Blair’s dream being fulfilled. Thus Blair Field is known as “the House that Frank Built”. Its final cost of construction was $500,000.

“Blair Field has always been stunning,” McCormack said. “Four generations have stepped foot on that field. It has a different kind of energy.”

 


The park opened in 1958 with the first game played on April 11th between Poly and Huntington Beach High School, which Poly won 3-1. On April 15th, Long Beach State and Long Beach City College played in the first collegiate baseball game at Blair, which Long Beach State won 14-6.

Since 1958, Blair Field has been a home for Connie Mack, American Legion and Moore League baseball. It also hosted a 1961 Dodgers exhibition game that drew 6,250 fans, which doubled the capacity. In 1966 the Chicago Cubs played its spring training games at Blair, while the Los Angeles Rams used it as a practice field for the fall and winter for more than a decade.

Long Beach State became the first full-time baseball tenant at Blair Field in 1993 after a $1.4 million stadium renovation the prior year. As a formality, it paid the city of Long Beach $1 in 2010 to take over the Blair Field lease, making the facility the full-time home of the Dirtbags.

Since then, many former players such as Jered Weaver, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria and Marco Estrada have made generous donations to improve Blair Field. This includes last season with the introduction of the Troy and Danyll Tulowitzki Batting Cages down the right-field line and the Jered Weaver Bullpen behind the right field wall.

“Blair Field is like another home for me,” current Dirtbags pitcher and Millikan alum Jacob Hughey said. “It’s a historic atmosphere and big leaguers always come back to see it.”

Blair Field always feels like home to the city of Long Beach because of its welcoming atmosphere (unless you’re a Cal State Fullerton fan). And for many young kids, it’s a dream to play under those lights. A dream that would not be possible without the tireless efforts of Frank T. Blair.

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