Fort Smith Holds Rich Baseball History

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)- Andrew's Field was home to many sports in the early 1900's, but one sport in particular has created a legacy in Fort Smith unlike any other.

The latest topic for Clayton Conversations at the Clayton House is baseball and the rich history it has in the city of Fort Smith. That history has lead to a long lasting popularity for the sport.

"Baseball is a national pastime," associate professor of history at UA-Fort Smith and author, Billy Higgins said. "Fort Smith has a long and storied history with baseball and baseball players."

A St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, the Fort Smith Twins opened its first season in 1921. This area would later be home to high class semi-professional and African American League teams.

"The fields were good, the tournaments were good," Higgins said. "These guys, they played great baseball. They played not only on a local stage, but a state and national stage, too."

Fast forward to today; America's game is still played right here in the heart of Fort Smith. Coaches and players agree that the game is still the same as it was more than a century ago.

"It can pass from generation to generation with really no change," baseball coach, Bill Murray said.

Players said it's the feeling on being on the field that keeps them playing.

"I think it's fun to enjoy the game," baseball player, Eli Murray said. "When you make a good play, it makes you feel good and when you throw someone out at first or second [base], it feels good. It's just America's past time and it's fun to play."

"We have a lot of fields and there's pretty big teams that play there and it's a very popular sport here," baseball player, Will Hanesworth said.

Coaches and players said the equipment only gets better.

"It used to be just wood bats and the gloves didn't really have padding very well," Murray said. "Now, they have good padded gloves and metal bats."

Baseball in Fort Smith, a team sport that has withstood the test of time.

"Every player on the field has a certain attribute that they can give to the team," Murray said. "I think it's similar to a puzzle. You have to have a player in each position to make a complete team."

Saturday's (Mar. 26) event included conversation about the sport's history in this area, as well as an exhibit of photos and journals.

Along with the Fort Smith Twins, the Arkansas Razorbacks played football on Andrew's Field. The first rodeo in town was held on that same field.

Andrew's Field was torn down 2007 for needed room for the National Cemetery.