Remembering Taylor Field
Have you been to Taylor Field? Located at 1201 East 16th Street at Florida Street (soon to be 1201 Jim Hill Way), Taylor Memorial Field turns 80 this year. It’s a storied baseball stadium that has more than earned its place in the history books. Named in honor of Pinchback Taylor, a Pine Bluff real estate dealer who donated land for the project, Taylor Field was built with funding support from the Works Progress Administration and designed by local architect Mitchell Seligman. In fact, if you know where to look, you can see “WPA 1940” stamped into the concrete walkways in a few places. The ballpark cost $40,000 to build, which made it the second most expensive ever built in Arkansas at the time. When completed, Taylor Field was one of the finest parks in the Cotton States League. It featured an 1,800-seat grandstand complete with box seats, additional bleachers seating about 500, locker rooms, a concession stand, restrooms, and a lighted field. Pine Bluff’s new ballpark officially opened on April 19, 1939. The stadium played host to minor league baseball teams, including the Pine Bluff Judges.
With a few brief interruptions, including World War II, the Pine Bluff Judges played at Taylor Field until 1955 when the team moved to Meridian, MS and became the Millers. The ballpark saw nothing but amateur use for the next 40 years before the Pine Bluff Locomotives joined the independent Big South League in 1996. In the team’s only year, the Locomotives went 42-30, losing in the first round of the playoffs. Taylor Field has not since been used professionally, though it remains in good condition. It has attracted six Babe Ruth World Series tournaments, a Babe Ruth Girls’ Softball World Series, a Class A Pro Baseball Club and a 1995 NAABT Tournament, which was telecast on ESPN. In the early 1990s, Torii Hunter, a Gold Glove All-Star major league outfielder, played on the field with the Pine Bluff High School Zebras. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff baseball team also used Taylor Field until the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex in Pine Bluff opened in 2011. Taylor Field was scheduled to host the 15-year-old Babe Ruth Southwest Regional Tournament beginning on July 24, 2020, however that tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.
Today, Taylor Memorial Field stands as one of Arkansas’ oldest ballparks, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The field has changed little since it opened, though new metal bleachers are now located down the right field line. If you stop by Taylor Field, look around and imagine it in its heyday, bustling with fans, alive with excitement. For the baseball-crazed fans of that era, Taylor Field was—and still is—home base.