Ray Winder Field

Ray Winder Field, originally known as Travelers Field, was a baseball park in Little Rock, AR. The field was home to the Little Rock Travelers from 1932-1958 and from 1960-1961, and the Arkansas Travelers from 1963-2006.

Ray Winder Field was also used by professional Negro baseball teams during the 1940s. In 1945, the Little Rock Black Travelers of the Negro Southern League utilized the ballpark. Negro Barnstorming teams, particularly the Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons and Kansas City Monarchs, also appeared at Ray Winder Field occasionally.


Ray Winder Field was located in what is now known as War Memorial Park, previously known as Fair Park.

In 2006, when the ballpark closed, Ray Winder Field boasted the same grandstand that it opened with 74 years earlier. There were also bleachers down the left field side, putting the capacity around 6,000. A signature element, the field also featured a 60-foot right field fence, known as the “Screen Monster”, that protected ball from being hit into the Interstate-630.

Built in 1931, Ray Winder Field, originally christened Travelers Field, was designed by Thompson, Sanders and Ginocchio Architects, a company now known as Cromwell Architectural Engineers. The ballpark opened on April 13th, 1932 as the home field of the Little Rock Travelers, who had previously played at Kavanaugh Field.

The original Travelers Field that opened in 1932 had a capacity of around 7,000. The grandstand only consisted of what was later known as the “General Admission” section with no box seats, which left much more room for the field, causing very large field dimensions in which center field around 450 from home plate.

The field also boasted large metal or wooded bleachers down both base lines. The section down the right field line was reserved for African-Americans, but on a day with a large crowd, the bleachers were integrated.

The Little Rock Travelers won their first pennant while playing in Travelers Field in 1937 when the Travelers were a member of the Southern Association. They won their second in 1942. That year box seats were added in front of the grandstand, shrinking the field to respectable playing dimensions.

The team’s third and final Southern League pennant came in 1951. That year the Travelers smashed their previous attendance record of 165,127 with a new record of 225,780, nearly 3,000 people a game.

The Travelers success didn’t last long though, finishing 7th, 7th, 6th, and 8th over the next 4 years. In 1956, with the Travelers in last place in mid-season, the team was moved to Montgomery, leaving Travelers Field without summer baseball for the first time in 26 years.

This started the hardest period of baseball in Little Rock’s history. The team returned to Little Rock in 1957, but moved to Shreveport in 1959. The team tried to make another run at baseball in 1960 and 1961, but in 1962, the Southern League folded, causing the team to cease play for the season.

For the next 3 years, the Travelers tried to play AAA baseball in the International League and the Pacific Coast League, but travel cost proved to expensive. In 1966, the team finally settled in the Texas League, becoming an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Two changes soon followed. First, the team’s name was changed to the Arkansas Travelers, the first known professional sports team to claim an entire state in its name. Second, on August 22nd, 1966, the name of Travelers Field was changed to Ray Winder Field, named after the 81-year old Ray Winder, who had been with the team since 1915 as a ticket seller, general manager and co-owner. He died in 1967.

This started the most successful period of baseball in Little Rock’s history. The Travelers finished first 3 times in their first 6 years in the Texas League. However, the team did not win a pennant.

In 1974, Ray Winder Field was renovated. A 60-foot screen outfield fence was put up to keep balls from landing in Interstate 630, located behind right field. The bleachers down the right field line were also taken down, lowering the ballpark’s capacity to 6,000.

Beginning in 1977, the Texas League began using a split-season in which the top two teams in each division would playoff for the league pennant. During the first few years of this system, the Arkansas Travelers were unstoppable. They won their first TL Pennant in 1977 and won their second and third in 1979 and 1980. Attendance jumped from an average of 90,000 since joining the league to an average of 157,000 during the first four years of the split season. But the best was yet to come.

From 1981-1989, the Travelers smashed previous attendance records, tallying up at least 200,000 ever year with an average of more than 230,000. The jump was thanks largely to the works of Bill Valentine, the Travelers General Manager, whose promotions brought record crowds into Ray Winder Field.

A new single season attendance record was set in 1987 when a total of 256,365 people pass through the turnstiles at Ray Winder Field. But this record only lasted two years, when 296,428 became the new record during what would be the Travelers’ last pennant winning season in 1989.

A large portion of the 296K spectators that came to the park during the 1989 season came on June 1st, when an incredible 12,246 people came to watch the rehabbing Fernando Valenzuela pitch for the opposing team. With nearly twice the amount of people as the stadium could hold, people filled up nearly every spot to sit down in a 100 yard radius. People were even allowed to sit on the warning track in the outfield.

Ray Winder Field continued to stay full until about 1994 when attendance began to drop. Over the next few seasons, attendance began to average about 190,000, which at one time would have been fair, but as the Texas League grew, the Travelers were expected to also.

After the end of the 2000 season, the Travelers’ Major League affiliate St. Louis Cardinals blamed Ray Winder Field for the falling attendance and requested a new stadium to be built. Citizens of Little Rock, found of their old stadium, rejected the Cardinals request. The Travelers and Cardinals did not renew their contract for the following season.

Instead, the Travelers signed on with the Anaheim Angels, beginning a new period of Travelers baseball. They won the 2001 TL Pennant, yet attendance again continued to drop, as Travelers hit a 22-year low.

During the 2004 season, it became apparent that something needed to be done. Many argued that renovating Ray Winder Field would help and attract more spectators, while others still argued that a whole new stadium should be built. In the end, the latter was agreed upon and plans for a new ballpark that was to open in 2007 began.

The final two seasons at Ray Winder Field were not exactly the way most teams would want to go out, going a combined 122-155, but nevertheless, attendance climbed back up to 196,000 in 2005 and 207,000 in 2006.

The final game at Ray Winder Field was on September 3rd, 2006. A crowd of 8,307, second only to when Fernando Valenzuela pitched there in 1989, came out to see a game at Ray Winder Field for the last time. The Travelers beat the Springfield Cardinals 7-3.

The Travelers moved in to the new Dickey-Stephens Park in 2007. Many of the seats that were used in Ray Winder Field were moved to the new ballpark.

In November of 2007, the “Ray Winder Field Yard Sale” took place, in which “anything that was not nailed down” was for sell. While the primary features of the ballpark remained, many of the characteristics of the ballpark were sold to people who wanted one last piece of Ray Winder Field.

Today, Ray Winder Field stands vacant with a gravel parking lot on the field where the team once played. It is said that since the ballpark closed, the Little Rock Zoo has cut literally tons of grass from the field to use as animal feed.

On December 1st, 2008, 4 organizations, the University of Arkansas, the Arkansas Zoological Foundation, the American League of Jacksonville and the Ray Winder Field Foundation, put bids in for the ballpark to buy the city of Little Rock’s share of the old field. The University of Arkansas, who needed to land to expand its medical science hospital and wanted to turn the field into a parking lot, was initially announced the winner of the auction. But in February, 2009, Little Rock City’s Attorney threw out U of A’s bid because the school’s bid of $1.1 million was announced before the auction took place and therefore was disqualified.

Nevertheless, UAMS maintained ownership of the park and razed the stadium in July, 2012.

The rickety old stadium once known as Travelers Field is still regarded as one of the most unique and historic ballparks ever built. The ballpark was known to have so much character that it earned the nickname “The Fenway Park of the Minors”. It was truly one of the most beloved baseball fields in history.


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