|Year ||Total ||Rank *
|9 of 10
7 of 10
5 of 8
5 of 8
1 of 7
6 of 8
7 of 8
6 of 8
5 of 8
5 of 6
6 of 6
2 of 4
3 of 6
3 of 6
5 of 8
3 of 6
3 of 6
1 of 5
1 of 6
|* The total home attendance ranking for Wytheville's teams in the Appalachian League, which had a various number of teams in it
Where the pursuit of baseball never ends.
| Former Minor League Ballpark
For a taste of the minor league baseball stadium Wytheville once had, visit the still standing section of stands that stand within Withers Park, now a public park that was previously the site of Withers Field, where 19 seasons of modern Appalachian League play occurred over the course of a 32-year span that concluded in 1989, when the Wytheville Cubs ended the professional baseball tenure of the grounds.
The ground on which baseball was played is now a large, mostly open grass field surrounded by a paved walking path. A variety of trees are alongside portions of the oval trail. At one end of the former athletic field stands a spruce tree and not too far behind it is the official reminder of what once was here, as where home plate had been in the park's Withers Field days is marked, appropriately, with a granite home plate that's inlaid within a larger home plate-shaped slab of concrete. Inscribed into the granite plate are these words: "This monument marks the location of home plate to many major league affiliate teams. The Senators, Cardinals, Twins, Cubs, Braves and Reds." The monumental plate was placed in its place in 1993, which was the year the current park opened.
While the home plate memento is hidden, the grandstand that would've begun near the first base bag and continued down the right field line can't be missed. Framed by brick, the grandstand is 12 rows of bare concrete tall. The whole thing is uncovered and spans the equivalent of six sections, as there are five vertical rows of a dozen small concrete steps that are laid directly onto the otherwise continuous span of "seats" in the simple as they come grandstand.
Information about the origins of Withers Field is hard to come by, other than the field itself was dedicated in 1948, so I can't confirm a date of debut for the grandstand. It certainly looks old though and if you venture around to its backside you can see that it was more than just a simple structure on which people sat.
Although its insides are now sealed, the underside of the stands most likely was home to everything that a stadium needs to host fans. Numerous windows midway up the brick facade of the grandstand are boarded up with wood, as is the arched doorway entrance in the middle of the building, but their presence figuratively sheds light into what the now permanently dark confines would've contained, as you can imagine the concessions, bathrooms, hallway, ticket taking and selling spaces just by looking at this side of the relic of Wytheville's ballpark.
The relic itself still serves a purpose, as a portion of it is now incorporated into the Town of Wytheville Recycling Center. So if you see some cars in the parking lot, they're most likely there to place their recyclables in dumpsters that are in front of the far end (right field side) of the former home of Wytheville's minor league baseball teams.
One other aspect from the Withers Field era still stands. That's the stone wall that was built by the Citizen's Work Administration in 1934. Made of locally quarried limestone, the wall was the ballpark's right field backdrop when it was behind the outfield fence in the 1980s. But as recently as the decade prior it actually was the outfield fence. The stone wall is now a featured part of Withers Park, given the Wall of Honor moniker since it's directly behind memorials dedicated to Wythe County's war casualties, distinguished citizens and top athletes.
Certainly the least important marker in the grand scheme of things, the "Sports Hall of Fame" marble marker is etched with plenty of names, most if not all not known to outsiders, but the name engraved into one of the cornerstones of the display pays homage to MICKEY "WINTERS" WEINTRAUB, STATESMEN FOUNDER. Weintraub was the "colorful owner-player-manager of the Wytheville Statesmen," according to a 2009 obituary, although he appeared to have played and managed (under different names!) for Wytheville only in 1948, which was the year the town's first minor league team was founded, although they didn't pick up the Statesmen nickname until 1949. The Pioneers were the name of the '48 squad, which Weintraub presumably owned.
Separating fact from fiction is always part of the fun of baseball's Golden Era lore, and the unusual sight of seeing a stadium separated from its playing field makes Wytheville's Withers Park worth a brief stopover if you're in the area.
|Where home plate once was is marked by a home plate marker. The stadium's brick exterior is still intact, although its windows and doors are boarded up, so what's actually the back and underside of the grandstand cannot be entered.
Location and Parking
Withers Park is just a couple of blocks from Main Street in downtown Wytheville, a small town in the western portion of Virginia that, despite its diminutive size, is the county seat of Wythe County. Pronounced With-ville, the population of Wytheville hovers around 8,000 and it's found within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Where some of Withers Field can still be found is about a mile from I-81 and close to two miles from I-77. The park is next to McWane Pool and you can easily see into the public swimming pool from the stadium's leftover grandstand. The town's recycling center makes partial use of the old structure and has an unnumbered address of West Monroe Street. So if you input "Town of Wytheville Recycling Center" or "140 W Monroe Street," the address for the next door municipal pool, into your GPS, you'll be taken to the site where minor league baseball was played in Wytheville for many years.
The best place to park is probably the McWane Pool lot, although if school is not in session then the small parking lot for Spiller Elementary School can be used. The school's lot is above and behind the stone wall that ends Withers Park's confines and parking there allows you to overlook the whole park.
Withers Field Facts, Figures & Firsts
Named after Robert E. Withers and was dedicated on May 14, 1948.
Was used for 25 seasons of minor league baseball by teams in two leagues over a 41-year period. Withers Field hosted three seasons of Blue Ridge League play (1948-1950) followed by 22 Appalachian League seasons. Its longest consecutive season run of usage was from 1957-1965.
Minor league baseball tenants: Wytheville Pioneers (1948), Wytheville Statesmen (1949-1950, 1953-1955), Wytheville Cardinals (1957-1959), Wytheville Senators (1960, 1965, 1969), Wytheville Twins (1961-1963), Wytheville A's (1964), Wytheville Reds (1967), Wytheville Braves (1971-1973), Wytheville Cubs (1985-1989)
The first Appalachian League game played here was attended by a crowd estimated at 500 on April 27, 1953, when the Wytheville Statesmen beat the Pulaski Phillies by a 10-2 score. The league then was a full-season one at the Class D level. The current edition of the Appalachian League began in 1957, which was its first year as a short-season league and Wytheville was a founding member of the reborn league, which didn't operate in 1956.
Was the site of Jim Leyland's first managerial win in 1971, when he was a 26-year old rookie manager for the rookie-league Bristol Tigers.
After a 12-year absence, pro baseball returned to Withers Field for what would be a final 5-season run on June 23, 1985, when the relocated Pikeville (KY) Cubs played their home opener against the Johnson City Cardinals in a scheduled Sunday evening doubleheader. In a recap in Wytheville's local newspaper, the Enterprise, it was written that a "record crowd" of 2,175 attended the home opening DH at "renovated Withers Field." The Wytheville Cubs won the first game, 10-2, but the Cardinals won the 2nd game, which was a 14-12 slugfest.
Professional baseball's tenure ended here when the Wytheville Cubs moved to Huntington, WV for the 1990 season. The franchise today plays in Pulaski.
Had small outfield dimensions, which were listed at 315' to left, 330' to right, and just 360' to straightaway center field, during the years the Wytheville Cubs played here.
The outfield was notorious for a very unusual quirk, as center field had an incline that was the result of solid rock that was deemed too expensive to remove. The incline even had a nickname -- the mound.
In addition to hosting baseball, the field was used for high school football games.
The name Withers Field stopped being used in the spring of 1992 when the Wytheville Town Council decided Withers Park was a more appropriate name for a public park. Withers Park officially opened in 1993.