Brooks Stadium

Home of the Paducah Chiefs
1951-1955

 

 

Yankee Stadium is known as "The House That Ruth Built," yet the legendary home run hitter never lifted a hammer or poured a drop of concrete in its construction.

Brooks Stadium is known as "The House That Brooks Built" because its namesake had everything to do with its construction. J. Polk Brooks didn't allow his status as president of the Paducah Baseball Association to interfere with his taking a first-hand interest in seeing that the concrete and steel stadium was built as cost-effectively as possible.

The city of Paducah had been without a professional baseball team since its Kitty League franchise folded before the 1942 season. The Indians had played their home games at Hook Park, a wooden ballpark located on 8th and Terrell Streets, from 1935 to 1941. At the end of World War II, the league was reorganized for the 1946 season but the ballpark had deteriorated and there was no adequate playing facility available to host a team.

Local baseball fans envisioned a modern concrete and steel grandstand that would outlast the wooden versions all previous Paducah teams had built. They organized the Paducah Baseball Association in the fall of 1947 and began selling shares of stock for $10 each to fund its construction. It was estimated that such a project would cost $75,000; by the following spring, close to $60,000 had been raised.

The Association elected J. Polk Brooks as its president. Brooks was a local entrepreneur who had started Brooks Bus Lines from a single automobile he drove himself that transported Southern workers to the automobile factories in Detroit. He was also an avid baseball fan who wanted to see the stadium built and pro ball return to Paducah.

Once the steel for the grandstand framework was secured, construction began on a site near Twenty-First and “C” Streets on May 27, 1948 and continued throughout the summer. In late August, the Baseball Association renewed their efforts to acquire the remaining $25,000 needed to complete the stadium through the sale of additional stock. But the monetary hurdle proved more daunting than initially thought and progress on the stadium stalled during the fall and winter months of 1948.

Regardless, Brooks and the Baseball Association began searching for a professional team to move into the new stadium. Former major league pitcher Horace (Hod) Lisenbee, owner and manager of the financially strapped Clarksville Colts, offered to sell them his Kitty League franchise despite a court injunction that supposedly prevented him from doing so. They rejected five separate offers from Lisenbee and instead chose to seek a franchise in the nearby Illinois State League.

On January 25, 1949, the Baseball Association unanimously voted to accept a franchise in the Illinois State League, whose name as a result was changed to the Mississippi-Ohio Valley (MOV) League. J. Polk Brooks was elected vice-president of the renamed Class D league. 

A month later, they renewed their efforts to overcome the $25,000 deficit needed to complete the stadium. Work was well underway in April to make it ready for its debut on May 8, 1949. The Paducah Sun-Democrat newspaper sponsored a ballpark name contest and readers overwhelmingly voted to name it in honor of the person most responsible for its conception and construction.

The Chiefs spent two seasons in the MOV League, finishing in fourth place each year with a combined record of 121-110. In February 1951, they returned to their baseball roots when the team accepted the franchise formerly held by Cairo, Illinois in the Kitty League. The decision sparked a protest by their former league, which claimed that Paducah had never formally asked to leave. A compromise was reached, with the Baseball Association relinquishing its player contracts to the MOV League in exchange for the freedom to rejoin the Kitty League.

Paducah enjoyed more success over the next five years in the Kitty League, making it into the postseason Shaughnessy playoffs in all but one season and capturing the league championship in 1955. The club had a working agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals, who supplied the players and manager and paid a large part of their monthly salaries. 

Between 1951 and 1955, their overall record was 307-267 and total attendance was 220,152. Four Chiefs hurlers led the league in earned-run average over the next five years. Two former players – outfielder Gene Green (1951) and pitcher Marty Kutyna (1953) – enjoyed careers in the major leagues.

The Kitty League folded after the 1955 season, once again leaving Paducah without a professional team. Two years later, the Baseball Association sold Brooks Stadium to the city for $25,000. The ravages of time and neglect took their toll on the stadium and over the next two decades, the site was eventually condemned. 

Efforts were made to save the old ballpark beginning in the 1970’s and have continued to the present day. “All of this is done with Mr. Brooks in the back of our minds because he did so much to the stadium,” remarked then-American Legion coach Clarence Adams in 1995. “He really took pride in it.”

Today, Brooks Stadium has been restored to what it was when it first opened in 1949. The concrete and steel grandstand has a fresh coat of patriotic red, white, and blue paint and the grass is greener and better manicured than it was when the Chiefs played there fifty years ago. It now serves as home to American Legion and high school ball as well as the Ohio Valley Conference Collegiate Baseball Tournament.

On a sweltering Friday morning on August 15, 2003, the Kitty League Centennial Reunion hosted a special Home Run Derby at Brooks Stadium that saw close to 20 former players participate.

 

How to Get There

Brooks Stadium is located on Brooks Stadium Drive off Irvin Cobb Drive in Paducah, Kentucky.

 

 

(c) 2006 Kevin D. McCann