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
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
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.
were made to save the old ballpark beginning in the 1970s 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
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