BASEBALL | Stuart Shiffman
One day during his tenure as general manager of the Springfield Sliders, Darren Feller was working outside Robin Roberts Stadium when a car with two occupants pulled up to the facility. Feller visited briefly with the driver and was then introduced to the passenger, the man after whom the stadium was named. Robin Roberts, who attended Lanphier High School and had a Hall of Fame career in the Major Leagues, was in Springfield and wanted to check on the park that bore his name. Roberts, 1926-2010, occasionally returned to the city and this visit was later in his life. It is one of the stories told to Lizzie Roehrs as she gathered material for a documentary video on the baseball stadium originally known as Reservoir Park, located on Springfield's north side.
Roehrs hopes for a career in professional sports and has a love for baseball. As she researched the history of the park, she discovered that "the more I dug, the more I found." While she includes the years of the Springfield Redbirds and owner A. Ray Smith, there was a rich baseball history for the park even before it bore the name of Springfield's Hall of Fame pitcher. In the 1930s, another Hall of Famer, pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, would manage a municipal team that played its games at the stadium, then known as Reservoir Park.
Smith brought many baseball greats to the park and to Springfield during the years that the Springfield Cardinals, a AAA farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, played at the stadium. Among the players who came here at Smith's invitation were Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial and Satchell Paige. During Smith's ownership the St. Louis Cardinals would play an exhibition game in Springfield against their AAA teams. The list of major league players who appeared at Robin Roberts Park is lengthy.
Roehrs hopes that her video provides fans with a positive reminder of great baseball history and why they still love the game. Springfield is still a great baseball town and hopefully this video will remind residents why we still love baseball.
Stuart Shiffman covers baseball and books for Illinois Times.