Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Orange Bowl Snapshot: Baseball



August 7, 1956: The Orange Bowl playing field was transformed into a baseball diamond and America's national pastime made its debut in the giant football stadium. A crowd of 51,713 watched the Miami Marlins beat the Columbus Jets 6-2 in a charity game that featured the pitching and hitting heroics of Satchel Paige. The game drew the largest crowd to watch a minor league baseball game at the time.

The stadium was clearly not meant to host baseball. Changing the field into a baseball park was like fitting a square peg through a round hole. The field dimensions were horribly skewed. Home plate was located in the southeast corner of the field and the right field wall was barely 200 feet away. To compensate for the short right field, a giant fence was constructed. But none of that mattered to the fans who were hungry to see baseball. It was a festive night at the stadium. Proceeds went to charity and the pregame entertainment included a concert by jazz and blues legend Cab Calloway. Imagine 50,000 people singing "Heidi Heidi Heidi Ho!" in unison. But the real show was put on by 50-year-old former Negro League legend Satchel Paige. Paige pitched into the eighth inning and also drove in 3-runs with a double to left-center field, giving the Marlins a 6-2 win.

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