Plaques documenting the history of Engel Stadium and baseball in Chattanooga were unveiled on Tuesday, September 9, at UTC’s Intramural Sports Complex next to the historic stadium.
The plaques were part of a project carried out by UTC students under the direction of history department head Michael Thompson and follow the fascinating history of the stadium, Chattanooga baseball, and their connection to nearby neighborhoods and the city.
Dr. Thompson delivered remarks at the unveiling, noting how the project highlighted the importance of history and the exciting work the Department of History is doing with UTC students and in the community.
“One thing that I really liked about this opportunity is it put on display a lot of the things that the Department’s been doing in the past few years and that we’re hoping to do moving forward,” Dr. Thompson said. “It allowed us to engage in undergraduate research, experiential learning, public history, community partnerships and outreach, and also historical thinking and understanding skills.”
Members of the Chattanooga community, the Engel Foundation and UTC staff and faculty were on hand to see the unveiling. Chancellor Steve Angle and Executive Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Richard Brown offered remarks about UTC’s long-standing connection to the neighborhoods around Engel Stadium and the university’s strong connections to Chattanooga as a whole.
Brown said the unveiling of the markers were a testament to the growth of the city and UTC by “erasing barriers” from the past.
“We are proud to not only be a part of the unveiling of these markers but also to be a part of the neighborhoods surrounding Engel Stadium,” he said.
The plaques document:
- Jackie Mitchell, the 17-year-old female pitcher who struck out the New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig back-to-back during an exhibition game at Engel Stadium in 1931. “Why hell, yes, they were trying.” she said in 1986. “Better hitters than them couldn’t hit me. Why should they have been any different?”
- Lincoln Park was near Engel Field and built especially for blacks who lived in nearby neighborhoods. At the time, blacks weren’t allowed in all-white parks such as Warner Park. Lincoln Park had an Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, a playground, picnic area, bandstand and more.
- Joe Engel took over operations of the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1929 and quickly became known as the “Barnum of Baseball.” To drum up interest, at various times he brought in a base-running ostrich, held a re-enactment if the Battle of Little Big Horn in which Custer won and a “Wild African Hunt” with elephants and a jungle scene. He once traded a shortstop for a turkey. He ended his career with the Lookouts in 1965.
- Engel Stadium was built in 63 days and opened on April 1, 1930 with a game between the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Atlanta Crackers, The Lookouts won 6-5. Among the famous baseball players who visited the park were Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. The final game in the park was Sept. 10, 1999.
- Chattanooga had several Negro League baseball teams. Because they were not allowed to play in whites-only Engel Stadium, they held their games in Lincoln Park. Two future Baseball Hall of Famers, pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige and outfielder Wille Mays, spent time on Chattanooga-based teams in the Negro League.