The central Little Rock community plays a large role in maintaining in Arkansas’ oldest operating ballpark Lamar Porter Field, which annually costs between $15,000 and $18,000. Boys and Girls Club employees meet many of the day-in, day-out needs. Little Rock Catholic High and Episcopal Collegiate School each pay $2,500 a spring to the use the field for high school baseball season. Friends of Lamar Porter Field, an organization formed by people who grew up playing on the field, or had parents who did, donates about $5,000 a year, says Jay Rogers, one of the field’s trustees.
There have been recent improvements to Lamar Porter – an electronic scoreboard, a leveled field and a new outfield fence – but a thorough renovation of its structure awaits. The trustees have hired an architectural firm to study ways to improve the the National Registry of Historic Places site, especially improving drainage and renovating the 75-year-old dugouts. After that study, a fundraising campaign will start. The goal is about $150,000.
Despite baseball’s waning popularity, Rogers believes there are still plenty neighborhood kids who want to play it. “What you have to have is a nice facility to attract them.”
Originally published as a sidebar to this Sync magazine article
For the most part, the bustle is gone.
It’s gone, with Winkler’s Drive-In, the carhops, jukeboxes and the pinball machines, too.
If it’s bustle you want, just walk a block south to Interstate 630. Thousands of cars, streaming west to a hundred separate communities. Sixty years ago, nobody was in that much of a hurry. The place to be was right here.
On the corner of Little Rock’s Seventh and Johnson streets is a 75-year-old ballpark, a monument to a golden past and cradle for a tenuous future.
Whole summers unspooled for the children and teens playing baseball in the confines of Lamar Porter Field. Their friends, neighbors and families filled its grandstands and played on the concrete ping-pong tables and in horseshoe pits of a nearby playground. Interest in youth league baseball was so high that even players as young as eight years old had their exploits covered in a daily newspaper, which ran scores and highlights of each Little League game.
This was the age of Little League coach Benny Craig, the part-time Arkansas Travelers sportscaster who played an ongoing prank on his listeners. Craig concocted commentary on Travelers’ away games by mixing bare-bones information received from teletypes with his own imagination to fill in the rest. His commentary lagged about two innings behind the teletypes, and he used that lag time to plug his broadcast sponsor Colonial Bread, recalled Norris Guinn and Willis Callaway in “Lamar Porter Field and Memories of Sports in Little Rock During the 1950’s.” Most listeners didn’t know Craig could look ahead to see when the Travelers would score, so when he told them to put a loaf of Colonial Bread on their radio to help the Travelers score – making the bread seem like a good luck charm – the company’s bottom line was helped.
Whether for radio or TV, Craig always ended his broadcasts the same way: “Remember, it never takes an extra cent to be a good sport.” He would then wink and say “Good night.”