Bain Field (July 31, 1939)  Source: Virginian-Pilot Photograph Collection (MSS 0000-187)


By Kevin Geisert, SMC Reference Librarian. November 2022.


Bain Field was a multi-purpose sports facility located at 400 East 20th Street in Norfolk, Virginia.1  Primarily used as a minor league professional baseball stadium, it opened in October 1930 and became a fixture of the Norfolk community until closing in 1940. During its decade-long existence, local baseball fans converged at Bain Field to support the Norfolk Tars, who played their home games in front of zealous crowds.2

The origin of Bain Field can be traced to the late nineteenth century when League Park (also known as Norfolk Baseball Park) was built in 1894. For thirty-six years, League Park served as the home field for Norfolk's baseball club.3  Abbey Land Co., Inc. originally owned League Park, but sold it to American Peanut Corporation in 1917. The peanut company maintained a large presence in Norfolk until an out-of-control fire gutted a major factory on Water Street during the summer of 1931. After League Park suffered extensive damage from a fire of its own a year earlier, the new ballpark built in its place was rechristened Bain Field. It was named after Philip David Bain who served as the president of American Peanut Corporation.4

Bain Field officially opened on Saturday, October 18, 1930 with a high school football game played between the Newport News Builders and Maury Commodores. Five thousand fans turned out at the new stadium to witness a low-scoring affair, as Newport News shut out Maury 7-0. The decidedly pro-Maury crowd appeared crestfallen during the second half while anticipating a rally that never materialized. After a scoreless first half, the Builders got on the board with the game's lone touchdown in the third quarter. Facing fourth down around the ten yard line, Bryant of Newport News eluded the Maury defense to reach the end zone and give his team a lead it never relinquished.5

For most of the next decade, from 1931 to 1940, Norfolk citizens witnessed some dramatic moments on the baseball diamond. The Norfolk Tars made their Bain Field debut on Monday, April 27, 1931, in the Eastern League opener, with a 10-9 extra inning victory over the Bridgeport (Connecticut) Bears. Prior to the game, Norfolk City Manager Isaac Walke Truxton threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Once play began, the home team roughed up Jim Mooney, the Bears' southpaw known as the "strikeout king," for six runs in the first four innings. Jimmy Calleran played hero for the Tars by recording four hits, including a game winner in the tenth inning. He put Norfolk on the board first with a second inning homerun. Then with the game tied 9-9 and a runner at second base in the extra frame, Calleran delivered a clutch hit that caromed off the wall in right field, which scored Norfolk's center fielder Carr Smith more than three hours after the game's first pitch. Four thousand baseball fans attended the game at Bain Field that day.6

One of the most highly anticipated games to take place at Bain Field was an exhibition on Friday, June 29, 1934. Prior to this season, the Tars had joined the Piedmont League and begun their affiliation with the New York Yankees, who were the preeminent sports dynasty of that day. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and other sports stars took a break in their Major League schedule to travel to Hampton Roads and put on a show for the local fans. Eight thousand spectators, a then-record crowd for Norfolk, packed Bain Field to witness this historic event, as the mighty Yankees faced off against the Tars. A game that should have been a huge mismatch on paper turned into a thriller, but the Yankees prevailed by a score of 11-9.7

The Babe, in his final season with the Yankees and this game's main attraction, provided excitement with every at-bat. Despite being held homerless on the day, he laced two singles and two doubles before being removed from the game upon completion of the fifth inning. Following one of his singles in the top half of the first, Gehrig slammed a two-run blast off Tars hurler Ray White to give New York a 3-0 lead. Left fielder Myril Hoag had begun the scoring with a leadoff homerun. There was a scary moment though in the next inning when White knocked Gehrig to the ground with a fastball to the head that resulted in a concussion. In an era before batting helmets were used, the Norfolk crowd went silent, seeming to grasp the gravity of the situation. All of a sudden, Gehrig's streak of 1,414 consecutive games played was put in jeopardy, although he was able to leave the field without assistance. However, Gehrig would recover quickly and go on to continue his streak a few days later on Sunday, July 1. Norfolk took a 4-3 lead when the home team rallied for four runs in its half of the first inning off New York star pitcher Johnny Allen. The Yankee hurler was not sharp on this day, which began with him walking three of the first four batters he faced. Two of the four runs scored when catcher George "Skeets" Dickey lined a double, which ricocheted off the glove of Ruth at first base. Right fielder Jim Bryan and first baseman Buddy Hassett reached home safely on the play. Hassett later added a homerun in the seventh, hoping to provide a spark for a late rally. Despite a tremendous effort from the Tars, it was a five-run fifth inning by New York that proved decisive in the Yankee win. Those fortunate to have witnessed the game would talk about it for years afterward.8

Unfortunately, there is also a sad chapter in the history of Bain Field that cannot be ignored. The issue of race had been a source of conflict in Norfolk society for centuries. Throughout the Jim Crow era, whites who governed Norfolk strictly adhered to Virginia's segregation policies. This contemptible practice even extended to the baseball diamond and America's pastime. Norfolk had a reputation throughout the minor leagues of being an unwelcoming place for African American customers. Although segregation in baseball pre-dated Bain Field, some local blacks may have even found the environment at this new venue to be downright hostile. Bain Field maintained a separate gate for black fans to use upon arrival at the stadium. Once inside, they headed toward the "colored grandstand," which was the only area of the stadium where African American patrons were allowed to sit. By all accounts, it was an inferior section of the ballpark. Black people routinely had to put up with discriminatory policies whenever they attended a game at Bain Field. Even as other local cities such as Newport News and Portsmouth brought an end to segregation at their stadiums, Norfolk persisted for several more years. It would not be until after Bain Field closed, when the Tars played at Myers Field in 1954, that the city finally desegregated its baseball facilities. This change in policy came about in large part because the local black population had organized a season-long boycott of the Tars just a year earlier to demand better treatment. In 1953, rather than watch the Tars, Norfolk blacks took their patronage to Portsmouth and cheered on the Merrimacs.9

In its short history, Bain Field was the site of some thrilling baseball games whenever "black" teams took the field. Negro League teams regularly barnstormed through the Norfolk area and scheduled games at Bain Field. They played in front of white and black spectators during these exhibitions. The Homestead Greys and Newark Eagles, who each included several notable stars, were especially popular. Josh Gibson, of the Homestead Greys, known by many as the "Black Babe Ruth," put on his usual display of power by slamming several homeruns at Bain Field. Norfolk citizens also watched as other Negro League Teams such as the New York Cubans, Philadelphia Stars, and New York Black Yankees generated excitement for local baseball fans.10

Soon after joining the Piedmont League in 1934, the Norfolk Tars established a dynasty by winning three championships (1934, 1936, and 1937) during their Bain Field days. While finishing atop the regular season standings in 1934, 1936, and 1938, the Tars provided many memories for the Norfolk faithful in a rather short period of time. Following a brief hiatus when Norfolk had no baseball team (1933 season), local fans and city officials greeted the "new" Tars with a giant celebration as the 1934 season got underway.11 Norfolk City Manager Tommy Thompson (See Local wiki: Thompson, Thomas Perrin (1876-1957)) threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game got underway. Following the festivities, in their first home game of the season, the Tars were routed by the Wilmington Pirates (affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds) by a score of 16-8. It was a back-and-forth affair with several big innings. The scoring began when Wilmington took a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Not to be outdone, the Tars came alive an inning later with a six run third, which gave the home team a brief 6-5 advantage. However, the Tars came unglued in the fourth, as they allowed the Pirates to score six more runs and Norfolk never posed a threat for the remainder of the contest. This miserable showing put a damper on the pre-game buzz. Forty-five hundred fans turned out for the debacle.12

As the decade came to a close, thoughts turned to the creation of a new and improved ballpark. The parent club (Yankees) insisted that Norfolk put $100,000 into renovating Bain Field, which had begun to fall apart. When the city expressed unease over the price tag, the Yankees threatened to use Portsmouth's stadium for Tars games during the 1940 season. Under this outside pressure, Norfolk quickly acquired the necessary funds to construct their new stadium that became High Rock Park. This ballpark took just a few months to build in the spring of 1940 and it was located only a short distance away from its predecessor.13

Bain Field went out in a blaze of glory. During the final official day Bain Field was open for business, Sunday, June 30, 1940, events heated up quite literally. First, the Tars swept a pair of one-run games from the first place Asheville Tourists (affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals). In the opener, both teams combined for twenty-nine hits. By the fourth inning, Asheville trailed by a score of 5-2, but the Tourists erupted for five runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh to take the lead. The Tars evened the score at 9-9 in the home half of the seventh. It would stay that way until the bottom of the tenth when Norfolk pitcher Tom Ananicz hit a homerun off Asheville reliever Edward Hurley to give the Tars a 10-9 victory. In the second game, a seven inning affair, Norfolk once again came from behind to triumph by a score of 5-4. Center fielder Bill Cooper provided the winning margin with a two-run shot in the fifth inning. Asheville tried to rally with a pinch hit homer by Milton Lowery in the seventh, but the Tars held on to send the four thousand fans, who had come to say goodbye to Bain Field, home happy.14 Baseball was the second most notable thing to occur on that day, however. Early in the first game, a fire swept through the "colored grandstand," which caused a twenty-five minute delay in the action so firefighters could tend to the blaze. Black fans had to remove themselves to the grassy area during this stoppage in play. The "black" seating area received extensive damage from the fire. Meanwhile, no other area of the stadium was affected. It was a memorable end to a historic stadium.15



  1. 1941 Norfolk City Directory (Norfolk, VA), 52.
  2. Peter C. Stewart, Early Professional Baseball in Hampton Roads: A History, 1884-1928 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc., 2010), 219.
  3. Ibid, 21 and 219; 1927 Norfolk City Directory (Norfolk, VA), 520.
  4. Stewart, Early Professional Baseball in Hampton Roads, 219; Inge, William, “Opening Day of Norfolk Baseball-Apr. 26, 1934,” Accessed October 2022, Virginian-Pilot, The: Blogs, April 26, 2012.  NewsBank: Access World News
  5. “Builders Best Maury; Quantico Marines Swamp Atlantic U,” The Virginian-Pilot, October 19, 1930, Page 5 Part 2.

  6. Charles W. Houston, “Tars Smear Bears in Thrilling Overtime Season-Opener,” The Virginian-Pilot, April 28, 1931, 7.

  7. Marlowe, “Tars Fight Yankees to Finish, 11-9, Before 8,000,” The Virginian-Pilot, June 30, 1934, 8.

  8. Ibid; Marlowe, “Blow On Head Fails to Daunt Lou Gehrig,” The Virginian-Pilot, June 30, 1934, 8.

  9. Shampoe, Clay and Thomas R. Garrett, Baseball in Norfolk, Virginia (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 86.

  10. Ibid, 86-89.

  11. Ibid, 49.

  12. Marlowe, “Tars Drop to Second Position Before Crowd of 4,500,” The Virginian-Pilot, April 27, 1934, Page 8 Part 1.

  13. Shampoe and Garrett, 71.

  14. Marlowe, “Tars Sweep Double Header; Reds Increase Lead; Indians Break Even,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 1, 1940, 8.

  15. “Fire in Stand Thrills Fans at Bain Field,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 1, 1940, 14.


Street Address:

400 E. 20th Street

Name (Original)

Bain Field

Name (Also Known As)

Norfolk Baseball Park





Architectural Style

Not specified

Cost (Original)


Construction Date:

Approximately September 1930

Opening Date:

October 18, 1930

Demolition Date:

Between July 1, 1940 and January 1, 1941


36.866408, -76.281096


Major Keywords/Search Terms:

Bain Field| East 20th Street | Professional Baseball Stadium | Multi-purpose Sports Facility | Norfolk Tars | Sports | Norfolk, VA | Bain, Philip David | League Park | Norfolk Baseball Park | Abbey Land Company | American Peanut Corporation | Water Street | Newport News Builders | Maury Commodores | High School Football Game | Bridgeport Bears | Baseball Diamond | Calleran, Jimmy | Mooney, Jim | Eastern League | Hassett, Buddy | Dickey, George “Skeets” | Gehrig, Lou | Ruth, Babe | Bryan, Jim | Allen, Johnny | Hoag, Myril | Smith, Carr | Truxton, Isaac Walke | Piedmont League | Portsmouth Merrimacs | Myers Field | Segregation | Jim Crow | “Colored Grandstand” | New York Black Yankees | Homestead Greys | Newark Eagles | Negro League Teams | New York Cubans | Philadelphia Stars | Gibson, Josh | “Black Babe Ruth” | Barnstormed | Cincinnati Reds | Wilmington Pirates | New York Yankees | Asheville Tourists | Thompson, Tommy | High Rock Park | Ananicz, Tom | St. Louis Cardinals | Hurley, Edward | Lowery, Milton | Cooper, Bill 



1.   Primary Sources:


      1)    Books:


                           City Directories:

  • 1927 Norfolk City Directory (Norfolk, VA), 520.
  • 1931 Norfolk City Directory (Norfolk, VA), 165.
  • 1941 Norfolk City Directory (Norfolk, VA), 52.


      2)    Maps/Plats/Surveys:

Sanborn Map Company.  “Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: Norfolk, Independent City, Virginia.”  New York: Sanborn Map Publishing Co., 1928, Vol. 3, Sheet 312.


      3)    Newspapers/Magazines/Journals:



  • “Norfolk League Park to Undergo Real Renovation.”  New Journal & Guide  (Norfolk, VA), January 27, 1929, Page 5 Part 2.


  • “Baseball Park Grandstand and Left Field Bleachers Totally Destroyed by Fire.” The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), August 10, 1930, Page 1 Part 2 and Page 4 Part 2.

  • “Ball Park Again Fire Threatened.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), August 22, 1930, Page 1 Part 2.

  • “Bain Field New Ball Park Name.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), October 15, 1930, 9.

  • “Builders Best Maury; Quantico Marines Swamp Atlantic U.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), October 19, 1930, Page 5 Part 2.


  • Houston, Charles W.  “Tars Smear Bears in Thrilling Overtime Season-Opener.” The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), April 28, 1931, 7.


  • Marlowe.  “Tars Drop to Second Position Before Crowd of 4,500.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), April 27, 1934, Page 8 Part 1.

  • “Tars Take Command of Lead, Sweeping Two Games; Swain to Go Against Pirates at Bain Field Today.” The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), April 29, 1934, Page 5 Part 2.

  • “Colored Boys Given Chance to See Tars play Mondays.” New Journal & Guide (Norfolk, VA), May 12, 1934, 12.

  • Marlowe.  “Blow On Head Fails to Daunt Lou Gehrig.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), June 30, 1934, 8.

  • Marlowe.  “Tars Fight Yankees to Finish, 11-9, Before 8,000.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), June 30, 1934, 8.

  • “Hall’s Homer in 11th Wins for White, Puts Tars in Race.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), September 15, 1934, 8.

  • “Spitler Squares Series for Tars by 6-1 Before 6,000; Bryan’s Homer Climaxes Attack on Durham, Hornet Star.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), September 16, 1934, Page 1 Part 3 and Page 3 Part 3.

  • “Rain Halts Tars-Hornets; All Games To Be Played Here.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), September 17, 1934, 6.

  • “Tars Lay Down Heavy Attack Behind Kain; Triumph, 5-2.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), September 18, 1934, Page 2 Part 2.

  • “White Pitches Tars to Piedmont League Championship.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), September 20, 1934, Page 3 Part 2.


  • “It’s Spring—Or Summer—Anyway, Baseball’s Here.”  New Journal & Guide (Norfolk, VA), May 4, 1935, 2.


  • “Council Kills Move to Buy Bain Field.”  New Journal & Guide (Norfolk, VA), August 1, 1936, 10. 


  • Rea, E. B.  “From the Press Box.”  New Journal & Guide (Norfolk, VA), July 16, 1938, 18.?                       


  • “Black Tars Run Wild in Three Game Series.”  New Journal & Guide (Norfolk, VA), June 3, 1939, 17.


  •  “Fighting Blaze at Bain Field.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), July 1, 1940, 3 and 14.

  • “Fire in Stand Thrills Fans at Bain Field.” The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), July 1, 1940, 14.

  • Marlowe.  “Tars Sweep Double Header; Reds Increase Lead; Indians Break Even.” The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), July 1, 1940, 8.

  • “Norfolk Baseball Battlegrounds: The New and the Old.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), July 14, 1940, Page 5 Part 2. 


      4)  Photographs/Images:


2.  Secondary Sources:


      1)    Books:

  • Shampoe, Clay and Thomas R. Garrett.  Baseball in Norfolk, Virginia.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.  Pages 4, 12, 22-27, 32-40, 42-43, 45-49, 62, 65, 71-73, and 86-87.                     
  • Shank, Joseph E.  Shank’s Raw Materials.  Volume VII, 1931-1965.  Page 2242. 
  • Stewart, Peter C.  Early Professional Baseball in Hampton Roads: A History, 1884-1928.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2010.  Pages 20-21, 219, and 222.


      2)    Newspapers/Magazines/Journals:



  • Goldblatt, Abe.  “’38 Piedmont Crown News to Tars.”  The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), March 12, 1972, E17.


      3)    Websites: