Chronological Tour: Stop 164

A Beauty Near the Smokies

Entrance to the renovated McCormick Field, May-2013.

The 1992 stadium structure features a cantilevered roof.

One feature that didn’t change is the 300-foot fence in right field.

Quick Facts: Rating: 5 baseballs
Maybe it was the contrast to the night before (in Fayetteville), but I thought this place was paradise.

McCormick Field was built into a hillside in Asheville in 1924, with all-wood grandstands: the regular stand behind the plate and the Negro stand out behind the left-field wall (it burned down in 1937). This is where Babe Ruth came down with “The Bellyache Heard ’Round the World” and was rumored to have died in 1925. The team playing in town had a few names, but was usually known as the Tourists for all the traffic rolling through on the way to the nearby Great Smoky Mountains.

I tried to get here in 1991, but I got rained out. After that season, the old wooden grandstand was condemned (it was either that or ban smoking, and this is North Carolina). The city poured money into a brand-new stadium, surrounding the old field with its short (300-foot) right-field porch that, ironically, inspired pitchers as well as lefthanders. The only modification to the field was that the right-field wall was doubled in height; otherwise, it’s the same picket fence in the outfield. (The first batter of the game put one over the new, higher fence.)

The new park has a cantilevered roof, similar to Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass., covering the general admission portion of the grandstand (aluminum benches with backs). In 1999, there was no fancy message board to take away from the wooded hillside, just a 1980s-vintage electric scoreboard next to the extended wall in right. That had been replaced by a more modern scoreboard with a small matrix display board by 2013, but it still took nothing away from the scene. The program, a little expensive at $2.50 on my first visit, had been replaced by a free but still substantial program on my return. Concessions are reasonable, while souvenirs are just a little on the high side (but not dramatically).

Most of all, though, the new park was built lovingly. The public-address announcer on my 1999 visit, a 76-year-old gentleman named Sam Zurich, was enthusiastic without being hokey, and he let the fans know what they needed to know (such as scoring decisions on wild pitches, complete fielding changes, etc.). He was long gone by the time I returned in 2013, but I still really felt like I was at home here. The end result? A rare five-baseball rating for a minor league park. I’m in love with this place.

Game # Date League Level Result
376 Wed 11-Aug-1999 South Atlantic A ASHEVILLE 6, Charleston SC 4
1251 Sun 26-May-2013 South Atlantic A Rome 7, ASHEVILLE 5, 10 inn
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