Archive for the ‘News’ Category

160-foot Mural Highlighting Hot Springs as Birthplace Of Major League Baseball’s Spring Training Is Completed; 5 Legends of the Game Depicted on Side of Downtown Building

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

A 160-foot full-color mural depicting five legends of Major League Baseball’s history who helped make Hot Springs the Birthplace of MLB Spring Training is complete and ready for the public to enjoy.

“This mural, titled ‘Playing Cards,’ by Texas artists Chris Arnold and Jeff Garrison of Dallas documents five iconic baseball greats — Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Lefty Grove — who all had intimate ties to Hot Springs in the late 19th and 20th Centuries when the city was known worldwide as the place where Major League players got ready for the baseball season,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs.

“The mural, which is at the intersections of Broadway, Convention Boulevard, Malvern Avenue and Bridge Street, will be a significant addition to our Historic Baseball Trail, which traces the places where Spring Training had its birth,” Arrison said.

“Playing Cards,” which covers the south wall of the Craighead Laundry Building, depicts pitcher Grove at the far right firing a baseball past and through the cards of Paige, Robinson, Ruth and Wagner. The ball then lands in a catcher’s mitt at far left.

The trading card depicting Jackie Robinson is unique among the five. The lower edge of the card is in black-and-white, then shades into full color toward the top of the card.

Arnold and Garrison explained the artistic choices involved in the Robinson card thus: “The bottom of Jackie Robinson’s card starts out BLACK & WHITE and morphs into full color representing the groundbreaking moment in 1947” in which Robinson broke Major League’s color barrier by becoming the first African American player allowed to play on a Major League team — the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The mural is lighted so that it is easily visible at night, and two coats of a protective clear-coating were applied by Visit Hot Springs employee Toby Faust to protect the painting from harmful ultraviolet sun rays and the elements. The clear-coating was furnished by Peters Paint Company.

“We are extremely grateful to Peters Paint Company and the Best Court Motel on Ouachita, which helped us house artists Chris Arnold and Jeff Garrison while they completed the mural,” Arrison said.

Mike Dugan of Hot Springs, one of the five esteemed baseball historians who have consulted with Visit Hot Springs in establishing the Historic Baseball Trail, gave these explanations on the links to Hot Springs of the five players depicted on “Playing Cards”:

• “The Honus Wagner card is the most iconic card in the baseball collecting hobby.  It is a T206 Honus Wagner from 1909, the first large set of cards ever issued.  It consisted of 524 different cards issued between 1909 and 1911.  The story behind the Wagner card is that he asked for it to be pulled because he didn’t want kids buying cigarettes to get the cards.  There are only about 50 to 55 known examples of the card and a nice copy would sell at auction for over a million dollars.

“Wagner was with the Pittsburgh Pirates on 20 different visits to Hot Springs between 1901 and 1926, with the post-1917 visits coming as a coach.
Was very popular with the locals due to his friendly personality, he engaged people all over town, many locals considered him a friend.

“In 1908 he was joined by future Hall of Fame pitcher Walter “The Big Train” Johnson in teaching the Hot Springs High School boys how to play basketball.  That team went on to go 10-1 with their only loss coming to Hendrix College.  They were led by center Leo Mclaughlin, who later became an infamous mayor of the city, and forward Vern Ledgerwood, who was a notorious judge in the city.

“Wagner led the National League in batting average eight times, stolen bases five times and triples three times.  In the ‘deadball era’ of baseball only Ty Cobb was considered Wagner’s equal in the game.”

• “The Babe Ruth card is a 1933 Goudey gum card from the first large gum card set ever issued.  The Goudey Gum Company put out a set of 240 different cards.  Reflecting Ruth’s popularity there were four Ruth cards in this set.  A nice example would sell for about $1,500 today.

“Ruth loved Hot Springs.  His first trip came as a rookie in 1915 with the Boston Red Sox and his annual trips as a player continued through 1925 spring training.

“On March 17, 1918, his 573-foot home run at Whittington Park off of Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Al Mamaux cleared not only the park’s fence and Whittington Avenue but also cleared the wall at the Arkansas Alligator Farm, landing in a pool.  That swing not only convinced Red Sox ownership that pitcher Ruth’s bat should be in the lineup every day but it is universally accepted as the event that changed the game from the ‘inside game’ of a base hit or walk and then steal a base to a game of swinging for the fences.  A week later several newspapers reported that Ruth hit an even longer shot in Hot Springs, also against the Dodgers.

“Ruth’s visits to Hot Springs were legendary. More than one season started with Ruth having borrowed his entire year’s salary from ownership before the team returned from Hot Springs to Boston.

“After Ruth’s trade to the New York Yankees he continued to start his own version of spring training in Hot Springs, usually joined by several of his Yankee teammates through 1925.  During that 1925 visit the Babe enjoyed Hot Springs a little too much.  Reports say the Yankee ownership got wind of this and ordered him to join the team in Florida.  On the train trip Ruth became very ill and was hospitalized in Asheville, N.C., with an ‘intestinal excess’ in what quickly became known as ‘The Bellyache Heard ‘Round the World.’  The problem forced him to miss half of the season and gave cause for the team to add a clause in his contract that forbade him from returning to Hot Springs.  That problem was  remedied in retirement when Ruth once again returned to town to enjoy the golf, gambling and night life.”

• “Both the Jackie Robinson and the Satchel Paige cards are from the 1953 Topps set, which was the second year for Topps to issue large card sets.  These are the most cards for each player.  Paige was only on three regular gum cards.  These cards go for between $200 and 400 each.

“Robinson stopped in town, I believe, twice with his post-season barnstorming teams.  We have quite a bit of info on his 1953 stop, which included Gil Hodges and Luke Easter.  I think he was here in 1952 with Roy Campanella, Easter and Don Newcombe as they formed a touring team.  It was during this 1952 trip that Campy and Jackie had a falling out on Campanella’s refusal to become active in the civil rights movement.

“During the 1953 trip the team played a group of Negro League all-stars on October 22 at Jaycee Park.

“Paige came often during the late 1920s and into the 1940s with various teams and apparently on his own.  He enjoyed the thermal hot springs and gave the ht water credit for ‘keeping his juices jangling’ heading into the season.  It has been reported that many famous black entertainers enjoyed his company so much that they made sure to schedule visits during Paige’s trips to Hot Springs.  This included the legendary tap-dancing entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who was part owner of several Negro League teams through the years.  Robinson famously tap-danced the length of Central Avenue during one of his trips to the city.’

• “The Lefty Grove card on the mural is a fantasy creation designed by our artists.  We needed a left-handed pitcher and this was a perfect fit.  It is based on the 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack cards.

“Grove was the starting pitcher of the great Philadelphia Athletics teams of the 1929-31 era.  Grove was an overpowering strikeout pitcher who led a staff that included future Hot Springs resident George Earnshaw.  While Ruth’s 1927 Yankee team is considered baseball’s best ever, the 1929 Athletics are a close second.  In both 1929 and 1930 the Athletics trained in Hot Springs before beating the Cubs in the 1929 World Series and the Cardinals in the 1930 series.

“After being traded to the Red Sox in one of Connie Mack’s classic dumping of salaries, Grove became the star of the Red Sox staff.  Problems began for Grove in 1935 went his arm went dead, leaving him with just eight wins and only 109 innings pitched.  He returned to Hot Springs and praised the early-morning thermal baths and 36 holes of golf each afternoon with bringing life back to his arm.  He went on to win 20 games in 1935.  Another bout of arm soreness in 1938 brought him back to town and saw him have a very successful 1939 campaign.  He praised the hot waters for saving his career twice.”

Arnold and Garrison’s firm, Eyecon, has created murals for a diverse client list that includes the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau; Southwest Airlines; Hunt Oil’s world headquarters; the Texas Christian University athletic complex; the Dallas Cowboys football stadium; State Farm Insurance’s corporate headquarters and Murchison Oil and Gas.

Descendants of Babe Ruth, Major League Legends to Be In Hot Springs in March for Completion of Historic Baseball Trail; Schedule of Events Is Announced

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Descendants of baseball immortal Babe Ruth and Major League legends Ferguson (Fergie) Jenkins and Al (The Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky will interact with the public March 23 and March 24 when Hot Springs completes its internationally famous Historic Baseball Trail.

What is being called The Hot Springs Baseball Weekend will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s historic 500-foot home run during spring training at Whittington Park in Hot Springs. There will be a dedication of two Baseball Trail markers honoring legendary Arkansas-born catcher Bill Dickey and legendary pitcher Lefty Grove.

“We will be joined at this celebration by three generations of the Babe Ruth family, including his grandson, Tom Stevens, great-grandson, Brent Stevens, and the Babe’s great-great granddaughters,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs. “Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, was invited but will be unable to attend. She will celebrate her 102nd birthday July 17.”

“On Friday, March 23, we will dedicate the final two plaques in the Historic Baseball Trail to honor the scores of pitchers and catchers who trained in Hot Springs, which is now widely known as The Birthplace of Major League Spring Training,” Arrison said.

Here is the schedule of public events planned for the Baseball Weekend. All the events are free and open to the public:

Friday, March 23

  • 11:30 a.m. — Dedication of Baseball Trail Plaques honoring Bill Dickey and Lefty Grove on Whittington Avenue, across from Dryden Pottery
  • 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.Playing in the Major Leagues Panel Discussion featuring Hall of Famer Ferguson (Fergie) Jenkins and player-turned-broadcaster Al (The Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky in Room 208 of the Hot Springs Convention Center. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson will moderate all the panel discussions
  • 7 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Autograph Session featuring Ferguson Jenkins and Al Hrabosky in Room 208 of the Hot Springs Convention Center

Saturday, March 24

  • 11 a.m. — Ceremony at Home Plate celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Babe Ruth’s Prolific Homerun at Whittington Park across from the Arkansas Alligator Farm
  • 1 p.m. — Screening of the Emmy Award-winning Larry Foley documentary film, The First Boys of Spring, which documents the birth of Major League spring training in Hot Springs more than 100 years ago, in Room 208 of the Convention Center
  • 2:30 p.m.Baseball in Hot Springs Panel Discussion featuring the five historians who created the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail: Bill Jenkinson, Tim Reid, Mike Dugan, Mark Blaeuer and Don Duren. Journalist Rex Nelson will be the moderator for the panel discussion in Room 208 of the Hot Springs Convention Center
  • 3:45 p.m.The Life of the Sultan of Swat Panel Discussion featuring members of the Babe Ruth Family and noted Babe Ruth historians Bill Jenkinson and Tim Reid in Room 208 of the Hot Springs Convention Center

The Historic Hot Springs Baseball Trail traces the locations, activities and information about the hundreds of Major League baseball players and staff who trained in Hot Springs long before spring training became associated with places in Arizona and Florida.

Tim Reid and his son, Timmy, have completed two websites that commemorate Ruth’s First 500-foot Home Run and the legendary catchers who are known to have trained in Hot Springs.

Those websites are: and . The sites contain a wealth of information about the players and their relationship to baseball’s early days in Hot Springs.

Comprehensive information about the Historic Hot Springs Baseball Trail is available online at

For more information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.

Descendants of Babe Ruth to Be in Hot Springs in March For Completion of Historic Baseball Trail

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Descendants of Babe Ruth will be in Hot Springs in March for the dedication of the final two markers in the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail that traces the birthplace of baseball spring training in the Spa City.

The two-day celebration, which also will feature baseball legends Ferguson Jenkins and Al Hrabosky, will be held March 23 and March 24.

“We will be joined at this celebration by three generations of the Babe Ruth family, including his grandson, Tom Stevens, great-grandson, Brent Stevens, and the Babe’s great-great granddaughters,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs. “Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, was invited but will be unable to attend. She will celebrate her 102nd birthday July 7.”

Arrison said, “On Friday, March 23, we will unveil the final two plaques on the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail honoring the pitchers and catchers who trained and sharpened their skills in the Spa City.”

One plaque will honor legendary catcher Bill Dickey of Little Rock and the other will honor pitcher Lefty Grove.

On Friday evening there will be a panel discussion with Baseball Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and former Major League player Al Hrabosky the “Mad Hungarian” of St. Louis Cardinals fame and a current television personality.

On Saturday, March 24, there will be a ceremony at Whittington Park celebrating the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s massive home run at Whittington Park, Arrison said. “It was a home run that was even longer than his St. Patrick’s Day shot that was the first home run over 500 feet.”

At the ceremony, the Ruth Family will be joined by the noted Babe Ruth and baseball historian/author Bill Jenkinson and the Babe Ruth expert and historian Tim Reid.

Later in the day there will be a panel discussion on the life of Babe Ruth called “The Life of the Sultan of Swat” with the special guests as well as all of the baseball historians involved with the research and development of the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail: Jenkinson, Reid, Mike Dugan, Mark Blaeuer and Don Duren. Journalist Rex Nelson will be the moderator for the panel discussion.

For more information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.