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Baseball and Silver Springs Park in Segregated Springfield

Written by Joan Hampton-Porter

The 13.8-acre Silver Springs Park was purchased in 1918 for the sum of $7,043 as the park for Black Springfieldians. When Silver Springs was purchased, it was described as having an ever-flowing spring, Silver Spring, being heavily wooded, and having Jordan Creek flowing through the park.

During the 1930s there was extensive Works Project Administration construction in the park. Projects include building the first swimming pool, rock walls, and rock buildings.

By 1956, there was a 121,000-gallon swimming pool and facilities to play the following sports: basketball, baseball, horseshoes, badminton, softball, croquet, and volleyball. There were lighted tennis courts and shuffleboard courts. There were picnic grounds and barbecue pits. The playground included a merry-go-round and a jungle gym. A multi-purpose building allowed for indoor activities including boxing, shuffleboard, and ping-pong.

There were several challenges throughout the years as to whether Black Springfieldians would be allowed to use other parks and as to whether people of other races could use Silver Springs. One of the rulings during the 1950s was that organized Black teams could compete with Caucasian teams at other parks. However, the players and fans would be prohibited from using picnic facilities, playgrounds, or any other aspects of the park. There does not seem to have been an official desegregation of the parks. During the 1960s, Black Springfieldians began using other parks, and not just the ball fields.

The best-known baseball team to have Silver Springs as its home field was the Hyde

Park All-Stars. This barnstorming baseball team traveled all over the area playing comers for a piece of the gate or a flat fee. Many of the players were excellent and on par with Major League players, but the full integration of baseball came too late for them. Tom Greenwade, the famous Major League baseball scout best known for scouting Jackie Robinson, is supposed to have said that the players of the Hyde Park All Stars were Major League caliber.

One player from the Hyde Park All-Stars made it big in the Negro Leagues: Herman “Doc” Horn. Horn began playing with the Stars when he was just 15, in 1942. He went on to play professionally with the Kansas City Monarchs from 1949-1954. He also played in the Mexican League in 1953. The Mexican League became the first totally integrated professional baseball league when they integrated in 1946.

There are discrepancies regarding what years the Hyde Park All-Stars played. Some sources list the years for the team as 1945-1952, but if Doc Horn began playing for the team at 15 as other sources attest, the team had to have formed by 1942 and possibly before that.

Other black baseball teams in the Springfield area include the Braves and the Webster Oilers. While there was not a Negro League Affiliate team in the area, some Negro League teams did barnstorm through Springfield.

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