By Mike Goodson
The Etowah County area has always been a hotbed of sports. People throughout the county are avid sports fans and love football, baseball and basketball. From the youngest children to the semi-pro and professional players that have played baseball and softball in Etowah County, residents take their sports seriously.
One of the earliest recorded games of baseball played by a team from Gadsden was in April 1882. The Gadsden “Nine” was a talented one winning several games from the Attalla team. The Gadsden baseball team defeated the Attalla one 22-21, in the first meeting. It was a typical contest between two rival towns with many hits, runs and errors as well as a few fights.
In 1910 the Southeastern League came to Gadsden. This league was here from 1910-1912 and the Gadsden entry was known as the Steel Makers. During the 1913 and 1914 seasons the Steel Makers played in the Georgia-Alabama League. Other Gadsden minor league teams that called Etowah County home over the years were the Tri-City Triplets, Gadsden Eagles, Gadsden Pilots and the Gadsden Chiefs.
During the early years of minor league baseball in Etowah County the games were played at Elliott Lake Park in Alabama City. This park was actually a band box and the fence was so close to home plate that any ball hit over the outfield fence was considered a ground rule double. With the coming of the industrial league teams throughout the United States, the Dwight Manufacturing Company built a large baseball park on the banks of Black Creek. On April 28th, 1923, this park was the site of one of the biggest exhibition baseball games ever played in Etowah County.
It was on this date that the legendary Ty Cobb, known as the “Georgia Peach,” and the Detroit Tigers to came Alabama City to play an exhibition game against the Rochester Internationals. Cobb, 36 years old at the time, played some minor league ball years earlier in Anniston and was a local favorite.
On the day of the big game schools were dismissed and most businesses were closed for the game to let anyone who was lucky enough to get a ticket attend. All hotels in Etowah County were booked for the day of the game and the Dwight Inn boasted they “housed the baseball immortals.” Special streetcars were provided to accommodate the additional passengers going to the game.
Bleachers were added to the outfield and everyone who could be fitted in the grandstands and bleachers were allowed to enter the park. The crowd on hand surpassed the expectations of the promoters. The gates were opened early to let the over-flow crowd in to watch the teams take batting practice.
When the Detroit Tigers took the field the crowd erupted into a deafening roar. The crowd cheered wildly as the Tigers took a first inning lead, 2-0. The Tigers slowly built a 12-2 lead en route to the win. The most exciting part of the game was when Cobb flew out to the right field fence in the top of the ninth inning. Cobb did steal home early in the game, a feat he achieved 54 times in his career. Cobb also boasted a .367 lifetime batting average. Both teams were gracious enough to stay and sign autographs after the final out was made. The following morning the two teams boarded the train and were off to the next city and game.
For a few brief hours Dwight Park and Alabama City was the site of Major League Baseball.
Dwight Park is no longer in existence and the players of the Rochester Internationals and Detroit Tigers have taken their place in the history books.