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Take Me Out to the Ballgame (Again) at Sprudel Field

Baseball field at West Baden Springs Hotel

Vintage Baseball at French Lick ResortIf you’re attending Vintage Base Ball this weekend at West Baden Springs Hotel, you’ll now find the throwback games in a new location.

Well, maybe a new “old” location is more like it.

One of the newest features to enjoy at French Lick Resort is Sprudel Field, which has come back to life after nearly 100 years. This baseball field is within the larger East Park area, which includes walking trails, the historic Neptune Spring and plenty of serene, shady spots that are perfect to enjoy this time of year. (See more on East Park in this video.)

Vintage Baseball at French Lick ResortBut back to baseball. It’s America’s pastime, after all. And it was *the* high-profile game at West Baden Springs Hotel back in the day.

The original baseball field opened in 1896, and it quickly became a major attraction for the hotel and a favorite way for guests to spend an afternoon or evening. The Monon Railroad even had a special day trip experience for guests to catch a train car to West Baden to see a game. The baseball diamond was contained within a two-level bicycle track, and it made for an ideal viewing experience. Spectators could sit on the second level of the track and have a bird’s-eye view of all the action of the field below.

Vintage Baseball at French Lick ResortA favorite summer tradition among hotel guests was watching the West Baden Sprudels square off against the French Lick Plutos. Each hotel fielded their own baseball teams staffed by hotel employees, and the Plutos and Sprudels played each other nearly every day during the peak tourist season. (Today both hotels are within one happy resort, but back then they were direct competitors, so that made the baseball games a little spicy.)

Vintage Baseball at French Lick Resort

And would you believe West Baden Springs Hotel was once a spring training hot spot for professional baseball teams?

It’s true. From 1897 through 1922, 12 major league teams — representing more than three-quarters of the National and American League teams playing at the time — conducted spring training events, conditioning workouts or exhibition games here. This being an era when players didn’t watch their weight or maintain physical conditioning as religiously as they do today, West Baden became well-known as a conditioning facility where teams visited for a short time before moving on to their primary spring training location. The mineral water cleanse that West Baden Springs Hotel was famous for — and the hilly runs and workouts through town — will whip you into shape pretty quick.

Vintage Baseball at French Lick Resort

Big names and talented teams played between these lines at West Baden. Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Frank Chance, to name a few. The Chicago Cubs trained here in their World Series-winning seasons of 1907 and ’08. The Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals were here. The Pittsburgh Pirates were even humbled here, when they played the hometown West Baden Sprudels and lost 2-1, with the local Springs Valley Herald reporting: “The game was looked upon by the Pittsburghers as a mere practice game … the league team received a dressing at the hands of the Sprudels.”

This field of dreams eventually faded away. But now it’s back.

Vintage Baseball at French Lick ResortThanks to historic aerial photographs, we were able to pinpoint where the old field once sat and build a modern-day Sprudel Field on the exact same footprint. You’ll notice there’s no fence, but that’s how it was back in the day, with the inner curve of the bicycle track essentially serving as the outfield wall. If you want to walk the same path this oval track once followed, a new gravel track has been laid here, too.

Come out and see Vintage Base Ball this weekend for a glimpse at how the game used to be played in this very same location. Baseball is a huge part of our past, and this replica Sprudel Field makes it a big part of our future, too.


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