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The History of Baseball in Daytona

The development of professional baseball in the Daytona Beach area can be dated back to 1920. City Island Ballpark hosted its first professional baseball team when the Class D Florida State League was established. In 1936, after closing for 8 years, the Florida State League returned. The St. Louis Cardinals placed their farm club here and named them the Daytona Beach Islanders. Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial played for the team in 1940. He was a left-handed pitcher who did it all for the team. In addition to wining 18 games, Musial batted .311 with 70 RBIs in 405 at-bats. Late in the season, he fell in the sandy outfield and injured his throwing shoulder. The incident ended Musial's pitching career, thus created his amazing hitting journey.

The Islanders spent six seasons in Daytona Beach before World War II brought a suspension of play following the 1941 season. When baseball resumed in town in 1946, the Islanders were no longer part of the Cardinals organization, but now with the Brooklyn Dodgers; a relationship that would last just one year, but still made a huge impact on the future of the sport.

Daytona Beach became the first Florida city to allow an integrated game to be played, when Jackie Robinson took the field at the ballpark on March 17, 1946. Robinson was playing for the Triple-A Montreal Royals at the time, who were in town to play an exhibition game against their parent club, the Brooklyn Dodgers. After both Jacksonville and Sanford refused to allow the integrated game, Daytona Beach gladly opened their doors.

Robinson would go on the break the color barrier in Major League baseball the following year. This incident also lead to the Dodgers making Daytona Beach their Spring Training home for 1947, before building Dodgertown down the road in Vero Beach. This series of events was shown in the 2013 movie, "42", about Robinson's life and is the reason the ballpark was named after him in 1989. A statue commemorating the historic event is located outside the south entrance of the stadium.

After the Dodgers left town, the Islanders decided to operate independently for the next three seasons. In 1950, the City of Daytona Beach signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians. Under Hall-of-Famer Charles "Red" Ruffing's managing, the team finished second in the league.

Four years later, the Isles decided to go back to its old acquaintance-the St. Louis Cardinals, though the agreement was valid for only a year. In 1955, the club went without any Major League hook-up for the second and final time. Manager Johnny Vander Meer, who once threw back-to-back no-hitters, helped Jon Ivory Smith to set a league record with 320 strikeouts. In the same year, first baseman Dan Smith became the only .400 hitter in Florida State League history.

During the following decade, the Islanders switched their affiliation back and forth with the Indians, the Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Athletics, and the Detroit Tigers. The franchise set a record in 1964, using seven different managers in one year. Despite the high frequency of transferring parent organizations, the name of the team remained the same for 32 years. It wasn't changed until the Dodgers, which had moved to L.A, came back in 1968. The Daytona Beach Dodgers stayed until 1973, much longer than the previous time. From 1970 to 1972, the Daytona Beach Dodgers were managed by Stan Wasiak, who went on to win more games than any other manager in minor league history.

After three dark years, the diamond shined again in 1977 when the Kansas City Royals put their Class A farm club in City Island Ballpark. Though the Royals pulled their team out the next year, the Houston Astros replaced them. They had a Florida State League affiliation here through 1984. When the Astros left in 1985, Daytona Beach remained in the Florida State League with a co-operative team made up of players from the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers organizations. On the roster was Kenny Rogers, who pitched a perfect game in the majors.

The co-op team was bought by the Rangers and moved away in 1987. With the birth of a new team, Daytona Beach still stayed in the Florida State League. The Chicago White Sox built a farm club named the Daytona Beach Admirals here. However, the team moved to Sarasota the next year. Pro baseball was deleted from the local recreation list for the following five years. It was during this time that the stadium changed names to honor Jackie Robinson.

There was no minor league team until the Chicago Cubs arrived in 1993. The team established their Advanced Class 'A' affiliation with the Daytona Cubs. After the hurricanes of 2004 the ballpark received a new "riverwalk" area for fans to enjoy before and during all games. It also was upgraded with a manual-operated scoreboard and new batting cages. In 2007 the Cubs hosted the Florida State League All-Star Game for the first time since 1983.

2008 was a historic season for the Cubs. Jackie Robinson Ballpark set a new attendance record, welcoming over 164,000 fans through the gates. On the field, the team captured its 4th Florida State League title, defeating Fort Myers in four games. Cubs' second baseman Tony Thomas was named series MVP. Darwin Barney, Andrew Cashner, James Russell, and Casey Coleman were all members of the '08 championship team.

In 2009, Buddy Bailey took over as Cubs' Manager. Despite the club's struggles that year, Starlin Castro was the starting short stop for a majority of the season. One of the best young prospects in all of baseball, Castro was named to the Florida State League All-Star Game and won MVP honors, going 4-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run.

In 2011, the Cubs had a record-setting first half, thanks to 3 monumental winning streaks. They won 8 consecutive games twice, and put together a 12 game-winning streak as well. They finished with 47-23 record, the best first half in team history. The season was capped off by an epic championship run in which the Cubs captured its 5th FSL title, sweeping St. Lucie in the Championship Series.

On September 2nd, 2011, the Cubs unveiled its new logo, a modern beach-like emblem which better embraces the hometown Daytona region. The new logo contains the aspects of the water and the beach while still paying tribute to the classic elements of the Cubs.

After the 2011 season, the Cubs and the City of Daytona Beach unveiled a two-stage Jackie Robinson Ballpark renovation plan that was completed for opening day 2014.

2013 was also a historic season for the Daytona Cubs. After finishing two games shy of a first half title, the Cubs went 40-20 in the second half and captured their sixth FSL Championship, defeating the Dunedin Blue Jays and Charlotte Stone Crabs in the postseason. Daytona won 16 of its final 18 games and tossed a team-record 20 shutouts. On June 10th, Javier Baez became only the second player in FSL history (94 years) to hit four home runs in one game, joining former Daytona Cub Ryan Harvey who accomplished the feat in 2006. Matt Loosen tossed a nine inning complete game no-hitter at Dunedin on July 8th, and three Cubs (Ben Wells, Kyler Burke, Zach Cates) combined to no-hit the Blue Jays again exactly 50 days later.

2015 marked a new era for baseball in Daytona Beach. After serving as the Chicago Cubs Advanced-A farm team for 22 years, the Cubs moved from Daytona Beach to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Cincinnati Reds saw the opening and quickly jumped on the opportunity to move their Class-A Advanced club to play at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark. So with the new affiliation came a new identity. The Daytona organization acted swiftly and found great success in re-branding to the Daytona Tortugas, a change that created quite the excitement both in-house and in the community. And they were rewarded for it, being named the Best New Logo/Branding for 2015 by Ballpark Digest. "Tortuga", which is Spanish for turtle, along with the color scheme, helped tie in the community and allowed the organization to become a rousing success in all of Minor League Baseball. The new mascot "Shelldon", which was voted by the fans, became the new favorite mascot in the Sunshine State.

But that wasn't the only change; the Tortugas also had new ownership. Tortugas Baseball Club, LLC, headed by Reese Smith III, took over the organization at the beginning of the 2015 campaign. Smith III also owns the Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The success leading up to the season translated well to the diamond. Players Alex Blandino, Phillip Ervin, Joe Hudson and Nick Travieso were all voted to the FSL All-Star game, while first-year manager Eli Marrero and his staff was at the helm for the Northern Division squad. The Tortugas earned the Northern Division Title after sweeping their Northern Division foes, the Clearwater Threshers, to earn a trip to the FSL Championship Series. However, Daytona was unable to win the series, losing in a dramatic 13-inning contest to the Charlotte Stone Crabs to close out the series in four games.

The 2017 season was one of the most succesful years in Daytona baseball history, as the Tortugas welcomed in over 136,000 fans - second most in the FSL and an increase of nearly 25,000. 2017 also saw the Tortugas featured numerous times on ESPN, including live reports from the ballpark for Sportscenter during the weekend of Craig Sager Night, as well as MLB Network. A succesful season ended with Daytona winning it's first ever Golden Bobblehead Awards, for Bob Ross Night, as well as the Esurance Home Field Advantage Award for the second straight season.

The Tortugas are excited for an even bigger and better 2019 season. One that will feature a brand new AstroTurf field! Don't miss any of the exciting fun at The Jack, with a different reason and promotion to come to the ballpark every night! #ShellYeah