America's Pastime Finally Returning To Driller Park - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

06/12/08 - East Texas

America's Pastime Finally Returning To Driller Park

The cracking of bats and the sale of Cracker Jacks and cold sodas returns to a true field of east Texas dreams tonight.

The Pump Jacks will play the home opener of their inaugural season.

It's been 58 years since the Kilgore Drillers played their last game at the park.

Tonight, many east Texans will relive baseball's glory days at Driller.

"It is sacred ground for those of us who were in that generation of kids who came night after night to see the ballgames at Driller Park."

For some baseball fans, it's Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field - their shrine to the game they love. But for many east Texans, that place is Driller Park.

"Oh, I was here every night. In fact I caught a couple of foul balls at night, thrill of my lifetime."

Terry Stembridge was one of the faces in the crowd when the Drillers packed the park. Driller Park opened in 1947, when America's past time made its return after World War Two.

"They built this ballpark out of oil field equipment. The fence was not wooden, it was actually made out of tank steel and oil field pipe was used to construct the stands. Didn't have a lot of grass in those days but now the field is beautiful."

It cost between 50 to 70 thousand dollars to build Driller Park, less than most folks would pay for a home these days.

In a time before baseball broadcasts on TV, Driller Park brought family entertainment. And it was not always baseball. The king, Elvis Presley, made a stop at Driller.

"He appeared here at Driller Park on a flatbed truck and had a concert. Kids still talk about that."

The Drillers won the Lone Star League Championship in 1947. A sagging economy hit baseball across the country hard, and the Drillers were no more after the 1950 season. Since then, Driller Park hosted high school games and semi-pro and amateur games, keeping its baseball spirit alive.

"People go away from Kilgore but when they always come back they ask what about Driller Park? A great many people have contributed to keeping this ballpark alive. So it's with some fondness and nostalgia we come to the Pump Jacks who are going to play again. It will be fun. It's baseball."

The East Texas Pump Jacks home opener begins at 7:00 pm on Thursday, and they're playing against the McKinney Marshalls. KLTV 7 News will have highlights after the game.

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