In the summer of 1951, a dream was realized in Palm Beach County. There was groundbreaking that took place at an open field located in West Palm Beach, near Southern Blvd just east of US Highway One. It paved the way for dreams and memories that continue to be realized to this day. Prior to 1951, the only organized youth baseball in the area was American Legion that covered 15-yr olds through 17-yr olds, and there was no organized summer baseball for kids of Little League or Pony League age.
Our first batter up was Jimmy Williams in the inaugural season of 1952. Phipps Park is home to two State Championships in the 1950’s, and one in the 1960’s. Due to its rich tradition and history. and her guests keep coming back. Another of her original players from the inaugural season, Charlie Johnson, has returned home and become one of its umpires since 2010.
Our story began with a pioneer and Phipps Park’s first President, Mel Foster, who created the vision for the many generations that followed. Melworked for the City of West Palm’s Water Department, and he drew the plans for the field. During that first year games were played in Currie Park, Howard Park, and Phipps Park. The response was so great, that eventually these same plans were eventually used as a model for a Little League field in Ft. Pierce, Fla., and other Florida cities, as well as the former MacArthur and Al Tatum fields in West Palm Beach, Fl.
Mel was joined by Lake Lytal Sr., who was the first Vice-President of Phipps Park, and took over for Mel as President. Lake continued to move forward with the park’s needs and commitment to its community. Another volunteer, Ray Sparks, a local insurance man became President of the league in the early 1950’s, and stayed until the late 1960’s, overseeing the growth of the park. Sparks also coached one of the State Championship Teams, during his service time at Phipps.
One of the most recognizable volunteers at Phipps Park for many years, was Fred Dulson, who arrived in the mid 1950’s and stayed until his death in the late 1980’s. Fred’s tenure at the park surpassed many father and sons playing days at the park. An unique individual, he never was President but he was field director and did anything that was needed at the park. He usually announced games, but he occasionally umpired or worked in concessions, doing whatever task was needed. He was a sign painter by profession, and he would paint all the signs every year at his cost. In 1978, Phipps Park’s President Darryl Mahoney had the original field from 1951 named Fred Dulson Field.
From 1977 to 2002, Phipps Park had the benefit of having two of its long-time volunteers. John and Grace Rich became involved with the park, and started a career at Phipps. John was recruited to be a coach and he promptly signed up for what he thought would one year. Twenty four years later, his time included President from 81-82, many years as an active board member, and was involved in area youth baseball. His wife Grace provided tremendous support, whereby the park continued its maturity into the area’s provider for youth baseball. Today, Mr. Rich continues to be an avid supporter of Phipps Park, and one of our park’s great historians.
During the mid to late 80’s, Bill Bader and Stan Hash were Presidents at Phipps at different times, and the park added a second playing field. This provided more capacity to hold games and practices. This field was named after Ray Sparks, for his hard work and dedication as President and he had also helped financially.
In approximately 1995, a third field was built where today it houses the games for T-Ball and Coach-Pitch. It was named for Mel Obradovich, whom had coached and helped many young baseball players in the area for years. He helped a lot of people anonymously.
In 2001, John Rich Field our fourth field was built. This allowed Phipps Park to offer the program to 13-15 yr olds, which still is in place today. It is a regulation size field. In addition to its recreational leagues, this field also hosts travel ball games throughout the year.
In 2002-2003, the complex was rebuilt by the City of West Palm Beach. New parking places were added, new bleachers, and a play area was added. A new flagpole was added and dedicated to Jack Boyd, our president at the time. Jack served Phipps Park and other local parks for over 30 years as a coach, president, and umpire.
Today, Phipps Park provides the baseball experience to children ranging from the ages of 3 through 15 yr olds. We now have a division called “Blast-Ball” that was started in the fall of 2010, and brought a new dimension to our park while continuing to build our future generations.
Through the years, many things have changed, but there will always be “The Charm of the Grand Lady Phipps Park”. We hope you get to visit soon, and perhaps you too can become part of her history.