On March 14, 1951, per City Council Minutes, a group of citizens composed of Messrs Young, Swearingen, Barney, Stewart, Bulifant, Johnson, Williams and Picardat, appeared before the council and stated they had purchased the baseball franchise from Mr. Kelley Williams of Petersburg and that they contemplated moving it to Colonial Heights and asked for terms, etc. covering the lease of the Ballpark. It was suggested that the City put a five cent tax on each ticket, which would be turned over to the city as rent for the park. These gentlemen also requested improvement as follows: The entire field be leveled off; top soil on infield, fence in front of water tank, press box, wire on top of roof of stands to prevent ball going over, box seats, and lockers in dressing room. In addition to the rent the ball club was to pay water and electricity. Councilman CC Hart made a motion, seconded by Mr. Dishman that a committee be appointed by Mayor Shepherd to work out the details from the group. The motion passed unanimously. This team was the Colonial Heights-Petersburg Generals. The Colonial Heights-Petersburg Generals played one season of Class “C” Virginia League Baseball. The Petersburg Generals had been a charter franchise of the Virginia League, which disbanded after the 1951 season. Colonial Heights-Petersburg finished first in the Virginia Class “D” League with an 80-39 record. Colonial Heights led the league in attendance with 35,146. Like all teams in the Virginia League, the Colonial Heights-Petersburg Generals were not associated with a Major League team. Kenny Hatcher led the league with 34 home runs. Hatcher played in all 115 games and led the league in runs (109), RBI’s (121) and walks. Johnny Brockwell batted .262 in 48 games and pitched in 35 games, starting 31 games, 29 complete games, 25-7 record and 2.05 era. Roy Ward, in latter years a manager for the Post 284 Legion Team, played 70 games and hit 8 homers and drove in 40 runs. The team’s manager was Cecil “Turkey” Tyson.
The first exhibition game, according to City Council Minutes of March 14, 1951, would be between the New York Giants and another major league club to be played here on April 17th.
On May 20, 1951, according to City Council Minutes, a resolution was offered by Mr. Hart and seconded by Mr. Powell and passed unanimously that read in part, WHEREAS, Fred R. Shepherd has acted as Mayor of said Municipality since the year 1928 and by his untiring and ceaseless efforts has promoted the growth and betterment of said City and taken the leading part in the establishment of said Park. NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE Council of the city of Colonial Heights, Virginia that the name of said Recreational Park be, and the same shall be known and hereafter called ‘SHEPHERD STADIUM’ in honor of said Fred R. Shepherd.
On May 31, 1951, according to City Council Minutes, a motion was made by Mr. Hart and seconded by Mr. Dishman that lettering SHEPHERD STADIUM to be put on the front of the ballpark as well as a plaque. The motion passed unanimously.
In 1954, the transplanted Richmond Colts played one season at Shepherd Stadium. The Colts represented a new franchise in the Class B Piedmont League. The Manager was John Vander Meer, who had pitched back to back no hitters for the Cincinnati Reds. The Colts record was 62-78 and tied for last place even though the club was second in the league in attendance with 44,127. Coach Vender Meer pitched in 10 games. He was 1-3 in 21 innings pitched. The team led the league in hitting with a .281 average. In the 1970’s the Colonial Heights Generals played teams like the Bethel Red Sox, Prince George Blue Sox, DC Giants, Baltimore Corner, McKenny, and Rocky Run.
The B.I.B. Begins
In 1958, the Optimist Club of Colonial Heights started the Boy’s Invitational Baseball Tournament. The BIB was the idea of Roland Fontaine and Jimmy Steward. They came up the idea while watching a Generals game in Shepherd Stadium and seeing a big crowd watching a Little League Game at the “B” Field. The first Tournament Director was Roland Fontaine. Bobby Goulder, former principal at Colonial Heights High School and head Baseball Coach at CHHS, coached the Petersburg team in the first BIB Tournament. One of his players was former Colonial Heights School Superintendent James Ruffa. Colonial Heights finished 3rd defeating Petersburg in the consolation game. The BIB Tournament for boys ages 12 and under will celebrate its 52nd year this summer. Distinguished guests at the BIB Tournament have been Jerry Coleman, Bob Feller (twice), Frankie Frish, Enos Slaughter, Warren Spahn, Bobby Richardson, Bobby Thompson, Robin Roberts, Jimmy Pearsall, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Satchel Paige, Brooks Robinson and Johnny Grubb. Colonial Heights won the BIB Tournament in 1969 and 2000.
American Legion Baseball at Shepherd Stadium
American Legion Baseball started in Colonial Heights in 1960. In 1960, the team was coached by Roland Fontaine and won their first game ever played in 13 innings. They did not win another game until the last game of the season. In 1961, 1965 and 1987, American Legion Post 284 Baseball Team won the American Legion State Championship. In 1961, Post 284 won the Mid Atlantic Regional Legion Tournament and went to Hasting, Nebraska to play in the American Legion World Series. In 1965, James Ruffa led Post 284 with a .327 batting average and home runs with 5 entering the Mid Atlantic Regional Game. They lost twice to eventual World Series champion, Charlotte, NC by scores of 3-2 and 1-0. The 3-2 ball game was lost on a catcher’s balk. Johnny Oates, former manager of the Texas Rangers and Balitmore Orioles, replaced Dick Rogers as Assistant Coach during the Regional. Mr. Rogers passed away prior to regionals. Post 284 has hosted American Legion State Tournaments at Shepherd Stadium in 1965, 1967, 1973, 1974, 1991, 1993, 1996, and 2000 and hosted the Mid Atlantic American Legion Regional tournament in 1962, 1975, 1976, 1994 and 2008. American Legion Post 284 of Colonial Heights has worked closely with the Department of Recreation and Parks in making improvements to Shepherd Stadium by donating a scoreboard and $18,000 toward a new lighting system in 1993.
High School Baseball at Shepherd Stadium
High School Baseball has been a tradition at Shepherd Stadium. It is the home of Colonial Heights Colonials. In the years 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, Shepherd Stadium was the host facility for the AAA State High School Baseball Championships and in 2001 & 2004, the host of the Central Region Championships. In 1999, Shepherd Stadium was named the Region II High School Field of the Year. It was one of eight recipients of the regional award in the country that year.
Other Interesting Facts
Part of John Grisham’s film “Mickey” which stars Harry Connick Jr. was filmed at Shepherd Stadium on Memorial Day weekend of 2001. The film was released for public viewing in 2004.
In the fall of 2003, Hurricane Isabel knocked down over 250 feet of the left field wall, netting, and the flag pole.
Shepherd Stadium is owned by the City of Colonial Heights and is maintained by the Department of Recreation & Parks. For more information on reserving Shepherd Stadium for tournaments, games or events contact (804) 520-9392.