Francis Field officially becomes Francis Field
Members of the St. Augustine community joined city officials on Friday morning, September 9 for the unveiling of a plaque recognizing the contributions of Fred Francis, the namesake of Francis Field.
The near four acre site adjacent to the city’s Visitor Information Center and parking facility, was once home to several baseball diamonds, one of which was named Francis Field, the entire area, now home to numerous festivals and arts and crafts shows, has been unofficially referred to by that name for many years.
But with the passage of a resolution, sponsored by City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, by the City Commission on August 22, and the unveiling of the plaque, the entire is now officially named Francis Field.
Born in the last year of the 19th Century, Frederick “Fred” Francis came to St. Augustine in the early years of the 20th Century and very soon was known for his outstanding athletic abilities in baseball, basketball, swimming, tennis and golf. Truly an all-round athletic, he found his many skills best displayed through baseball, and it was through that sport that he gained the most recognition and success.
As a member of the amateur St. Augustine Saints baseball team, Francis moved on the play professionally at shortstop in the Class B Southeastern League. When he left active playing, he became the manager of the the Saints in the semi-professional Northeast Florida League and the Class D Florida State League. Under his management, the Saints brought the pennant home three times in just seven years, 1935, 1936 and 1941.
Francis became “Mr. Baseball” for St. Augustine, and in appreciation, the St. Augustine City Commission recognized his contributions by declaring September 11, 1934 as Fred Francis Day, and in June of 1938 the baseball diamond, then at at the southeast corner of Riberia Street and Castillo Drive, was officially named Francis Field.
In 1952, the Saints played their last game, and just a decade later, on July 4, 1962, Fred Francis died at his residence on Shenandoah Street just a few blocks from the field that bears his name.
The baseball diamonds, including the one named for Francis, fell out of use as St. Johns County built more enhanced facilities in other locations. Thus, Francis Field faded as an athletic arena, but its name remained and is now official.
In her remarks at the ceremony, Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline noted that even though there are no longer baseball diamonds at the site, it is still a place for recreation.
“Over the last 20 years, we have seen Francis Field become home to some of our community’s finest festivals, celebrating arts and crafts, food and music and hasbecome known throughout Florida and Southern Georgia as the place where our city hosts many activities as well as a place for afterschool Frisbee throwing, some intramural games, and dog walking. Certainly this is a place our community depends on today it has for nearly a century, to come to renew ourselves and for our community to embrace recreation.”