Historic City News readers will join City Commissioners on Friday morning, September 9th at 10:00am, for the unveiling of a plaque recognizing the contributions of Fred Francis, the namesake of Francis Field. The brief ceremony will be held on the eastern side of the field, on Cordova St., near the entrance to Project SWING.
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 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 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.
A second baseball field was built just to the east of Francis Field and was named for Eddie Vickers. That field was relocated to its present home adjacent to the Willie Galimore Center, and Francis Field, as a baseball diamond, fell out of use as St. Johns County built more enhanced facilities.
Thus, Francis Field faded as an athletic arena, but its name remained, unofficially, until the City Commission passed a resolution on August 22 officially naming the near four acres of open space as Francis Field. Friday’s ceremony will commemorate that official act with a plaque honoring Fred Francis and his commitment and enthusiasm for his community.