Jordan Field, formerly located where the Indiana Memorial Union Hotel and Parking Lot now stands, was the home to Indiana University baseball, football, track, tennis, and military parades from 1889 until 1959 (IU Archive). However, Jordan Field was not the home of IU baseball and football until the 75th school year of IU, 1897-1898 (IU Archive). The first athletic field on the new Dunn Meadow campus, it would be the first of three baseball fields Indiana University would build. Its namesake comes from former President of Indiana University, David Starr Jordan, who held the position from 1884 to 1891 (IU Archive). Football would eventually leave Jordan Field after the 1924 season for the new Memorial Stadium, but baseball would continue to play there till Sembower Field was built in 1950 (IU Archive). The movement of baseball and other activities away from Jordan Field are attributed to the poor conditions of the field due to its location, but the passing also represents the continuous growth of the Indiana University campus as the decades went on and the need for more buildings to accommodate the growing student body.
Backstory and Context
Before Jordan Field was home to Indiana University athletics, baseball and football were played at the old Athletic Field, which was located at the first location of Indiana University at Seminary Square until 1897, which would become the first year Jordan Field was in use (IU Archive). According to archive Indiana University Catalogues, the field wasn’t named after former President of the University David Starr Jordan until 1889-1900 (IU Archive). The plot of land that would soon become Jordan Field was purchased in 1897 by the trustees, and since the old Athletic Field was not near campus it was decided that a plot of the 21 acres acquired from the purchase would be set aside for a new athletic field (IU Archive). Indiana University football soon moved away from Jordan Field, though the football team wouldn’t leave IU’s first field til after the 1924 season, some sources indicate that the team had planned to move to a new facility as early as 1915 (IU Archive). Though IU baseball would remain at Jordan Field for some time, the football team moving away only a few decades after its creation represents the growth that Indiana University was going through at the beginning of the 20th century, and partially represents the need for more buildings to accommodate the growing student population.
Jordan Field was exactly that – a field. Therefore, the baseball team did not get to enjoy a well-crafted, robust baseball diamond with all the proper amenities. Instead, the team shared the field with other IU athletic teams like football and track, and even the University’s military program (IU Archive). Due to this multi-purpose use of the land, Jordan Field had no outfield fencing, dugouts, or bullpens for the baseball team to utilize. Even bleachers for the fans were minimal, often requiring them to sit on a nearby hill to spectate games (Schumann). Although the field lacked many of the features we associate with a ballpark today, the simple grass, dirt, and bases that resided were sufficient for hosting the baseball program for 50+ consecutive years (IU Archive). Of course, though, those years did not pass without some difficulties.
It could be said that the location chosen for Jordan Field was not planned very well. Located on one of the lowest elevated areas of campus and very close to the Jordan River, Jordan Field was plagued with flooding issues. Additionally, the field’s lack of a drainage system elongated the process. A 1905 article in the Indiana Daily Student read, “A heavy rain soaks it [Jordan Field] through and through, and a week’s time is required for it to dry out” (IU Archives). The same article discusses “a force of men” being needed to “change the location of the parallelogram” to a new spot to host the baseball team’s next home series. Although the floodings of Jordan Field were an absolute tragedy for the athletic teams, they inspired the university to use the land to construct an ice skating rink in the winter months, a decision that was reached at the end of 1915 (Kellams). Beyond its flooding habit, Jordan Field was also scrutinized for its rough terrain. A 1936 article in the Indiana Daily Student stated, “…the part designated as right field resembles a rock pile” (IU Archives). The article even mentions an Indiana outfielder tripping over the rock pile and falling headlong into the ground. It was at this time the university knew it needed to find a new location for a ballpark. Superintendent of buildings and grounds, Charles Hays, believed the only feasible and worth while action to take was to fill in Jordan Field, as “merely to take the rocks out would be a wasteful task because the field is so low that it easily floods” (IU Archives). Soon enough the university made plans to construct a new baseball field atop Dunn’s Hill (corner of Fee Lane and 17th Street), a location more well-suited for Indiana’s weather patterns. The team played its final varsity game on Jordan Field during their 1950 season, but the field continued to be used for intramurals for another decade onward.
Athletic Fields, Indiana University Catalogues, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Kellams, Dina. “You’re Skating on...Campus Ice,” Blogging Hoosier History Blog. 28 January, 2013. Indiana University Libraries. Accessed on April 15, 2020.
“‘Remarks at Dedication of Plaque at Jordan Field,’ October 11, 1980”, Indiana University Chancellor’s speeches, Collection C548. Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.
Schumann, Mike. “From Jordan to Sembower to The Bart, and the Evolution of a
Program.” The Daily Hoosier, March 7, 2018.
Indiana University Archive, Archive Photograph Collection. Jordan Field. http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0078678
Indiana University Archive, Archive Photograph Collection. Aerial view of central portion of campus showing location of Jordan Field (not the Union Building parking lot).URL: http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0095009
Indiana University Archive, Archive Photograph Collection. Skating on Jordan Field. URL: http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0056314