Built in 1931, the ballpark that would be known as Ray Winder Field hosted generations of Arkansas Travelers fans out to see the “Greatest Game on Dirt.” It was creaky and leaky and as friendly a professional baseball experience as one could want. Ray Winder was a place to see folks like Bernard Gilkey, Ray Lankford, Geronimo Pena and Mike Perez before they moved up to the majors.
Ray Winder Field was more than just great AA ball. It was a place to see the late Max Patkin, the clown prince of baseball; or to watch kids and adults race Shelly, the Travs’ mascot, around the bases. And of course, who could forget The Puffy Taco Man mascot when the San Antonio Missions were in town?
Then there were the regulars: sportscaster and all-around nice guy Jim Elder, Alfreda Wilson, who for 35 seasons rallied fans and players with her organ playing; and of course, former General Manager Bill Valentine. A former major league umpire, Valentine is one of those larger-than-life people who lent Ray Winder Field more of the character that made it such a welcome place for fans and families in Little Rock.
The Travs played their last game in Ray Winder in 2006, moving to a shiny league-spec venue across the Arkansas River in North Little Rock. There was much wrangling over what to do with the old field. One proposal called for it to become a new elephant enclosure for the neighboring Little Rock Zoo. Another called for it to become a parking lot for the University of Arkansas (for) Medical Sciences. Its fate was sealed when the City of Little Rock sold the park to UAMS for $1.3 million.