Earlier this year we published our annual “Profile” magazine, which featured stories on a number of Vicksburg landmarks and historical places.
As we were putting the stories together, it struck me how little most of us know about even the fairly recent history of our city. Nearly every minute of the Civil War battle fought here in 1863 has been chronicled dozens of times over, for example, but the stories behind some place names and buildings took some digging to unearth.
One place we did not write about in “Profile” but whose back story recently came to light is Vicksburg High’s Showers Field, its baseball home.
The field is located at City Park, adjacent to Memorial football stadium. The whole area has been in use in different forms since the early 1900s. It has included, at various times, a horse racing track, a baseball stadium and, for the past 60-plus years, a high school football stadium.
In the 1950s the site was in a bit of transition. The Vicksburg Billies baseball team that played there off and on for half a century folded for good in 1955. The City Park football stadium was not built until a few years later.
All of which brings us to a man named Jack Roy Showers. His daughter-in-law, Mary Ellen Henry, e-mailed me to ask a question about Showers Field and shared a recollection her husband — Jack Roy’s son, Jack Paul Showers — had written about 10 years ago.
Jack Paul recalled, as a young boy in the early 1950s, his father’s love of baseball. Jack Roy taught the game to his son and daughter Julie, and became involved in Vicksburg’s youth baseball scene. That involvement included a bit of field construction.
“I began to vaguely understand the big picture when he drove me out to an open field off of Drummond Street and, with a wheelbarrow and shovel, began moving dirt out to the middle and made a pile,” Jack Paul wrote. “It was going to be a pitcher’s mound, he said. We walked around and he showed me how the home plate would be positioned, and we walked the outfield fence line, which then was an outline of a fence only. He explained how the posts would have boards put up and that the lumber was given to us. And he showed me where the dugouts were going to be, and the bases and the on-deck circle.”
Jack Roy was one of many adults who helped turn the open bit of land at City Park into a thriving baseball complex that soon became home to the city’s youth leagues. Later, it became the home of Vicksburg High’s teams.
The Gators played there for a number of years, left for the then-new Bazinsky Field in the mid-1990s, and returned there after a multi-year renovation in 2022. The Gators continued to use it as a practice field even while playing games at Bazinsky.
Jack Roy Showers died in June 1956, at the age of 48. Jack Paul was 10 years old and his sister was 14. After Jack Roy’s death, the field he and many others had worked to build was named in his honor and it has remained thus.
So there you have it, one more local mystery solved. Showers Field got its name from one man, among a group of dedicated men, who played a role in building the baseball culture in Vicksburg. That it has endured for more than 60 years seems a fitting tribute to not only their memory, but the way baseball — and sports in general — spans generations and binds us together.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org