Generational. The one term that defines the true essence of Finch Field. Built in 1935 by Thomasville Furniture Industries, the ballpark located at the corner of National Hwy. and Ballpark Rd. in northeast Thomasville, NC has served area residents recovering from the horrors of World War I to locals keeping pace with the speed of the internet age. Constructed as a recreational outlet for T.F.I. employees, Finch Field has hosted everything from junior high school track meets to religious revivals. Undoubtedly, however, Finch Field’s status in the High Point/ Thomasville community is best defined by its role as the area’s epicenter of baseball. Initially serving as the home park for the Thomasville Chairmakers in the Class D Carolina State League, Finch Field has served as the home park for the area’s American Legion programs, Thomasville High School Baseball team, city youth recreational baseball leagues and the area’s most prominent baseball club, the HiToms.
Originally know as the Tommies, the HiToms and Finch Field emerged in the late 1930’s as the focal point of summer, community life in High Point and Thomasville. Regularly filling Finch Field to capacity, over 100,000 fans in 1948 wedged their way into the wooden grandstand routinely expelling the area’s youth – later to be none as the ‘knothole gang’ – into the oak trees lining the stadium’s outfield wall or the knotholes streaming alongside the fence line. Sporting 3,500 seats, a completely covered wooden grandstand and vintage, box seats, the HiToms faithful regularly shook the makeshift press box nestled above the grandstand as former HiToms Curt Flood, Eddie Matthews and Al Rosen blasted balls onto Ball Park Rd.
Over 30 former HiToms players used Finch Field as a launching pad to stardom in the Major Leagues. The roll call of former HiToms Big Leaguers always begins with the only former HiToms player in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Eddie Matthews. Only 17 when he arrived at the train ‘Depot’ in downtown Thomasville, Matthews promptly ascended to superstar status hitting .363 and crushing 17 home runs in just 63 games. Knocking a tape measure home run over the left-field fence that reportedly sailed over National Highway (nearly .500 feet from home plate), Matthews’ prowess ignited a 22-year cavalcade of Major League players and coaches that included 11-time gold glove winner Curt Flood, 1953 American League M.V.P. Al Rosen, 1980 World Series Champion Manager Dallas Green and 2003 World Series Champion Manager Jack McKeon. Although they did not don the HiToms uniform, Hall of Fame and 500 Home Run club members Willie McCovey and Ted Williams dug their feet into the Finch Field batter’s box as well on their way to Major League Baseball history.
The glorious nostalgia generated from 1935 to 1969 gave way to despair and isolation from 1970 to the late 90’s. Fleeing Finch Field in 1969 for greener pastures, professional baseball abandoned the National Highway diamond leaving in its wake a decaying grandstand and an apathetic fan base. Following years of neglect and minimal use, Finch Field’s grandstand and locker room facilities succumbed to the flames of arson in 1983 as an unidentified resident torched the memories of thousands of HiToms fans. Housing just the high school baseball program and the American Legion squad, the city of Thomasville erected a concrete block stadium a third of the size of its predecessor and not nearly its equal in character and confidence.
Staring at a third consecutive generation of High Point and Thomasville residents without the pleasantries of a summer recreation option, the lingering spirit of Finch Field caught the eye of an independent baseball league. A summer collegiate league, the Coastal Plain League, proudly marched into Finch Field in 1999 and reawakened the passion and memories of thousands of former HiTom fans.
This rekindled passion set the stage for Finch Field's most thorough refurbishment to date. Starting the movement in 2001, the Tom A. Finch, Doak Finch, Brown Finch and Thomasville Furniture Industries foundations joined forces with the city of Thomasville, HiToms LLC and local corporations to launch an initiative to completely revamp the historic ballpark. Razing the mid-1980's grandstand in 2005 after new lights, fencing and a patio grill were erected in 2002, Finch Field now sports a 1,700 seat, covered grandstand with new dugouts, a right-field line grass berm and a new bathroom and concessions complex. The renovations continued in 2007 when the HiToms upgraded the playing surface by installing a new infield.
Now over 75 years-old, Finch Field embarks upon another stage of its life. Outfitted with a new look and a rejuvenated purpose, the old ballpark is poised to provide this generation with a new chapter of family memories and opportunities destined to ingrain themselves in the unifying novel entitled: Finch Field: A Generation of Community Memories.