Springtime in Hot Springs, Arkansas is everything that is good about the season. Whether it’s a trip among the dogwoods to watch the horses run, or a tour through baseball history walking in the footsteps of The Babe, or maybe just taking some time out for the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Hot Springs has a lot to offer.
And They’re Off…..
Considered one of the most beautiful racetracks in the U.S., Oaklawn Park began in 1904 and is now known as the Oaklawn Casino and Resort. Located in Hot Springs National Park, the setting is perfect for their premiere event, The Arkansas Derby traditionally held in early April.
Five weeks before the Kentucky Derby the “Racing Festival of the South”, the Arkansas Derby, has drawn many Triple Crown contenders. In 2015, American Pharoah won the Derby and another race at Oaklawn before going on to win the first Triple Crown in three decades. Over the last couple of decades, Oaklawn Park has become a launching pad for other champions including Zenyatta, Smarty Jones, Curlin’, Cigar and others.
Birthplace of Spring Training
In 1886, Chicago White Stockings’ President Albert Spalding, the founder of A.G. Spalding, and player/manager Cap Anson introduced the concept of players having training and fitness before the start of the regular season, this move gave credit to Hot Springs being called the “birthplace of spring training baseball”.
This is where it was discovered that Babe Ruth could hit. St. Patrick’s Day, 1918, is nicknamed the “Day that changed Baseball Forever.” The pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Babe Ruth, hit a rumored 573-foot home run into the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo that altered the course of baseball history. In the opening exhibition game against Brooklyn at Whittington Park, Ruth (coming off a 24–13 ) was a last-minute replacement at first base and the rest, as they say, was history as he hit two home runs that day.
Over 100 players that have spent time training in Hot Springs are now in the Hall of Fame, including Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Honus Wagner and Mickey Mantle.
Today, as part of the Hot Springs Baseball Historic Trail, there are 26 green plaques and markers posted throughout Hot Springs that identify key people and locations, with an app available to provide live details.
World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Friday, March 17, 2023, will see the return of the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade to Hot Springs. The 20th Annual parade held on the World’s Shortest Street for Everyday Use, will be started by Shooter McGavin of Happy Gilmore fame. The 2-day celebration will also feature The Village People in a free concert.